Spare the drama in telling wife of desire to fulfill bucket list
Q: I am in my 50s, married 30 years and have four children and six grandchildren. I am not religious but am spiritual. I am in relatively poor health, with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, but generally feel good and work out daily.
In my early 40s, when I was in good health, I had a premonition or whatever that I had till age 58 to live. Rationally, I understand that odds are I am deluding myself, but I sincerely believe this is my fate. Outside of this, I seem to be mentally stable.
I am struggling with whether to share these feelings with my wife and children on my 57th birthday or thereabouts.
On the one hand, I know this would worry them and don't wish for their added attention or concern. On the other hand, I plan to fill my "last year" with my personal bucket list and think that, without any knowledge of my concern for my nearing demise, they will all find my rather dramatic change of direction somewhat disturbing, especially my wife. I plan to stop working, travel for six months and do some, for me, quite unusual things. Money is not an issue, and my family will be taken care of.
If I do reach 59, I plan to resume my "normal" life and work until I am done. I love my work and never plan to retire.
I do not wish to cause my family any negative feelings whatsoever over what may be just a fantasy. Your thoughts would be appreciated.
A: Your motivation may be a fantasy, but your response to it is a detailed, thought-out, financially accounted-for plan. Because of that, and because the 57th-birthday bombshell brings more drama when less is best — I think you should tell your wife (i.e., not your whole family gathered 'round) about those plans as soon as possible.
You may be preoccupied by your vision, but no one else needs to be — especially since, under the purple smoke and incense, what you have is a natural impulse that just about anyone over, I dunno, 12 can relate to.
So please tell your wife using as little embellishment as possible.
For example: "About a decade ago, crazy as it sounds, I had this vision that I wouldn't live to see 60.
Ever since then, I've thought about taking six months off to finish my "bucket list" — and going back to work when I'm done. We have the money and I can swing the time off work, so I'd like to start making plans to do it."
It covers motivation, intent and means — without once using the term "my last year."
Your wife might still be upset, especially if your plans exclude her and/or your list includes anything adulterous, felonious, dangerous or more than vaguely hinky. But I expect she'll be calmer if you give her time to adjust and have some say in your plans.
The followup conversations also will go better if you keep in mind that your impulse isn't spooky, it's something a lot of us would like to do instead of sitting here writing/reading about it.
You might even displace the gratuitous stress of death-preoccupation with the joy of openly planning your trip.