Breast cancer lesson 148: Life is too short to save things for best

This morning, a rather surprising reminder popped up on my Blackberry alongside the ‘Take Clonidine’ and ‘rub in Doublebase’ requests. All it said was: ‘life is too short to save anything for best’. Quite why I thought to write it down and deliver it myself on this particular day, I will never know. But, I’m really glad I did.

Engaging with my possessions is something I’ve been doing a lot more of this year. I, like a lot of people in the world, have a tendency to put certain things in a ‘best’ category. And, when they achieve this coveted position, they are pretty much never seen again.

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Why is it I have immaculate-looking pans, but always default back to my university pan with dodgy handle and food-encrusted bottom? (Quite what masterpiece I think I’ll be rustling up, I’ll never know.) Why is it that tops I buy after dreaming about them for weeks are carefully preserved in my wardrobe? (I’m not sure my wardrobe appreciates them quite as much as I do.) Why is it that special stationery is always too special for my ideas? Why is it that hand cream seems like an essential purchase at the time even when I feel like I need a special occasion to use it? And, why is it that when a meal is deemed good enough to repeat, it gets popped in the recipe tin and somehow forgotten about? (I always seem to focus on new meals rather than old favourites.)

Why indeed! This year I have come to realise that there’s no point saving things for a special occasion, because that special occasion may never come. And, the trouble with the word ‘best’ is, you can rarely spot a ‘best’ moment because it is almost impossible to define. Saying ‘best’ takes away the hope of there being something better in the future.

I have come to the conclusion, as explained by the recent reintroduction of my school-time favourite fountain pen to my life, if you want a good day to be great, why not start by filling it with your favourite things? When I discovered the pen the other day while rummaging through my bedside table, I remember thinking to myself how much I used to enjoy writing with it. And, then I thought, if I love it so much, why am I not writing with it every single day. Before I knew it, I was popping in a fresh cartridge (from about the year 2000) and giving my writing finger back its old inky smudge. Before I knew it, I was smiling while writing the word ‘bleach’ on the supermarket shopping list.

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A special occasion isn’t something you wait for, it’s something you have to create – not just once in a while, but everyday. (Just to clarify, writing the word bleach is not a stand out moment in my life – things aren’t that bad!)

I remember a friend once telling me that she always wears good (and matching) knickers and bras just in case something happens to her and she ends up in hospital unexpectedly. Now, this might seem slightly macabre, but I like her thinking. Of course, at the moment, hospital trips are not unexpected for me and, I think that If I do end up in one unexpectedly, I won’t particularly care about the colour of my knickers and whether they match my bra (when you are used to a nurse pulling up your magic pants, it would seem strange to suddenly adopt such a view). And, I really would have to invest to be so co-ordinated. What I like is the idea that matching underwear actually means something to her. And, by wearing it every day, she is celebrating that fact every day.

So whatever it is (pants, socks, pens, notebooks or even glasses), I challenge you to stop thinking that the best is yet to come, and start bringing a bit of your best into daily life. If you’re waiting for that moment, chances are you’ll never get it. And, if you aren’t, who knows what doors will open for you when you’ve injected a little more happiness into your day? Please do post and share your favourite things. I won’t be posting a pic of my favourite knickers, but I can tell you I have a ‘best’ mug, cup, pen, pan and notebook (for starters). I even have ‘best’ marigolds!

I’m off to drink tea out of a special mug, eat my special chutney before it goes off and write on the first page of a special notebook (that’s about six years old). All while wearing a special top. Daring I know!

As a quick aside, radiotherapy is still ongoing. Amusingly, while writing this post in the waiting room, I heard my name being mentioned by the radio team. All I could hear was fragments, but I got ‘she’s the young one’ and ‘why don’t you just ask her?’. At that point, I started imagining what they might be thinking. Would I have to demonstrate something? Would I have to take my top off for somebody else? Would I be bumped down the list?

About five minutes later, I was greeted by a friendly lady who asked whether I would mind changing one of my appointment times to 8.30am. She thought she was asking a lot, so she was delighted when I reacted like I’d just won the lottery. Being called ‘the’ young one, however, reminded me just how few of us ‘young ones’ there are (thank goodness). I am happy to be the odd one out, but I’d rather be known as the smiley one who always seems happy when she’s writing with her very nice fountain pen :-).

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