A Humble Survival Guide

There are no little things. ‘Little things’ are the hinges of the universe.

Fanny Fern

The dark has descended. As many South Africans know all too well. Thanks, Eskom. And with this, the candle has been lit. But instead of revolting against oh, oh, the inconveniences, I thought I might make the most of this time to ponder and to write. I was never well adapted for the modern life besides. So here I sit and write. Something small, but hopefully hopeful.

I have often bemoaned the glittering promise of the Bucket List… or the fantasy of Eat, Pray, Love… Me who barely ever has two pennies to rub together pursuing what may be in the end a futile dream, but one I adore chasing all the same. No, I do not have the dosh to go and dine in the land of salami, and limoncello, and granita and all things glorious (but I do make some mighty tasty limoncello from scratch!)… And no, I neither have the dosh to find myself in the land of spices and spirituality (but damn, do I worship at the local Indian spice shop and all the kaleidoscopic colour and flavour it brings to my kitchen!)… Nor do I know if I will end up with the perfect man (but my two beloved cats make for one mean substitute!).

All said and done, I do know this… There are no small things. And it helps. Each small act of rebellion, of self love, of being, of compassion, of love. It helps.

A dear friend asked me a question the other day. It followed a question I always ask. “Of any musical instrument, what would you be?” And since he is a great deal smarter than me, his question was of course, “Why do you live?” (He outsmarts me, even at gin rummy. The bugger.) But my answer was simply this, for all I felt it might be misunderstood, or sound completely cheesy… Simply… “Because I love it so much.”

But I deal with things. Depression. Anxiety. Days riddled with self doubt. Just the lucky packet draw I guess. So feel me here. It ain’t easy. Gosh, though, do I still love it ever so. In spite.

And so, if I may be so bold, here is my own, uh, Bucket List, or rather a To-Do List for want of something better… Just a little listicle of those things that I know in my heart of hearts not to be trifle things at all, but in fact those things that make life all the more worth living, if you’d only indulge me.

 

  1. Live openly.

Get to know the cashiers at the places you frequent. The teller at the bank. The waiter who serves your coffee. Ask after their names. What it means. Names matter. When you can manage it, ask after their day. Compliment them with heartfelt sentiment. Even at best, make a passing comment about the weather. Smile, genuinely. If you’re up to it. And let them know that you see them,  for them, and that, in these most everyday parts of your daily life, they matter. By this, you will come to know that you matter too.

 

  1. Plant a life.

I may not have much of a green thumb or much of a bank balance to speak of, but even the humblest of beautiful succulents can thrive in little more than a spoon of soil in a sea shell. Oh, if only plants could speak! But they do, in their own way, when we grow quiet enough to listen. They move, they grow, so fluid. But with a time so slowed it is almost beyond us… Like a vast body of water. If only we could see time differently. But when we try, this is their gift to us. To teach us that growth cannot be measured by the rat race we have grown far too accustomed. They find a way to thrive, and survive, and so will we.

 

  1. Get a library card.

When I was young, oh how I loved to flip my little fingers through those index cards, in those seemingly immense little wooden drawers. The world, quite literally, at my fingertips. It is a sad thing that the older we get perhaps the ever less curious. But kindle it. A library card can cost you next to nothing. The cost of a milkshake. But what a world awaits you there! From meditations on the meaning of life, to the art of ikebana, to culinary flavours of everywhere and elsewhere, to a light Summer’s read on a sunny shore. It’s yours. All, all yours. Never forget. The mind, and your soul, are your most sacred of all spaces. Of all spaces. Nurture. Care. They will always serve you well when not taken for granted. So make them sacred, each and every day, in each and every way.

 

  1. Delight in the mundane.

Now, I know this may sound silly, but stay with me here. Celebrate the mundane. Celebrate the act of making the bed in which you will later snuggle when the Sandman comes to find you. Celebrate the act of dicing a carrot or two for a meal. Celebrate the act of wiping a dish clean and setting it aside in the rack. Celebrate the act of removing a stain from a shirt you love to wear. You are doing ever so well and deserve to celebrate. Make each and every mundane task a celebration of the capability you have to care for the things you love. Your home. The meals that you prepare for the ones who are important to you, and this means you too, as even dinners for one should be an occasion. You. Are. Doing. Just. Fine. Better than fine.

 

  1. Cherish your loved ones, and this means YOU too.

For all you might feel it at times, you are never truly alone. I read a book once, about whales. They suspected, for a great deal of time, that a certain species was entirely solitary. Once science advanced, they learnt instead how these whales could communicate over vast distances of water and were in fact staying in touch, always. Distance. Time. These things are of no consequence when it comes to those we love. So express yourself. As the soul song goes. Let them know you care. Deeply. For as long as you can. And this goes for you too.

All my love,

The whale caller  

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