Life lessons

Life lesson number seven: Life is too short to save anything for best

I used to have a cupboard full of candles that were too important to burn. 

I used to save my favourite dresses for that one amazing day in the future that never came.

I used to keep the 'star baker' spoon (bought for me by a friend) out of the kitchen because it seemed too precious for the job for which it was intended.

I never touched the good pans (even for the good meals).

I used to have a pile of beautiful notebooks that were always too beautiful for my ideas. 

I spent so much time waiting for the right moment. But, even now, I’m not quite sure what I was actually waiting for.

I know I am not alone in my desire to put things in a ‘best’ category. But, the trouble is, when they achieve this coveted position, they are pretty much never seen again. 

When I was going through cancer treatment, I began to realise that the best may never actually come. ‘Best’ is a word that is almost impossible to define. Just saying it takes away the hope of there being something better in the future.

Good days can be great days if you fill them with your favourite things. Candles can bring light into cold winter evenings, if you just choose to light them. Notebooks can make ideas special if you just choose to use them. The clothes that fit best can make you feel more confident before you’ve even left the house. ‘Best’ things can make every day better – if you stop categorising them as such!

A special occasion isn’t something you wait for, it’s something you have to create – not just once in a while, but everyday. 

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. 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, dress, hat, pan and notebook (for starters). I even have a ‘best’ dishcloth (knitted by my mum). 

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!

I actually wrote about this subject for Breast Cancer Care’s BECCA app, which has been designed to help people move forward after breast cancer. If you - or someone you know - could benefit from an app packed full of life hacks, why not send them the link. 

Life lesson number one: If you want to achieve something in life, write it down

I have heard it said that happiness lies at the end of a to-do list. Well, if you've ever got to the end of one, do write to me and let me know what it feels like. I just keep adding.

If you haven't got a list on the go - a place to score off your successes and focus your mind - you are not living. By list, I don't just mean a to-do list for work to get you to the end of a project or the start of another day. By list, I mean a life list - and lots of them!

Lists force life. By turning everything from goals and dreams to habits and contact with friends into a series of bullet points, we can both write the future and celebrate - or learn from - the past.

Not all lists are born equal. While a great way to remember all the things you have to do, the most important ones are those that capture what you really want to do or help you work out what you love doing. A 'brighter life list' will get you thinking about climbing that mountain. A 'gratitude diary' will record what it felt like when you made it to the summit. A world without a 'where next?' list, is just a world. A world with a list of all the destinations you'd love to explore, is your world.

At a funeral over the summer, I learned just how important list-making was to a friend who had tragically lost his life. How I would have loved to have swapped bullet points with my inspiring colleague. In his memory, I am making a public commitment to keep listing and keep living. I know he wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

I will be writing all about list-making on the pages of this blog (find out more at List Love) as well as distilling down all the things I've learned about life into handy listicles (X ways to...) to lighten the load.

Here's my list of lists to get you started (I will hyperlink them when I have written about them and probably keep adding)

Brighter life list
Gratitude list
Line a day (with happiness rating)
Where next?
Smiling list
Interest log
If, then... list
Cook a day list
Never list
Reading (and rereading) list
Quotes I love list
Values list
Reverse bucket list
Nurture list
10-minute list
30-minute list
Positive affirmations
Habits list
Goals list (the 90 days list)
Life commandments
This month list
Life hacks

If you love it, list it - and then live for the moments you get to tick things off.