• Mohana Prabhakar

Do what matters, not what you should

I am not 83 yet, but I want to adopt some of the life philosophies of this octogenarian whose letter to her friend starts like this: “Dear Bertha, I am reading more and dusting less.”

While I am definitely no Monica Geller, I do like a tidy house. Yet now I can’t even seem to get annoyed by a film of dust on my bookshelves, because all it seems to tell me is that I don’t spend enough time reading anymore. The view I fell in love with almost 12 years ago when we moved houses - I can’t remember the last time I took a moment to appreciate it. The beautiful sea is never far away from wherever we are in Muscat, yet I can’t remember the last time I walked on a beach here. “The weather” as an excuse can only go so far.

I stayed home for most of the Eid holidays with a couple of brief visits to the mall and to see a friend. I made the most amazing chicken stew (my mother-in-law would have been proud), tried to make bread with dough that refused to rise, bought new scissors and went mad trying to find fabric to cut, and actually dusted off my sketchbooks and pens again. It felt strangely soothing.

I quite easily resisted the urge to do another clean-up and sat down with Herriot’s All Things Wise and Wonderful instead. I did open some cupboards, not to clean out, but to follow in Bertha’s friend’s footsteps and stop storing my ‘best’ dishes, my ‘best’ cutlery, my ‘best’ candles and so on for that special someday. I did light seven of my biggest and fanciest candles together though, and I am not so sure that was a good idea.

There is this miniature antique work desk carved out with unbelievable precision that I fell in love with in a Venice store window and brought home in December 2015. I’ve just been waiting to find the perfect place to put it. And this is what it’s usually about: Waiting for a specific time or a specific place that may or may not exist.

It’s very unlikely that Bertha’s wise 83 year old letter-writing friend exists outside the Internet, but that didn’t stop me from reading the letter more than once and agreeing to many of the points made in there. Whether it’s wearing her best jacket to the supermarket or her most expensive perfumes to go to the hardware store or the bank, it does make sense.

I had always believed that as one grew older, time started moving slower, but it doesn’t seem to be working like that. Like the movies, I don’t see myself sitting in parks and gazing at the ducks or watching my grandchildren play from my rocking chair. All I feel is that there is so little time to do all the things that I really should be doing.

So, while I don’t think my special perfumes will come out to go to my bank’s CBD branch or to the Honda Road hardware stores, I will start replacing ‘someday’ with today as often as I can from now on.

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