Priority

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I was having a Xmas dinner this week with two very good friends in a nice place with lovely food that could be shared… how am I grateful? Let me count the ways…

But I digress. One of the dishes ordered was noodles with prawns and other things in it. I happen to adore prawns so I ate one. Thing is, I cannot eat prawns, I get heartburn every time I try, since about 10 years ago. Sure enough, I got heartburn and suffered for a little while (until I got home and drank chamomile tea and took a teaspoonful of raw honey). Do I regret it? No

But it made me think of choices, especially around health and lifestyles. Say I have this non-threatening issue with prawns. I can put up with the discomfort in order to satisfy a wish. I am also addicted to shopping, which is annoying as I have this wish for financial independence and early retirement (hello, Mr Money Mustache!).

It is about loopholes with personal choice, it seems. The prawn-induced suffering is easily allayed and shopping can be justified in a thousand ways (my favourite ways of justifying un-necessary purchases are 1. buy an edible plant for my garden, preferably perenial, preferably on sale and preferably grown locally; 2. gifts for friends).

But there is an area where loopholes seem to apply waaay less, if at all. That’s the domain of life choice. That’s like personal choice but with a  priority somewhere in the stratosphere! Say I don’t eat red meat. I do, but just as an example. It is my life choice not to eat red meat. There are no health factors contributing to this choice. And say I would go visiting and on the table most of the food either has red meat in it or has been cooked with red meat. There may be some peanuts, a salad, some fruit. I am very, very hungry, ravenous to be precise. Would I eat red meat?

NO. Because it is a life choice, so I would have to fight myself in the most intimate way in order to eat that dish.

Could I be persuaded by others in a non-compulsory way (saving a life is compulsory, friendly peer pressure is not)? Again, NO. I would probably get angry and dig my toes in and that relationship would become quite strained – it’s a question of trust and respect – “don’t you like me the way I am?”.

This applies to many more areas that are apparent at first: the cosmetic products one uses, the jobs we choose, the families we raise, you name it, life choice is at the bottom of a myriad things.

Is it the be all and end all of things? NO! One ignores society, upbringing, time, history and the like at one’s own peril. But it is a very, very powerful thing. How powerful?

Well, how about if I made financial independence a life choice?

*the initial post was crystal clear in my head but logically muddled on screen (hmm…) due to definition issues. Editing done! 🙂

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Memories

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Death has been on my mind these past few days.The dead shape who we are in many ways. We may have grown up with them. They may have hurt us. They may be complete strangers but their cause may have sparked in us the flames of a crusade. A lot of the time they fit into our universe really close by: family and friends.

I will not talk about how we experience the death of others. I think that’s rude. I can try to put words to my dead but instead of poetry or analysis I decided to use the only real tool that has a chance of making the grade. Of course, I am talking of memories.

I miss my dead. I miss not only who they were, but also in terms of physical distance, as they have died far away, under different stars. Missing them is a bittersweet burden, one that I would rather carry. A burden of memories.

I remember traipsing through the snow to the long drop near my nana’s house, after holding on for as long as I could.

And plucking a chicken . And making tomato sauce. And the fact that she took in the puppy my sister and I found abandoned. And mincing garlic in a wooden mortar with a wooden pestle. And my nana getting some creamy fresh raw milk because she knew I like that in my cocoa. Going to her friends and getting the sweetest plums you have ever tasted. To this day I ask for plum preserves from home.

And in winter, staying with my back to the big teracotta fireplace, eating home made fries with the garlic I minced and reading “Lord of the rings” for the first time and crying when Lothlorien is revealed. I remember her long hair and watching the Twin Towers crumble on her black and white TV. Sometimes I make macaroni slice for my little one and remember that she gave me the recipe.

My other nana had a different kitchen, but the memories are just as tasty 🙂 I remember Christmas and men fixing the broken bulbs on the fairy lights. Fondant chocolates and psychedelic cushion covers. Ironing damp cotton sheets and sleeping on pillows that could easily serve as bean bags. Playing cards with my sister. Watching the revolution unfold on her black and white TV.

She once ordered me a dress in the single most colourful floral pattern she could find. And she took me to an estranged part of the family for the first of many times, so that I might know them. She had a skirt and top suit made of the most luxurious silky fabric, royal blue with yellow flowers on it. I wanted that suit! She had vinyl records of comedians and folklore and fairytales. And stacks of pictures, black and white, of people I could not begin to fathom they existed (I took a red felt to their cheeks as they seemed a bit gloomy to me).

My father… ah, the lessons I learnt. A child’s inability to influence adult decisions. A child’s persistent attempts to magic an adult into being. A shocking pink winter jacket. My first taste of Pepsi. My first trip to a restaurant. Secretly dialling the operator on his birthday to make a collect call. Duty and failings and a uniform with silver buttons.

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Eh, my friend, of course I remember your laugh, as big as you were. I remember camping in the crater on snow and drinking Tokaj that you brought because you knew I’d like it. I remember you forgot my sunglasses on the other mountain because you were too busy rescuing me and then insisting to go on way after you couldn’t.

And you, bane of my existence and reason for it, too! You with your depressions and unreliability, your wildness and your drinking, your small studio where air was fighting with books, you with your long words and unorthodox exams, you, without whom I would be a lesser person and an even worse professional, to you I owe awakening.

My dead have shaped me and so this shape will keep them. When my memories fail, the passing will be complete.

Photos for my little one to look at, one long winter evening when I am busy…