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What’s important?

How the hell would I know?  I’m a short-arse with blue hair and a predilection for polski orgorki straight from the jar. I think about this question a lot, usually while munching said polski ogorki.  The same answers come up, over and over, from almost everyone you ask.  Family. Health. Etc.  Those are givens.  That’s like saying oxygen or water are important. (Or sandwiches.)  As predictable as such answers are, I think this is a pretty valuable question to ask yourself.  If you know what’s important — to you, anyway — then you’ve got an idea of which direction to move in and which things are worth you expending a few of your precious God-given seconds on.  And if you’ve got no idea what’s important, then you know what to do next: find out.

So, what is? I came up with a list to start with.

  • Enjoying what you eat and drink.  Is there anything worse than choking down some bilge because it’s convenient? I accept that there are times we have to eat crappy, crappy food and drink crappy, crappy fluids because someone we care about (or are desperately trying to suck up to) has prepared it for us — pretending you’re crazy about pad thai when all you really crave at a cellular level is Froot Loops (or vice versa) is no mean feat, but we’ve all been there and it’s totally worth it if it means preserving the feelings of someone we love.  But scarfing down weird processed crap in the name of ease-of-preparation?  No sir.  Not for me. Good food and drink is too important
  • Flossing and sunscreen.  Undeniably important.
  • Animals and plants. Specifically, ones that intersect with your own life. I think there’s a pretty strong impulse in most people in this regard: that’s why we have pets and potplants, even if it’s just some poor struggling succulent on the windowsill. For me, the itch gets scratched through running in the park and around the lake, bushwalking and looking for platypuses, visiting my cats (who still live with the rest of my family) and a beloved brown canine menace that I cohabitate with and who has a love-hate relationship with my clarinet.  Without these, without access to animals and plants (and birds and interesting bugs and snails) I don’t know what would happen to my brain. Something gross.
  • Finding your own voice. I can’t emphasise this enough. Working out which of the conflicting hunches, suspicions, prejudices, assumptions and “facts” in your head are yours and which are memories of things other people have said (and which you’ve adopted) is one of the most fundamentally important things anybody can learn.  Realising that you disagree with what someone else has asserted is really important: even more important is learning that that’s completely okay and does no damage to your relationship with that person.  I think it’s really easy to accidentally adopt the viewpoints or assumptions presented to you by people you look up to, even if you look up to them for reasons completely unrelated to those viewpoints or assumptions. And when you learn that: holy cow, stand back, because you’ve just found your own voice and it’s got shit to say.
  • A good scarf in winter. Does a lot more for warmth than you’d think.
  • Yoga in the morning. Wine in the evening.
  • Something to work on. I tend to think of Freud as one-third brilliant and two-thirds offensively barmy, but I do agree with this idea, often attributed to him: “Love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness”.  I think that love and work are two key steps to happiness and health.  A goal to work on, combined with an environment of love (for others and for yourself), may not guarantee happiness, but I think it’s a strong start.

I don’t know where all this gets us.  I think these things are important, very important, but I’d be interested to hear challenges or contradictions.  I’d also like to throw the question open to all and sundry, to the birds in the hedges and the twits in the street: what do you think is important?

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