We’ve already got a list of ten rules; I’m not sure we need another one. But some of the existing regulations are problematic, and the overall tone is a bit demanding. I am terribly glad I was born, but effective parenting has moved on a bit in the intervening millennia, and unconditional obedience to anything – whether a relative, a deity or an idea – is not love. And if life is about anything, it’s about love.
So for the next ten days, I offer ten new commandments. And the first is this: THOU SHALT USE THY NICE THINGS.
The bath oil you were given for a birthday; the new pants you popped into the basket last time you were topping up the school socks; the pink Himalayan salt you couldn’t resist. The new jumper you bought because your old one is developing holes; the teatowel you bought in a castle on a whim, the face cream, the handbag, hat, fleecy tights, pyjamas, bottle of wine. Whatever it is that you’ve put away for best, don’t wait for the right time to use it. Use it now. The worse you feel about today, the more important it is to use the things you’ve put away for tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be better, all by itself. It’s today that needs help.
The good days very rarely come on the day they’ve been appointed. A child is overwhelmed by their long-anticipated birthday party and spends it crying in a corner; relatives who are thrown together at Christmas suddenly remember why they don’t see much of each other for the rest of the year; a school decides that the day you’ve appointed for a family film and a box of Celebrations is the day of Bumper Homework Assignments. If you’ve saved your nice things, you’re increasing the stakes even further. Elevating the level from which the occasion can fall.
How many of the following scenarios do you recognise? Giving a lovely gift, only to see it lying unused weeks later, to be told, ‘I’m saving it for best.’ Receiving one and being so delighted you put it on/open it straightaway, to be met with a disappointed, ‘Oh, don’t you like it?’ Tidying a cupboard to find a brand new cake tin with the paper still round it; buying a block of economy soap because you can’t bear to open that luxury one you were given; keeping a new item of clothing pristine in its wrapping because the one it’s going to replace is still just about holding together?
But if you take those nice pants – that hot chocolate powder, the good tea, the new soap – you’re giving the day a message. You can’t control the day, but you can make sure that the parts you can control are in good hands. Your hands. Hands that don’t save things for best, but bring the best into the everyday.