St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper Howell takes a look at the other side of life in Woman on Top, her weekly lifestyle column for The Herald
When I taught high school English, my favourite bit by far was the film section of the syllabus. No grouchy grammar or lengthy setworks to plough through; just a movie, with popcorn – and a message.
Dead Poet’s Society is one of my all-time personal bests. I was that pupil in the back, scared to speak out, but nurtured to fruition by English teachers who gave a damn. Without them in my life? Hard to picture.
So, when I “taught” the same film to a bunch of bold, beautiful teenage girls a decade later, I double-scored. Because I revived the message – for them and for me – that Mrs Peltason had so urgently, passionately tried to imprint on us, back in the day.
And which I’d lost amidst the noise of growing up.
Carpe diem. Seize the day. We’re being told that constantly by feel-gooders and do-gooders and self-helpers – live for the now, dwell in the moment, don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today and so on.
But it’s a rotten trick most of it, because the world is built on forward-planning and fear. If we don’t study that, we won’t get this. And if we don’t organise this, then the consequence will be that.
And what happens, then, is that we write off spiritually and psychologically powerful messages, like the benefit of cherishing “the now”, because our brains – beaten into submission by a money-driven, survivalist global set-up – logically tell us that being present in the present is just asking for trouble.
The truth is, though, that the devil’s in the detail. The concept of carpe diem was never telling you not to diet, or save, or invest in cheap property now for a good return later. It was always just reminding you that in the race to “make it”, you’re forgetting the point of being a person.
Events this past week have reminded me of both the fragility and strength of each day. Unless you’re a true-blue psychic with an error-free record, you cannot, ever, assume anything is going to stay the same tomorrow, or the next day, or the next.
Children get this. They live it blissfully, until we punch it out of them with schedules and lists and responsibilities and warnings of a failed hereafter because they’d rather build a fairy garden than wash their hair right now, thanks very much.
I won’t ask you not to pay your bills. I’ll just suggest that, if it’s a sunny day, you do your banking later tonight, because there are beaches to comb and children to hug now.
And maybe, if you could, just remember that no matter how much the world admires a spotless home and a healthy bank balance, these can’t cuddle and kiss you before the sun rises, or tickle your feet, or make you giggle stupidly until your tummy hurts.
Today is yours for the taking. Love it and the people who make it worth getting up for. The dishes can wait.