When the day-to-day has lost its lustre, devise a plan to climb Kilimanjaro or learn book-binding. You'll immediately feel better and, hey, one day you might actually do it
Everyone has a back-up plan. Mine is to move to Puhoi and make cheese.
I would live in a white house with a red iron roof and each evening after a day of separating curds from whey I would sit on my front porch and spend a happy hour or two spreading soft bleu onto crackers.
Or I could become a master cake-maker. I recently started watching Ace of Cakes on the Food network and have fallen in thrall to those clever hipsters from Baltimore who fashion typewriters and '50s diners from butter and sugar, wielding blowtorches and pressurised cans of food dye, dropping witty bon mots and flaunting their tattoos. I could totally do that.
The important thing about a back-up plan is that it not be in any way rooted in reality. I don’t really want to make cheese. I want to eat cheese. I don’t really want to live in Puhoi, I just want the feeling of stillness and peace I get whenever I go to Puhoi. In my imaginary Puhoi cheese-making life I would never have to pick up RTD cans off my verge on a Saturday morning like I do in real life. I could walk to a cutesy tea place every afternoon for crumpets and book-reading. I would only need to get into the car on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
In reality I think I would find cheese-making arduous and I know I would tire of Earl Grey, but that doesn’t matter for I will never sully my back-up plan by actually doing it.
I am now at an age when my path is pretty much set. I am too established—mortgage, baby, husband, guilt complex—to start over again in, say, Stockholm or Austin, to act in a television soap or become a rodeo clown. Doors are closing to me. Daily, it feels.
And actually, there is some relief in that. My twenties were, for the most part, the years of terror. I spent a lot of time talking to my equally terrified friends about the stress of having limitless opportunities, a blank slate, all the time in the world. Whenever someone in our extended circle moved to London or New York and actually managed to find a cool job and buy a flat and, you know, flourish, it was like an admonition. I realise this is very much a middle-class problem and therefore kind of annoying, but there you are. We suffer too.
Point is, I am no longer gazing at a blank slate. Major decisions have been made, the chips have fallen, etcetera. Sitting around on the floor of my lounge with a new baby drooling on my chest, picking dog hair off my cardie, this can seem a bit sad, but I have decided to fight my suburban ennui with a life list, the sexier version of the bucket list. (I acknowledge that I am about two years behind the curve here. Not the first time.)
Maggie Mason at Mighty Girl has a cool one involving sampling many varieties of fruit, making her own perfume and christening a boat. She also wants to meet Oprah, which grabs me not at all, but whatever.
Do a little internet research and you find a galaxy of inspiring/funny life-list goals, from never getting an ear infection to lighting a match with a .22 rifle. There are also many, many life lists about banishing credit card debt and "spending 10 minutes a day on my Power Strider" which rather misses the point, but at least they're trying.
So in the interests of cheering up an ordinary Thursday, and avoiding having the let’s-move-to-Puhoi chat with hubby, here is the beginning of my life list:
1. Go hot air ballooning over the Napa Valley
2. Kayak the Okavango Delta
3. Make a really impressive cake, possibly in the shape of an elephant
4. Learn to take excellent photos
5. Make a mosaic garden ornament
6. Hug an orangutan
7. Ride a camel
8. Adopt an unwanted dog
9. Create a beautiful room of my own
10. Open a bookshop/curiosity shoppe (although this is possibly another back-up plan and therefore to be avoided)