The other day I went to my weekly private flamenco class with Oscar Nieto, a North American flamenco legend who is one of my favorite flamenco teachers/mentors (I'm so very lucky he lives in my city) at the tiny little flamenco studio in his house. Per my usual routine, I walked in the unlocked door, yelled out "Hola!" and took off my street shoes and put on my beloved tattered red rehearsal shoes.
Next, I called out again to Oscar, who was still behind the doors of his office: "Do you want some water?"
He did, so I headed over to his charming little kitchen to get us each a glass. Right above the sink, I saw a collection of whimsical big-bowled colorful stemmed glasses, bedecked with retro-style stars. I couldn't resist them. First, I rinsed them out (in case they were meant to be decorative and had been standing there a while), then I filled them with fresh cold water and carefully carried them to the studio.
As I appeared at the doorway, I asked Oscar with a nervous smile: "I hope these glasses didn't belong to Lola!" I was referring to Lola Montes, his lifelong flamenco mentor and one of the legends of Flamenco and classical Spanish dance in America.
He laughed: "No, they didn't belong to Lola, and even if they did I'd still want you to use them!"
Next, he told me why.
Oscar recently emerged from a prolonged - and successful - battle against cancer.
"I used to save things," he said. "I would avoid using the ‘special' dishes or glasses. I would keep a ‘good' bottle of wine for a special occasion."
"You know what I know now?" he asked me. "After what I've just been through, I've finally realized something that has been a truth all along: every single day is a special occasion. If we want to live life to the fullest, that's the way to live, every day. And it's amazing how rich life feels when you do."
He continued: "Now, when people give me an expensive or special bottle of wine, I warn them that I'm going to drink it at the first opportunity - they shouldn't expect to see it the next time they come over to my house. And if I break some of the good dishes or glasses from using them, heck - at least I used them!"
I've heard the "use the good dishes" advice before, but never really got it until I heard Oscar's version.
I have a really hard time using "special" or "good" clothes. In fact, when I go to my part-time work at the medical clinic, I usually pray that no one I know will see me, because of the clothes I wear. I wear awful pants that I wouldn't normally wear in public, and usually equally ugly shirts.
Why? Because I'm afraid I might get blood on clothes that I like (if I wore them, that is), and also I don't want to "wear out" my clothes that I reserve for "going out" by putting them on for something as mundane as my medical job.
In ten years working as a doctor in clinics, not once have I gotten blood on my clothes. Not only that, on occasions when all my ugly designated medical clothes are in the laundry, I've been forced to wear something nice. That day, I feel so good. I feel attractive, well put-together, and full of energy. I smile more, and feel good because I know I look good.
On those days, I promise myself that I'll start wearing my "good" clothes to the clinic every day. My resolve usually lasts under twenty-four hours, for some reason I just can't get myself to do it. This is a bad thing. Now that I've written this article and made my goal public, I have a far greater chance of succeeding.
Let's stop waiting for "special occasions" to permit us to enjoy and celebrate life. Let's allow ourselves to actively enjoy the good things (and people) we are so fortunate to have and have access to.
Let's use the good dishes. Let's drink the good wine. (Especially if we are sharing those dishes or that wine with other people) Let's wear our favorite, very best clothes (before they go out of style - I can't tell you how many times that has happened to me!). Imagine how good every day would feel, if we treated it like a special occasion? Let's do it!
(P.S. to Oscar: I personally am so very happy that you're going to be around for a loooooong time, we all have so much more to learn from you!)