What Are the 10 Things You Can’t Do Without?

A tongue-in-cheek approach to life is a good start

A friend recently had a values conversation with his girlfriend—always dangerous in a new relationship. They were talking about things they feel they need for a meaningful life. For her, it was the big stuff: a house, a car, marriage, a child. For him, it was a garbage disposal (he cooks) and a large-screen TV (“I’m a dude”).

That got me thinking: Taking into account that we all need air, food, shelter, clothing and water, what do we require beyond that? What are the strange idiosyncratic items that each person feels are essential?

Like my friend, I don’t care about the big stuff. And I like to imagine myself as a Quakerish nonmaterialist. But I have a list of essentials too. So, in no particuar order, here are the 10 things I feel I can’t live without. I hope you’ll share yours too.

A pet. I would say my dog, but she’s old so I’m kind of in trouble if I can’t live without her. At the moment, she’s sitting in a patch of sunlight and her apple-shaped head keeps bobbling as she falls asleep and then wakes herself up. Every now and then she turns around to make sure I’m still here. I say, “It’s okay, sweetie, I’m right here,” and she sighs and goes back to sun-induced head-bobbling. At moments like these, it does kind of feel like it has to be her. But I’ll say “a pet” to be on the safe side.
Dental care. There are parts of your body you can safely ignore. I could go through my whole life and avoid the chiropodist. And I used to think the dentist was optional too, which is why I didn’t go for five years. Then I noticed my face was on fire when I brushed my teeth, so I went back. I’m pretty sure the subsequent eight appointments were punishment for my not going for so long. I heard, “We’re almost done, you’re doing great” in my sleep.
Glasses. Because I can’t see without them. And my face looks naked.
Hearing aids. Because I can’t go to movies or restaurants without them.
Movies. For a couple years after I had shock treatments, I couldn’t see movies because they triggered absence seizures. Those were the worst two years of my life. Some people are happiest in the sun. Some are happiest curled up with a loved one. I’m happiest when my shoes are sticking to the floor, I’m eating gummy $10 popcorn and my ears are being battered with Dolby sound.
Books. My absolute favorite quotation, bar none, is this: “Some say life is the thing. I prefer reading.” Yup. What he said.
Pajamas. I could live without clothing (I’ve hung out at nudist camps and enjoyed it), but I can’t live without soft, mushy sleepwear to putter around in. I’m actually something of a pajama connoisseur, having been confined to a sickroom for many years. I recently bought a soft cotton muumuu and matching robe after a 10-point assessment more complex than a dental exam. The key question: Will I be comfy? The answer was yes.
My iPhone. A smartphone is pretty much the Swiss Army knife of technology. First of all, it’s a phone. But I also use it as a notepad, a tape recorder, a jukebox, a web browser, a calendar, a still camera, a GPS unit, a portable TV, a timepiece, a gaming platform, an alarm clock, a white noise machine, a flashlight, a radio, a calculator, a compass, a dictation machine, a video camera, an e-book reader, a translator and a weather monitor. I use it for email and text messaging and read all my favorite newspapers and periodicals on it.
Drugs. Not illicit drugs, though those are good too, but albuterol (asthma), Imitrex (migraines) and psych meds (insanity).
Rosenberger’s diet iced tea. Because in all its chemical glory, it’s simply delicious.