Living Alone after a Lifetime Living with Others

most-beautiful-small-islands

Writing the other day of my thoughts on mortality and the avoidance of becoming consumed by the fear of death in the wee hours of the morning, I got a comment from my good friend Tash over at Films and Things. She mentioned that when she was younger she had the irrational fear that she would die old and alone. I could relate.

For years I suffered the same fear. In fact it was this fear that lead me to leap into my second marriage; an act similar to jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Despite the fact that I was drawn to the young lady in question, and she was young at a staggering seven years my junior, I should not have been thinking in matrimonial terms at all. I’d only just met her.

But in those days, it was unusual for me to not be thinking with my smaller more hormonally driven brain and the fact that I wanted to just talk to the girl put her in a special ranking. I thought, in my infinite wisdom, that this meant she was special. Special enough to marry. Which I did.

Now many years later, I am living my younger self’s nightmare. I am old-er and living alone. Well and truly the master of all I survey and answerable to no-one except my creditors and the taxman. Amazingly, I am happier than ever before in my life. The young me’s fear of being all alone and dying alone never rears its ugly head. Except in wee hours as I mentioned in my last post.  We all die alone, whether surrounded by loved ones or not. Death is meant to be lonely, it is our own journey that has to be taken in solo status. We can invite no one else to accompany us on this final trip. Hence, we die alone.

But this post is not about dying, sorry to have strayed off the path there. I am back now and moving on to less morbid musings. The post is about living alone after a lifetime of living with others and just how much my life has changed.

The realisation came to me yesterday as I struggled to find enough clothes to make it worth my while to wash one of my summer uniforms (said uniform, donned  the second the sun comes out consists of my speedo shorts and what ever shirt I first grab in the morning); after wandering through the house and realising that all I could add was the two kitchen towels, I realised that this was another symptom of living alone.

On the same day  (busy day yesterday) I filled the kitchen sink with about nine small bits of dishes and cutlery to do the washing up. Another “symptom” of being a loner at home. Probably a bit wasteful of water, but I really cannot stand seeing washing up staggering about the otherwise clean kitchen. One of the things that my long second marriage instilled in me.

Image created by Sarah Danaher with a Canon EOS 5D MkII

But those two similar acts got me thinking. I am now truly alone. I have no one to work around, move around, stumble around. My daughter moved out earlier in the year to share a flat with her boyfriend, a lovely chap that I keep referring to as my “almost son-in-law,” and I have, since that time grown accustomed to being a solo act.

It has been a learning experience this living alone. I have learned how to “downsize” my weekly shop for groceries. That particular task took ages. The amount of times that I had to throw out food that had gone off makes me cringe. Learning to schedule my house cleaning chores by levels. *Said levels are made up of dust accumulation and floors of the house.*  Struggling to make the time to cook my meals so that I do not live on the unhealthy option of constant take-a-way.  That one is the most difficult.

I said to my boss just the other day that I wanted to earn enough money at the paper to pay for a cook and housekeeper…oh and to pay all my outstanding bills of course. I could stand someone coming in occasionally to clean the house and to cook me my healthy heart meals. Even, perhaps, to buy me the groceries needed to set up my meals. I add this last part as I consume my late breakfast of strawberries with unrefined sugar that I threw together since the fruit was  due to go off today.

I love living alone. The freedom it gives me is heady. If I want to walk through my house all day in my birthday suit I can – sorry if that dredges up unwelcome images, if it makes you feel any better, I have not succumbed to that particular temptation just yet.  If I want to hoover (vacuum for those of you in America) my house at nine o’clock at night I can.  These two examples of my freedom are not indicative of everything I love about being gloriously selfish for the first time in my life, but they’ll do for right now.

I am not yearning for physical contact with anyone, be they of the opposite or same sex. I don’t miss hugs or caresses or the other messier types of physical demonstrations of affection/love.  A fact that I was shocked to discover.  I have always been a very tactile person. Sex, to me, was the most fun I’d ever had that did not cost me huge amounts of money. It was also the way I could show, in a physical sense, just how much I cared for the person I was with.

When I was younger, sex was a very important part of my “big game plan” it was something that I knew with utmost certainty that I could not live without.

Right.

Turns out that, like so many things I thought I knew when I was younger, I was wrong. I have written about my feelings about “grown up” love and attraction before. I think the reason that I do not miss the physical act is because the age of my potential playmates match my own. My girlfriends, wives, lovers were always much younger than me, not indecently so, but around the three to seven year mark. There were two exceptions to that rule and both were wonderful experiences.

My circumstances may change in that area, but I do not think so. I have no time for the intrusiveness of a proper relationship and all its incumbent baggage. I write full time for the paper and on my blog whenever I can.  I do my healthy heart walks daily, if at all possible, and write. It is difficult to find the time to clean the blooming house! I certainly do not have the time required to “cultivate” a relationship and like I’ve said before, I may have wrinkles but I don’t find them attractive in potential “mates,” And yes I am aware of how shallow that makes me sound.

But I can say with  certainty that I do love living alone after a lifetime of living with others. I am comfortable with my own company and do not feel the need to find another person to make me complete. I have come to the realisation that, in terms of living space, I am happier flying solo. Besides as my list of friends and colleagues continues to grow, I am never truly lonely.

Michael Smith

Cheers!
Cheers!

United Kingdom

27 August 2013

Light: A Gone Novel by Michael Grant – Endgame

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I waited impatiently for Amazon to deliver my copy of Light. It took them ages after first telling me that the marketplace seller had no more copies and that I’d have to order another one. It finally came on Saturday and I’ve now finished the last Gone novel.

It is bittersweet this final book. Not just in the way the FAYZ ends, but in the knowledge that characters that I grew to love and fear will never return. Grant drew portraits of his Perdido Beach kids that rang true, deep, and varied. They all seemed real, even the “moofs” who despite their super-powers were full of character and depth.

In Light, the kids have reached what they refer to as “the endgame.” It has become a battle between the gaiaphage who has taken human form in the shape of Diana‘s and Caine’s “love child” and is now known as Gaia. Gaia has all of the powers of the other “moofs” and is growing at an inhuman rate of speed.

Which is fitting considering that she is not human at all. Despite her human birth, she really is a product of the gaiaphage that is in reality a virus from another planet.

Sam and Caine join forces to defeat Gaia and the other super powered children gather to help the brothers to defeat her. Even “The Healer” Lana joins the ranks in the final battle.

Gaia decides to lay waste to the land in the bubble surrounding Perdido Beach to aid her in the quest to destroy the entire planet. The only thing she fears is Little Pete, Astrid’s dead brother. who has managed to survive his body’s death and remain in ethereal form in the FAYZ. Gaia calls him nemesis and she is terrified that he will take human form and destroy her.

As the barrier gets thinner and more people from the outside world witness the death and destruction taking place on the inside of the barrier, opinion goes against the survivors of the FAYZ. The retribution that Sam has feared from the very start now seems very real and if he survives the final battle with Gaia he will have to face his accusers.

Light brings an end to the Gone saga and like the rest of the novels, it entertains and excites. All the characters face their own personal Armageddon as the endgame reaches its inevitable conclusion. While the “good-guys” team up to kill Gaia, she relies on the help of her mother Diana and Drake ‘whip-hand’ Merwin (who still shares the same corporeal space as Brittney the religious zealot).

I will miss the entire crew, Sam, Quinn, Albert, Caine, Diana, Edilio, Astrid, Little Pete, Bug, Orc, Dekka, Brianna (the Breeze), Taylor, Jack and all the other guys and girls who make up the beleaguered and embattled citizenry of Perdido Beach. But the ending of their story is just as brilliant as the rest of the books and Grant gives us a 5 star dynamite conclusion.

If you’ve read the Gone novels, don’t miss this one. If you haven’t? What are you waiting for? Unlike Trix, Gone is not just for kids.

Author Michael Grant
Author Michael Grant

Michael Grant’s Gone Series Book Number 5 and Counting

Michael Grant's Gone
Michael Grant’s Gone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow.

That one little word says exactly how I feel about Michael Grant‘s series about a group of Southern California teens who are trapped in a Dionysian apocalyptic world by a giant bubble that has been created by a 5-year-old autistic demi-god.

I read the first book in the series in August of this year. I was immediately hooked on the characters, their story and the tiny surfing community of the fictional Perdido Beach where everyone over the age of fifteen suddenly disappears.

Perdido Beach is soon renamed the FAYZ by the remaining children who are broken into factions. The first two factions are the “Freaks” and the “Normals.” Further factions are broken down into the Sam Temple camp and his half-brother Caine Soren, as the names imply Sam is the good guy and Caine is not.

The other faction that affects all the kids beside the actual bubble itself is the Gaiaphage, an outer space virus that was getting a piggy-back ride from a meteor that crashed through the Perdido Beach nuclear power station.

The trials and tribulations of the stranded kids has run the gamut from carnivorous teeth sprouting worms to bugs that eat you from inside out.  Of course there is still the disappearing at fifteen hurdle to overcome, but both Sam and Caine have proven that you don’t have to “poof out” if you don’t want to.

The books in the series are as follows:

1. Gone

2. Hunger

3. Lies

4. Plague

5. Fear

6. Light

Light the sixth and final book in the series will not be out until April 2013. I, for one, cannot wait for the finale of this outstanding series.

The Gone series is classified as fiction for Young Adults or Teens. I am neither and I have been swept away by Grant’s world. Each book in the series has followed the character’s development, deaths and decisions.

I actually sat down and in a three-day “read-a-thon” plowed my way through Lies, Plague and Fear. It was only after I’d downloaded Fear and read it as an E-book that I realised my error. If I’d waited for the book to be available via the library, I could have save myself the agony of waiting for the last book to be published months away.

Michael Grant has shown us what Lord of the Flies could be in the 21st century. Both tales are of nuclear catastrophes and of the effects that it had on a group of ungoverned youths. Grant’s FAYZ bubble is an island by everything but name and the kids in it are facing similar struggles to the plane wreck survivors in Lord of the Flies.

Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The addition of “super powers” in some of the kids and the “joker in the deck” of Coates Academy full of rich kid juvenile delinquents just makes the playing field that much more colorful.

I would recommend this series full of unforgettable characters to anyone, young or old. The villains of the series are not cardboard cutouts and some, Drake Merwin aka Whiphand especially, are terrifying. By the end of Fear we’ve learned that outside the bubble the “real world” exists and that it is aware of the bubble and is trying to penetrate it.

I have read the odd review where they stated that the kids did not seem like “real” teenagers. I have one thing to say to that, but since this is a series aimed at young adults, I’ll restrict it to a G rating. What a crock! I work with teenagers everyday (well I did until my accident and then heart attack) and I can identify with Grants depiction of Sam, Astrid, Caine, Diana, heck all the kids in the FAYZ.

I have, so far, written two reviews about this series. The Gone  and Hunger reviews were written literally minutes after completing the book. This review took a bit longer as I sat and digested the enormity of what Michael Grant has achieved with his story of the FAYZ and all those in it and their families outside of it.

It also took a couple of days to get over the disappointment of realising that I won’t know the outcome of the characters until April of next year. The sign of any good author is the trait of being able to leave his readers wanting to hear more about his creation.

Grant has done that no question. I am a Michael Grant fan now and like a true fan I’ll be reading everything else by him that I can get my hands on. If for no other reason than it will make the waiting for the final book of Gone that little bit easier.

Fear…Is An Animal

Male elephant in Etosha National Park, Namibia...
Male elephant in Etosha National Park, Namibia Kiswahili: Tembo katika mbuga la burudani Etosha, Namibia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fear is an animal that can disrupt your life, your well being, your calm. It can be many different kinds of animals.

It is an elephant stampeding through your mind. Wreaking havoc with your normal, everyday routine thinking patterns. It stomps any calm, or peaceful thoughts flat. Rational thought flees from this rampaging beast and cowers, unable to move and unable to fight.

English: This is Vinnie the Ferret in the midd...
English: This is Vinnie the Ferret in the middle of a war dance jump. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It can also be a ferret. Ferrets are used to hunt rats and rabbits, and just like their real hunting prowess, dig into your mind and seek out rational thought. This type of fear, is just as debilitating as the elephant but with different side-effects.

With the elephant you are so immobilized that you cannot think. With the ferret you try to escape the weasley, oily attack. You try to ignore the needle-like teeth and sharp claws that are attacking your normal thoughts.

It can also be a snake.  Twisting and gliding through your thoughts, it hisses and strikes at the rational processes of your brain. Sometimes hitting, sometimes not. The snake is the easiest to live with. However, you spend so much time avoiding the strikes that, again, you are practically immobilized. You can function, but in a reduced capacity.

It can also be a species you have never seen before. The unkown animal can cause a temporary paralysis of the brain. This, however, is temporary. Immediately following the initial paralysis is adrenaline. This floods your system and makes everything seemingly slow down.

While this ‘Matrix-like’ slow motion is occurring, your brain is busy trying to identify this unknown animal. Trying to figure out if the “fight or flight” option is necessary here. But you’d better be quick. For adrenaline with all the ‘superman’ like qualities that it can bestow, is fleeting.

Fear can also be a lion. This is ‘everyday’ fear. The fear we can control or even conquer. Lions can be tamed, overpowered and even killed. All these actions can take a long time. Especially if you are trying to kill the fear.

Most of us face the lion daily. We have become adroit at waving the chair, cracking the whip. Controlling the lion, pushing it back, making it open it’s mouth so we can have a closer look. Because if we can see better, we have a greater chance of controlling it.

When fear attacks our normally rational thought process, we react or we freeze. Whether the attack is prefaced with a trumpet call, an ominous hissing, a roar or complete silence we all react the same.

While I have been typing this post, I have been fighting the lion, looking out for the snake and praying that the elephant doesn’t show up.

Don’t forget to practice with your whip and chair.