Living Alone

So, I now live on my own.  Entirely.  Well, me and the cat.  Its a different existence for sure.  I have found that I need to be somewhat disciplined to make it work.  Seems contrary to what one would expect.  Really, the notion of living alone could suggest utter independence, self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and freedom.  It can be all those things for sure, but it can also be lonely, isolated, and frustrating.  Frustrating in that I am it, just me.  There is no sharing of chores, no in-house second opinion or sounding board, no voice of reason. Isolated in that once I am inside my little house, it’s on me to reach out and engage my friends if I am feeling low.  Lonely obviously because the cat, charming as he may be, is not the most stimulating of company.

As a result I have learned some coping mechanisms that work for me.  I have learned to be more structured in my activities.  It’s easy to zone out in front of the television, but it’s not healthy.  So I ensure I work out before the tv goes on.  My go-to for dinner for the first year or so after Kev died was a cup of tea and about 8 Ritz crackers (god I love those things), but that’s not very healthy.  So now it’s a planned meal, always a little prep involved because that uses up some time too.

I tend to plan my weekends well in advance.  Have someone over, or go out some place.  There are a lot of people just like me, on their own, not in a relationship, and just looking for stuff to do.  It takes a bit to get used to arriving places solo, or going someplace on your own, and I am not quite to the point where I will go to a movie on my own, but I’m getting there.  Oh and then there’s on line dating…. lol that’s a story for another time.  I never would have ever expected to be where I am, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, isn’t it?

About the Cruise

The cruise last month was my third one in the past 12 months.  All three have been with Carnival.  Carnival is considered to be an entry level cruise line or so I am told.  Regardless of where they sit on the spectrum I have to say the food is stellar. Other things not so good.  Communication on board the ship has been an issue.  There’s nothing like travelling with your sister and having a honeymoon cake delivered to your dinner table complete with little chocolate hearts.  Or the towels made into little hearts on the bed.  The cabin steward didn’t believe me when I told her we weren’t a couple, we were sisters.  I got eyebrows raised in disbelief and a sympathetic smile suggesting I wasn’t ready to come out of the closet.

Ah, Carnival.  Lots of fodder to write about there.  The honeymoon mix up was only one of several things, but that’s to be expected I guess when you have 3000 guests in a confined space.  But on the cruise trying to get  cup of hot tea with milk became a personal challenge.  On one occasion a gentleman from an adjacent table, after watching me request the tea multiple times over a period of 20 minutes, finally ordered it for me from the same server. Guess what, it arrived in, oh, three minutes at most.  This wasn’t unique to one trip – I had the same problem for two out of three, hot tea apparently confounds them, as perhaps do women travelling alone.

I really don’t have anything to compare Carnival ‘s service to at this point, but I will by this time next year.  We have already booked a cruise with Norwegian for November of this year.  I think the intent is to always kick off the winter with a cruise (November) which is around the time of my sister’s birthday, and then kick out the winter blues with a cruise in February. Once I have put a little more distance from Kevin’s death in March 2015, I hope to find a way to go away that month too.  Our anniversary was the 24th and he died on the 29th.  It seems like a good idea to run away from reality that week.

Anyway, it will be interesting to compare the two cruise lines.  My understanding is that the staff to guest ratio is slightly better with Norwegian.  They also have a unique offering amongst all the lines – cabins for singles.  In a secure area, some with balconies – but geared to and priced for people travelling alone.  I haven’t booked one of these cabins since I am travelling with the sis, but who knows what the future holds, so it will be good to check it out. A bunch of us are planning on going – the more the merrier.

Invariably though I find I have a little weep when I am travelling.  It was Kevin’s passion to travel.  I doubt he would have had any interest in travelling by cruise ship, they are just too restrictive.  Even the food wouldn’t have been enough.  But it suits me fine, I am not the most adventurous and there’s plenty to do aboard the boat.  And there are lots of cruise lines.  I’ll just keep going as long as I have someone to travel with.

Breaking bread not breaking down

Dinner out with the grief group ladies again last night.  Nice meal and no shortage of conversation.  It ended with us all reflecting on where we were in life through no choice we had individually made.  The reality is that we have started to come out the other side.  Friends and family around each of us has too.  But, and that word was accompanied by a heavy sigh, those around us, particularly those in our circle of friends, have yet to travel this path.

i was pretty much the first in my social group to have a spouse die.  Oh sure, we all have lost parents by now, but spouses – no.  Likewise for my lady friends.  We talked about that, and how arbitrary life is.  Then one in the group made the observation that once you can wrap your mind around the fact that you are really and truly alone, then there are occasions when you are okay with not having to consult, worry or limit your actions or activities because of other commitments.  But more bluntly – if I wanted to go to bingo every night there is no one to stop me.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing, no?  (And, for the record, I don’t go to bingo every night!)

Let’s face it, it is hard to find an upside when you have lost the love of your life, but you have to look for something.  For us, the four of us that met for dinner, we all appreciate the fact that we had good relationships that endured.  We had spouses that left us in a position to have a decent quality of life.  We have family and friends that stepped up to the plate and helped fill the void. Things that are important and that many others will never have.

We booked our next meal out for mid-September and I think we even identified a theme:  what difficulties we faced and how we coped, and can that information benefit others.  We could talk about that, or we may just talk about the Olympics.  It’s something to look forward to.

A First of a Different Kind

There are so many times as I go along that I feel the sense of singleness, of being one and only one.  Part of a set that got broken.  My identity over the 30 plus years I spent with Kevin had happily blended with and comfortably fit into his.  We were as different as different could be, but overall, it worked.

About a week ago I had surgery.  Going into it I felt lost and just a little terrified.  There was no one to sense my terror, to talk me down before the surgery, to readjust my mindset.  Another first, and a scary one for me.  Family and friends were around for sure, but I was not about to bare my soul again, to drag people into my pit of neediness.  So I did what I always have done – I planned for the worst.   I missed Kevin dearly – he always planned for the best and accepted nothing less.  Boy, I sure could have used a Kevin fix.  I know, somehow, despite his aversion to all things medical, he would have found something funny, something to joke about.

I spent a couple of days at hospital and then came home to convalesce on my own.  When I got home I made my way up to my bed and spent a whole bunch of time feeling sorry for myself.  Recuperating on my own, no Kevin around to tell me it wasn’t that bad, I spent time wondering what the years ahead would be like and how much effort I felt like putting into them.  Not the best time to reflect on the future or make any life altering decisions, but when there’s nothing else to do, the mind tends to kick into action, and when there’s pain involved the thoughts that the mind spins are hardly upbeat ones.

I guess I must be on the mend because I had a ‘shame on me’ moment yesterday.  It struck me as to how trivial my bit of discomfort is in the grand scheme of things.  I will mend; however, there are plenty of people I know who won’t. All around me people are going through things on their own, silently – some with help, some without.  Lives get altered everyday, paths change, crises come and go; drama is all around us, you just have to look for it.

The world is a hell of a lot more than me.

 

People Watching

So, yes, I did a lot of people watching while I was away.  There is so much you can learn from a person, even while they are in repose; some people never, ever forget they are on display. The ship had over 3,000 guests, and they came in all shapes, sizes and compositions.  There were families with small children, singles, couples; some obvious sneak away hook-ups, kids out for a booze-cruise, every imaginable type were on the ship. Far and away, outnumbering all other age demographics were the Baby Boomers.  At least 50 per cent or more of the patrons on the ship were 50+ years of age.

The close proximity on a ship forces human interaction.  You can hide but only for so long, necessity forces one to surface. And everywhere, absolutely everywhere, on a ship there are people sharing close quarters.  We had a variety of social situations while out at sea but the most interesting, because it forced conversation among strangers, was when we were dining.

We sat with one couple who had retired from working and were now spending their leisure years travelling.  There was a competitiveness between them, we’ve all seen it, it didn’t matter what she said, he’d correct her, and vice versa.   This couple obviously had achievements in life, the lifestyle they were living suggested it, however, it also implied that they’d made a decision at some point to forgo or place second any friends and family so that they could quest after something elusive.  It struck me that what they were looking for was happiness.  One got the feeling after just a few minutes with them, that they were bound together by shared finances and a shared desire for self-fulfillment in a manner they couldn’t figure out – not relaxing folks to be around.  It exhausted me just trying to figure them out. I wish them luck.

Then there was the breakfast where we met the sisters; a bit older than us, one widowed, one not; simpatico in thought and action, the bond blood brings.  My own sister even commented on it – something to the effect: “My gawd, that’s us in a few years!”  That was perhaps one of the better meals we’d had, no competition as to who had done what or gone where – it was warm and engaging conversation around the table, a genuine interest in the experiences of this particular trip.  There was an awareness and acceptance that we were never likely to see each other again; a shared understanding that for now tomorrow doesn’t matter, it’s all about the moment.  It’s about calm, peace, rest and release – take it while you can. Sometimes it’s okay to accept the uncomplicated, to stay on the surface and just skate for a bit.

I realized that this venue, a ship, actually worked well for me as a vacation.  I suspect that a lot of that has to do with my sister.  My sister is a travel agent.  She’d booked our cabin for mid-ship on just the right floor, she arranged for us to board first and disembark first, and had done all the other things that good travel agents do.  She worked hard to create a great experience and it showed.  She’s a gem; the trip was wonderful.  What’s left to say other than thank you meine Schwester.