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?

February and March – I need a strategy

I recognize that, quite likely for the rest of my life, I will need a strategy to get through these two months.

Last year, February of 2016, I went off for a cruise with my sister and, despite my reservations, I enjoyed myself.  So we decided to repeat the event again this year, extending the invitation to two more of my sisters to join us (bringing the count to four out of a potential five and a half – yes I have a half sister).  And they did join us. It was the first time in decades that just us sisters did anything together.  My two sisters live in Newfoundland and my other sister and I live in Ontario, so it is not exactly conducive to family outings.  It came together for us though; the weather was great, the sea was calm, the food on the cruise was amazing.  It was a good thing.

We had one small glitch to deal with in Miami Airport.  It could have cast a pall on the vacation but fortunately it just wasn’t important enough to let it.  We had booked rooms for the night at Miami International Airport – paid way too much for inferior accommodations, but the convenience was the deciding factor.  In the morning we went downstairs to eat at Margaritaville, a chain restaurant located immediately beside the hotel lobby in the airport.

Our server was churlish to say the least – she had a chip on her shoulder so big it was a wonder she could lift a tray.  She took her time coming to our table to take our orders.  She forgot a couple of items we ordered.  Refills on the coffee – you’re kidding me right?  Just a gem.  Anyway, the bill came for the meal – it was $60.  We put cash down of $65 and prepared to leave.

The server was quick to grab the bill.  She walked away and opened up the black plastic bill holder and then came steaming, yup, steaming back.  “That’s not enough!” she said and slammed the bill holder on the table.  She flipped the cover open and stabbed her finger at a line on the bill.  It’s a beaut – it says “Recommended gratuity 15% – $8.99.”  She was royally pissed at us and said, “You need to leave more tip.”  And then she stormed off leaving us and the bill at the table!   Are you kidding me?  That’ll do it, give us a yell lovey and then we’ll pay you more.  Needless to say she didn’t get her $8.99, she got her $5.  In hindsight we should have taken the tip away completely, but the reality is that servers in the US typically don’t have a great hourly wage and rely on their tips, but bullying the customers to get it defies comprehension.

That exchange was off-putting until we realized that we were leaving the place behind for a week of sunshine and laughter.  That bitter little server was stuck in a hell of her own making.  She’s not doing much for the reputation of the restaurant though.  I gotta think that if she treats the customers like that she’s probably a nightmare for the manager to deal with too. Regardless,  I’ll never eat at that chain again.

 

 

 

Time Marches On

It does, time just marches on, and as it does it just presses us forward, willing or unwilling.  I was thinking about my life and how I appear to be in a third chapter.  There was life before marriage, before Kevin; my teens into my early twenties, when I would wonder where life would take me.  Then, along came marriage and all it entails, and life truly happened.  Three kids, a husband, home, work – and all the chaos that came with it.  Busy times, full of plans and change.

Those two periods have now passed and I know that I am entering into another phase, but I am not sure how it will unfold.  Whether it will be long or short, full of change or unchanging.  It’s almost back full circle to when I was younger – when I wondered and worried about what was in store for me.  That time sandwiched in the middle, when Kevin was alive, seems so ideal to me now.  The good times and the not so good times have all blended into shared times, when I was on solid footing just by virtue of having him with me.

I have a dinner later this week with my ladies from the grief group and I plan on asking them about how they feel – whether they have the same perception of return to ‘beforeness’ that I have.  It’s different, of course, in that now I can look back and reflect on events and make decisions that are wiser based on my life experience. It’s the same though, since I am back to making those decisions on my own.

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.

 

 

 

A Vacation

I just got back from my first vacation.  The ‘first’ since Kevin died.  Since his death I have heard repeatedly from different sources to never say no to new adventures.  To try new things, not discard them out of hand.  And so, when my sister suggested a cruise, I decided to try it.  A cruise is completely outside of my comfort zone, not high on my list of things to try.  Give me an all-inclusive on the ground any day. But, as a nod to the suggestion, I decided to say yes, and then spent the next three months wondering why on earth I had.

There was apprehension on my part for several reasons.  I wondered if I would be able to enjoy it at all – my heart aches so.  It’s coming up 11 months and I miss Kevin every day. I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the cruise experience, would I get seasick.  I was afraid of what would happen to my family while I was away, what if something went wrong and I wasn’t there for them.  Finally, I hoped I wouldn’t be one giant drag for my sister.

I’m back and the world carried on just fine.  The kids got by without me for a week.  Even the pets did!  I didn’t get seasick or have any issues in that regard.  The cruise was great fun; my sister was excellent company.  I did have my moments though, it was inevitable. One morning we met a couple of sisters travelling together just like us, one married, one widowed.  The conversation with these ladies was the hardest one I had on the trip and served to remind me that my experience is a shared one.

I am happy to be home, no doubt about it.  I have lots of observations about the cruise experience.  In a confined space with so many diverse people travelling together it was interesting just people watching.  One thing for sure is that most people are highly self-conscious and insecure.  So much posturing – to what end?  We were a ship of strangers, no need to impress; it’s about relaxing not stressing. Perhaps this was the biggest difference in my first vacation without Kevin, I spent more of it thinking rather than doing.