The difference between existing and living

Some interesting thoughts from David Swan here about the difference between living and existing. I could especially relate to the idea of it being better to try and fail, than not try at all, it’s not something that works for everyone, but for me, it’s what I need to do.

Work In Progress

I’ve been musing on these two terms existing and living and with my recent forays into the world of the low paid, I get to understand more about existing. To exist is to just get by. It means holding down a job that you don’t really care that much for and then entertaining yourself with monotonous distractions at the weekend. If you are just existing then no doubt you will want to lose yourself in endless television, junk food, and pointless conversation with friends in similar circumstances.

The importance of these two terms is important to understand so that you can recognise that you are just existing and want to push yourself into the realm of the living. The living take long walks anywhere, and great gulps of air. They relax so much more into the now and take their time with living. They pursue their dreams and don’t let…

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Flash: The Empty Shelf

shelf
Image from Pexels

This flat is too big without her in it, the wind seems to rush right through me, the floor echoes my footsteps instead of her laughter. We never even argued. She snapped sometimes, I just assumed she was tired, and I’d give her a hug to cheer her up. Maybe if we’d had a proper screaming row, I could understand the pattern that led us to here, retrace my steps. There must have been steps, there must have been signs.

I walk past where she kept her coat, folded over the sofa. She always wanted a hook on the wall, but I explained I had just the right number of hooks for my coats, and I didn’t want to spoil the paintwork. We’d laugh about it of course, I’d say give it another year and you can have your own hook, and we’d laugh. Laughing is the backbone of a relationship, I always think.

She was here three years. They were beautiful years, but I had to rearrange my life around her, I don’t think she saw how difficult that was. I’d find her hair in the plug hole, or she’d want to watch the Apprentice; it was tough, but I kept altering my world to fit her in. She wanted somewhere to put her stuff, so I cleared a shelf in the cupboard under the stairs. She kept her shower gel there, a change of clothes.

When the lack of her gets too much, I open the cupboard and stare at the empty shelf. I thought she’d be pleased with it, I had to clear away my motoring magazines to make space and I thought she’d fling her arms around me joyfully and be so happy, but she just nodded. Nobody else in my life ever had a shelf, she was special. I wanted her to know that, but it was like she couldn’t feel it, like she blocked all my efforts.

When she left it only took five minutes to up and out of my life. She cleared the shelf, picked up her coat and was gone, as if she’d never been here. Apart from the mug ring on the coffee table, she erased herself from my home. She hasn’t called. Why hasn’t she called? She must be regretting her decision by now.

We were happy, weren’t we? I was happy. She was special.

 

Snowflakes and the Sun

A very funny, and mild-rage inducing post from Calmgrove here…

Calmgrove

On March 5th 2018 the so-called newspaper called The Sun made a rare foray into the literary world, only to shoot itself in the foot.

Writers Gary O’Shea and Thea Jacobs quoted a couple of academics who’d suggested — unsurprisingly to anybody who’d read Frankenstein — that the Creature was a victim whose actions could be understood even if not condoned.

According to the journalists (is that the correct description?) students who expressed sympathy for the Creature’s plight were to be dubbed ‘snowflakes’; for anyone not au fait with this term of opprobrium it means anyone who is, frankly, not a rabid gun-toting neoliberal who thinks the poor, the disabled, LGBTI campaigners, women and ethnics have only themselves to blame for being victims.

Sadly, it’s not at all obvious that the writers have read either the 1818 text or the 1831 edition, in which it’s abundantly clear that the Creature…

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We All Carry Ghouls

All the world rumbles past at speed, but I live at different pace. While you rush up and down flicking through your phone whenever you have a moment’s pause, I see the slow world, always shuffling beneath your perception. Because I’m slow, because sickness has dragged me to a slug’s pace as the world speeds around me, I miss a lot: I don’t get how the latest crazes work and it’s years since I chatted celebrity gossip with a stranger at the bus stop, but I see the seasons. Not as you do, not the sudden blazing heat or the rain. I see the first bud break and the very last gasp of summer. I don’t see you when you’re running for the bus, that’s too fast, but when you’re waiting at the bus stop, I hear the gentle click of your brain as boredom sets in.

And most of all, I see the ghouls. I see them oozing through the streets looking for lunch, dripping in slow motion from the lamppost. I see them sliding their liquid fingers around the shoulders of that boy who has paused at the side of the road, waiting for the cars to pass, clamping their mouths around his neck while they masticate with painful slowness on his will. Sucking on his marrow at such a speed it will take decades before his bones are sucked dry.

Horror films always show monsters as fast-moving things, but ghouls aren’t like that, their disguise is their interminability. They surround you, but they move so slowly you can’t perceive them.

It wasn’t until I got sick that I saw them. When you’re ill you slow down. I don’t mean flu ill, a few weeks won’t teach you anything. I mean when the months stretch into years, when your voice fades and you adapt to the fact that moving your limbs is like wading through syrup. When my thoughts finally emptied out and there was space in my head, that is when I saw them. And I realised the ghouls were everywhere.

Some people carry more than others. The man with the frizzy beard who smells of pee, the ghouls crowd and shuffle at his shoulders, they like him because he can glimpse them sometimes. They whisper to him, they suckle and chew on his ears. That young girl with the face too tired for a child, they cling to her, weighing her down as she staggers along. I watch them out of my window, a street filled with slow-moving ghoul parasites, feasting on their hosts with the same messy abandon that children have when eating crisps at a party.

We all have them, you have them. Once I slowed enough to see, I could feel their greedy, destructive chomping as they guzzled on a vein, or scooped out my innards with a stick. I wondered how I could stay alive with so much damage, how any of us could.

I tried batting them away, but their liquid bodies just slid around the attack. I tried burning them with a lighter, but the flame fizzled and went out. I saw the doctor, and he listened patiently, then wrote me a prescription for anti-psychotics, but all the while a ghoul had its finger sunk into his eye socket and it looked at me and winked.

As I trudged my slow way home, the ghouls chewed on my hair and giggled, they knew I had no way to stop them, I couldn’t make them leave. Opening the door to my flat, I made my slow way to the fridge and cut off a hunk of cheese, too tired to make a sandwich. I sat on the sofa while a ghoul gnawed at my knee. Without really thinking I reached out and patted him on the head and he looked up, surprised.

“We get lonely sometimes,” I said, “us slow ones.” Another ghoul that was sitting on my shoulder also stopped, so I reached up and stroked his back, tickled him behind the ear. I don’t think anyone had ever been nice to them before.

That was three weeks ago, and everything and nothing has changed. I’m still ill, still slow, still carry ghouls, but they’ve stopped their gnawing and destruction, instead thy keep me warm. When I’m alone, which is mostly, I chat to them,

“You’re beautiful,” I say and scratch one on his nose. “Aren’t you a silly little pookums,” I say, as one nuzzles at my neck and purrs. We all carry ghouls.

My Flu Hell! (It wasn’t too bad really)

I can never fully commit to a clickbaity title.

Flu
Flu virus image from AJP.com.au

I haven’t written much over the last week because I’ve had flu. It wasn’t too terrible, although I suspect this is mostly down to luck, since my flatmate has had a horrendous time. However, not having had flu before, I was surprised that it’s distinctly different from a cold in a few unexpected ways. Not all flus are the same of course, but these symptoms seem to fit fairly well with the NHS guidelines, suggesting that they’re typical. I’m posting about them in case this would be of use to some of you. Whether you need to know what to expect with your own bout of the lurgy or need to convincingly lie about symptoms to your boss, either way, I’m here to help.

Unexpected symptoms of flu

You can’t sleep. The first sign that something was really wrong was waking up about thirty times in one night, with a few hours spent just staring at the ceiling. I managed to snatch a few hours in the week by dosing up on Night Nurse, but it wasn’t until I started to get better that I had a proper night’s sleep. I couldn’t sleep in the day either, which meant the hours went really slowly.

You can’t do anything. I wasn’t so ill that I was stuck in a bed all week, instead I was stuck in a chair unable to move and very bored. Normally I don’t have the patience to watch TV, but for the past week all I’ve done is stare at Netflix like a zombie. I’ve watched Dirk Gently, Sense8, The Good Place and Community, and it’s sort of been fun. Unfortunately I was quite enjoying Sense8, but now I doubt I’ll be able to finish the series because my attention span has returned to its natural scattered state.

You feel queasy all the time. Neither me nor flatmate actually were sick, but we both struggled to eat. Usually we have fairly vegetarian diets, but neither of us could eat any vegetables. Instead he ate very little and only sausage rolls, and I ate considerably more, but only roast chicken and bread (and chocolate and ice cream, cos there is no illness that can keep me from those). I still can’t face milk.

You lose the ability to gauge temperature. The first day I got sick my teeth were chattering so hard I’d thought they’d break.  At other times I’d be boiling with fever, until the paracetamol kicked in. Then I’d become just warm, except the heating in my flat struggles when it get’s below five degrees outside, and I definitely shouldn’t have been warm. Even yesterday, when I went back to work and the sky dumped an inch of snow on me I didn’t really feel cold. I’m hoping it’s a symptom that sticks around for a few more weeks.

The cough is very annoying. And painful. It’s a dry, pathetic sounding cough (think Zoolander when he thinks he’s got black lung) but I keep getting stuck on a loop where I can’t stop coughing until I can’t breathe and my head is pounding.

The only other symptoms are: a sore throat that feels like I’ve swallowed a golf ball on fire, and shooting pains through my arms and stomach. Oh and moving reeeaally slowly, getting out of breath if I have to climb any stairs or pick anything up.

Now all I’m left with is the cough, so I think it’s fair to say I’ve been let off pretty lightly compared to many.

So over to you all, any of you had flu recently? Or have you never had it, and like a colleague of mine, suspect all flu is just colds for whingers?

 

 

Stenny Johanssen

Living in a house converted to three flats, Jacky was only slightly surprised to see on the hall table, post for a name she didn’t recognise. It was a package the size of a bag of sugar, and the name on the front said Stenny Johansson. She checked beneath it for her own post, found none, and went on her way.

The package had been there for three days when the doorbell rang early on Sunday morning. A cheerful blonde-haired, ruddy-faced Swedish man stood on the doorstep, and Jacky peered at him through her hangover,

“Hello! Hello! I am so pleased to see you here. I was hoping that you had a parcel for me, Stenny Johansson?”

“You’re Stenny Johansson?”

“Yes, I’m over here from Sweden and my wife sent my parcel to the wrong house. Do you have it?”

“Oh, sure,” said Jackie, blurrily and confused, she handed over the package.

“Oh what a relief. It is parts for my vacuum cleaner and I’m leaving in a few days, so I need those parts before I leave the country.”

“Ah,” said Jacky, wondering vaguely why anyone would have vacuum cleaner parts sent over from Sweden if they were about to leave the country, but instead she nodded sagely.

“Oh you are a doll! You’re a lifesaver!” said Stenny, exuberantly, in a noisy way that hurt her head, and Jacky was relived to shut the door.

Three days later, on Wednesday morning when Jacky was still on her first coffee,the door bell rang and Jacky trudged down the stairs to open it. In the doorway stood another blonde, cheerful man.

“Ah yes! Hello! My name is Stenny Johansson, I’m hoping that you have a package for me,” said the man.

“No, someone called Stenny Johansson picked it up a few days ago,” said Jacky, feeling befuddlement flush her face red.

“No, no. I am Stenny Johansson, that is my package. Do you have it?”

“No, I just told you, someone picked it up.”

“But it’s mine,” said the man, sweaty indignation furrowing his face. “It’s vacuum cleaner parts, I need them to fix my vacuum cleaner. Did you check he was the real Stenny Johansson?”

“No, why would I check that?” asked Jackie, she was feeling indignant now. The second Johansson stormed off, shouting,

“Well you shouldn’t have given my post away! That’s illegal, you know?”

When the third Stenny Johansson appeared at the door, Jacky knew instantly. He had the same ruddy face, tousled blonde hair and look of optimism. Before she could speak, he tried to force his way in. Jacky put her foot against the door, but it took all her strength to keep the new Stenny outside.

“But those are the parts for my vacuum cleaner!” he shouted through the letterbox. “How will I clean my house now?”

The fourth Stenny Johansson didn’t bother announcing his name as he shoved the door aside with such force that Jacky went flying against the wall and knocked her head. With her thoughts still spinning, she was only dimly aware of Stenny Johansson stomping up the stairs to her flat, and then stomping back down a few minutes later. She didn’t really register the bright red object in his hands, and it was only later when she found her Henry hoover missing that she understood that he’d taken it.

Questions and Answers

Last week I asked some questions, and got some interesting answers, for example atMilliwayswithapen and Pamela Spiro, plus plenty more in the comments below the last blog. I’m going to put forward my own answers, (but would still like to hear yours if you fancy taking part 🙂 )

First, the questions

  1. Would you rather be beautiful, an astronaut or able to walk up any surface (ie up walls and along the ceiling)? Why?
  2. Would you rather physically age, mentally age or visibly age?
  3. What was the last good deed you did?
  4. I’ve been watching the Good Place. It’s great. To give a spoiler-free description, it’s a comedy about a Heaven-like place, where you can live in your ideal house in a perfect village, eat all your favourite foods, and hang out with your soul-mate. What three things would you choose to have in your good place?
  5. You get a time machine watch that can only go up to an hour into the past or future. What would you use it for?
  6. You’re such an awesome person, that the mayor of your town has asked you to come up with a national holiday, what would you want the holiday to be for (eg Tree Day, Festival of Dreams), and when would you want it?
  7. What small something would you change right now?
  8. What are your plans for getting older? How do you want to spend your time when/if you stop working? Where do you want to be?
  9. You find out (probably from a magic floating wizard or by text or something) that nothing you do today will have consequences. What’s your itinerary for the day?
  10. When you die your ghost will be trapped in the place of your death, where do you want to die?

And my answers

  1. Would you rather be beautiful, an astronaut or able to walk up any surface (ie up walls and along the ceiling)? Why?

I’d definitely choose walking up surfaces. Being beautiful meh, seems like more trouble than it’s worth. All the focus on you would be on how you look rather than what you do or say, and I reckon you’d come to rely on the adoration and then get scared of losing it. Being an astronaut is nice in theory, but I have a feeling the reality is really hard work, with a lot of monotony in confined spaces for the most part. However, being able to walk up walls would never not be great. At the absolute least it would be useful for walking down a busy street, or walking up the side of a train, or hanging from the ceiling of a lift. Just endlessly great. And then being able to take a stroll up the outside of the Shard, or along the bottom of Waterloo Bridge would be great. I doubt I’d bother with the ground again.

  1. Would you rather physically age, mentally age or visibly age?

I’d most like to hang on to my mind and the ability of my body, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with looking old. If I can only keep one ability, it would be my mind, then I can still plug myself into virtual reality and go to beautiful places/ do amazing things there.

  1. What was the last good deed you did?

Bought some food for a young, scared man who’s started sitting outside my local Tesco.

  1. I’ve been watching the Good Place. It’s great, to give a spoiler-free description, it’s a comedy about a Heaven-like place, where you can live in your ideal house in a perfect village, eat all your favourite foods, and hang out with your soul-mate. What three things would you choose to have in your good place?

Cakes and ice cream. Warm rain. A place to walk without interruption.

  1. You get a time machine watch that can only go up to an hour into the past or future. What would you use it for? (I’m specifically not stating how this would work, if it would create lots of you, or if you’d just replay the same event, you get to decide)

I think (like Calmgrove) I’d use it for relieving anxiety, by changing all the stupid comments I make. I’m not sure about jumping forward in time, maybe if I had to wait twenty minutes in the cold for a train, but it’s like wishing a bit of my life away, I think I’d rather try to find some pleasure in the waiting.

  1. You’re such an awesome person, that the mayor of your town has asked you to come up with a national holiday, what would you want the holiday to be for (eg Tree Day, Festival of Dreams), and when would you want it?

A day of release, when people shout, scream, dance and smash things, without any judgement from others. A day to let out all suppressed emotions, bad feelings and regret, and howl, without any shame or embarrassment.

  1. What small something would you change right now?

I’ve got a migraine hovering at the back of my head, I would like to not have it, please.

  1. When you die your ghost will be trapped in the place of your death, where do you want to die?

I reckon in the ocean, that must be filled with so many wonders that most of us will never see. There’s real intelligence there too (octopuses and squid) so that would be fascinating to observe.

  1. What are your plans for getting older? How do you want to spend your time when/if you stop working? Where do you want to be?

I want to still be living with my flatmate who is also my closest friend, we plan to buy a house by the sea at some point. I want to get into computer games, so that when I’m too decrepit to do much else, I can escape into some mad world with zombies and flying kicks.

  1. You find out (probably from a magic floating wizard or by text or something) that nothing you do today will have consequences. What’s your itinerary for the day?

I think breaking into lots of important buildings to see what politicians and businessmen are up to.  Jumping off buildings, smashing up cars, setting fire to shops. Running up to strangers and hugging them. Driving a car really fast (I just sold my car, so I’ll need to pinch one, presumably the world without consequences would mean other people have no consequences either, so that’s ok). For those who didn’t understand how this would work, I suppose I’m thinking it would be like Groundhog Day, at the end of the day it all resets and nothing has changed, or maybe like many little Groundhog Days.

 

Institute of Living, Hartford CT, torture and illegal confinement in 2013

A truly important and heart-rending post. I’m proud to share it…

WAGblog: Dum Spiro Spero

Part One

4-point restrained at the Institute of Living 2013 routinely for 19 hours or more.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Pamela S. Wagner, and I was for most of my 65 years a resident of Connecticut. I have a long history diagnosed with serious mental illness and have been on disability for many years because of it. Five years ago,  I was admitted to the Hartford Hospital’s Institute of Living on a 14-day PEC. I would like to tell you about some of the grotesque brutalities that transpired there and the egregious “treatment” that passes for care in that hospital.

Ever since I was discharged from the Institute of Living in February 2013, to which facility I had been committed as an involuntary patient under an order known as a Physicians Emergency Certificate. I have felt too terrified even to read the partial chart which the Connecticut…

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Now Tell Me About You…

Any of you familiar with this blog will know I like being nosey and asking you all questions. So here are a few more for you. If you feel inspired, then please answer below, or share and reblog. I look forward to hear what you’ve got to say. I’ll give my own answers next week.

  1. Would you rather be beautiful, an astronaut or able to walk up any surface (ie up walls and along the ceiling)? Why?
  2. Would you rather physically age, mentally age or visibly age?
  3. What was the last good deed you did?
  4. I’ve been watching the Good Place. It’s great. To give a spoiler-free description, it’s a comedy about a Heaven-like place, where you can live in your ideal house in a perfect village, eat all your favourite foods, and hang out with your soul-mate. What three things would you choose to have in your good place?
  5. You get a time machine watch that can only go up to an hour into the past or future. What would you use it for?
  6. You’re such an awesome person, that the mayor of your town has asked you to come up with a national holiday, what would you want the holiday to be for (eg Tree Day, Festival of Dreams), and when would you want it?
  7. What small something would you change right now?
  8. What are your plans for getting older? How do you want to spend your time when/if you stop working? Where do you want to be?
  9. You find out (probably from a magic floating wizard or by text or something) that nothing you do today will have consequences. What’s your itinerary for the day?
  10. When you die your ghost will be trapped in the place of your death, where do you want to die?

Now over to you blogsters!