(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, October 30, 2009

the many risks of living alone.

I am regularly provided insights into how I shall surrender my mortality.

Living alone is kind that way. in bits here and there, we are given glimpses ... us solitary residents. somehow, it feels like missus earth is feeding us crumbs to prepare us ... so when we are there, dying alone, we will be somewhat more prepared.

I'm a "six feet under" fan. you other gentle viewers will know that each episode commences with a scene of a death. one of their episodes which resonated with me is that of a woman ... I'd guess early 50s, who returns home alone to her small apartment, prepares her microwave-ready dinner, sits down alone at her dining table and proceeds to choke to death ... all alone. (this too reminds me of the helpfullness of a dear friend, who emailed me instructions on self-administration of the Heimlich Maneuver ... and how to self-provide CPR.)

in any event, nary a week passes where I do not experience some sort of near-death miss. whether it is a stairwell slip ... that I either recover from at the last moment ... or somehow less than gracefully manage to break my fall and experience the lesser of 2 evils ... deep and long lasting bruising vs. broken bones or neck.

some of my friends must harbor worries on my behalf...although they won't come clean and actually speak the fateful words, they regularly provide tips and techniques for calamity avoidance.

when my dear friends David and Kathleen were visiting last year, they assisted with the delivery of a huge truckload of logs for my fireplace. we stacked and stacked and then had the opportunity to build a fire on a chilly morning. It was apparent that the wood was still a bit damp and unsuitable for easy burning.

David graciously purchased a log splitter tool with a long handle and very heavy, very sharp head. It is nearly too heavy for me to hoist, but of course I tried...wobbily. David also split a large amount of logs for me, creating kindling pieces to aid in getting my fires going.

When JY observed me attempting to use this tool, a panicked expression filled his brow. "Kim-bear-lay! N'utilisez pas cet outil. c'est trop dangereux. si tu as besoin de bois pour se dédoubler, demandez-moi!!! Serieusement!!!". He was convinced I would cut off a foot.

Okay. fine, I decided this time he might be right. Winter and summer passed. Fall is here and I have the need of more kindling. I thought if I bought a hatchet.... Safer, right? I mean it is a tenth of the size of the splitter. I'm a camper. I can do it.

Well. Somehow I escaped hacking off my left hand. I was using it to steady a small log as I chopped with my right hand. A few misses of the mark, but I pressed on ... and with a stroke aimed, went left and the blade landed squarely between my forefinger and thumb. Not sure how, but it only broke the skin and caused a bleed as opposed to severing my thumb. Now, a few days later, I have a large triangular bruise and much soreness.

I've reflected in the meantime on this close call. A cut next to a large vein in my hand. Alone. of a cold morning. wondering if I'd have the presence of mind to suppress the bleeding, locate the emergency number, get me to a hospital or ambulance.

now wasn't the moment. but for many years now I've suspected a like moment will arise.

I guess there's more than the lack of regular sex to bemoan when one is single. morbidly single.


Rosie said...

Dial 18 and call the pompiers. Seriously though, you should have the emergency numbers by your phone ready for the panic when you can't remember anything. Here's hoping you never need any of them :)

La Framéricaine said...

It's amazing what realizations solitude will lead to. Although I've never required it to fall down anyway, with great regularity.

You might recall that I mentioned the two travel networks, EBBN and Affordable Travel, a while back. If the size of your home permits it, perhaps you could begin having visitors that are not kin but just in love with la belle France. I am currently sitting up in bed overlooking the backside of the city of San Francisco through just such an acquaintanceship. I like the people that I'm visiting a lot.

My SIL has been living alone, much as you are, since Christmas Day 2007 when her husband of 50 years died. She has difficulties that mirror your own very closely as concerns maintaining her home and a sense of connectedness. One would think that in this day of instantaneous communication and such profound need for solidarity that we would all have come a bit farther along in our coping strategies at all levels.

Good luck staying healthy and happy this winter! I'll be out here checking in just to see that you have all your fingers and toes!


JChevais said...

holy cow!

There is actually a European emergency number when you aren't sure who to call: 112 (in France, you'll either be sent to 18 (pompiers) or 15 (which is the SAMU (paramedics))


One number to remember rather than the 15, 17 or 18 that one would otherwise need to remember.

Anonymous said...

I remember that episode of Six Feet Under with great clarity. It was one of the simplest opening deaths and one of the bleakest precisely because you could see it happening.

I'm a "can do" kinda girl, but have to admit I'd rather get a man in to split some logs for me. Preferably with his shirt off ;)

Stacey said...

Eeep! No no no!!! lack of grace + no housemates = all of us worrying.

Be careful!

Randal Graves said...

I give this story one thumb up. I kid, because I care. Don't do anything ridiculous because then, unable to type, how would we know if you're alright or not?

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

Rosie, you are so right.

LaF, thanks for leaving the light on.

JC, 112, 112, 112 ... merci bien!

Artful kisser, now we're talkin'...althought it is a bit cold here for that. zut!

Stacey, I'm an oaf (en francais, je suis maladroit!)

RG, god that made me giggle. I hope if I DO cut off a finger, it somehow is that ring finger on the left hand since it is giving me hell anyway.

but thanks for reminding me that I need to activate voice recognition on my laptop ... just in case.

Michelle said...

I have those thoughts and I don't live alone. I'm clumsy and prone to doing things beyond my body's 'sensible' limits on a whim. Say, moving a wardrobe up or down flights of stairs using a folded blanket and propping myself between stair and blanket to wiggle it down step by step, for example. One day someone will arrive and find me flattened or something, I am sure.

I've seen personal alarms advertised here for the somewhat older single dweller. You press a button on a brooch or something and emergency services are alerted. Maybe there is something to be said for having some sort of plan?

Utah Savage said...

I've lived alone for a long time now and I know the kinds of things I can do and can't these days. I didn't used to. There was a time when I first built the little house that I was sure I could do anything. I built a gazebo, I did stone work, hefting stones almost as heavy as myself, I chopped wood for the big army camp-stove that was my only source of heat for a couple of years. But now, so many years later, I have a pain in my lower back that never goes away and my sense of loss over the things I can no longer do for myself is finally beginning to become merely resignation.

Might I suggest that you hire someone to split wood for you while you put your wonderful writerly mind to work on publishing a book of your chronicles of this brave adventure? Or did I miss that chapter? Is it already in the works? It should be.

Kathleen said...

no wonder we're such good friends... we definitely have this in common. David is forever saying to me, "Kathleen, step away from the ..." either it's the chain saw (which I'm now banned from even looking at) or getting up on the ladder, or sticking a knife in the toaster, or, getting too close to the firebox... etc., etc.
More than a few times he's had to run to my rescue and so I ask myself, "what did I do for the 8 years I lived by myself before I met him?" Can't quite remember any more but I'm still in one piece, just a bit patched up here and there. You made my eyes tear up when you mentioned us stacking wood... we miss you lovey..K.

Daniel said...

For what it's worth, a hatchet is considered one of the most dangerous home tools. The sharp blade, heavy head, and a very short handle. Axes are actually safer, even though you may swing them harder, as the handle is longer. Anyway, so very glad you weren't maimed.

boulet said...

Mais qu'allait-elle faire dans cette galère?

I'm impressed by your adventure into expatriation and solitude. I'm more of a wuss : I expatriated to be married and join a new family. I can barely imagine how tough it would have been in a strange country on my own.