Sometimes I feel as though I am standing on the edge of a precipice. If I jump, will I plummet to my death or will I take to the skies and fly away into the night? The thought of the jagged rocks below waiting for my arrival is comforting, for at least there I know my future is certain. To fly would mean accepting uncertainty as a constant companion, and I am unsure as to whether I have the energy to discover what lies in store for me.
“I used to think the worst thing in life is to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”
– Robin Williams
I have recently learned that sometimes you have to say goodbye to friendships that have become so toxic that they start to negatively affect you and your core being. Constant criticism, snide comments and heartless manipulation are some aspects of such a relationship, and they are often aimed to make you feel worthless.
I am not worthless. And neither are you.
“Loneliness is the absence of a needed relationship.” – Dr Bill Webster
Last year I was fortunate enough to spend Christmas with a friend and her family. It was, for the most part, a happy occasion; I was surrounded by delighted children, good company and even better food. In fact, it was probably was one of the best Christmases I’ve had in a long time. And yet, at times, I felt disconnected from those around me, almost as though I was an intruder in this scene of familial bliss. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why this alienation had suddenly crept up on me, and it’s only now, a couple of weeks later, that I have the answer: loneliness.
Loneliness is one of the most crippling states of being, and yet a subject often swept under the carpet. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be alone to be lonely. You can very much enjoy periods of solitude or be in a room full of people and still feel isolated from the world around you.
Publisher: Hesperus Press Limited, 2012 (UK edition)
Genre: Literary, comedy
[Translated by Ray Bradbury]
“Instead, he thought that he had probably been mistaken all those years when he’d sat in the Old People’s Home, feeling that he might as well die and leave it all. However many aches and pains he suffered, it had to be much more interesting and instructive to be on the run from Director Alice than to be lying rigid six feet under.” p9
Allan Karlsson is not your typical 100 year-old man. Tired of life at the old people’s home where he resides, on the day of his 100th birthday party Allan decides to escape – by climbing out of his bedroom window. This escape marks the start of the centenarian’s adventure across Sweden as he meets a host of unlikely companions along the way.
Publisher: Bantam Press, 2013
Pages: 700 pages
“There are places I’ll remember all my life – Red Square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother’s bedroom on the wrong side of 8-Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theatre of Death.” p11
Recently, I seem to have developed a taste for thriller novels, and so when I read the blurb of Terry Hayes’ bestselling novel I Am Pilgrim, I knew I had to give it a go.
The narrator, known (among other aliases) by his codename Pilgrim, is a former spy for a US intelligence secret espionage unit. The novel itself opens with the grisly murder of an unidentified woman in a New York hotel, where Pilgrim present at the scene to help with the investigation. The victim’s identity remains a mystery as the killer has gone to extreme lengths to cover this up – it is essentially the perfect murder. There is a further twist as it is revealed that the murderer has apparently read a forensics manual outlining the perfect murder – written by our narrator, Pilgrim, under a pseudonym. Soon the plot shifts to encompass the narrative of a jihadist doctor from Saudi Arabia, known as Saracen, who aims to destroy the United States by synthesising smallpox, a virus with no known cure. It is Pilgrim’s mission to track him down and put an end to the deadly plot.
Publisher: Short Books, 2013
‘Holloway was a dump, peace not yet a way of life, and the war had laid waste to everything, leaving common decencies bereft and clinging on for dear life, shrapnel-pocked, shuddering in the aftermath of the great prolonged shriek as they let go of the old certainties.’
Siân Busby’s A Commonplace Killing is a compelling tale of murder set against the sombre backdrop of post-war Britain. It is July 1946 in London when a woman’s body is found in a disused bomb site. What at first appears to be the usual tale of the sexual assault of a prostitute – a “commonplace killing” as one dispassionate officer observes – soon turns out not to be the case. The novel follows Detective Inspector Jim Cooper’s investigation as he attempts to identify the woman’s murderer among the seedy belly of London’s criminal underclass.
Getting out of bed should be easy.
That’s what you tell yourself this morning as you desperately try to motivate yourself out of bed. But it as though your body is disconnected from your mind, and instead of moving you feel paralysed and helpless. You close your eyes. The battle between you and life has begun.
It’s not until lunchtime that you finally summon the last reserves of energy within you and drag yourself out of bed to the bathroom. You manage to brush your teeth, to wash your face. You even manage to get changed. And then you sink to the floor because you’ve got nothing left. By now you are overcome by a wave of shame, self-loathing and utter helplessness. The feeling is so strong that you wonder if you can or will ever feel anything else again. It’s not as though you have a monopoly on bad things happening to you – but yet other people manage to get out of bed and stick to a routine, even when they would rather stay warm and protected under the covers.
The thought of leaving the house is too much. You don’t go to the library to work as you had planned, but instead you stay in your room, watching clips on YouTube, hoping that it’ll put you in a good mood for when you finally meet the world. Because although it’s now 3.30 in the afternoon, you still plan on going out. I will, you think, nervously watching the clock on your laptop. But the curtains are drawn and the room is dark. It doesn’t bode well.
A friend texts you to ask you round for dinner. You lie and say you’re sick. But is this lying? In a way, you are sick, just not visibly. Walking, something so easy, something you’ve been doing since you were a toddler, now seems impossible, too much of an effort. Talking? Well, that doesn’t even bear thinking about. And you can you talk to about the ever deepening emptiness that is growing within you?
It’s 4.30. You’ve had enough of the computer and so you crawl back to bed. Sleeping is the only way to forget about the emptiness inside you, to forget the bleak reality that is your life. When you wake up it’s dinnertime, and you still haven’t left the house. In fact you’re in a state of semi-consciousness, where you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. And amidst all of that, the most frightening thing is that you don’t feel sad or lonely anymore.
You feel nothing.
You no longer care about the things that matter: exams, your health, your life.
It is a strange feeling, to be so low that you feel you can’t get up and shine a light on the darkness that engulfs you. There are days when you feel as though you can face the world, if you just put your mind to it. And then there are days like this which come out of nowhere: horrible, dismal days where you can’t bear having anyone see you in this miserable and pitiful state.
Today is a day when you realise that you’re not living, but merely existing.