The luxury of self-pity

I woke up with a splitting headache and a sore throat so painful that I can barely speak. I’d love nothing more than to spend the day lazily curled up with tea and toast, feeling sorry for myself, but I can’t. Today’s the day I downsize – I have to reduce my possessions to no more than can be carried on a bicycle. So far it’s not going well.

I only ever regret being single when I’m ill, and that only happens once or twice a year. It’s the only time I find myself reflecting on how lonely our modern existence can be. I sit shivering in bed, not knowing where my housemates are or whether they’ll be in that evening. My family are hundreds of miles away, and too busy with their own lives for me to phone up and moan at them. If I get really desperate I could ask a friend to come round, but south London’s too far away for most people, and Londoners have full diaries – who’s really going to want to cancel their plans to go and spend a few hours with a whinging invalid?

If my life had taken a different course, maybe I’d have a partner to bring me cups of tea, or children to cheer me up with finger paintings. But of course, the partner might just as well be tied up with work, and the children might also be ill, and demanding I look after them. On balance, I’m happier as I am, and willing to put up with these occasional moments of loneliness in exchange for a lifetime of independence.

But this reminds me – there will be times when I’m ill on the road. And not only will I be thousands of miles away from my family and friends; I’ll also have to carry on with riding, finding somewhere safe to sleep, finding enough to eat, fixing my bike, keeping an eye on my personal safety and getting to the next border before my visa runs out. There won’t be anyone to pick up the pieces if it all goes wrong. I’ll just have to get on with it.

And compared to that, sorting out my stuff feels like a walk in the park. I’d better get on with it…

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