Shouting from my shed

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‘œYou know how advice is: you only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyways.’ – John Steinbeck

There are three stages of flabbiness in life. Each is more restricting and stifling than the one before. They creep insidiously over me like vines until it takes one hell of a struggle to escape their clutches. If ever I feel the saggy symptoms snuffling up on my life then I know it is time to hit the road.

The first stage of flabbiness, and the easiest to fix, is physical flabbiness. It begins when busy schedules, dark winter days and eating too much win the devil’s footrace against the part of me that knows that exercise isn’t a waste of time but actually makes me more efficient, alert and happy. Despite knowing this I am still at times sufficiently idle to let my standards slip and my fitness slide away. Fitness is like chasing a shoal of fish: difficult to master and get on top of, easy to lose.

If I don’t go running for a few days, I feel cooped up and ratty. Leave it a few more and the habit is broken. I know I need to run. I want to run. But I just can’t be bothered. Flabbiness has begun to set in, slowly, invasively, like cataracts. Before I know it I am easing out my belt buckle and blaming my sloth on the effects of age.

The second stage is mental flabbiness. Give up exercising, stop forcing myself out the front door for a run and inevitably my mind starts to sag too. I used to feel alert and inquisitive. I read lots of books. But one evening I came home tired. Flopping down onto the sofa I reached for the television remote instead. Suddenly I am gripped by light entertainment. I realise how pleasant life can be if I stop thinking about it. It is much simpler to exist than to live. I’mve got a dishwasher and a coffee percolator and I drink at home most nights with the TV on. I sit slumped in front of the telly flicking round the channels until I have frittered away enough of my life that it’s time to go to bed.

Finally, if I start forgetting any of these things, then I know I am on a slippery slope towards the third, terminal, stage of flabbiness: moral flabbiness!

Each day I am one day closer to my death. No matter how aware I am of this, it is still sometimes difficult to believe in my own death.

I don’t know when I will die, so putting things off to an indeterminate date in an un-guaranteed future is pretty daft.

I am happiest when I have a sense of purpose.

There are so many places I would still like to see, so many interesting people to meet, so much to do. And there is so little time. Before I know it I’mll be dead and what a bloody waste that will be if I’mve just been arsing around.

By the time I have succumbed to the debilitating onslaught of physical and mental flabbiness I am already well on the primrose path to moral flabbiness. Not only have I conceded my physical health and settled for candyfloss in place of a brain, I have accepted that this is good enough for my life. I have become comfortably numb. I have decided that Friends repeats and a Chinese takeaway are sufficient return for the privilege of being born, healthy and intelligent enough, in one of the richest, most free countries on the planet. I have a passport to explore the world. I will always be able to find some sort of work. I will never starve to death. It’s hard really for me to come up with any decent excuses. The choice is all mine.

Life is too brief and too rich to tiptoe through half-heartedly, rather than galloping at it with whooping excitement and ambition. And so I explode in rage just in time. It’s time to go prowling in the wilderness. It is time to live violently again. It is time to sort my life out. This can be done in two ways. I either jump in the nearest cold river for a bracing swim, or I plan a trip, set a start date and, come what may, begin.

This is an extract from my book There Are Other Rivers. I’mll post the next chapter here at the same time tomorrow evening. 

Thank you to the many people who have kindly “bought me a coffee” for just £2.50 as encouragement to keep this blog going.

“Yes, I too would like to donate a couple of pounds to this site..!”

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  1. Oooh, what a great idea to serialize the book! I’ll be reading along.

  2. I too have to deal with “flabbiness” and fight it! I love this post and will be sending it and sharing it with people. I am experiencing some of this now and must move!!!

  3. Chiara iaia Posted

    Flabbiness… today I learned a new English word. It is so true what you wrote. I know well these three stages … and how is important not to let down the guard … I have to get out now !! Thankyou and good night

  4. Great post! Did you know what was beginning to hold you back, or was it just a lull in your life. If it was procrastination how did you overcome it, deal with the issue or push it to the back of the mind hoping an adventure would expel those demons?

    • Alastair Posted

      It was just my inherent lazy tendency to take the easy option in life. I overcame it by comparing that with the terror of getting old and looking back with regret at my life.

  5. Can relate to the flabbiness idea, as we get older we have to fight the flab. Comfort and security are like shackles which are difficult to break. Recognising the condition is sometimes still not enough to motivate fighting the flab. Brings us back to the Steinbeck quote heading this chapter. Enjoying the read, but will it be a big enough jolt to get me moving?

  6. I can relate – flabbiness is a good description. I had a safe, stable job that realistically I could’ve stayed at for the rest of my life.

    I quit my job, traveled for a few months and came back feeling a lot better for it.

    New job, better outlook on the world and a desire never to fall back into that trap. Itchy feet keep you aware.

  7. To choose the Greek lifestyle

    the camp bed and the cloak
    Marcus Aurelius I think

  8. Thanks for this Alistair, it really echos my own thoughts but much more eloquently. It’s so easy to let it all go, picturing the slippery slope is going to be a great kick up the backside when the laziness starts to creep in!

    If the rest of the book is this good, I’m buying 🙂

  9. Yep. I know this feeling! Like you, I push myself by thinking of the possibility of not attempting to live as grandly as I dream – and what a nightmare of a life that wasting away in front of a TV would be.

  10. Sometimes I read stuff on your blog that is brilliant like this.

  11. Thanks for this Alastair. Even though I regularly follow your blog, I hadn’t seen this post before and it’s popped up today just as I needed a kick up the backside. It’s funny how things do that sometimes. I guess that’s my sign. I also liked the hidden Joni Mitchell quote!

    Keep doing what you do matey. You’re an inspiration 🙂

    • Alastair Posted

      Ha! Well spotted! I love sneaking lyrics into my writing (I see it as a tribute rather than plagiarism..?!?!)

  12. Doug Asherman Posted

    I am just about to head out on a 45 mile charity ride (the longest ride I will have done to date) and was feeling very much like crawling back into bed. This post was a great motivation. Thanks!



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