Tuesday, July 17, 2007


A few weeks ago, in the silent, sleepy siesta-time streets of Modica Alta, I was introduced to a poet. This kindly man, whom I immediately perceived as suffering from agoraphobia [he had had to be persuaded to come out of the house for a moment by my friend] has published several books of beautiful verse. I cannnot identify him here as he is so fragile that to do so would be to destroy him. And I pondered, not for the first time, upon how many good, lonely people there are in the world and how talented many of them are: this is not surprising, as great art of all genres is often born out of solitude and great suffering. But what exactly is loneliness? It is not, to me, being alone - I am rather good at that – but instead I would define it as having no choice in the matter.

Some years ago, in Britain, I became involved with someone who turned out to be a conman. I was very vulnerable at the time and, because I had not had for a long period that which most people take for granted - someone who is there, who will ask you how your day was, who always calls to say goodnight – I let him wheedle his way into my life with little resistance. Afterwards, when I had come to my senses and it was over, a book that helped me recover was Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Falling and in it I could see myself, ignoring the warning signals – and there always are warning signals – because, like many lovers before me, I had wanted to believe.

Ruthie and M are two bloggers who have written extensively about their own feelings of loneliness and I think they would agree with me that it’s not about not having friends or even family. It's about not being first with someone. Yet I have married friends whom I have envied, only later to have found out that things are not as they seem in their [to me] secure situations and I have concluded that I would rather be alone [not lonely] than so dependent on another that I cannot face the world when he has gone [though of course loss is the ultimate price of love]. Then there is my blogging friend Lee, who, like me, is rather content on her own most of the time and who, like me, can become quite put out by the unexpected visitor. I suspect that this , in myself at any rate, is because I plan my evenings to keep out the cold of loneliness so that sudden ring of the doorbell can be disturbing and even alarming.

And I think of Sara Teasdale’s lines:
I should be glad of loneliness,
And hours that go on broken wings,
A thirsty body, a tired heart,
And the unchanging ache of things,
If I could make a single song
As lovely and full of light,
As hushed and brief as a falling star,
On a winter night.

And now as I sit typing along comes precious Simi and licks my bad foot and I reflect that I have all the love in the world, right here, right now, in a little study in Sicily.


Anonymous said...

We make the best out of what we have. You, like Lee, have adjusted wonderfully. The horse will ride up one day, carrying an unexpected suitor. Open your heart a little and you will receive that other half that you deserve. I really believe this.

Ellee Seymour said...

Welshcakes, I read this book last month in Greece and found it very upsetting because I have been very gullible in the past and can easily understand how the main character found herself in that situation. I felt the moment of discovery though was too rushed and glossed over.

There is a difference between being "lonely" and "alone, one is chosen, the other is not. It's always lovely to have a special partner, but from what I've seen, they are few and far between. Most people make do, people's lives are often not as you imagine.

I hope you find someone special one day, a pity your poet is so shy, maybe you could have had some fun together, invited him over for lunch and in return, he could recite his work to you. :-)

Ruthie said...

"But what exactly is loneliness? It is not, to me, being alone - I am rather good at that – but instead I would define it as having no choice in the matter."

This is perfect and lovely and I can add nothing to it.

The danger, I suppose, is in placing too much responsibility for your happiness in another person. I often hear that a person can't be happy in a relationship unless he/she can be happy alone, and that's probably true.

Still easier said than done.

marymaryquitecontrary said...

Yes welchcakes,there are many good people;sadly there are many scoundrels too. I am saddened that someone,with a kind heart,like you was hurt by such a person. No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors but the people inside.
Simi,will never let you down. I don't know you, but I do care. I am sure your friends love you very much. It is just a different kind of love.

CityUnslicker said...

that is a nice post. As with many things in life; the grass often seems greener on the other side.

Maria said...

First thank you for mentioning me on your blog... I am truly honored! You are so right there is such a major difference when it comes to lonliness and being alone.

I am rarely if ever truly alone yet.. I have a feeling of lonliness so strong sometimes my heart aches from it.

The poem was beautiful and... I am so sorry you went through with what you did! Baci e Abracci! Always the best,

lady macleod said...

Beautifully written.

Having had much loss in my life I have reflected at some length on loneliness. My daughter worries so about my being 'alone', and I try to tell her I am alone but I am not lonely. I have no one in my life that I do not wish to be there. I converse with no one who is mean spirited (not more than once), or has evil intent. I am often (especially here) kissed by babies, hugged by friends and welcomed by strangers. I have people every day who are glad to see me, and I have someone I love more than life.

My husband taught me that the 'trick' to life, to real happiness is not being loved (you can want yourself into non-existence with that one) but rather having someone to love
without reservation. It has kept me afloat in the universe when I really wanted to go under.

We can all find love, we just have to be aware of the value of that care that it takes to lick our bad foot.

wonderful, wonderful post. thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I am very sorry you had that experience with the con man. It is incomprehensible that people live their lives in that sort of emotional black hole. I think from what I have learned of you, we should indeed feel sorry not for you, but for him.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Steve, you are a very kind man and I thank you. Ellee, what a coincidence you recently read it. It did actually happen to EJH as I have read her autobiography too. Yes, a great difference between being lonely and alone. And it is true that no one knows what another's life is really like. Well, I haven't given up yet! Hi, Ruthie. Thanks for coming over. I have, I suppose, learnt to be happy alone though it took me a long time . But I am never really alone as I have Simi! I don't need anyone to "live in my pocket" these days - but to be first would be nice. Marymary, I am touched by your message and thank you. You know, for a long time after that man I couldn't get my head out from under the duvet on Sunday mornings [that having been a day when we were always together] and it was more painful than being a lovestruck teenager! But I survived ... I suppose the question now is whether I could trust again and I don't know. You are right about Simi and she is here agreeing! Thanks, c/u. You are right - we only think we know about the lives of even people close to us. Oh, M., you are so young yet - that special someone will arrive for you, I am sure. I hope you realise from my post that you are not alone in what you feel. Auguri from Sicily from Simi and me.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you, Lady M. I'm so sorry you have had so much loss in your life. Yes, you are absolutely right in cutting out the mean-spirited. I know exactly what you mean about living in a tactile society. Sometimes I start the day a little "down" but I have only to walk down the street with Simi to be greeted by so many people and there is always a hug at the hairdresser's or from friends. Those are the people I value. and having someone you love more than life is everything. That someone for me is Simi, she who licks my bad paw, but people who have never lived alone with an animal often think I am mad. But it's about appreciating love where it is - and that may not be where we were looking for it originally. as for the conman, one thing life has taught me is that such people usually do get their come-uppance and they are the losers because they do not know how to love.

Lee said...

Hey Welsh...we have so many things in our life that a coincidental, you and I. A few years ago, in a similar vulnerable moment in my life, I, too, had an "experience" with a guy who turned out to be a very clever conman...he ended up being sorry he crossed my path, though! ;)

I, like, you am not "lonely", but do enjoy "aloneness"...my two cats share my love...they, I can trust. They're like me...they hate it when an unexpected knock comes to the door, too! :)

Eurodog said...

WW, I agree with all the comments on your post from your faithful readers of which I am one. Thank you for sharing your feelings so openly with us. Not everybody can do that. A lot of people are lonely in a relationship eventhough they are not alone.

Whispering Walls said...

I sympathise with you. I felt like that when I moved to San Francisco. I had a fabulous penthouse apartment but knew nobody there so used to look down on a swinging city every night and think "I should be out there". I forced myself to join a club and meet people and I ended up having a very good social life. I suppose Modica is smaller so there are fewer opportunities but you could try getting in touch with other English/Welsh residents of Sicily. They would expand your network, I'm sure.

Ellee Seymour said...

I think we have all got to know each other a little bit more from this post.

Let's stay optimistic and keep smiling.

James Higham said...

...It's about not being first with someone...

This, to me, is the greatest crime of one partner against another. It's the only criterion in the end.

It doesn't mean that you have to keep that person in a cage - the opposite produces a better result - but it does mean that that persone says yes or no to someone else always bearing in mind his or her partner.

I'm afraid I don't go in for blandishments like you'll fiond someone one day or she [he]'ll suddenly appear. I don't believe in that.

I think there are certain key reasons it won't happen and one is that we become too satisfied with our independence.

We have our moments, usaully every night before dropping off to sleep but percentage wise, that's a small proportion of a jam-packed day.

In the end we weigh up how much we really need a person beside us. Not a great person - everyone wants that. NO, just to have to ahve someone beside you through the night. For conversation.

Blogging fills in many of the gaps and is especially good when we become eager for the knowledge we never had time to pursue earlier.

I don't know the answer any more than the next man but I do believe that if we don't get our hopes up too much, then maybe things happen in life.

jmb said...

This is the second time I'm back to read this post. The first time I didn't know what to say. I read all the comments which were so great and felt I couldn't add anything.
So I left but didn't stop thinking about what you said. This is a very poignant post and I'm not even totally sure where you are coming from exactly at this moment.
Since I've come back more great comments have been added. This isn't going to be one of those.
But I do have something to say from another point of view.

I have never lived alone. I lived with my mother until I left to go to England where I shared a flat with two other women, as one did in those days. A year later I married and lived with A and have done so for 46 years.
Funnily enough I have never taken that for granted. I've watched people get divorced, become widows and somehow I have always been braced for those things to happen to me. So far they haven't but statistically speaking, women live longer than men so I expect it to happen eventually. If it does will I be able to handle it? I hope so, for it seems to me I have been preparing for it for a long time. I used to say when my husband runs off with his secretary as a kind of joke to my friends but it was as if I somehow expected it might happen and was going to be strong and self sufficient if it did.
This is a long comment but I have one thing to add.
The other day a young 22 year old woman emailed me out of the blue, asking for help with a blogroll. This is the fourth time this has happened to me. That's how I met Eurodog and Winchester Whisperer. I emailed her instructions and went to read her blog to see who she was. She has just graduated from university and is on the brink of her career but her post was a very wistful one about wanting to fall in love but not meeting anyone special and wondering if she ever would.
I made a comment and in it I advised her to make plans for her life as if she would always be single and if someone came along that she wanted to be with for with they would work things out.
She emailed back and said how that had really struck her her as being good advice.
Anyway this ties in with what James has said in his comment. Don't assume that someone will come along to make your life better. Make it as good as you can for yourself and let what happens on the relationship front happen.

I'm sorry you met someone so unscrupulous. We all can be taken in, especially when we are vulnerable.
I'm glad that you feel comfortable enough with your blog friends to share this and I hope you feel better for voicing it.
Take care, Welshcakes

Crushed said...

I like to have people around me, but I hate being owned.
I don't live on my own, I live with a flatmate (female), mainly because I want the company without the ties.

If I'm on my own, I need the stereo on.

I tend to try to keep any female relationships out of the rest of my life.
Sometimes I wonder if i want more. But if the chance rears it's head, I always back away.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Lee. Well, I bet that man is very sorry he tangled with you! It helps to know it has happened to others though I'm sorry it happened to you. Simi and I feel exactly like you and the cats - we are content in each other's company, we "cocoon" ourselves against the world outside but we are happy to see people when we know they are coming! [Unless it is a friend in deep distress, of course - that's different and we always try to help then.] Thank you, eurodog. You are right. I know many people who have told me they are lonely IN a relationship and I think that is so sad. Hi, WW. Thanks for sharing your experiences. You were brave to force yourself out there. I do not want for friends here, though, and don't feel the need to seek out Brits - I would just like, now and then, to be half of a heterosexual couple! Ellee, that's true - I am having some fantastic replies to this post. James, thank you for the considered reply. I agree with you totally. I don't assume the "Prince" will come any more - though of course it would be nice if he did! - but someone to say "goodnight" to and not feel you had bothered them would be nice. You are also right, of course, about how we get used to our independence - because we have to. So any knight in shining armour out there would have to be very good at knocking down the barriers now! I believe that there are many kinds of love and perhaps I've been fortunate in having a love of place, which not everyone has. I think as long as we love where we can - and by love I probably mean showing kindness here - and do not knowingly harm others, then that is something, indeed. Blogging helps enormously and I feel that there is a "family" out here. Jmb, thanks for taking the trouble to come back and thanks for your thoughtful, considered reply. Your comments are always insightful. I can see how you have "braced yourself" for something to happen and am so glad that it hasn't, jmb. What can I say here? If I say, "It won't" that may imply I think you will die first, and if I agree with you re the statistics that implies I think your husband will. All I can say, then, is enjoy each moment, which I am sure you do. That was good advice you gave to that young lady and I really try to do that - I don't go about "looking" for a relationship. And I have other things, after all. But you see, there is no one I CAN TAKE FOR GRANTED and that gets scarier as you get older. OK, having a family is no guarantee that they will look after you when you are frail but it is probably more likely here than in the UK. I don't yet know what I'm going to do about what Helen Keller, in another context, called the "impending darkness" but it is on my mind. Right now I am going to cheer up and hey! - "Carpe diem" as my gambling father would have advised. Writing about the "conman" was difficult because of course I feel an idiot that I allowed it to happen but yes, I do feel betetr for having shared this and for having received all these wonderful comments. Crushed, I'm like that, too - I have to have radio or music in the background. I so miss R4! And I understand what you say about "backing away" too. I wonder why we do that? I think I am scared, now, of trusting but I was doing it for a long time before the conman. Sebastian Foulkes wrote something about not wanting your independence threatened, and I wonder if that is really what it's about?

Liz Hinds said...

I'm glad you have Simi. At the end of circuits we have relaxation and our trainer does that 'take yourself to a place you feel comfortable, with someone you want to be with.' And I'm always on my favourite spot round the cliffs - with Harvey. Not that I don't love my husband but you can be alone - not lonely - with a dog.

Eurodog said...

I had a little moment when I was working in the garden yesterday. As I was scratching in the earth weeding, a toad jumped out. A big spotted one. I looked at it as it looked at me and I thought which made me laugh: "maybe if I kiss it, it will turn into a handsome prince".

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Liz, I complete;y agree. Nice tale. eurodog. Maybe he would have!


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