SHOW ME THE MEANING OF BEING LONELY

I had to quote the Backstreet Boys, I really had to! Ok back to more serious stuff now.

As far as I can remember, I have always been quite the lonely person. Loneliness has been my faithful and inseparable partner since I was born, and it moulded my life and my perspective of the world since then.
I grew up an only child, and since my parents relocated from their respective hometowns to Milan, on top of not having any siblings I also didn’t have any close relative nearby, so I spent endless days by myself playing with my toys and my imaginary friends.
Oh, I had plenty of imaginary friends.
I used to dream about this crazy, amazing, wealthy life, with all these famous people on my side, being important and desired.

me by myself as a kid

Growing up, things didn’t really change much. I was the weirdo girl, the tomboy, I didn’t really fit with girls because I despised everything they liked, and I didn’t fit with boys because well, I was not one of them since I was a girl. It didn’t really bother me, though: I was used to be alone most of the time, I had plenty of things going on in my head to truly care about what was going on outside it anyway. I remember those poor attempts some school assholes had at bullying me: they quickly realised that I was not giving a remote fuck about being called ugly (because I was convinced I was ugly anyway, and it was ok with me), tomboy (because I wore that badge proudly), or weirdo, stupid… and when the metal t-shirts started to be more than just a one-off in my wardrobe, I was even less bothered than before – I was part of something exclusive that only myself and those like me could understand, and whoever was not in this “club” was automatically someone I was not remotely interested to get to know and listen to.

Reflecting on my past, I can tell you right now how, despite my strong and “no fucks given” attitude, I craved my very own gang of friends; I so wanted a best friend to share my secrets with, a local group of trusted peers to go and get an ice cream with, spending summer afternoons together. Later in my twenties, I longed for a crazy, inner circle of women like me, pretty much like the Sex and The City quartet: you know, drinks and food catch-ups in cool places, free to talk about anything without being judged or considered an hysterical freak of nature. But, despite my desires, at the end of the day I kept being with myself, by myself, and to be perfectly honest I never exactly did anything or put any effort to tackle the status quo and get these friendships in my life. In my head, the constant mantra was “it is what it is” and “there is nothing I can do about it”. Besides, I just had to turn my computer on to talk with “my friends”, since most of what I regarded as such were people I met in various websites and forums; to a certain extent, nothing has changed: most of my friends are still those same old friends I met “on the web”, and since I live in another country, technology is the only way to have a constant contact with them.

Moving to the UK didn’t change things much, and it didn’t help that I desperately glued myself to the only person who seemed to have an interest in me (which then became my now ex-husband). Subconsciously, I created the same “family” of lonely people for my son: both myself and my ex-husband relocated here, my son is an only child (with not great chances of having a sibling, not from me anyway) and we have no relatives whatsoever in this country. By the way, it is not a good idea to try and overcome your loneliness by being with someone just because they seem to give you the attention you need. I learned it the hard way by marrying the most unsuitable person, and I only realised that when the damage happened already. The end result was a broken, fragile, tired woman, survival of suicidal thoughts and post-natal depression, desperately lonely, in a constant fight with the world and herself.

Oh, I had plenty of therapy sessions to discuss how my loneliness has affected my behaviour in ways that, sometimes, I never even realise. It is the reason why I became a rescuer, the one who helps everyone, and lends money to everyone, and takes care of everyone, and it’s the mother of everyone because “if they need me they’ll keep me”; it was the reason why I picked the wrong relationships (“at least he seems to want me”), it has been the poor excuse I gave myself to avoid getting out of my comfort zone and try something different (“what’s the point, I’ll be lonely anyway”) and the poison that ultimately made me land arse flat on the ground, at my lowest of the low points in life. And I hated myself. Desperately. And being lonely exacerbated this hate, because being all by myself meant being alone with the person I hated the most in the world, something I was ready to do anything in order to avoid it. I was not good enough to have friends because, reality in my head was that I was not good as a person in the first place. I was too focussed on the exterior consequences of what was going on inside me, thinking “I am ugly, I’m stupid, I’m not worth love, I’m useless…” rather than have a deep look at my life and go “hold on a second, maybe I should start looking at what’s in my heart (and head) rather than out and about”.

Where do you start getting out of this loop? Hand on heart, it was not an easy ride. Admitting to myself that I needed people to fill my own void, in the hope that their presence and their “fake” love (because, of course, they wanted me just for the things I’d give them, not for the person I was) would make things better, was not an easy thing to do… and yet, it set me free. I had to learn the hard way to love myself, to appreciate who I am, to build the person I always wanted to be from scratch. When I finally got to the stage where I felt not only enough, but a beautiful world by myself, I discovered that I was not lonely anymore: I had myself, and that was not something I wanted to run away from, but the exact opposite: I wanted to get to know myself, talk to myself, discover what I like, what I don’t like, what clothes look good on me, what things are ok with me and what other things are a no-go. Guess what? Once I feel in love with this new person I am, I discovered a world of friends, real friends, who loved me just as much as myself. Being “lonely” is now a space I create for myself when I need to just be with me, myself and I: call it if you like “a date with myself”.

The only things I’m truly missing, right now, is having a proper family here. This thought came to light lately after spending few evenings with my boyfriend’s family: witnessing the love, affection and a proper family interaction made me think of how I really do miss being cuddled and cared for: you know, the coming back home with food, the little gestures and thoughts, the sitting for a cup of tea and a chat, the “I’m coming for dinner!”…

Susanbano in all its glory

I have been extremely touched and honoured when my boyfriend’s mum gifted me with a beautiful plant she brought from Iran: oh, that was such a truly special gift, and yes, it gave me a bit of “family love” too (I called it Susanbano in honour of my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother). Unfortunately, I cannot relocate my family here, or change this situation anytime soon, but one thing is for sure: I will do my best to create a family for me (and my son) that’s vibrant, caring and loving!

GOODBYE PAST CHRISTMASES

As I write, I just came back from my parents’ house in a little town near Verona, Italy, after celebrating Christmas with my family. My parents moved there this summer, leaving Milan’s little flat behind to enjoy the house my dad has inherited from his aunts. This place is where my dad grew up as a child, and where I was forced to spend the most of my school holidays. Gosh, I hated this place. Even more, I hated celebrating Christmas here.

I was born and bred in Milan, one of the biggest, most modern, and cosmopolitan cities in Italy. I was used to go everywhere I wanted by taking the subway, I had plenty of places to visits anytime I fancied (museums, shops, parks, cafes, restaurants, you name it), I had my bedroom and my stuff, and all was ok.

The creepy church in all its glory

Then, every now and then, the dreaded holidays would arrive, and my dad would pack our shit in the car to go to this place for few days: it felt like being ripped from the normal world and threw into the middle ages. This place was (and still is) in a tiny, tiny town, in the middle of bloody nowhere. The only places at a walking distance were the church and the newsagent. The end.
For everything else, you’d have to ride your bike, but even so, you wouldn’t have been able to reach the first proper town, so it would have been a pointless exercise in killing your legs. If you wanted to see a bit of “civilisation”, as I used to call it, you had to beg your parents for a car ride, but of course, my dad wanted to relax and do next to nothing, or at best go fishing with his friends, so unless I joined the party with my fishing rod at 5am, I was doomed to get bored to death.

Francesca and I too many years ago

On top of that, my dad’s aunts used to live here: two unmarried old ladies with two very different temperaments, who could have been fun but also hell at the same time. You always had to walk on eggshells with them, as you’d never know whether you’d get yelled at and grounded or kept being totally ignored for ages. I was forced to sleep in the same bedroom with one of them, who snored like an extremely loud tractor, and since I used to suffer from nocturnal panic attacks, it meant not sleeping at all every single night. I feel sick just thinking about it. The only thing I liked about this place was my friend Francesca. She is couple of years younger than me and we bonded immediately. We spent every second I had to be in this place being glued together. She was the only reason I survived those horrendous holidays. This place was her hometown, so she knew the (very few) interesting things to visit or do, we would spend endless hours riding our bikes and avoiding both our families at all costs.

Christmas were awful here, and I resented my parents a lot for forcing me to endure this painful thing every year. The place was as dead as a desert. Cold as fuck, foggy, damp… awful. My aunts would dictate what everyone was allowed to do, which was basically nothing at all aside from watching tv in the only room with the fireplace. We were forced to attend Mass at midnight (which, if anything, reinforced my ferocious atheism), then on Christmas day we had to watch the Pope on tv and get his blessings…. Like I could have cared.
Every single time there was a fight between someone in the family, making Christmas time even worse than what it was. I was so, so jealous of all my friends, staying in Milan or going somewhere fun during this time. The only “fun” thing was, on Boxing Day, going to the cinema with Francesca to see whatever movie they had on during that time. At least, couple of hours of quiet and peace away from that shithole.

It took ages, ages to convince my dad not to bring us here for Christmas, and as soon as I was old enough to say “fuck that I’m not coming”, I refused to endure the pain any longer and stayed home alone. Last time I came to this place was around 12 years ago, and believe me, I didn’t miss it one single bit. It actually felt like the best thing ever, and I was sure I would have seen the back of it for fucking good. To give you an idea on how much I hated that place and everything related to it, I refused for years to say “I’m half Sardinian and half Veronese”, I refused to speak in Veronese dialect and to admit I could even do such thing (even though I’ve always been very fluent), I refused to associate myself with anything to do with that region of Italy like if if in doing so, I’d get the plague, and I simply blocked that place out of my life.

a happy me with the purple wall

I’ll be very honest, even though it is now my parents’ house, and even though things are different, I still did everything in my power to avoid putting my ass on a plane and go there. I managed to dodge the bullet this summer, and my son being sick avoided a trip at the last minute this October. I almost managed to skip Christmas as well, but my dad got (extremely) upset: he had a lovely surprise for me (he painted my bedroom with a beautiful purple paint!) and he couldn’t understand why I was being so difficult and reluctant. I booked my tickets with quite the heavy heart, and I felt like 10 years old me facing another horrible holiday again. It took a massive mental shift to decide to see this occasion as a way to put “the ghost of the past” to bed for good and to start something positive. I forced myself to see it as another chance to close a painfully negative chapter of my past, and to begin a new and happier one. Still, I had a moment of “fuck no, look where I came back to” when I saw the house from the distance, but… you know what? I’ve kind of appreciated this place

Ok, I can’t just get out, take the subway and have a stroll in my beautiful, ultra-fashion and drop dead gorgeous Milan’s city centre, and yes, I miss all my favourite shops, cafes and eateries, but… there is a sort of quiet and relaxed atmosphere here that I really love. If I could get my driving licence back, I’d even be able to drive around and visit places that I couldn’t visit in the past. My parents have some very crazy, rowdy, and hysterically funny friends, the atmosphere was fun and relaxed, it was very good fun.

The ritual!

My dad took me to have our ritual “coffee & patisserie cake” in one of the loveliest patisseries in town, we had a beautiful walk in Verona (shame for the icing cold and the fucking nasty fog….) and, much to my mum’s dismay who wanted to go shopping, I spent most of the times browsing food in grocery stores, drooling at all the wonderful Italian delicacies. I hate my weight in cheese, I laughed my ass off and I felt very good. I’m actually looking forward to go back. Strolling in the streets of Verona, I made peace with this place and with my origins, and by the end of my holidays I was back at being a proper crazy and proud Veronese.

The stunning Arena of Verona

Icing on the cake of this holiday time? Francesca and I, having some Aperol Spritz whilst our sons were playing and having an amazing good time. It felt so… beautiful, and weird: we officially passed the baton to the next generation! (Now I feel so OLD!!!)

OH, YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND

I have been thinking about writing the following entry for a while, but I have never found the words, or moment, to do it. I kind of avoided talking about my best friend so far because she is the most precious person I have in my life after my son, and even though it is not the first time I shout to the world what an incredible person she is and how much I love her, I kind of kept her away from my blog because… because she deserves so much, and when this thing started I was not in the right mental place to honour her.

18F0AA83-2482-4802-985D-3070CD239AC1

This is one of the craziest pictures of me and my best friend, my sister from another mother, my soul mate, my partner in crime, my beautiful friend Sara. Yes, I was dressed as a unicorn, for the record. Yes, it is not the best picture ever, we probably had one drink too many to care anyway when we took it.

We know each other since the dawn of time, but we became very close friends few years ago: my life was shit (I had recently told my ex husband that he was, well, an ex) and she wasn’t doing great either. We started talking, and then sharing our stories, and before we knew it, we were spending every second we were awake texting each other.

People dream about finding “the love of their lives” and make no mistake, I still long to be loved romantically, but what I have found in my friend goes beyond that: she has been there on my side through whatever storm I had to face, whether big or small; she listened to anything I had to say, without passing any judgement, with her arms open to accept whoever I was in that moment (including an inconsolable, depressed mess); she gave me comfort, strength, love, care; I never, ever once felt embarrassed of being truly myself with her, because she is too special, she has always loved me way more than what I loved myself and she never failed to remind me of that, even when I was too depressed to appreciate it. She has always been the only light in my dark, horrible tunnel, and  I know that whatever life will bring, she will be just one text away from holding my hand and helping me facing my next war.

She is more than my heart, more than my soul. She is an angel. When nobody remembered I existed, she was the only one who made sure I had the most amazing birthday present waiting for me at home. When I spent two weeks crying solid because my ex boyfriend dumped me, she knitted the softest, most precious scarf so that I could have wrapped myself in it and feel her hug. When I screamed at the world how ugly I felt, she painted the most beautiful portrait of me to remind me that whoever I see in the mirror is not what she sees. Honestly, I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to receive the honour of her friendship, and I always feel like I don’t do enough to celebrate her and to tell her what a gem she is.

Hey, it is not all tears and sadness though: when we are together and the mood is right, we barely breathe so much we are laughing. We are like two peas in a pod. We could spend endless days in pyjama on the sofa without even getting up to go to the toilet. I remember the first time she came to stay for a week at my place: before she arrived, we planned billions of activities. Oh we were supposed to do everything and anything, partying hard, drinking even harder, crazy life. Well, we barely left the house, and when we did it was because we had no other choice (like when we ran out of toilet rolls…).

We can talk very deep and serious things, and three sentences later go bonkers and tell each other the most hilarious jokes ever heard. We curse like sailors, we drink prosecco like it is sparkling water and we could potentially live on a diet based on Aperol Spritz and lasagna.

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.

My love for Sara is immense, and I’m grateful, honoured and blessed to have her in my life.

I love her so much, and to preserve our beautiful friendship, I recently felt the need to “push her away”, because I was becoming a horrible person and she didn’t deserve such an awful person like me on her side. I was in a very dark place, my head was full of disturbing thoughts. I was scared, I was badly scared I was slowly going back to my dark hell. She was living a truly magic moment and I was just not in the right mind: I got dumped by what I thought it was the love of my life (more like the leech of my life, but it took a while to see it), I was humiliated, used and abused; he managed to crush every single bit of me and I felt lost, helpless, useless, stupid…. at the same time, she was beginning a new relationship, and living exactly the opposite. I just wanted to die, because even though rationally I was absolutely thrilled for her (and I still am!), at that point in time, everything she was experiencing was exactly everything that it got ripped off from me. I had to take a break, I had to be alone this time, truly alone, to face my demons by myself, because letting her enjoy her moment was paramount and she didn’t need a negative, depressed and damaged person on her side. Also, I knew I could have hurt her down the line (not voluntarily, of course) because I was simply not remotely capable of thinking straight, and believe me, I would have rather killed myself than do anything to make her sad. Coming back to her when the dust settled and the dark, negative fog left my mind felt truly special. To quote Harry Potter (that she really loves), it was like when Ron came back to Harry and Hermione after he left, due to having his mind clouded by holding the horcrux for such a long time: he not only came back to save the lives of his friends, but also managed to destroy the horcrux with the sword of Godric Gryffindor. Ok, I didn’t save her life, but fuck yeah I destroyed my fucking horcrux for good (and boy, it felt so good being able to put “the end” once and for all to that chapter of my life).

So yes, my beautiful, gorgeous, incredible friend: I absolutely love you with every single atom of me. I damn the distance that keeps us so far from each other, but as the saying goes “true friends are never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart”. Never forget my special gift (the mighty lemon) is waiting for you, and it will be my absolute pleasure seeing it on you. You deserve everything and some more, and I will always be your friend forever.

Ooh you’re the best friend that I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
You’re my sunshine and I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
Oh you’re my best friend”