LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP

ARRANGED MARRIAGE

Unlike every other person who comes to Italy, I was absolutely not an Italophile when I arrived, having never had, up until meeting un Italiano online, any interest in the country: neither the language nor the food, the fashion nor the folks. It all seemed like a clichè in fact, and not my kind of clichè either.

17166_223120506985_6708118_n‘at least it’s warmer than scotland’, sperlonga beach, december 2009

I remember all my first impressions: overload of the senses (I do suffer with HSP or sensory overload, mind you – hehe!); having come from very rural Scotland at midwinter, the designer-everything of Caserta was kind of a shock to my system. Rural Scottish people don’t always do glamour so well and, though in Scotland I was considered ‘scrubs up well’, my new partner was highly, visibly, verbally unimpressed. Now, where I came from, it was either extremely rude or extremely mean to openly comment on another person’s appearance in an overtly negative way – unless we are all drunk, and all laughing about it together.

31722_394237931985_4153368_nthinking I look posh (relatively speaking), but being told that I am an inferior scruff

After 6 months of daily hard-core criticism on my dress-sense, diet, language, ability to speak Italian (!) and so on, I was weary – one could even say, tetchy. The signs had all said ‘do this!’ about jumping into a life in Italy with both feet, and the signs were still saying ‘stick at it’: who am I to argue with the universal intelligence?!

My initial undesirable clichè of Italy grew into a veritable distaste for all Italian superficiality, brashness, arrogance, chauvinism… I could go on. I ground my teeth quietly (see below) and barely-tolerated it: cripes, there must be something good about it, if so many people go on about it so!

59498_432879166985_1641369_n‘barely tolerating’ the amalfi coast

ALREADY CONTEMPLATING DIVORCE

Why does one stay in a relationship when it is not working? I’d asked this rhetorical question of many a friend in the past, and always assumed that it’d never happen to me, but I was caught in a catch-22 of being isolated in another country without the language, contacts, income – nor the stamina even to return to Scotland. I spiralled further down.

It came to ‘do or die’ in December 2010: I left the guy, and weighed up my options. Nestled into his weekend house in Guardia Sanframondi’s centro storico, I rested ’til I could pluck up the energy/ enthusiasm/ clarity of mind to find the logical forward step. There did not seem to be any positive outcome, but I was not quite ready to return to the 10-months-per-year Scottish winter. Fortunately, this seeming block turned out to be the most fortuitous turning point of my life!

From the outset, Guardia Sanframondi had pulled at my heart: there was a tangible energy and atmosphere to the place; all manner of coincidence and flow seemed to be visible in the everyday. Even on my first visit, there had immediately been a sense of interconnectedness, which reminded me of my island village in Scotland: a culture of being present.

190048_10150104947751986_6229637_nmy dear neighbour and me: i wasn’t annoyed – just trying to translate dialect!

Being present is a profound aspect of spiritual life, which city-minded folks spend lots of money on books and courses about, trying to learn how to ‘do’. The difficulty with such a subtle subject, as with many aspects of the spiritual path, is that one cannot learn intellectually, one does not ‘do’ it; one has to learn with one’s whole being, to be. One can best learn to be present, by being around others who are skilled in it – Guardia to me, seemed like a big spiritual retreat!

226121_10150252930056986_7872910_n  fun with the beautiful young folks of guardia, during vinalia (big wine festival in august) 2011

As well as presence, Guardia S. radiates all the things which are necessary to a happy human being; warmth, generosity, gentleness, acceptance, laughter. It was here, rather than Caserta or the Amalfi coast, that I quickly fell in love with Italy and the Italians.

 ♥

Italy (and Guardia) filled me where before I had been empty, it padded me out with calories and warmth, rounding my sharp corners. Italy hugged me when I needed it, in all it’s superficial romance and folly, but also with sincere love and tenderness. Italy has given me the greatest gift of my life adventure: this house, this magical container that I could really begin to build and grow in. And Italy has given me backbone and balls: things I’d never have had a chance to attain, had I not been thrown in at the deep end: drown or thrive! Italy brought me awake with a hard slap, and then invited me into The Good Life.

_DSC0379

scottish-italian in scotland, with scotland looking like it is italy, hehe!

TRIAL SEPARATION (AND OPEN AFFAIR)

Despite learning to love the country, I took a break from all things Italiano in 2014, having finally had too much of the hard slog getting myself established there. I actually decided, I just cannae dae it anymore, like it all felt too much like constant challenge on a cultural level – misunderstandings with males particularly – not being able to have a sane conversation with any adult male, without a conflict-resolution-therapist to translate…

I wanted to change my business base, and to start working from Scotland, where one doesn’t step into a cultural minefield every time one visits the council/ accountant/ tax office/ whatever. Despite having grown to love the climate, the quality of life, the beauty of the landscape, I craved for the things of my own, familiar culture… I was willing to compromise the sunshine for just a tad more sanity in regards to being a woman running a business.

But it was kind of like a cultural detox; I began to miss all manner of Italian things, almost as soon as the plane touched down in Scozia.

I immersed myself in Scotland and our great quest for independence, reaquainting myself with what it was to be Scottish, as our culture rose rapidly into its new vibrant identity: it felt incredible, and it completed me, this new identity, amongst a newly-awakening people. And eventually admitted, I have to have my feet in both worlds. I belong here, and there: I love being there, and here.

P1030844used to hate it, now I love it: italian fashion

♥ FIFTH ANNIVERSARY ♥

It’s five full years since I first visited Italy proper and, while I still will not describe myself as an Italophile, there’s grown in me a deep love and respect for the culture, the people, the landscape. I adore the climate and even the fashion – especially now I know the local markets well enough to find gems like the ones above and below – cashmere T-shirt for 50c! Hand crafter leather satchel for €1 – joy!

When I’m here, I look out on the view at the top of this blog, and when I’m away in Scotland, I dream about it.

P1030796And the food, oh the food: the joy of shared meals, drinking wine in the medieval streets, in-season delicacies year-round…

P1030785mano di buddha (buddha’s hand) lemon – from the ex’s garden down the street – we’re friends now!

Okay, okay… so I love Italy, and my heart is here for the long-term! 

Tante belle cose, Clare

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