Alison Boyd Artist

a life creative

Hills and Vales

Most years since I’ve moved to Italy have been pretty hilly. It’s not an easy place to live and I’ve always said I don’t grow well in soft soil. The last 18 months’ hills, however, have been a pretty fooking steep learning curve indeed. 

18 months ago was a doozy. Bordering on biblical, I was ripped off financially by three discrete angel-faced oxygen thieves; deals fell though with the enoteca as a prospective buyer at the 11th hour went to jail; then things looked up with a quick trip to Sicily and spectacular Etna, down again with a super influenza while my bestie was here with my godkids, up again as Mum and Dad came over from the Land of Oz, and my jewellery commissions and sales doubled and then quadrupled. We had a pop up shop for a 5 days in the main square during the summer and I was really finding my stride with exploring new designs and jewellery lines.

And then, in July, The Etruscan and I separated.

The news whirled round the town pretty quickly, to cries of, “But you guys were so happy,” and, “But you make such a beautiful couple”.

We’ve blown everyone’s Eat, Pray, Love fantasies. Sorry about that.

While it might be old news by now to a lot of people who know us, even in tiny Santa Fiora there are those who haven’t realised yet, simply because there is no drama surrounding our break up. We still live here together, eat together, cuddle the cat together. We’re just not actually together.

For me, the hardest part of separating is that I am so far away from English-speaking family and friends. I’m fluent in Italian, but that doesn’t weigh in on a situation such as this. I need beers with the girls and slutty slang.**
I’m on a mountain isolated through non existent public transport and sideways rain from late October to February. Keeping motivated is the daily battle and thinking about getting anywhere this time of year deflates my already flagged energy. What about Skyping or FaceTime-ing? Aside from geography and timezones and piddly WiFi, the paradox of needing to talk to family and friends, is juxtaposed against actually being able to talk to family and friends.

I posted this Huff Post article about expat divorce on Facebook, and I got a deluge of online support from people I wouldn’t have expected. No one really understands an intercultural relationship or breakup except for those who have/ have had one. Out of that post, and around that time, I conversed with six friends, all in intercultural marriages or relationships, varying ages, men and women, who in 2018 went through big breakups. Six.
I only posted so that a selected 90 people could see the post.

They all said the same thing about loneliness, isolation, sudden retraction from family outings – in some cases blatant ostracisation.
If you know someone who has broken up, in the process of separating, thinking about separating, or going through all the uglies of divorce – TALK TO THEM. Write to them, send articles to them, links, recipes, silly GIFs, those silly filtered video chats on messenger. Check in, call, email, regularly. Ask them how they are, share some of your trivialities, because in my experience the seeming trivialities of another are wonderful distractions from what is a pretty lonely fucking experience. Whatever you do, don’t fade away. Nights are hardest, as the cliched songs twang. Physical touch fades to virtually nothing. It heavies the heart to not have conversation in addition to that; to be presumed OK because you’re still breathing. Thank god for the people who’ve been there for me, who asked if I was all right, who offered the hallowed ground of their experiences and breakthroughs.

And despite all, the Etruscan and I are Ok together. We’ve worked through the last 7 months in ways we were unable to do in our 3 year marriage. We’re super lucky that we have a steadfast friendship as the foundation for the last 6 years, grateful that there are no kids in the middle of this (aside from Scott the catbaby, of course).

We will continue to work together in the foreseeable future.and we’re learning to map out this new way of being together, without actually being together.

The culmination of the last 18 months sits behind me. It’s freeing and terrifying. And now I write the first post in a long time, from my cousin’s place in Germany, with plans to forge the future without finding myself completely dependant on another to survive in the world.

**[UPDATE: I have just been to Aus and back – beers and bad words were had a-plenty. Better than therapy! Apologies to those I didn’t get to visit but this time was about taking things slow for myself. A month in the sunshine flies by in no time]


2 comments on “Hills and Vales

  1. Angela Highstead
    February 23, 2019

    Dear Ali, My eyes lit up when I saw your name in my ‘in’ box. I used to so enjoy your writing but appreciated you finally came to understand what made your spirit soar to greater heights. Sad to hear of your latest hills and vales, I usually call them the see/saw of life.

    Sad to hear about yourself and Marco. Your romance that came out of our 2012 Walking and Writing tour of Tuscany added something magical to the trip ….for me anyway.

    Just recently I had my kind, thoughtful, sensitive boy (man really) sob on my shoulder because of a hurt, broken heart. Many things were said, aside from offering the shoulder of course, I’m his mum. Without turning this into a short/long story, one thing I did say: “Andrei, .in time take a step back because here is a chance to also learn something about yourself”. Life experiences have a habit of doing that eh?

    We have the Writers Festival on this week and I’ve just returned from breakfast and a talk by Hugh MacKay an Australian social commentator and social psychologist. His focus is on the avalanche of folk now suffering from mental health type anxiety, the causes and what we can do as individuals to start to make a difference. His book today was ‘AUSTRALIA REIMAGINED. Towards a more compassionate, less anxious society.’

    My thoughts, love and a big hug wing there way across the miles to you. And a hello and hug for Marco too….I liked him and I’m not caught up in the difficulties.

    Lots of love,
    Angela xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • AliMatteini
      February 25, 2019

      Hi Angela, so lovely to hear from you on here! Yes, definitely seesaw, one of those situations of letting the reins loose and let the horse have his head…there is no other way; yanking it my way all the time just prolongs what will be (and makes your arms really tired in the process).
      With more alone time without the demands of anyone but meee, I hope to be writing more often, just need to work that muscle a bit, piano piano.
      Thanks for you words
      Lots of love to you, too xxxxxx


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This entry was posted on February 22, 2019 by in creativity.


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