I think that I've alluded in the past to the fact that I work in property. In fact, I'm a chartered surveyor. Sorry ... that should read "Chartered Surveyor". Please note the capitals. It's not like being a heart surgeon or a barrister, I realise, but it took a lot of work and needs some maintaining and is something that I'm pretty proud of.
To be passed off by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, you have to sit an interview. One hour of grilling on anything that you (a) claim to have done in the course of your training, and (b) anything that you ought to have covered in the course of your training. A favourite way to trip up the slightly wobbly candidate is to ask them to explain the difference between "price", "value" and "worth" without using those three words. It's tricky. Try it now. Go on ...
OK? Now try this. Explain "isolation", "solitude" and "loneliness" without using those three words.
I know, it's really just semantics. But maybe that's what matters? The minute difference and the detail. I get chastened regularly for using the word "nice" in a positive way, when really it's so very dismissive. And just this evening, we were teasing a colleague for saying that he wanted to be "fresh" for an openly gay client. The interpretation of a word. The way we choose to define a particular word is critical.
So to that end, I should confess, partly to The Readers (yes ... that's all of you), and specifically to one particular reader (and neighbour and friend and role model ...) that I recently deliberately interpreted her question to enable me to tell a half truth. I seek forgiveness.
When asked by said friend recently if I liked my life, and if I liked being on my own, I said yes. I have a good life. I have a nice house, good friends, a job (nay, a career), good health, a family who love me and who I love. I have a car and long legs and hair that (usually) goes where it's put. I have a good life. And do I like it? Yes. I like all the elements of my life. I'm fundamentally lucky and I appreciate that. So it wasn't a lie. I like my life.
And do I like being on my own? Well I guess that's where the semantics comes into it all.
Isolation. Technically, according to the OED, "the process of being isolated ... for patients with infectious diseases ..." Well maybe that's a little extreme. But I would say that isolation is very factual. I am not alone. I have, as I've mentioned, a lovely group of friends, plus colleagues I can socialise with, plus nice neighbours. I'm not isolated. I'm surrounded!
Solitude. OED offers the following: "the state or situation of being alone: she savoured her few hours of freedom and solitude." which I rather like. The example drawn paints solitude as a positive, which I wholeheartedly approve of. Solitude is a lovely and fulfilling thing. It's all about being able to come and go as you please. Solitude is being able to wear your jarmas all day on a Sunday. Solitude is being able to wee with the door open. I love it!
And loneliness? "Unfrequented and remote" apparently. I'd go further. It's when you wake in the morning and the emptiness of the other side of the bed makes you feel agoraphobic. It's hearing the empty seats in the lounge screaming at you. It's the bursting feeling of unspoken words churning in your head and loitering on the tip of your tongue. It's saying goodbye to a friend at the end of an evening and resenting the fact that they are going home to a share of the sofa or a pre-warmed bed. It's a void that feels incapable of being plugged. It's endless. What is loneliness? It's being in the house now, alone, and being aware that I occupy one corner of the sofa in the corner of one room, on the ground floor of the house and the rest of the house is full of emptiness.
So so I like my life? Yes, I do actually. The up side of singledom is that I can please myself all the time, so to not like my life when it's all mine would be a waste, don't you think? I like my life.
And do I like being on my own? No. I loathe it. It's not how we were designed and it's not how we're meant to be. It's not good for body or soul and it's something that clings to me always. But it's a hard habit to shake, so I hope you understand why I told a small pork pie.
And, my lovely friend, remember this - never envy someone else their life, because you never know what it's really like. And however overwhelming you feel your life is, it beats life being underwhelmed, Trust me.
house of eels: july 2017*
1 week ago