On his right hand Billy tattooed the word love and on his left hand was the word fear
And in which hand he held his fate was never clear.
Springsteen, Cautious man
Finding Jersey girl helped me confront a lot of my character flaws but there was one major flaw that, thankfully, I’d managed to deal with before we met. By the time she came along, I was a better man for having faced and bested one particularly destructive personal demon. I’m eternally grateful for this fact.
For almost my entire life, I had been dogged by a very singular fear. Due to abandonment issues dating from early childhood, I carried at all times a terrible fear of being alone. If there was no one in my life to love me, I felt very like a space walker who’d lost his tether; adrift in a cold dark void.
As you can imagine, this led me to make some very poor relationship choices. It’s not putting too fine a point on it to say, back then, I was literally willing to be with any woman who would have me. I never questioned if I was compatible with them or they with me, my only requirement was that they love me and want me in their lives.
The demise of all these relationships came built in. In even the worst situations, some people can fool themselves that everything is fine no matter what but most begin, at some point, to realise they are living in a false paradigm and eventually have to get out. This is inevitably what always happened with me. And as each of these never should have been relationships reached their ugly ends, my response was to jump as quickly as possible to the next.
Yes, I am entirely aware of how messed up that is.
Several years before I met Jersey, a relationship (which had lasted eleven years) ended under such absurd circumstances that it disrupted the circuit on my usual behaviours. I have no intention of going into what those circumstances were but, needless to say, they were life (and attitude) altering. I found myself alone, flat broke, and weary of the constant cycle of beginnings and endings. By this time I was in my mid-forties and simply couldn’t stomach the idea of doing it all again.
For the first time in my life, the prospect of being alone seemed less disturbing than the thought of embarking on yet another doomed relationship. And a strange thing started to happen. I began to grow comfortable with myself; feel like less of an imposter in my own skin. For the first time in my life, I could see that I was alright on my own, I could survive.
So, of course, that was when the love of my life came along. Oh, it didn’t happen immediately. I lived for several years as a happily single man. And that’s why I was in the perfect position to receive her. I had proven to myself that I could be on my own. This wasn’t me jumping at the first interested woman who came along. This was me, clear-headed and self-aware, finding the one thing I’d never had.
True love knocked on my door that day and I was in the perfect place to recognise it. Because, when you’re no longer being held hostage by desperation, you are far more able to recognise something good when it comes your way. I doubt, had Jersey girl found her way to me even five years earlier than she did, she’d have felt the same way about me as she now does because the person I was then was nothing like the man she fell for.
Words and image are my own.