70. Ride the line of balance

 

And I’m all alone, I’m all alone
And kid you better get the picture
And I’m on my own, I’m on my own
And I can’t go home

Springsteen, 10th Avenue Freeze-out

 

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I’m slowly settling back into my second life. It was my only life once but I’ve left those days far behind. Jersey girl’s world is my real life now, there I am a part of a greater whole. In NJ, I am husband, lover, father-figure and have the love and respect of the people in her life.

Here in this colder world, I have a job, friends, and of course my son. It is enough to keep me from despair but it lacks the singular element around which my existence revolves – her. Without my Jersey, I am a fraction of my true self because, first and foremost, I am hers.

I think I have established here within these posts what qualities represent true love to me. They are nonetheless worth reiterating as they are the supports around which this blog is built. For love to be true, I would propose, certain elements need to be present. I’m going to offer them here in the form of questions.

  • Does being with this person allow you to be completely true to who you are?
  • Are you a better version of yourself with them than you have been with others?
  • Do you trust them without question?
  • Does being with them make you feel fulfilled, respected, understood?
  • Is your empathy fully engaged?

For my part, I could no longer countenance a relationship where even one of these elements were missing. In fact, I can now no longer imagine any relationship but this one. We have both known from the beginning that this is the last person we will ever love. That is a very new experience for me, totally unique in my lifetime.

That’s what makes this second life so difficult to endure. I feel so complete when I’m with her and so stripped down without her. The life I live here feels like a glorified holding pattern. I love spending time with my boy but he is a very busy young man these days and there just aren’t that many opportunities to spend a lot of time together (cue cats in the cradle).

My life is mostly work and writing (with a good deal of skyping of course) and that’s fine but I’ve seen what life is like on the other side and I desperately want that back. Patience is considered a virtue but I’m tired of being virtuous. I need to be where she is.

Reading back over this post, I can taste the desperation in every word. The fact that I’m writing this at all indicates that the strain is beginning to get to me. I’ll stop now before I begin to sound like a miserable old git because the truth is, I’m actually very happy. I may be thousands of miles from the woman I love and who loves me but the fact that I have her in my life makes it impossible to be unhappy.

The truth is, once a love like this comes into your life, loneliness – real bone-deep loneliness – is no longer part of your world. Just knowing that there is someone out there that can make you feel this way is all it takes to never truly feel lonely again.

Impatient, yes – but not lonely, never that.

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Words and images are my own.

©2016

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69. Romance the dumb into talking

 

Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no more
Listen, mister, can’t you see I got to get back
To my baby once-a more
Anyway, yeah!

 The Box Tops, The letter

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In all of human history, it has only been possible to have a relationship exactly like ours, within the last few years. Jersey girl and I are artefacts of a very specific time. The internet in some form has existed since the early seventies and the personal computer since the eighties but, in a format in any way useful to lovers such as we, only really this past couple of decades. Skype and Facebook are very much the new kids on the block both having only been around for a handful of years.

Jersey and I were only able to become aware of each other’s existences because the High-Speed Internet also existed and we both lived in countries where people have ready access to it. We were only able to get to know each other because of the sudden prevalence of social media and, again because we lived in countries where such media is not yet heavily censored.

Skype has allowed us to maintain a ‘gaze into your eyes’ relationship over the many long months of physical separation. This, more than anything, has enabled our love to flourish. And none of it, not even the original internet, existed in the year I was born (men were still wearing hats the year I was born).

We literally owe our existence as a couple to digital technology (and jet engine technology of course). I’m writing this on my way to my job here in Melbourne but I can take my phone out of my pocket and call Jersey girl from this train just like any other commuter. It’s just that Jersey is on the other side of the world rather than back at the place where I actually, you know, live. I remember what it was like as recently as the early eighties to make an overseas call. Conversations were stilted as hell due to the three-second delay along the cables. And the cost per minute was astronomical.

Today I regularly call Jersey girl just to let her know I’m thinking of her. How quickly we have all assimilated the miracles of the past few decades; adapted to this new normal. I recall I used to hear about people marrying partners they’d met online and think, oh my god that’s so weird. Now I am one of those weirdos, but I’m far from alone. Millions of people now fall in love this way. It has almost become a cliché. I still get that look occasionally when I tell our story to someone new but nowhere near as often as you might think.

And, though, it may seem crazy to some to even contemplate such an obstacle-strewn life, there are historical precedents of even less convenient long distance loves than ours. Not including the obvious, Abelard and Heloise,  I can think of at least two written accounts (though, frustratingly I can now find no trace of either online*) of long distance love carried out entirely by letter at a time when the horse or sailing ship were the preferred (indeed only) methods of delivery. Think about that.

And in at least one case, the lovers involved had not met before falling in love (like Jersey girl and me) and indeed, never did meet (thankfully, unlike us). My mind reels at the thought of the interminable wait between each communication. Literally, months would pass between perfumed missives (I’m simply assuming the perfume part).

There’s a discipline and a commitment to such a love that just wouldn’t flourish in this faster pace, shorter attention span world. I doubt anybody in these modern times has that sort of patience.

And in those earlier days, people were frequently struck down by deadly illnesses that seemed to come out of nowhere (but which in fact arose from appalling hygiene and dreadful civil engineering – shit in the streets, blood on the sheets). So the next letter you received could be the one telling you that your beloved had died of diphtheria four months earlier.

I cannot imagine the courage and fortitude required to endure such a life. And people are amazed by our story!

*Has anyone else noticed that google seems to be dumbing down lately?

 

Oh, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that we both love the Griffin and Sabine books.

 

Words and image are my own.

©2016

68. Crazy for you

 

I remember when, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions had an echo in so much space

Gnarls Barkley, Crazy

 

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My skills as a writer are not great. I struggle often in my attempts to express the nuances of the stories I tell on this blog. I’ve also come to realise my judgement about what is or isn’t appropriate material to share with the blogosphere is sometimes lacking and so I frequently worry that I say too much. Often, though, upon reading back over past posts, I realise that in fact, I have said too little.
Trawling through all those posts, I feel a sense of failure at my inability to truly capture the essence of this love. The darker elements – rooted in the somewhat twisted nature of both our strange pasts – I have particularly failed to convey.

Some of the reason for this is that many of these elements are of an intimate nature and not fit subject matter for a forum such as this. I’m aware that statement potentially makes us sound like a pair of sexual deviants but rest assured we are not perverts, just two battered souls looking to deconstruct the injuries of our pasts.

Both of us suffer from abandonment issues related to our fathers. Both of us grew up in emotionally abusive environments. Such upbringings inevitably leave scars and we each carry plenty of those. Part of what we recognised in each other in those heady, early days was the familiar patina of those scars.

I don’t mean to imply here that it is only this shared darkness which brought us together. Rather, it is our tolerance of, and empathy for, the other’s quirks – derived from that darkness – which binds us so deeply.

Empathy is the core requirement of any lasting relationship. To look into your love’s eyes and discern the pain behind the smile is not simply a gift but a necessity. Without that, you are useless to them in this world.

Love making without empathy is a grim and mechanical affair. Both tactile and emotional feedback must pass constantly between lovers for the act to have any real meaning.

This is precisely why narcissists are so lousy in bed, all they think about are their own needs. The fact that there is another person, another collection of needs and desires, present barely impinges on their consciousness.

Perhaps one day, Jersey girl will write a post about what that’s like for the other person. I’ve heard all the stories from her marriage and they are pretty horrendous. They do, however, serve as powerful cautionary tales for the unwary.

Clearly, lack of empathy has not been an issue in this relationship. Both of us can read each other like two chapters from the same well-thumbed book. Neither of us can keep anything from the other. One look invariably tells all.

For some, this would be too intense a situation to tolerate. Many people need to keep their secrets, even from their partners, but not so with Jersey and I. We have always craved this level of intimacy and intensity. What some would label ‘dramatic’ we call magnetic.

Intensity is food to us; the deepest intimacy our oxygen. That’s just the way we’re built. That’s why it took us both so long to find this. Most people would get one whiff of a love this crazy and bolt for the door. It is definitely not for everyone, and yet, here I am plastering it unashamedly across the web.

That said, here you are reading it.

And because you and others are taking the time to read our story, I intend to continue to do my best to tell it honestly and in as interesting a fashion as my meagre skills will allow.

 

Words and image are my own.

©2016

67. Good vibrations*

 

This train…
Carries saints and sinners
This train…
Carries losers and winners
This train…
Carries whores and gamblers
This train…
Carries lost souls

I said this train…
Dreams will not be thwarted
This train…
Faith will be rewarded

Springsteen, Land of Hope and Dreams

 

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There are so many variables in life, so many alternative narratives. How did we end up here? It messes with my mind when I think about all the moments that had to fall into line for us to even become aware of each other, let alone fall in love.

She was neck deep in a miserable, loveless marriage when we first met; struggling with a narcissistic husband who was making her life a living hell.

I had been single for several years after my long-term relationship (not the one with my son’s mother) had ended abruptly. That experience had gotten me thinking that perhaps a life of solitude might be the best thing for me.

The best-laid plans of rodents and men Gang aft agley.

We met on line, both commenting on the same thread. I forget what it was about now, but I liked what she had to say and soon we had become friends. That was it, there were no ulterior motives on my part, I just liked her and wanted to stay in touch. And that’s how it went for just over a year. I won’t deny I found her fascinating; attractive too. That wasn’t the point, though, she was married and that was that as far as I was concerned.

I had no idea how miserable she was with that man. I’ve had contact with him since then and get it completely now. He’s the most appalling, petty minded, amoral creature I’ve had the misfortune to meet. I see the torture he put her through, still tries to put her through, I totally understand why she absolutely had to get out. It had always been the kids that had kept her there but as time had gone by, she’d started to fear for their safety. He was just too unstable; too erratic. She began to take stock of her situation.

Something about our interactions had shown her a different kind of world to the one she’d always known. Her husband was not the first sociopath to enter her life, both of her mother and father were narcissists (and worse) and like so many victims of such parents, she’d continued the pattern in her relationships.

I don’t think even she could say exactly how long she’d been ready to leave him before I came along. From my own perspective, I’d felt a growing attraction to her from the beginning but always told myself she’s married and you’re no home wrecker. That’s what kept me honest through that entire first year.

She, of course, knew I liked her more than I showed and it was the fact that, despite those feelings, I still never attempted anything untoward that proved to her not all men lack a sense of honor.

Not long after that epiphany, she finally found the strength to end her oppressive and emotionally abusive marriage. And from the ashes of that sad relationship’s funeral pyre, something quite beautiful took wing.

Considering that throughout all of this we were only in contact via type, it’s probably hard for you, the reader, to comprehend how such a monumentally life-changing decision could even have been contemplated, let alone acted upon.

How could she possibly have known that you were even worth overturning her entire life for?

That’s the question isn’t it? And it’s not an easy one to answer. I saw a quote the other day; when you think about life and the universe, think in terms of frequencies. It caught my eye because that’s how I generally do think. Frequencies and vibration are how I see the world.

We all have our own unique vibrations and I believe that, when we encounter another whose vibration resonates with our own, there is an almost magnetic attraction. Meeting Jersey girl taught me that this can happen even when all you know of another is what they have written.

The first year of communication between us was done entirely via written word. After that, we had a year where we only talked on Skype and never once used the video function. Only after we physically met did we go to video. And yet, before that first meeting, both of us knew we had found our life mate.

Vibrations, frequencies these energies are what truly govern the heart. And just as with quantum mechanics where particles resolve into waves only when we observe them, once two hearts become attuned, once two souls have made a connection, no physical contact is required for the vibrational love song to commence. Our song began to play the day we both commented on that thread and has never missed a beat since.

The term ‘soulmate’ gets thrown around quite a lot these days, to the point where it has come to be regarded by many as a gauche idea. However, the connection we have made defies any attempt to trivialize it. Simply put, we fell in love across a vast distance and what we recognized almost at once was that our souls had somehow always been connected, it was just our minds and bodies that needed to catch up.

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*Sorry, had to be done.

Words and images are my own.

©2016

66. Waiting on a sunny day

 

I’ve felt you coming girl, as you drew near
I knew you’d find me, cause I longed you here
Are you my destiny? Is this how you’ll appear?
Wrapped in a coat with tears in your eyes?
Well take that coat babe, and throw it on the floor
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

Nick Cave, (Are you) the one that I’ve been waiting for?

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I’ve been back from NJ for just over a week now and those days with my Jersey girl are already beginning to feel like a distant but beautiful dream. As I knew it would, the black dog of depression has settled upon me. I was prepared for it but it still lays heavy.

I know it’s no better for Jersey. If anything, these separations are even harder on her (if that’s truly possible). All we have now are those wonderful memories and the hope for a quick conclusion to our immigration situation.

Of the two, the memories give the most succour. There are so many moments to draw upon. People who get to live every day with their loves cannot possibly know what joy an act as simple as showering together can bring. Even something as seemingly devoid of erotic charge as sitting beside one another in the car on a long drive brings a yearning that affects me deeply. I’ve actually become a little misty eyed just remembering pushing a cart around the supermarket with her.

I know, hopelessly besotted is the only way to describe this particular affliction. That said, I wouldn’t want to lose these feelings for all the iPhones in China. This depth of emotion is a gift I’d come to believe life would never bestow upon me. Now that I have it, I’ve no intention of loosening my grip on it.

As you’ve been moving, surely toward me
My soul has comforted and assured me
That in time my heart it will reward me
And that all will be revealed
So I’ve sat and I’ve watched an ice-age thaw
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?

Not everyone gives love the priority in their lives that we do, I do get that. Many put creative or career objectives ahead of relationships. That’s fine if that’s what works for them. However, for us, this love lies at the very center of everything. This is because, somehow from the very beginning, we both knew that the other was out there somewhere waiting for us.

There’s a man who spoke wonders though I’ve never met him
He said, “He who seeks finds and who knocks will be let in”
I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting
And how every little thing anticipates you
All down my veins my heart-strings call
Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?


Cave’s lyrics capture the essence of our story. We have both always believed that, for some of us, there is only one true love out there and that we are born knowing them, intuiting their existence; aware that, until we find them, we can never be whole.

I thank whatever force guides the stars that I found her. The realisation of just how easily our paths might never have crossed can still give me chills.

Words and image are my own. Lyrics by Nick Cave (1997) From the album Boatman’s Call.

©2016

65. Wild Billy’s circus story

 

I’m sure I’ve left so much out. We did a lot in those five weeks. For instance, I’m fairly certain that I’ve neglected to mention that we did indeed go and see Billy Bauer play again in Bethlehem. You may recall Bauer from my post about the Ice House gig we took the kids to on my second night back.

This time, he and Chris Lorenzetti, the fiddle player from his band, were doing a tiny set at a Bethlehem craft pub Southside 313 and Jersey and I went along for dinner and, of course, to catch the show.

The place itself was congenial enough if just one of a million craft beer pubs that have sprung up around the world over the past few years. The food was good and the beer went down a little too smoothly so that, by the time Bauer and Co. turned up, we were in a very receptive state indeed.

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The set was electrified but essentially acoustic and once again I was impressed by Bauer’s formidable skill in both his guitar playing and his singing. He is a performer of no small talent and despite the incessant babble of the bar crowd, his music cut through.

He’s an effortlessly fluid, assured player too, which puts him in an altogether different category to his fiddling bandmate Lorenzetti who plays with sharp, rapid, almost violent sweeps of the bow nevertheless creating atmospheric contributions which perfectly compliment Bauer’s style.

Bauer’s other great talent lies in his songwriting which is highly developed and emotionally charged. The man reminds me of Springsteen in some ways; especially in his ability to tell a good story simply, though, his sound and style are distinctly different.

In his words and melodies, I hear shades of Cat Stevens, The Boss, Nick Drake, even a little Live (the band that is). Jersey said that vocally he is very similar to Dave Mathews, an artist I wasn’t previously familiar with but, upon giving him a listen, I would tend to agree (and in fact, several of the songs Bauer does live are Mathews covers as it turns out).

We stayed for the first set then had to leave to get back home to the kids. Before going we chatted with Billy for a few moments and bought a couple of copies of his CD. He seemed impressed by how far I’d travelled to hear him play and asked me a few questions about Australia. I told him they’d love him down there.

He then mentioned that he was in the midst of somewhat of a comeback after a throat surgery which had left him unable to sing for almost a year. You’d never have guessed this from the performance he’d just given.

At that point Bauer made a sudden departure for his car, saying he’d just had an idea for a song and wanted to get it down before he lost it. We took this as our cue to head off.

The night had been a tonic and had planted a seed in both of our minds regarding Bethlehem and our shared future.

Words and image are my own.

©2016

64. Submarine Bells

 

Normal services will resume presently…

I have arrived safely back into a rather soggy Melbourne and a somewhat sad and empty apartment. As always happens, the down that descended upon me as I closed the door and stood alone in my silent hall was devastating.

With no definite date on when I can return, all we have for now is the sickening certainty that many long and lonely days, weeks, and months lay ahead of us.

This will not break us.

I promise to write a proper (or at least a less self-pitying) post in the next couple of days.

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Can this really have been only three days ago?