Retro-introspective

A two year-old girl hobbles earnestly across a stony courtyard. The scratching at her feet she ignores, such is her intent. Her faithful plush penguin she drags along the ground, his face besmirched. Arriving at an open doorway she sees a man huddled over a keyboard, his fingers pressing angrily on the plastic before him. He doesn’t notice her.

“Daddy! Mummy is owie!” she exclaims.

The man snaps out of his state and rejoins the world. He stands up as the toddler deftly steps aside from the door and she leads him. A few strides later and the frowning man is in his troubled home. The love of his life is slumped at the bottom of the stairs; she’s clutching her ankle.

That is how The Artist and I resumed communication.

A few months on from that incident and a bonfire of our collective histories is ablaze in our back yard. We’ve decided to gamble our futures on a move to her native alpine homeland. It is not without its risks and drawbacks, but we believe it to be the best of our options. I consider it an eminently better environment to raise our daughter. During this time of Brexit neither of us has had any luck on the job front. I can’t see either of us foreigners being first choice for anybody in the job market in the current climate of fear and hate. When people see our surnames or hear our accents mental doors close to us; that’s how it seems. In the twenty-two years I’ve lived on this island every day people have asked me where I am from. Several times a year I’ve been told to “F*ck off back to where I come from”. This happened again a few weeks ago and was the final straw for me. Since the Brexit vote xenophobia has become socially acceptable. I don’t want to raise my daughter in such a bigoted environment.

In two weeks’ time we cram what we can into our little car and set off on a short, one-way road-trip across Europe. Our unsold, needed possessions are going into long-term storage until we have a new home. In the meantime we’re toughing it out in a thirty square metre apartment that The Artist inherited. It has no central heating, but we hope to move on before Winter. It’s in a country town where the mayor gets drunk at the harvest festival and nobody cares. The greatest danger is from fruit falling from the trees that line the few streets as Winter approaches.

Our focus will be on getting jobs and legalizing my status in our new country. If we find a bargain property we’ll buy it, but we’re not counting on that. Her heart isn’t into this move, but her head is. Our collective motivation is not as good as it needs to be to see us through the inevitable tough times that come with emigration.

This is just a continuation of what has been an unending period of constant change in my life. Things just don’t show signs of slowing down, never mind settling down. I feel totally worn out by it all. Getting through each day feels like an achievement.

It’s usually when I have my child on my lap and I’m feeding her that my thoughts wander over to what is right for her. The crap that has filled my head all my life has culminated in a fruitless dead-end. I’m concerned about what I’m going to fill her head with. I just don’t know what is right any more. I’m tasked with building this beautiful little person up while at the same time I’m in a state of deconstruction. I feel like such a hypocrite for telling her things that I don’t believe in any more. For example, I don’t believe that always doing the right thing, the good thing, will be rewarded. Karma is a deceitful bitch. I don’t believe that sharing is caring. I don’t believe that bad people will eventually be punished. Where is the evidence that supports those notions?

Through now being a father and seeing the goodness inherent in my delightful child, I see how far I have fallen. This incessantly happy, laughing little girl shows me daily just how much of a miserable old bastard I have become.

How did this sorry state of affairs come into being?

I flip through my memory bank yearning to make sense of all that has happened to me. My days of dating and dumping loom large in my psyche. It has been pivotal in me arriving at where I am. It is also a microcosm of what has ailed me all my life. I look back on it all now with very mixed feelings.

I started out dating because I wanted to feel loved. I wanted to be in love. I wanted that giddy feeling when I thought of The One. I liked my heart skipping a beat when a new message arrived. The whole mechanism of online dating slowly sucked me into a world of easy sex and careless, disrespectful treatment of and by others. The pursuit of perfection was enabled by merely clicking away or swiping on a device. We’ve all become disposable commodities. How banal.

Yet I went along with it all. I was complicit and I’m ashamed of this. My morals eroded and my perception of women worsened. I don’t think I’m a better person for it all, just a different one. “You can stay as you are or you could go online dating” might work as edgy slogan for a dating site, especially a naughty one.

Through my online escapades I came to learn of my Avoidant Personality Disorder. Working on it is proving a lengthy process. I consider its discovery as one of the greatest benefits of my dating days. It takes time to change lifelong malformed ideas. We all act out our beliefs, often disappointed that the world didn’t play along. “What’s wrong with the world?” we lament. We are our world. Instead we should be asking, “What’s wrong with us?”.

Delving deeper within myself I now know that this unsatisfying chain of events kicked off long ago when I wore a younger man’s clothes. I told myself that the woman before me was the best I could hope for, so we married. I compromised. When we inevitably divorced I was stunned to my core. In a rookie mistake I sought to fill the agonizing void in my existence and went online dating while divorce papers were still pending. Yes, I was on the rebound. I didn’t take time out to get my shit together. I met my now ex-girlfriend and she was the polar opposite of my ex-wife. It was an exciting time…initially. It wasn’t long before every day felt like a roller coaster with her; immense high and low at least once a day. After a humdrum marriage this didn’t seem so bad.

When I gained a clearer perspective and saw just how badly I had been played, I eventually moved on, albeit with an abortive initial attempt. What I did was a repeat of before. I had barely finished collecting the last of my stuff when my first online dating profile went live. I was homeless and unemployed. I needed some feel-good factor to boost my self-confidence. Again, I was on the rebound.

The slew of women I met began well enough, but I now know that this was because they were off paid-for sites. As the pool of suitable candidates on these websites dried up I moved onto the free dating sites. That is when things took a turn for the worse. My negative time on the dating scene I attribute to restricting myself to what then was the novelty of Tinder. My nadir was The MILF of Xmas, another Tinderella. Only once I switched back to using paid-for sites – which tend to enjoy a fillip in January – did I find The Artist.

But wait, there’s more. Yes, there’s a whole other layer below all of this and I consider it the crux of my existence, my malaise. It’s my working life. It’s always been a disaster. I left high school and entered a vortex of good ideas and necessary choices. Never in my working life have I taken a job I wanted; it’s was always what I needed. My love-life has always been the gauze that soothed this festering sore. My marriage had at it core a mutual desire to travel, but that was supplanted by her desire to be a mother. This was one compromise too many for me. I worked for many years as a freelancer, enjoying the higher pay and freedom to travel; that compromise seemed worthwhile.

All that has consumed time and resources that should have been better spent on following a career more to my liking. Alas, few people earn a sustainable living as a writer, so I’ve always put off going for it. Instead I whiled my time away on the next best thing. For three years it was dating all the women I did. I kept telling myself that only once I had found “The One” would things be on the right track.

Along the way I had some wild sexual encounters and chose to pass others up. The Russian Model and Lusty Lass could have been the easiest sex I ever had, but I chose to walk away and am glad for those decisions. The only date I’m disappointed to not have got intimate with was The Model. Perhaps that’s a good thing because my journey might have stopped there. Krazy Girl was the best sex I’ve ever had and still find myself remembering some of the things we did.

My knowledge about womankind is much better but still incomplete. It is good enough to appreciate The Artist for who she is. I don’t think I could do better than her. Sadly I have also learned that the person you desire does not necessarily make for the kind of relationship you need or want. My education about relationships continues apace.

I follow several female bloggers whose writing and experiences I enjoy reading. Something they have in common is that they are afflicted by one special man whose words and actions (or inactions) reduces them to quivering lumps of jelly. I understand their feelings because Baltic Babe had a similar effect on me. I was always comparing the women I met to the feelings I felt when I was with her. Doing this wasn’t fair to everyone involved.

The women bloggers have their own motivations and in a few cases I suspect that their “daddy issues” evokes a similar feeling. They know this feeling, have learned to cope with it and they might like it in a twisted kind of way. Perhaps if they realized that the man they are fixated on would only deliver a horrible relationship once living together, then they might expunge him from their systems and move on to a better proposition?

I may have been a few women’s “special man” whom they couldn’t get out of their head. Sweet Thing and Busty Blonde come to mind. It still pains me to think of the two of them. It’s a stain on my conscience.

The greatest lesson I have learned in life (courtesy of my dating days) is that there are many types of love, but the strongest, unchanging one is that of a parent for their child. All other types of love are subject to change. Perhaps Baltic Babe was right by saying “love is for fools”?

I found “The One” but today my life is a nightmare from which I can’t wake up. Most nights falling asleep I secretly hope not to wake up. It’s the thought of my not being there for my daughter that keeps me continuing this not-so-good fight.