The end of my affair with Makeda was another version of my own personal groundhog day. I tend to follow the same path every time that I fall in love. I am a hopeless romantic. I am forever looking for Ms. Right when I am single (which is ninety-nine percent of the time). I am totally monogamous (even though I have my doubts that monogamy is a natural human state). I will do anything and everything for the one that I love. And just when I think that happily ever after is imminent, I somehow manage to crash and burn. And when I say crash, I mean explode, implode and all of the other plodes. I am rendered down into a puddle of pathetic goo.
I have long been convinced that I have bi-polar issues. Anyone who has ever worked with me can tell you that I have a very short fuse. When I implode it’s like a whole different man (or demon) tries to force his way out of my psyche. The implosion almost always directed towards myself, but it is scary to watch and embarrassing when it happens. It might last fifteen seconds or five minutes, but it always leaves debilitating scars in its wake. I am happy to report that it’s been a long time since I’ve had a melt down. It coincides with my stepping away from my career as a restaurant manager.
Some people are natural leaders. I used to think I was a natural leader, but I have crashed that boat against the rocks one too many times to believe it any more. Since my Marine Corps days, every job that I have ever had has involved leading and/or training people. My tendency is to throw my entire being into a job and wind it around myself like a length of copper wire. As my competency grows, the copper wire turns into barbed wire. The insatiable perfectionist in me refuses to harmonize with the imperfect world. Every little mistake is like a cut to my ego. Soon I am drowning in my imperfection.
I have an addictive personality. I’ve been known to drink to excess. I have a tendency to overeat in times of stress. I am fueled by caffeine. I am starved for affection, so when I get the slightest bit it makes me manic with happiness. I am a workaholic. I read books by the hundred. I have three to five writing projects going at any given time. I give up on things quickly, especially if I am not an immediate success. Around two years ago, when I finally escaped the restaurant business, I started turning the corner. I packed away the stress and the meltdowns. I started finding some balance in my life.
I was in the midst of getting fired from my last restaurant job for “performance issues.” I was a train wreck of a man by this time. My last five weeks on the job I averaged over sixty-five hours. Being on salary, the middle management form of slavery, I was not being compensated for my time or my stress. I was told that I didn’t care about the job. It was laughable. This was the impetus I needed to get myself together. I worked out a deal to take a step down instead and get my head on straight. I cut my work hours almost in half and the money was still reasonable. It was the perfect fix.
This period in my life coincided with what I will call “my last great flirtation.” I gave up on love a long time ago. My dream of being a father has withered and died. It is not worth wasting my time to chase a relationship that will end like all of the others. The gods (and my irresponsible actions) have condemned me to solitude. So be it. No sense losing any sleep over it. Then lightning struck again, this time from ten thousand miles away.
I’ll call her Maggie (maganda means beautiful in Tagalog, the language of the Philippines). I met her about eight years ago on a blogging site where we both did a little writing. She was located in Manila. I saw her name referenced on another blog and looked at her picture. She was cute and funny, so I started to comment on her blogs. She started commenting back. Our online personalities complimented each other. We were both jaded and sarcastic. I loved her irreverence. Somewhere along the way we lost each other, but I never forgot her. We exchanged greetings every year on New Years.
Around the same time that I was escaping my soul-killing job, she was escaping an abusive relationship. It seemed she was uninterested in her countrymen, and tended towards men of other nationalities. We started chatting, something that I’d always ridiculed others for. Chatting led to phoning, which led to Skype, which intensified our like for each other. We talked about hopes and dreams and fears. We talked about the future. We were both afraid to end up alone.
Maggie was the antithesis of me. She was a professional CPA. She was a thinker, a planner and a saver. Whereas I was just a squanderer. She saved every penny for over three years to make her dream of leaving the Philippines a reality, all the while taking care of her parents and brothers. As we talked and dreamed together, she was moving forward. I thought that I was too, but I was just spinning my tires (as usual). Part of her dream came true, she got a permanent visa to emigrate to Australia as part of their worker exchange program. For my part, my paternal instincts went into overdrive. Here was a young lady of twenty-nine, aching to have children, and falling in love with me. All I had to do was get my sh*t together and meet her in Australia. Piece of cake, right?
At the same time that we were intensifying our relationship, I was also intensifying my search for the antidote to my rage and anger. I found an unlikely source of serenity on the Internet in the form of Brian Johnson’s “A Philosopher’s Notes.” Brian’s zest for finding his bliss and sharing it with others inspired me to start delving into spirituality, positive psychology and balance. He introduced me to such luminaries as Joseph Campbell, Martin Seligman, Abraham Maslow and Marcus Aurelius. I should have known that we were going to have a problem when Maggie started complaining that “no one can be as happy as you are all the time.” But it was true. “A Philosopher’s Notes” saved my life. But another problem was looming on the horizon.
I let it go on for way too long. We were four months into the process when reality started staring me in the face. All of my bad decisions over the years reared up and smacked me in the face. When I finally told her of my life of a financial misfit it was like crashing the ship into the rocks with the harbor in sight. She was out of my life faster than it takes for a wad of happiness to swirl the bottom of the bowl.
The sad part is that I never went looking for love. Especially one that was halfway around the world. I would have been perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life as her crazy American friend on the Internet. But I had to get her hopes up, get my hopes up, and then drive us straight into the rocks. I still love you as the friend that you always were, Sweet Maggie. I hope you find everything you’re looking for in your new home country. I’ll miss you.