2014 got off to the worst start imaginable. I broke with my lovely girlfriend, Crissy José, in a stupid disagreement that was entirely my fault. (I mentioned this in an earlier post). I had very little money and I was totally depressed. My world shrank and I turned inwards. I was emotionally gutted and actually in a very vulnerable condition.
Two events saved me. Well, three, but more of that later. In the first, my neighbour, a lovely woman who has always been very kind to me and my family, asked me if I would put some of my house-restoration skills to work on her house. She has a traditional fermette, and like all of these, the original space for humans was tiny. She ha already converted another outbuilding and her a stable into a nice letting apartment, but the barn was very big and as she has got older, it was clearly getting more difficult for her to do these things herself.
I would not usually take work like that, but I needed something. That work not only made me fitter, leaner and stronger, it focussed me again. The project is still unfinished but it looks positive and several others have come into view.
The second event of huge importance was that I met, through a Facebook Group, a person who was to become central to my life. She is known as Karis Burkowski and half in jest I sent her a copy of French Onion Soup. She liked it and made very positive comments, so I asked if she would help with a writing project I was stuck with. I thought she might do some editing and maybe give me some direction.
However, what actually happened was remarkable. After a hesitant beginning, the whole arrangement just clicked into place, and Karis became so much part of the project that she is now the co-author. The book is called Why Men Made God and we are currently working through the last draft (of over 40). This is the best working relationship I have ever had with another professional and I will be forever in Karis’ debt. She has improved Why Men Made God by orders of magnitude, and we are planning future projects together. Not only is she co-author, but she has also become my business partner.
Between these two projects I was really busy, but at the same time rediscovered some of my energy. It’s funny how the more work I have, the stronger and more energetic I become. My daughter Charis came to visit for three weeks and that was lovely, as it always is. I tackled some of the work that needed to be done to my house, including some roof repairs and replacing a rotten lintol over the barn. My next Onion Soup project, while slow, also progressed.
I even managed to find time for romance. I met a few girls online and chatted with them. But each, after a few weeks, just faded. Then I met a girl through Facebook and it seemed more serious. She was very nice, and eventually we decided to meet. This prompted me to book an extended break in the Philippines, where I am now (and where Crissy lives, by the way.) This seemed like a decent plan in any case. I know a lot of people here now so I was pretty relaxed, and it gave me the time to really concentrate on finishing Why Men Made God.
So I rented an apartment in Taguig, Manila. I flew into NAIA (pronounced ‘na-eeyah’) on the 15th and within three days I had broken with the girl. It just was not right. Another Facebook friend contacted me, and I had a couple of dates with her. She is beautiful, charming and affectionate; but I knew it was all wrong, though I could not tell why. I met another and also knew, right away, that this was never going to work. I learned that knowing someone online is not like knowing that person ‘in real’.
I had almost given up when I went back on the site where I first met Crissy. It’s a dating site and I hadn’t used it for ages. She was still on it and was obviously active, since her photo popped up quickly. The funny thing was, I almost didn’t message her. But I did, not really expecting her to reply. That was on Christmas Day.
So I was pretty impressed when, the day after, she replied. She was a little critical but I know her very well, she had been wronged and was not letting me away with it easily. But still, she wanted to meet.
We met on the 30th, four days later. I offered to take her for dinner at the Market! Market! mall near here at 6:30. I wasn’t really apprehensive, though I did ask myself if this was really a good idea. (I’m sure she did too.) I took a jeepney to the mall and reloaded my pocket wi-fi, hit the ATM and then went to the agreed meeting place. Naturally, Crissy was late so I had time to get scared but I didn’t. I just thought it would be two good friends meeting after a long time apart.
Crissy just appeared beside me without a word. She was obviously nervous. She made no display of greeting, just led me towards Giligan’s, a popular restaurant. But it was full, and I suggested another; this was too bright, said she. So we settled on Gerry’s Grill at her suggestion.
Crissy can often be insecure and I have to be gentle with her, and respect her need for space. I am sure meeting me had been stressing for her. Seated, and with the table between us, she was in a space she could control so she relaxed and I saw her for the first time.
She was more beautiful than before, perhaps a little slimmer. She seemed more self-assured and confident in herself, and actually more mature. She had changed, and as far as I could see, in good ways. Still I was not expecting anything. I had broken with her and counted it an honour and a privilege that she had even agreed to meet. This was just friends.
But slowly, as the evening progressed, that changed. Because the music was deafening, I moved to sit behind her, and very soon had my arm round her. She didn’t flinch or move away and even when I asked she just shook her head and said it was fine. But I knew that she knew what was happening, and felt it too. ‘I never expected this,’ she said, several times, without any reproach, just wonder.
Around about then, the door opened, or the lid came off. The lid on the Pandora’s Box that I had locked Crissy into. The door on all my lies and self-deception. The window that showed the truth. I am completely in love with this most beautiful person, and had been all along. Denying it was just stupid and futile. This feeling is just too strong.
The situation I was in became crystal clear. The other girls I dated never had any chance at all. I could chat online, but as soon as they were before me, real, my entire emotional system rejected them the way that white cells reject a virus. There was just no room in my heart for any of them, because Crissy – or at least the ghost of Crissy – was in there already, and that ghost was allowing no competition.
After dinner she wanted to buy a cake, for New Year, so we found a bakery. It was like old times, arm in arm, close, touching. It was absolutely exhilarating and her perfume was actually making me dizzy. I bought the cake, and then we found her a taxi. She had to get it home, she explained, it was an ice-cream cake, and it would melt. Manila in December is not like Paris. I asked for a kiss and she willingly gave one, just a nice friendly kiss.
Then something happened; I opened the taxi door and as she got in I leaned close to her ear and the truth finally came out: ‘I love you’ I breathed. I hadn’t meant to say that, but I was no longer in control. My heart, which had successfully and so loyally defended Crissy’s right to be there, was back in control and it was not about to put up with any more of my crass self-deception.
I was in shock. I came home to the apartment in a jeep – and collapsed on the bed. I don’t know what was worst – the shame at how I had wronged someone so profoundly decent, and whom I love so much, the stupidity of having lied to myself for so long, or the way I had – without meaning to, hurt others during a year of total untruth. Every wrong I had committed against my love I reviewed and every time I felt the agony of recrimination. It was a difficult night and I slept very little.
On the evening, just over two years ago, when Crissy and I fell in love, we were in the Red Coconut Bar in Station Two on Boracay. At one point I looked up and saw a bright green lizard on the wall. I had never seen one like it before, and have not since. Not till that night, after I got back from meeting Crissy, anyway. I went to brush my teeth, and there in front of me was a little bright green lizard on the wall. By the time I got my camera, it had gone. I am pretty hard-boiled, but that shook me; I was wide open to the Universe by then and strange things that only shamans understand happen at times like that.
I didn’t and don’t know what will happen. Crissy and I need to talk, seriously, about us and the future. I don’t know if she will ever trust me as she did before. But what I do know is that I will never, ever, deceive myself as I have again. That is why I am writing this, so that I never forget this lesson.
Never, ever, take anyone for granted. And if you love someone, never, ever, deny it. Make them the centre of your life and meet all challenges together. Love will cure anything. But you have to let it. Remember that you don’t often get second chances. Don’t waste them. Especially in something so important as love. These are the things 2014 taught me.
For 2015 I have very high hopes. I hope that Why Men Made God is as well-received as it deserves to be. I hope my kids do well and are safe and healthy and enjoy their lives. And I hope that I can repair the damage I did and that the most wonderful person in my world will regain her trust and faith in me, and that we can go into the future together.
And I wish anyone reading this all the very best for 2015 and that their dreams come true. Happy New Year!