Milestones, lessons learned and unintended intermissions


It was my birthday a few weeks ago, and what should have been a routine, barely noticeable bump on the flat line that has become the ultra predictable, safety first, thirty-something year old life that is my lot somehow morphed into a swirling mess of mildly depressive emotions. The trigger was an epiphany of sorts, one that I had no business having. If having that epiphany was odd, where it hit was even odder – midway through my morning ablutions, just before the commode gave way to a four minute duel with sensodyne and a power toothbrush. Leading up to it, I was stoking along nicely, keeping up with my annual birthday ritual – deactivating my facebook account, turning off all but my private phone and lobbing a text message in the direction of the one friend I know whose birthday is in the same week as mine.

I would blame the perfect storm that was the accretion of several niggles for tipping me over the edge this time. My Nigerian inquisition, subtle reminders from my father – ostensibly in jest – about how at the age I was turning he’d met my mother, a not entirely cerebral dalliance with my friend Q, and a general feeling of malaise all played their parts, as did an emotionally fraught two week period where an event in the life of the bloke I count as a work mentor shook me up majorly. There was also the small matter of waiting on three big decisions – vacillating between pumped up anticipation as resolution seemed near and the dull listlessness that boredom, and the sense of nothing happening, seemed to spawn.

Four key conversations ended up defining the period – three random ones which helped kick me out of my funk, and one not quite random one. If there is anyone in my circle of friends who’s earned the right to give me a kick in the gonads and shake me out of any bouts of moroseness, it is my friend Kizz. Between twice uprooting her life to go live outside her comfort zone, expending it for a darn good cause in far away lands and soldiering on in the battle for love, no one has epitomised for me the get-on-with-it-ness and gumption  required to enjoy life. She delivered – one morning texting back and forth as I wove my way to work, head bowed seemingly by the weight of the world on my shoulders and irritated by the piddling rain, she listened to me moan on and on about the lousiness of the life I thought I had and how waiting on a few big decisions had me feeling depressed. She let me blow on for a few minutes and then proceeded to give me a gentle rollicking – if those can be gentle – pointing out all the good things I have had happen to me in 2012, for which I should have been thankful. Suitably chided, I slunk into work, grabbed a large coffee – thankful for summer Fridays and the joy s of having the office all to myself –  and promised myself I would be more thankful.

A few days later, I got sucked into yet another cerebral conversation with Q – about all things work, and how my old nemesis from a Nigerian assignment had come right back into the picture at work. Somewhere in the morass of all the things she talked about, she dropped a nugget, a three legged stool model for deciding what was a good job, namely, a good role that one enjoyed, team mates that one liked enough to work with, and a company one was proud to work for. On that scale, I’m 2 for 3, which didn’t seem that bad after all.

The not so palatable conversation was one I needed to have – if only for the clarity it brought to what at best was an awkward situation. Way back in May I’d sensed (and that not for the first time) that certain thresholds had been crossed, but like all foolhardy blokes on a mission I chose to soldier on in blind hope, biding my time. August provided the opportunity to bite the bullet and seek clarity. That I half expected the response I got did little to mitigate the keenness of the disappointment. Paradoxically, it provided some much needed relief too, not least for the opportunity to deal with a certain elephant in the room and firmly draw a line in the sand. I suppose if being once bitten leaves one twice shy, being twice bitten should put paid to any lingering bits of foolishness.

Birthday eve did bring some cheer in the form of a phone call from the buddy I jokingly call my Strategy Specialist (she still hasn’t sent my Big Bang Theory box set though), as well as my god daughter and her kid brother singing me my very own ‘Happy Birthday’. No thanks to my Linkedin profile, one of the guys from work found out it was my birthday, and surprised me with a paid for lunch at Union Square’s TGIF the Friday after.

It was Jorge Luis Borges who said, in his beautifully sad meditation on love and loss, ‘With every goodbye you learn.‘ Here there have been lessons learned, and re-learned if the truth must be told, not least of which seems to be that the only thing that piques my creativity is emotional turmoil.

The evening before…

The evening before the morning I am due to fly, I stay awake till the wee hours of the morning tossing and turning on my bed. There is the reality of the unfinished business between TheB and I that needs sorting out one way or the other; and that thought, scary as it is, leaves my mind accelerating into overdrive. These could potentially be game changing events I am about to unleash, if I grow the balls to go through with it. History suggests that it will be yet another dumb squib.. One way or the other, there has to be some clarity I reckon

Unfinished business

In a few days time, I shall pack my bags and head across the Atlantic one more time. The driver is some unfinished business from 2009. There was the small matter of a conundrum  which developed in April of 2009. The ladies in question were F and my ‘nearly girls’ TheB and S.

Over the course of that year F and I would finally put ourselves out of the misery of our forced dalliance, for good. ‘S would turn to me as a husband finder, and TheB and I would drift apart for no real reason.

I took her vanishing pretty badly, as she was one of the few women – alongside MG and EJ who totally got me. It was a full year before I could bring myself to give her a call. And when I did, it all came back, hurts and all. All we had was an uneasy truce – the odd phone call here and there, and the walls we had built up. In between, there was EJ, and the breakup, and life coming back full circle. There’s unfinished business there, this bloke needs to understand where we derailed in 2009. Hopefully, as a minimum there will be lessons to be learned…and a Third Day concert to attend.

The Thing about ‘Definition’…..

I am all for defining my people connections upfront (DTRs) …… The thing about them though is that they are tricky……. Too soon, and you run the risk of permanently pulverizing some real bridges before they even get built…….. Too late, and you’re mired in the morass of the ‘just friends’ zone…..

That night we had the inevitable talk and faced the ineluctable moment of truth….. Faced with a choice she said…..

You’re a good guy but….. why does life have to be sooo difficult?

Maybe that DTR was too early…or it was a classic case of DeBee’s Law:

The refusal to define is tacit admittance that there was nothing to define in the first place or a nascent dislike of that which was to be defined.

In retrospect, she was right.. …There were too many yawning chasms that needed crossing!

A Passing Fancy…

Day Zero.
You meet her on one of those days. Boredom morphs into irritation, topped off with despondency. Your 8-4 (5-9) is especially dull on the day. Madam Bosco, your loud mouthed, over-bearing boss rips into you as usual over the ever yawning chasm between your targets and your deliveries. The heat seems to have major intentions of causing grievous bodily harm in any case. That is when the ‘gods’ of the internet and itchy fingers contrive to send Her your way.

It ostensibly is an error of the digits – two numbers on the key pad transposed – that makes her call you. You are in no mood for niceties and you utter a few choice words and end the phone call. Perhaps she is hurt, but she opts to send you an SMS apologizing for the mix-up.

You have had the time to think on your commute home – and you give her a call to apologize right back. She giggles, and says she instigated the entire brouhaha, you insist you reacted over the top. Bottom line you become friends.

Day Seven
By now you know she is an intern in the oil firm you always wanted to work for, she loves poetry, pretended to write some of her own a few years ago and loves Pavarotti. You though are stuck in the lurch as an investment banker in some lousy bank. You quickly slip in though that you have a trip to SA lined up, plus your last vacation was in Paris – so she knows you can hold down it down pay wise if you need to.

You have settled into a steady rhythm: three phone calls a day, multiple emails and then the lunch break IMs. You become her nice guy; the bloke who listens to her rants from work, her angst at her over bearing father, her irritation with her football crazy brothers and oh yes…… shoes…in all their gory coloured incarnations. You tell her stuff you’ve never told anyone, your deepest secrets, inner most fears, plans and some of the ideas you want to turn to gold in a few years time. She cheers you on, analysing the pros and the cons. Not since your big sister did any one get you on the same level.

Day Thirty
She’s headed off an a holiday, and she is passing through the city you call home. She decides to squeeze a whole day out of her schedule just to see you. You think it’s a fabulous idea and you agree to meet up. She is truly fabulous much better than you imagined. Everything is spot on; she is Cerruti perfumed and Diesel jeans plus spaghetti top clad. Add to that her glistering lip gloss, her CK glasses and her clutch specially chosen to match the colour of her spaghetti top and you know you have a keeper on your hands.

You read her a few brilliant lines you penned – just for her – you say; a parody of the finest Amiri Baraka there is out there. She is wowed, you order dinner and the chemistry is palpable. You talk for a couple of hours, swap some more poetry and then she has to head out to catch her flight. She shyly attempts to kiss you on the cheek. You both laugh at the clumsy attempt, you hold hands and look into her eyes and you believe your Mama’s travails are over.

Day Fourty
More of the same stuff, phone calls, emails, IMs, plus the occasional emailed picture as a keep sake. Life’s good you think. You the pragmatist tells you  the romantic that it is too good to be true. You the cynic refuses to participate in an exercise in futility. ‘All’s cool and kosher’, you reason, ‘why try to define things beyond what they are anyway’.

Day Sixty.
She’s heading back to school. You have got a huge target to meet at work, so naturally you drift apart. The phone calls reduce, the emails dwindle and the IMs now become short bursts of offline messages. You the cynic blithely mentions that it was all doomed to fail anyway. You the pragmatist thinks its busyness squeezing the life out of your US zone. You the romantic thinks it’s a fading fancy and couldn’t care less; choosing to bounce to Brandy’s song instead.

Day Ninety
You the romantic and you the cynic prevail on you the pragmatist to agree to a phone call. That should be the ultimate test of where you are.

You ring her up, there’s no pick up the first time. You wait for the usual SMS, nothing comes. You give it two more days and then you try again. The third time of asking she picks up your phone call. The talk is stilted, almost foreign. You the cynic pouts and reminds you the romantic that it was an exercise in futility doomed to fail from the get go. You the pragmatist takes it philosophically, it was not meant to be.

In the instant the phone call ends, it suddenly hits you – clarity knocks you in the small of your stomach. This was no divine serendipity; it was just hideous self delusion. You were only her harmattan fling.