As I get older, I am amazed at how some people get so lost in the trivialities of life that they forget what is really important. I guess that this shouldn't surprise me, as I too was once one who couldn't see the forest for all the trees around me. I hope that I am not like this anymore.
Wisdom and self-assuredness is surely the child of maturity and experience. Now as I look back on the first two-thirds of my life, I realize that the saddest part of getting old is not getting old, but rather it's the inability to go back and correct the mistakes of my youth, or the inability to go back and correct those mistakes without hurting innocent people. Many young people will not be able to relate to what I am going to write about, but I pray that there may be one or two young souls out there that will at least think about what I have to say.
I want to tell you a story. It is a story of great hope and sad hindsight. It is a story of supreme ignorance and glorious enlightenment. It is a story deep sorrow and overwhelming joy. It is a story of regret and rebirth. It is a story that has been told thousands of times in thousands of places throughout the history of man. It is a story of love. It is a story of love both too late and just in time.
Some people will upon reading this call me a sentimental old fool while others will condemn me bitterly as emotionally unfaithful. Both are fine with me. I am writing this not for personal accolades or acceptance by anyone, but in the sincere hope that by sharing it that those who read it and are still young enough to avoid the mistakes I have made, will be able to find real and lasting love with that one special person who God made for them. Believe me when I say, that person is out there. All you have to do to find them is to never stop believing that you will. Just as you are searching for them, they too are searching for you.
I am well into the last third of my life now. I spent most of my life never really believing in love and never really knowing what it felt like to really, completely and absolutely love another human being. I have been married for many years to a woman that I have never really loved, although at one time in my youth I thought I did. Her feelings about me are no different. We have children… some who are grown and some who are almost grown. We have never cheated on one another. We have been loyal companions through the years who unfortunately have no common interests, no common dreams, but two hearts full of regret.
How is it possible we got to this point in our lives? I can't say for sure, except that we didn't really take a hard look at one another when we were young. We only saw what we wanted to see in the other person and we, like so many young people often do, only looked skin deep.
No one told us when we were young, that those powerful emotions which electrify the hearts, minds and bodies of youth deceive the inexperienced in life into believing that love is present when in fact it is not. Those emotions and feeling are, so often, every bit as much a mirage as is the illusion of water in a desert. Perhaps, only with maturity comes the ability to recognize love in it truest and purest form, but I hope that is not the case. I hope that there is a chance for young people to find their soul mate before the complexities of life cause them to prematurely stop searching.
I have learned in my life the tragic, but immutable truth that love is more than passion and conquest and beauty. This truth is something that many older men wish they could go back and tell their younger selves. Love is more than just hopes and dreams and desires for a secure and fairytale life. There are so many lovely and beautiful ladies who've lived lives of inner despair because they didn't know this before it was too late. Love is something that is so rare and pure that if one is lucky enough to find it, it is only recognized after much searching both introspectively and outwardly.
I could be wrong, I often am about many things, but I truly believe that love only comes around once, or perhaps, in the case of the luckiest of the lucky, twice in a person's life. The problem for many people like me is that we never waited long enough to find that which we all so desperately long for in life… that one special person whom when we find him or her, we know absolutely that our days of searching have come to an end.
Before any young person can possibly know who and what they are searching for, they must first know themselves. How is it possible for any young man or young woman to recognize that special person when they come across him or her unless they know who they are on the inside first? How can they possibly look into the heart of another until they have looked deeply into their own heart?
I am no expert in such matters, but a lifetime of regret and keeping a stiff upper lip has forged in me the conviction that we cannot possibly know another until we really know ourselves. There are many in life, like my dear wife and I, who have lived lives of unspoken regret and slept on tear soaked pillows night after night, year after year because we didn't take the time to know ourselves in youth before thinking we were wise enough to know another person.
I have always been a very emotional man. I am not ashamed to admit that. I could fill an ocean with the tears I have shed in my lifetime both in joy and sadness. Qualities of kindness, tenderness, generosity, devotion, sacrifice, humor as well as physical and emotional intimacy are and have always been essential to my well being. As a young man I fell into what I thought was love with a strikingly beautiful and charming girl. I was sure that we would always be compatible.
In truth I tell you that we are not now and we never have been compatible. I have no one to blame for this, but myself. I did not look inside myself and assess those qualities in me that I needed from a life's partner, before I jumped into marriage with her. She has never had those qualities that I have always needed in a companion. It isn't her fault though. She is the way she is and she has never changed.
What is sad for me is that I, also, have not lived up to what she needed in life. She has a cold, serious, and stern nature. She has always wanted a man whose emotions were steely cold. She needed a man who was serious in all matters. She wanted a man who was not concerned with emotional intimacy and as little physical intimacy as required to sustain a marriage. Her character is quiet and reserved and cool. I have always been the exact opposite.
She has always needed someone that I could never be. I regret the fact that she has lived a life of silent despair because she, like me, failed to look deeply within her own heart before she chained herself to mine. Over the years, we have grown further and further apart. We live in the same house, we speak to one another daily, we smile for our children and we will live out our lives together in emotional estrangement and incompatibility. We have become familiar strangers over the years and this familiarity has given us both a certain degree of comfort.
Why have we stayed together, you wonder? Those of you who come after us in making the mistakes we have made will discover how incredibly difficult and disquieting it is to untangle oneself from the web of responsibilities and associations that tie one down in a settled life. Moreover, for many people of my generation happiness and fulfillment must always be sacrificed for honor, loyalty and commitment.
Without the slightest doubt in my mind, I can tell you that my wife does not love me and for my part I do not love her. With the years we've spent together we have grown content in being strangers. She has never been unfaithful to me, nor I to her. She sacrificed her youth and beauty in years of emotional emptiness with me. She did this because she felt that it was what was expected of her. She did not complain and she never will, but that does not mean that I have ever been the man she needed and deserved to find before it was too late.
I will not divorce my wife unless she herself asks for one. There is no honor in a man who through his own youthful ignorance marries a girl he can never make happy and then after she has given her beauty and her youth discards her like a piece of rubbish. I cannot and will not do this. She is after all the mother of my children and a good mother at that. If nothing more, she has earned the right to my respect for this reason alone. Dignity demands that I see this through to the end and that is what I shall do.
For most of my life I believed that love did not exist. I did not believe that a person could find his or her soul mate. I thought that this was a bunch of overblown romantic rubbish that had little to do with reality. I was wrong.
I rejoice in the fact that before God took me from this world that he let me see exactly what it was to fall in love… .real love with another person. I also regret that while I now know that love is real, powerful, sweet, and enduring, I am in no position to change my life for the sake of personal happiness. For me happiness can never be purchased at the price of dishonor. Furthermore, the person upon whose heels came this life altering revelation, that love is alive and well, has her own life which I would never dream of invading.
This is how I came to find love… or rather how it came to find me. It is so unbelievable in how it happened to me that I often smile when I think of how odd it is for a man my age to find love in such a non-traditional way.
A couple of years ago, after visiting Iran, I wrote a short article for a travel magazine. The article was picked up and reprinted in a couple of online travel magazines. I received a flood of email from Iranians thanking me for taking the time to write a warm and humorous article about Iran and the many wonderful people I met while I was there. I soon deleted most of the emails. There were just too many of them to respond to and they all said basically the same thing… “thank you!”
There was one email though… one that stood out amongst the others… and now I can't explain why I was drawn to it because it was no different than all the others I'd received, but there was something quite magnetic about it. I wrote the person who sent it. I could not have possibly known that by writing its author that I was about to embark on the greatest and most revealing odyssey of inner discovery that I had ever experienced up until that time or that I, most likely, ever will.
Over the course of time, I would learn just how special and precious this Iranian lady would come to mean to me. In addition to my wife of nearly thirty years and the hundreds of women I have known through work and met as the wives of colleagues, I can say without any hesitation that this one special Iranian lady, who I have come to know so dearly, has far more grace, compassion, tenderness and love in her small body than all of the other women I have ever known put together.
I have grown to love this woman more than I love life itself. If there were anyway to sacrifice my honor to fulfill my longing for happiness I would do so, but for me there is only one course in life and intentional dishonor is not the path I have chosen or ever will. I am married, for better or for worse, but I would be lying if I said that enlightenment to love has not come without a price. Blissful ignorance shall never again be a comfortable shelter to spare my heart from love's joys or its pains.
Unlike every other woman I had ever met in my life from my earliest childhood, I could not see this woman with my eyes when I first came to know her through email. The beauty that I could not see with my eyes, I soon sensed strongly in the sweetness of her kind letters. I learned about her life and routines, her children and her husband. She always wrote such lovely and tender letters about her family.
As time went on, we wrote one another more and more and talked about our lives, our hopes for the future, our disappointments in life and so many, many other things. There came a point in time after we had been writing a quite some time when I could feel inside me a disquieting longing to meet this dear lady, but our lives were quite different and we were far from one another.
I tried as hard as I could to not allow myself to become too attached to this friend from so far away, but slowly… ever so slowly… I went from looking-forward to her emails to needing them. There was something in the way she communicated with me that touched a part of my heart that I never knew existed. I thought I was going crazy feeling emotions that I had never felt before and at my age. There was a battle raging inside me that was so alien to all my life's experiences had equipped me to handle that I simply bottled it up tightly inside me, never revealing to anyone that which I knew fully, that which I knew instinctively that I had stumbled across so late in life.
I had at a very late time in my life found that one precious person who was able to stoke the fire of love in my heart. I am not talking about sex or passion. Those are far more the province of young men which I no longer am, but which I surely have always appreciated. No, what I am talking about is a much deeper and profound feeling of complete submission of one's senses to an emotion that cannot be easily extinguished when it is the real thing. This lady, so far from me and so different from me was and is the fulfillment of all that I have ever or will ever need. We have so many common interests and so many complimentary personality characteristics that is amazing.
Now we are measuring our friendship in years and in the thousands of emails whose number grows larger each and every day. We have an unbreakable emotional bond to one another and we would do almost anything that we could to help or comfort one another. I can honesty say without any question in my mind that I love this woman and if there was any way that we could avoid the disasters of personal dishonor, I make her mine and I would worship her forever. I would asked God to show me how to make all her days complete, satisfying and happy and I'm sure He would because she is an angel.
She is a woman of monumental class. I've never known anyone quite like her. I am sure that she, too, loves me and loves me dearly. However, there is one man that she loves more dearly than me and that is her wonderful husband. While over the years I have struggled with feelings of envy and at times jealousy, I know that she loves him absolutely. He is such a wonderful man who I am proud to call my friend. You see, I have met her husband and he is a richly deserving gentleman. If any man deserves this wonderful woman more than me, it is him and him alone. He is proud man who exudes self confidence and extends affection and warmth to all he meets. I respect him and I respect that which is his. I love his wife completely, but I would never think to dishonor myself or my friendship with him to try to take what is not mine to have. I don't know why God works the way he does, but this wonderful man has even allowed his wife and children to visit me at my home in London. All he ever asked of me was to guard with my life those that he loves so dearly. I did and although he doesn't know it… I always will if I have any ability to do so.
I have learned many lessons in my life by attending the school of hard-knocks. Of all of those lessons there are few which are as important as learning to look hard before you leap in matters of the heart. I will live out my days with a lady whom I have never been able to make happy. I regret my shortcomings, but I simply could never be the man she wanted me to be. She, too will live her life with regrets. Nothing will change any of this now.
There is, however, hope for all of you who still are young and who still have time. Love is real if you just look hard enough. I found the one woman that I will love until God takes me from this world. She is another man's wife. I cannot change the way that I feel about her, but at the same time I will never compromise my honor in seeking to fulfill my deepest desires. I will not dishonor her and I will never dishonor her wonderful husband who trusts me amongst all the men in the world to be close to his wife and children. Trust and honor are two things that when thrown away can never be recovered, so I shall hold fast to them to the end.
Perhaps, I will live long enough to see the day that I am no longer a husband and perhaps, too my sweet angel in Iran will no longer be a wife. If that day ever comes I will move heaven and hell to make her mine if only in the twilight of my life. If that day never comes then I shall always thank God for allowing me to know that love is real and anyone can find it if they only look hard enough. When you finally find it, accidentally stumble across it, or if it falls from the heavens onto your head, as in my case, you will know it. It will change the way you feel about life, about other people and about yourself. It will be an awakening to the deepest parts of your heart. It will be profound and you will never, ever be the same again.
So while it is too late for me to enjoy the love that I discovered in the autumn of life, the good and happy news is that for all of you who have not tied yourselves to life's obligations in a marriage that is empty and unfulfilling, love is out there if you will only look hard enough to find it. Don't be in a rush. Don't confuse beauty, passion, conquest, security, stability or hope filled dreams and fairytale wishes with real love. None of those things can compensate for a life of love lost because of your own poor judgment. Look deeply into your own heart and seek out that one person who will complete you, console you and content you for a lifetime. She or he is out there right looking for you right now.