If this true story touches you 1% as much as I feel it, I’d recommend getting some tissue. I have gone through plenty. Wishing You Were Here has proven to be an extremely emotional experience to live and now to revisit. It begins with diary entry from my first great love and, quite possibly, my soulmate – Leanna.
The song that inspired the title and always makes me think of Leanna – Wishing You Were Here.
He doesn’t understand at times, lately more times than not. The hectic life of work, school, and studies leaves little time or energy for our relationship. I’m an understanding person. I find myself daily saying, ‘don’t think about him so much and you won’t feel this emptiness and rejection as often.’ Why do I long for his touch so, waiting to be alone with him and have him embrace me for even just a moment?
It seems like everything else is more important than my deepest emotions. I yearn for just a sign that he still desires me and just doesn’t see me as a constant factor in his life that he has to simply deal with. I feel weak now. He controls my happiness and I hate it! I’m intelligent enough to realize we each as individuals are responsible for our happiness; however, there are never ending variables affecting that state of mind. Why does he not long for my touch?
I see trends in his behavior when he is pressured with work and studies. He focuses his energy on these challenges and inward on himself, to push himself and excel. He seems trained, like an athlete trains for a meet, to separate his love and emotions from the game, the game of success. He works even harder at work and takes on more projects. He studies more, exercises harder and longer, fueling his ego, ensuring that he’s better than everyone else at everything.
I see him doing this and it drives me crazy because when he turns that same focus on me, he is the most amazing man I have ever known! But, he has the ability to turn off those emotions and it hurts. I’m the only who has ever mentioned our relationship may need more attention, yet I feel he is pulling away. I have felt this before, many months ago and I am scared.
I thought long and hard this afternoon about everything from my career to the type of wedding ceremony we will have. Lying by the pool felt so good—summer is still going strong here. Thinking things over made me realize that a true relationship requires work by both parties involved to make it work. I seem to be the only one contributing. Emotions are the whole of my existence, and I’ll be damn if I’m going to ignore them.
Leanna gave me this letter to reflect on when she felt like our relationship was coming unglued. That I still have it today isn’t really surprising. I discuss my mother’s suicide in Origin: Shadows and share my regret about not having saved her notes and cards. There have been so many times I wished I could go back and read the thoughts she shared with me. I suspect that is why loving and playful comments from women on my blog and love letters over the years are like spiritual treasures for me. I save them all…even the not so pleasant ones…like this one from Leanna.
Leanna’s feelings were justified. I was focused on my professional aspirations. Her assessment of my competitive drive still rings true today. It is a blessing. It is a curse. I came from very modest means and have always felt like I had to work harder and smarter to close the gap with those who I felt had a head start. Failure or settling for average results was not and is not an option. I wanted and still want to be in the arena competing and achieving. Leanna was incredibly motivated as well, and I admired that about her. I also held great respect for her intellect – such a bright young woman.
Leanna was in tune with my emotions too because I was pulling back. Emotionally, I was at the crossroads of the most important decision of my life. One road led to marriage. The other led to a life I had always dreamed about and felt an overwhelming calling to experience. Back then, this calling felt like a collage of many confusing and contrasting visions. Today, I can trim the calling down to three words – The Dionysian Experience. My blog chronicles the pursuit of this dream.
For as long as I can remember, I have imagined myself in my golden years sitting on the front porch reflecting on life’s journey. What will the old man version of me be thinking about? What will I be proud of? Did I achieve enough? Am I content? What will I regret? Is there anything I can do now to ensure he feels content and looks back on life with little regret? Standing at the crossroads with Leanna, I couldn’t escape the feeling that marriage, at that point in my life, would leave the old man with too many unanswered questions and unfulfilled dreams. The old man needed me to chase those dreams or at least fail while trying.
This calling was strong, but the thought of leaving Leanna was heartbreaking. I loved her, deeply. She was so pretty and sweet. I didn’t know if it would be possible to ever again find a love like we shared. Our love was deep and beautiful. She was also my first highly-charged, sexual relationship. There were times when we would literally stay in bed all day loving on each other and experienced a lot of firsts together. I certainly thought of her as my soulmate and felt we could have shared a beautiful life together. If I had met her even five years later, I would have been the happiest man alive.
Choosing between marrying Leanna or chasing my wild youthful dream was a weighty decision and there was no middle path. One excluded the other. Either way, I knew I would look back and wonder, what if? I struggled with this decision. It dominated my thoughts. Ultimately, I began to slowly sabotage our relationship in hopes she would dump me. I had to leave but couldn’t bear the thought of hurting her. She never gave up on me though.
I can recall our final days like it was yesterday but can’t write about it in too much depth—it still cuts deep. The heartbreak on both sides was crushing and my eyes water up even at this very moment. She didn’t deserve it and, oddly, I have a strange feeling that I didn’t deserve it. She kept asking, “Why are you doing this to us?” Doing this to “us”. That phrasing captures the sentiment. I loved her deeply and wasn’t breaking up because I didn’t love her. It was because I needed…had to experience a different life. There were things I had to explore. I didn’t know if it would be better, and I’m not even sure it mattered if it was better. I had to know. I had to leave even though it was breaking both our hearts.
The ending wasn’t clean. It was filled with a lot of ups and downs over months. When the dust settled she knew I was going to leave and we tried to find some peace. We spent one last teary-eyed, love-filled weekend together. I remember making love to her when we both knew it was going to be the last time. The tear-filled, soul gazing eyes at that moment, our trembling bodies. Damn it, tears are streaming down my face right now. I have never wanted to not cum so badly in my life because I knew the finality of that release. It was heaven and hell.
I can still see that damn door in her apartment living room and recall the exact setup of the furniture. Through watery eyes and with Leanna holding, clutching, and pulling me from behind, I made my way to the door and reached for the knob with a trembling hand. I opened it one last time. Then, I was gone. The full weight of that moment was crushing for both of us. I can hear the echo of the door closing and the sound of her falling against the door crying, “Don’t go!” On the other side, I leaned it against it…trying to soothe and feel my sweet angel one last time.
A few days later, I found a note in my suitcase from her:
“Well, you are on your way. Just take care of yourself and have fun! You have heard it before, but remember life is too short not to enjoy it, Sweetie. I love you and I want you to be happy. I had the very best time of my life when you were here with me—I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Despite the confusion, the good times were the ‘Best’ and don’t you ever forget it, Baby!
I apologize for how I acted when you decided you ‘have to leave.’ I just knew I was saying goodbye – for the last time ever, and it frightened me like nothing I have ever felt. How do I stand before you and just let the love of my life walk out the door? To know that when the door closes I will never be able to look into your eyes or feel you again, ever? Baby…please. Sweetie, don’t worry about me—just be my friend—wherever you go. And remember, no matter how lonely you are or frightened of this big ole’ world you are, there is a little girl in ***** who thinks the world of you. I will not lay my head on my pillow at night or wake up to the morning sunlight without love for you in my heart. I will miss you more than you will ever know. I will always love you!”
God, reading and transcribing this letter took forever. Even after all these years, it still breaks my heart every time I read it. I have missed her dearly…I knew I would. I don’t know if I made the right decision. There were things I needed to know. I have learned more than I even imagined, probably too much. If I stayed there is probably a 50/50 chance we would have ended up divorced, and I would have been filled with regret for not taking the other path. Or, we might be living happily ever after with a beautiful family and my dreams filled with wonder of the unknown. There was no right decision. Her words have carried and driven me through tough times. Whenever life got challenging, I remembered how much I sacrificed to even have that challenge. And, I knew Leanna would have crushed that challenge so I had too!
Leanna “found me” a couple years ago and we spoke for the first time since we touched all those years ago and went our separate ways. She is now married with children. The seasons of youth have passed and a lifetime of experiences are now between us. Speaking with her was surreal. It was as if we had just said goodbye that morning and were catching up after a long, very long day apart. I let her know that I held onto our photos and letters. She couldn’t believe it, but it made her really happy. I sent her a few of them and we talked about those moments and more. It was magical. I let her know that I never stopped thinking about her and have always missed her. She talked about how she searched for years trying to find someone like me (she called me her sweet, smart, muscleman) but never did.
As we shared these special thoughts that had been bottled up for years, I don’t think either of us was trying to create a path forward. Our time had passed, and she has a family now. I think it was more about finding peace and knowing that our time genuinely meant something to each of us. We both felt it all of these years but didn’t know if it meant the same to the other. I told her that I loved her deeply and everything we experienced was real. That I have not and will never forget her. Our conversation lasted for about 5 hours and may have actually spent more time crying together than talking. We found great comfort and peace in hearing one another’s gentle, loving tones. Neither of us wanting to say goodbye…again.