Some things are worth the wait.

Over the past three years, I’ve written quite a lot about Leslie. She’s usually “the woman I love” in my posts, and that started for two reasons. One, I didn’t know how she would feel about her name being used in my writing, especially of the nonfiction sort. Two, I’ve spent so much time wondering if I’d lose her that I didn’t want too many permanent reminders of my failure.

Because I have thought I’d lost her on multiple occasions. Almost always, that’s my fault. My depression and anxiety were too much to handle, and it just became impossible to even imagine the notion that she and I would finally get to meet and live the life we wanted in each other.

I endured three years of anguish, doubt, and self-loathing. In that span, I lived through an overblown pandemic, a national coup, four times when I seriously contemplated suicide, periods of up to three months without talking to each other, and more breakdowns than I can count. I dreamed of her. I cried for her. I asked myself if life was worth living without her, and I could never make myself believe that it was. I still can’t say for sure, but now I know I don’t have to.

We waited three years to meet in person. Most people would have given up long before that. And, to be honest, sometimes I gave up. Even when I did, though, she never gave up on me.

Last weekend taught me a lot of things, but the biggest lesson I learned is that other people just don’t see me the same way I see myself. Sure, my boss—to name one example—can tell me he sees something in me that I try to hide, but those are just words.

I know words. I’ve written millions of them, and I know how hollow they are. All the words in the world mean nothing if you don’t back them up. “I love you” is little more than a pleasantry when you send it in a text or say it over the phone, but it finally becomes real when you’re hearing it from the woman who has told you she wants to spend the rest of her life with you because you’re the best man she’s ever known.

Depression is like looking at yourself through a lens of smoky glass. All the colors are muted, details are hard to make out, and everything just looks darker than it really is. I’ve lived like that for so long that I forgot what it was like to be truly happy. Hearing the emotion in her voice, seeing the light in her eyes, feeling the way her body relaxed the second I put my arms around it…that is happiness of I kind I’d never known until Friday evening.

I’m not a womanizer. I could never project the confidence to be a pick-up artist. If I had a headboard, I certainly wouldn’t use it as the scoreboard for my sexual conquests. That’s just not how I am. So I’m not happy because Leslie complimented me. I’m happy because she made it possible to see that I was worthy of receiving compliments. That I deserved to be spoken of in such terms. That I can be loved, and love her in return.

This is what I was missing. It’s why I’m writing this post with tears streaming down my face, because my emotions have been in overdrive for the past 72 hours.

We talked about everything, it seemed. We learned things about each other that no amount of internet connectivity can teach. For me, one of them was that she thinks she’s the one coming out ahead. That was hard to accept. When we first met online, I was nobody, nothing. I had no job, no reliable transportation, and no future I could see. I was a week away from giving up on the idea of relationships entirely, because who would want me?

We made promises to each other, and first among them was this: never again. Never again will we be kept apart by outside forces. Yes, it’s another three weeks until our next chance to meet—assuming I don’t do something crazy before then—but we both understand that. We won’t let it stop us.

I’ve been dead inside for far too long. Last weekend gave me a chance to feel alive again, and it gave me something—someone—to live for. I never want to lose that, or her.

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