Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. - Mother Teresa
Yes, what could go wrong? Actually nothing, it was certainly unexpected and the exact opposite of what I was trying to find. I discovered that what I was trying to find was not really what I wanted, I just thought it was impossible. I would like to say that the penpal site is great but I only actually talked to one person. For some reason, I was really picky with profiles and only sent out four or five messages.
It is a good site; it is free and you can easily move to email or whatever medium you like. The interface is a little slow and clunky but it does the job. The free account is limited to three messages a day but there is nothing stopping a person from putting an email address in their profile. The burner email I set up to create my account and only used for that site has never gotten spam. The paid account doesn’t cost much if you want to talk only on the site. I am not one for advertising things but the website was good to me so I should pay it back in some small way.
I sent messages to a person in Russia, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, possibly one to someone in Ukraine. I always tailor the introductory message to what I read in the profile and apparently I come across as very shy and awkward. Strangely, the one response I got was because of that. She told me she would not have responded if I came off like a normal guy. The first time in my life being different paid off!
I was very excited when she responded. Something about her grabbed me. It took me a few days to muster up the courage to initially message her. I would go back once or twice a day to read her profile and it was always the same feeling. I have only had it once before when I met one of my best friends ever over twenty years ago when Lauri sent me an introductory message it gave me a shock in my head just like Irina’s profile did. I learned not to ignore that feeling.
We moved from the website to email to FB messenger in just a few days and she felt so comfortable. Shockingly, I was the one that asked to move to email and messenger. It may seem like a normal thing but that is an extraordinarily aggressive thing for me to do. She brings that out in me in so many ways.
My original reason for going on the pen pal site still exists. I have learned a bit about her culture. I learned that office culture is similar to ours and makes me glad I do not have to deal with it anymore. Their company parties and even small birthday parties during office hours are certainly different. I am jealous of how much vacation and national holiday time they get. American businesses could certainly learn a thing or two about employees having plenty of time off.
I got a book by Victor Pelevin, a modern Russian author she likes. He writes about modern Russian culture in his stories so I get a good view of it. I think the English translation might miss subtleties but he is a nice writer. I can understand much of her cultural humor. I am learning about modern Russian music, and watch funny videos made there. I am also slowly learning the language and struggling with it. I have never learned a foreign language before and this one is challenging. I can sometimes pick out words in the videos and can recognize a lot of common names written in Russian. It would certainly help me if the English spellings of the word were pronounced like they were spelled and plural words and suffixes like English words ending in ‘ing’ were similarly spelled as the words without the suffix.
I have always been interested in Russia since I was a child. My mom had a record of the story of Peter and the Wolf with classical music from a Russian composer and I loved that. It is the first time I was fascinated by something outside the US.
I am not going to get specific because I could write all day about it, but it is frightening how close we got and how quickly. She has commented on that a few times. Shockingly, she is much younger than me and she doesn’t mind I am super old. She is within the ‘half your age plus seven rule’. My mental and physical issues do not scare her in the slightest and I was very specific about them so she would know what she is getting into. The intensity has not gone down one bit many months later even though we twice went multiple weeks without talking much. Those were difficult times for me, maybe too difficult. It might be good that she is so far away so I can get myself more mentally ready to handle relationships. It makes me glad I didn’t find anyone on the dating sites because I would not have met Irina and I would have completely blown it with whomever I met and fell apart. I am improving quickly and I will be ready for whatever comes if I am lucky enough to meet Irina.
We have been discussing the possibility of meeting. There are many complexities outside of the challenge of getting a Visa from a US consulate in Russia; the diplomat expulsions have left a long waiting list or a long trip to a consulate in Siberia. No, she is not married but it is a complicated situation. I hope it will happen. Either I visit her or more helpfully she visits here to see if where I live would suit her.
She lights up my brain in a way no one ever has. She even makes me ignore my INFJ tendencies to want lots of time alone. We have so much fun talking I lose track of time easily. She really is helping me be more assertive and confident. I actually took pictures of me; something I have not done in years because I can’t stand looking at myself. I posted a photo of me on my Facebook account; something I have never done in the 10 years or so that I have had it. It shocked my daughters and sisters and asked what had gotten into me.
It is still difficult, but I am improving. I sometimes wonder if I attached to her so quickly because of loneliness and I don’t think so. She lives 10 time zones away and I would rather talk to her than anyone nearby. Thanks to her, I think I have enough confidence to meet people now, I just don’t want to. I lost all desire to meet more people, it is a quality over quantity issue for me. Even when I had friends, it was a very small circle, quality is much more important to me.
I want to know how this turns out. Of course, the distance is a challenge but it is not an insurmountable one. It does make it difficult to have a relationship and “do it right”. It is a very risky thing for both of us, and riskier for her if we go past virtual friends. I would like it to be as normal as the distance allows. This means no rushing things but I feel my age tugging at me.
The way she understands my personality is amazing. In a lot of ways, she knows me better than I do and she picked up on a lot of things about me really quickly. That makes it difficult to surprise her, but I have once or twice. She is everything I have ever wanted and so much more. I think I am exactly what she needs. It is like we are each a bunch of puzzle pieces and we fit together exactly and the resulting picture is perfect and beautiful. I have not met her in person although it feels like video chats kind of counts, and already my brain is having difficulty processing how wonderful it is. She really is more than I thought possible. My brain might explode when I finally do meet her.
Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself - and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to - letting a person be what he really is. - Jim Morrison
I can talk to her about anything and do not have to hide anything. Sometimes I wake in a panic and am going crazy and I can interrupt her work day and she will make me feel better. When I get too whiny, she will call me on my crap. She is very inspirational. She does a very good job of keeping up on exercises and is very fit. It keeps me motivated to workout as I can. I got a recumbent bike and that is keeping me moving through the winter but I am really getting antsy about getting on the river trail with my bike. Watching her exercise is what motivated me to buy it.
We tell each other about our past, talk a lot about our present and discuss our potential future. My future has always just been my kids and grandkids and when I am not with them, I am just by myself. I don’t feel lonely anymore, even if we do not ever meet, I don’t think I will as long as she is a part of my life. I never considered a future with someone, especially not someone so beautiful and kind.
She is a contradiction, both modern and traditional at the same time. She might bristle at the traditional label. She wants to work and have her own money and independence but she also likes the traditional roles in relationships but has no issues with me being the cook. Maybe it was my preconceived notions of Russian women but she is not what I expected. I am certainly not what she expected from American men but I don’t think I am very representative of American men. Not better or worse, just very different in several ways.
It is so nice to have a connection with someone. Especially one so amazing who gets me. It is such a rare event in my life that sometimes it is difficult to accept it. All my opinions of myself are wrong to her and that causes confusion in me. She thinks I am special because I am very attentive, I remember what she says and I care how she feels. That is a normal thing for me. Things she does for me seem very special but she just responds “no, that is normal”. We are two peas in a pod, we are the same in many respects and our differences even match in ways where my weaknesses are her strengths and vice-versa.
It is strange and wonderful to know someone where I can talk about anything or nothing, both are equally wonderful. Something so simple seemed so out of reach but now everything is possible. I know this turned into something really sappy but she does strange things to me. It is a new beginning for me, and I hope for as much as is possible, but it also makes me wonder if I am trapped in a dream, that would be okay with me.
Even if we remain virtual friends, I consider myself to be the luckiest man in the world.