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 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. Nothing stops 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 subscription 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 for me, so I should pay it back a little.

I sent messages to a person in Russia, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, possibly a message to Ukraine. I tailor the introductory message to what I read in the profile, and it seems that 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.

She was curious that a man of my age could be so awkward.

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 only had it once before, when I met one of my best friends ever over twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, Lauri sent me an introductory message, and 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 it felt so comfortable. Shockingly, I was the one that asked to move to email and messenger. It may seem like a normal thing to do, 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 have 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 different. I am jealous of how much vacation and national holiday time they get. American businesses could 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 good 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. Sometimes, I can pick out words in Russian videos and can recognize a lot of common names written in Russian. It is not easy, though.

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. That is the first time I was fascinated by something outside the US and my fascination with Russia never went away.

This will not 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 I am, 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. That way, 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 me 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 easily lose track of time. She really is helping me to be more assertive and confident. I actually took pictures of myself, 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. That is 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 the basic quality over quantity issue for me. Even when I had friends, it was a 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. It is 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 many ways, she knows me better than I do. 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. The resulting picture is perfect and beautiful. I have not met her in person, although it feels like video chats kind of count. 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 workday, 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 great job of keeping up on exercises and is very fit. It keeps me motivated to workout as I can. I got a recumbent bike which is keeping me moving through the winter. 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 be 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. 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. I don’t think I am very representative of American men. Not better or worse, just very different in several ways.

It is so wonderful to have a connection with someone. Especially one so amazing that understands and accepts me. It is such a rare event in my life that sometimes it is difficult to accept that it is real.

All my opinions of myself are wrong to her, and that causes confusion in me. She thinks I am special simply 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. 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.

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