He Carried a Torch
originally posted May 23, 2014
I married her because she was the closest thing to the One Who Got Away, but she was not the same girl at all. I probably should have married someone who was the total opposite so there would be no temptation for comparison; so I would not be constantly reminded of what I was missing.
The reality, of course, was that I had no idea what I was missing, or even if I was missing anything important or worthwhile.
I idealized her insanely; nobody could reach that impossible standard. I hid this truth from my wife but such feelings cannot be concealed. They permeate every action, every thought, leaving a whiff of disappointment and regret on everything. My heart was elsewhere; my desires lived in the past.
My wife deserved to see love in my eyes, but I never fully gave myself to her. I held back a large part of myself for a phantom. I refused to let go of this fantasy of a missed lifetime of perfect love based on a few hormonal months when I was seventeen.
My wife didn’t know any of this. She just thought there was a piece missing from my soul; that I was crippled and unable to trust. I let her believe it. She was patient and loved me anyway, always hoping that someday I would let it all go and that she would be there when the floodgates opened, that she would finally be washed in all the love I’d been holding back. During the occasional discussions about my inability to embrace intimacy, I let her believe that this was the issue. I never told her “the truth.”
Looking back, it’s obvious that she was right the whole time. I was the one who didn’t understand the issue.
I never cheated. I was good and kind to her. I treated her well. I genuinely liked her and didn’t want to hurt her. She loved me and was good to me; she believed in me and was there for me whenever I needed her. And I really did appreciate all that. But still, I refused to give her my heart.
After she died, when I was in my late seventies, I made a serious effort to find my lost love, as if it were my last chance to finally have what I’d been missing my entire life.
I never found her. (I know now that she died in her 20s. Oh, the irony of that!)
I lived my entire life chasing some imagined love out there when all the while, all I had to do was turn to my wife and look at her and really see her. If I had done that just once, everything after that might have been different.
I thought I was worshiping love, keeping it holy, when in fact I was avoiding it.
Perhaps it’s the same thing.
There are a lot of kinds of love, and one type is not necessarily better or worse than another. Most people are lucky to have even one kind of love in their life. To have more than one is to be truly blessed.
I was blessed, but I didn’t know it.
I should have trusted her with my heart. She would have taken gentle and good care of it.
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