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Kelly Cheek
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When a Man Loves a Woman

Okay, I know Valentine’s Day was a week ago, so this is late. My wife loves holidays, some more than others, and Valentine’s is one she is particularly fond of. Holidays are growing on me, too, and I felt awash in the romance of the day. So, I’m taking a break from my journal documenting the technicalities of my (hopeful) journey toward financial independence and life abroad to write about some ponderings I’ve had lately.

Though I don’t want to admit it, the years are speeding past faster than I ever thought possible. When I was young, I never pictured myself sixty-one years old. At the same time, I did picture myself with a woman who would turn out to be the love of my life. I just didn’t know what she looked like.

Past attempts to locate this woman inevitably ended in disappointment, sometimes acutely so. As the disappointments piled up, I attempted to become smarter in my search. I would sometimes ponder love and romance, and what they really meant.

If I wasn’t distracted with the latest target in my search efforts, it would sometimes turn out to be fairly deep.

For instance, I determined that love is not compatibility, nor is compatibility love.

Love is based on an amalgam of things, some recognizable, some indefinable, that draw you close to another person, for whatever reason. It could be their caring nature, their personal integrity, their childlike enthusiasm and joie de vivre.

It could include a physical attraction to various facets of their appearance, although it must be more than just that. Otherwise, it’s only an infatuation which will eventually fade.

All of those qualities, though, combine to attract you to another person. In time, as you get to know one another, the attraction may turn into love.

But compatibility is not necessary for this to happen. Without compatibility, love can still grow. Those things that attracted you to another person still attract you, even if you are quite different.

There’s a common saying that ‘opposites attract,’ and that may be true. But with few exceptions, it can be difficult to build a successful relationship when two people differ too much.

However, when one encounters someone to whom they are attracted heart and mind, body and soul, and the two are compatible as well, what a find! They share many of the same values, the same tastes. The connection is romantic and emotional, artistic and intellectual.

Differences may still exist, but as long as the differences are not too many or too acute, they only make for greater interest. You may have come from different backgrounds, but your personal codes and values and tastes developed along similar lines. Because of those different backgrounds and experiences, you can still share new things with one another, and be fairly confident that the other may feel similarly about them. And if not, it results in an interesting conversation, a sharing of opinions and viewpoints that is also welcomed, because it gives you even greater insight into this person with whom you’ve bonded.

This bond, I think, can actually be described with a word that I’ve hesitated to use in the past, due to a lack of personal experience. It’s a word that is sometimes thrown around too casually by some. Others cynically dismiss the idea altogether.

That word is ‘soulmate.’

Just a few years ago, whether through acquired wisdom or sheer dumb luck, or maybe a combination of both, I stumbled upon my soulmate. Who knew that the woman who was absolutely perfect for me was living just a ten minute drive away?

We’ve made a life together, a very happy life. My only regret is that I didn’t find her sooner.

Well, as time continues its interminable gallop into the future, my thoughts, all too often, tend to center on subjects having to do with love and mortality. Having finally found my soulmate so late in my life, and fallen so deeply in love with her, I can’t imagine a world without her in it. Indeed, I can remember times in my life before I knew her, but I can't imagine going back to that. I know that I experienced some measure of happiness at such times, but it was only because I hadn't known any better. Now, I do. I don't want to exist in such a bleak and cold place, a place or time without the love of my life, so I hope that, when the time comes, I go first.

At the same time, knowing how deeply she loves me, though I can still scarcely believe it, I don't want her to have to endure that bleak, cold place herself, in which case it might be better if she goes first.

However, being incapable of wishing any bad outcome to befall her, I’ve determined that the best alternative might simply be for us to not die.

Well, that’s the plan, anyway.