Shortly before the new year began, I received a private message from a friend on facebook. The message was a simple and kind one that expressed an appreciation for my positive and inspirational posts. I was pleasantly surprised I had an admirer and grateful for the acknowledgement, as I’d often hoped my posts would find an audience that would benefit in some small way from them, but was always unsure of whether they actually had. The gentleman had asked me how I was doing and began to talk to me more routinely. We discussed our interests, hopes for the future, the possibility of meeting up etc. We began talking more frequently through facebook; sometimes almost every other day. We formed a connection over time that seemed very real despite it all being on the internet. He was a combat photographer in the military and stationed overseas at the time and would message me in a completely different time zone, always synching up with me on my time zone. Though I had never met this individual in person, we both began to feel as though we’d known each other for a really long time. We felt like kindred spirits with the same passion and zest for the simple things in life. It turns out, I had known this individual through the social media platform for several years, though I forget how we initially became ‘friends’. We went to the same college yet never met each other when there. We also had several mutual friends. Every night and morning, I would receive a message of ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Good Night’ or ‘Sweet Dreams’. He would ask how my day went or how it was going from where he was in the middle east. At first, the frequency and intimate nature of his messages imparted a quality to the relationship that seemed misplaced or not completely appropriate to where we were in the relationship spectrum. It almost felt as though we were in some sort of quasi-relationship without ever having met. I was drawn to him a lot and drawn by the thoughtful messages he would send me….messages that found a place in a heart that had grown used to feeling lonely and being without the romantic love that most of my peers had found and come to know. We had talked about meeting when he was set to take leave from the military to visit his family back home. Though stationed at Fort Bragg, he would be making a trip to NJ, where home used to be for him and where home was for me. We also made an attempt to talk over the phone early on, but that had fallen through. So, we continued talking over the internet, and I continued asking friends, family, and my therapist about the nature of the relationship, which was progressing in an atypical way. Everyone agreed that there was no real relationship until we met, and I agreed, yet here we were both engaging in a level of emotional intimacy about family struggles, day to day struggles, and everything in between. He would wake up in the middle of the night at 2AM where he was, unable to sleep, and message me that he “wanted to say hi’ just to make me smile, then proceed to go back to bed. I would message him when I couldn’t sleep or when I was sick or vice versa, and we would offer each other the support that any girlfriend or boyfriend would. I often had to remind myself that we were neither, and the possibility that we might never be was always there. I held on to hope that we would be, though, and often found myself saving his photos on my desktop or including them on my vision board. I prayed for him and his safety frequently. I loved his smile; he often told me he loved mine as well. We talked about imagining being with each other, holding each other, and doing things together that couples often do. In our imaginations, we had built up a relationship that in actuality did not exist. It felt so life-affirming and kept me so excited throughout tough days or days when I was looking for an outlet. I let him know that he had restored my hope in finding love at a time when I had lost a lot of it. As time went on, I noticed he was not messaging me for long intervals of time- sometimes two to three weeks. I would give him his space and touch base with him once per week, refraining from making any assumptions. I often thought that communicating every other day was too frequent to begin with but grew accustomed to it and came to expect it over time. Still, I knew that if we were to maintain a good pace until meeting, once per week would be the ideal. His communication, it turns out, became very terse and cold. Not affectionate like it used to be. I came to believe it was due to something outside of me- perhaps something arose in his day to day work being in the military or that he was struggling with something within himself. These thoughts later led to thoughts that perhaps he had found someone else who may have peaked his interest. I had no way of knowing; what I knew for sure was that he no longer felt the same way about me. Intuitively, I knew this deep down. I expressed this concern to him and my own change in feelings as a result. He grew colder, and I grew sadder by the day, grieving something that never was and would never come to be. I made the decision to travel to see my family in Florida during my spring break from work; this, I thought, would send him my own subtle message that I was no longer interested as well. It was also a means for me to proactively deal with my feelings of loss and distract myself with something positive. If before I would have ended up commiserating in NJ at the reality that we would no longer be meeting up, then that was something I could avoid and fix in an instant. So, I did. I booked my flight to Florida with my sister and made peace with the fact that I would just never meet this person. I was beginning to let go. I was doing well until he started messaging me again. My wound was still fresh and my weakness still strong. I began talking to him again-reminding myself that it was only on a friendly basis. He had advised that he had still wanted to talk over the phone, and I expressed an interest to as well. So, we spoke for a brief time over the phone while I was in Florida. The call was another reminder that whatever ‘magic’ was present for us in the 6 months we had been in communication no longer was. There was no interest on his end in my time spent with family in Fl and no desire to meet up. I offered to see him on the day I was to return to NJ- his last day there. There was one excuse after another and another reason and reminder to me that there was simply no trying to force something that was not meant to be. As the quote goes, “What’s meant for me will never miss me and what misses me was never meant for me”. So, here I am, placing my fingers to my keyboard as I sit on my family’s patio in Florida trying to free my soul of the grief that has taken the place of the love that once nourished it. I sit and reflect upon my desires and needs, my grief, my hopes, lessons learned, and my next steps. Every time I think I’ve learned the lesson I’m being taught, I remind myself there is always something more to learn. I remain patient, ask for guidance, and then sit still enough to hear the answers my soul whispers to me. I purge what needs to be purged, and then I wait. And as I’m finding today, in the stillness and beauty of the nature that surrounds me, the answers always come when I look within myself. So, the next time you might become restless or confused, go outside for a walk or have a seat in nature. Close your eyes or stare at a fixed location. Quiet your thoughts and go within. Your soul is patently waiting to be heard. Today my soul is saying to me, “I am loved”, “I am worthy”, “I am resilient”, and “I attract the highest good in my life and let go of what no longer serves my best interests”. I am at peace with these affirmations and grateful for that which left me ‘without’, for it has led me back ‘within’. It has also reminded me that love and happiness are not things outside myself that others are responsible with providing me with. They are states within me that I can nourish and maintain irrespective of what happens on the outside. Irrespective of how others’ feelings for me change over time- as they surely will. Love is a constant that resides within me, not in the hands of others.