This blog post is written with love, respect, and heartbreak for a dear friend of mine. This is her story:
What happens when you fall in love with someone, but you are unable to see each other? What happens when your soul is tied to another, without rhyme, without reason, but deeply passionate, and yet the two souls are separated by politics and boundaries you have no control over? What happens when 2 people from 2 different religions, 2 different cultures and 2 different countries merge into 1 heart, but yet it can only solidify in a virtual world? What happens? Frustration. Sadness. Uncertainty. Longing. Heartbreak…and so much more. This is what is happening with my dear friend currently, and all I can do is love her through it.
My friend is 46 years old. I have known her since she was 19 years old and I was 18 years old. It hasn’t always been an easy friendship. We have wonderful memories with each other that we cherish, but also memories of an estranged time that we both have regrets over. Through it all however, we have unconditional love and support for one another, and that will remain steadfast forever. Yes, she is one of those girlfriends who has experienced the awkwardness of entering adulthood with me, (we were in each other’s first weddings when we were young 20 year olds, so wide eyed with expectation and certainty of what our futures would look like)….and one of those girlfriends that has experienced the pain and shock along side of me when those naive 20 year old girls’ futures didn’t work out so well. Life happens.
Before I get too far ahead into my friend’s love story, I want you to know that this is not a woman who is unwise to the world. In fact, she is a retail store manager of one of the largest stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She runs a multi-million dollar store, with hundreds of employees, and has created quite a nice career for herself. Her career has been her saving grace through so much of her adulthood, but it has also been her downfall. You see, for many years (and honestly still today….she knows I speak the truth with love)…her career and working her way up the corporate system has been her soul mate, her lover, and her friend. She has dedicated so much energy and time into creating a career for herself, she pretty much forgot to put “herself” into the equation of life. How many of us do this however? We lose our sense of balance between self and a fill in the blank obsession….then we suddenly turn around one day, years later and say to ourselves, “how did this happen”? “Isn’t there more to life than this”? (girl, you know I have been there over and over……)…anyway….
My friend has previously been married. She has dated on and off throughout the years, but seems to always have the good fortune of finding the men who can’t seem to get their shit together. The kind of men that need someone to take care of them (literally!), and who have no problem taking advantage of a smart, giving, kind hearted, successful woman like my friend. Yes, she has kissed a lot of toads. Until now…….
About a year and a half ago, she became friends with a man on Facebook. It was a random connection initially, and she didn’t put much time into getting to know this person from half way around the world, until the conversations became intriguing. And then more interesting. And then loving. And then two souls were speaking to each other without an actual word being said. And who cares if he is 20 years younger than her?!…(okay, let me stop you right here and tell you to stop with the eye rolling. I know…..I thought all the same things you are probably thinking at the moment my friend, but just hear me out and keep reading…)…..
After a year and a half of getting to know one another through phone calls, texts and FB messages, the two of them decided it was time to meet in person (again, everything you are thinking right now, I also thought…and I was worried for her at the time……). You see, my friend lives in Texas, and her “boyfriend” is from Pakistan. They decided that Dubai would be a great first meeting place, so back in March, they followed Cupid’s direction, and met for the first time. It was an incredible 2 weeks for them both of seeing the physical manifestation of a virtual relationship take shape. She shared photos of that trip with her close friends and family, and by the sheer joy and happiness that oozed from her pictures, I knew that this was the real deal. This was true love. But although they both felt the same way, they knew it wasn’t going to be easy creating a path to a joined life. They didn’t realize however, that it is almost impossible….
He was denied a visa to the USA. She was denied a visa to Pakistan. Unfortunately, with the reality of the world these days, this is not something one can easily fight against. He is a muslim. She is a Christian. And although, neither one of them are particularly devout in their individual faiths, it is who they are. They have had discussions of her converting to Islam, and she is open to this, but that doesn’t matter to the US or Pakistani legal systems. She has faced criticism from a few people here in the USA for her love of this foreigner, for her openness to converting, and for this, I am sad and outraged for her. Judgement is the ONE thing that I will not stand for! Again, I admit that when she first told me about this relationship, about where he was from and the age difference, I was also concerned, but I never judged her. It is not my place or anyone else’s place to judge another person. Unfortunately, there are scary things happening all over the world these days, but just because one comes from an unstable region does not make them part of the problem. Governments don’t care about love however. Safety for citizens and rules come first, and although my friend understands this, it is quite shocking that in the year 2016 two people who love each other cannot be together.
Just this week I was with my friend down in Houston as she tried for a second time to attain a visa to Pakistan. She was told that she might have a better chance of getting approved if she applied at the Pakistani Consulate in person, rather than just applying online. So off we went to Houston where the closest Pakistani Consulate is located to where she lives. I must say, I never thought I would be sitting in a waiting room of a Pakistani consulate, but hey..why not?! She had everything prepared. All the required paperwork, letters from her love back in Pakistan vouching that she has a place to stay in Pakistan, and yet, the answer was once again no. She was told that the only way she would ever get approved for a visa to Pakistan is if she was already married to her love. Final answer. No discussions.
She was heartbroken, and as I heard her speaking with her love on her car speaker phone, I was heartbroken by the sadness in both of their voices. They spoke about what the next step could possibly be. They discussed which countries in the world that would allow 2 foreigners of different cultures and religions to marry. Let me tell you, after many google searches on the drive back from Houston on which countries they could possibly get married in, it is not going to be an easy endeavor. Road blocks around every corner. Not impossible, but they don’t face an easy road ahead.
So, here is this friend of mine, who has sacrificed love and self for so many years of her adult life for her career, who is finally ready to create a more balanced life between personal and professional life, and the person she wants to create this new life with is unattainable. As she puts it, “it is almost laughable if it wasn’t so heartbreaking”……she laughs to make her disappointed less hurtful. But she is sad. I am sad for her. There is not a next step at the moment. She will take some deep breaths after this week and just relax. She needs time to figure out how this will all work out. Or if it won’t.
I don’t know where this love story goes from here, but I do know I will help my friend out in any way possible to make her dreams become reality. If anyone reading this has been through something similar, any advice you can pass on to her would be greatly appreciated. I can’t imagine the pain the two of them are going through, or what it must be like not being able to be with the one I love. We take so much for granted here in the Western world, and this love story is a reminder of just how lucky we are to have our freedoms that we have. I don’t take them for granted, but certainly when you see something like what my friend is currently experiencing, it makes you stop and say out loud, “thank you”.
Please keep this friend of mine in your positive thoughts. I will keep you posted on what happens next. My friend has given me permission to share her story in the hopes that if there is someone out there going through what she is going through at the moment, that they know they are not alone. This is the whole reason for GIHY after all, whether it is my story or yours…..NONE OF US ARE EVER ALONE!
Happy weekend my friend. Be safe. Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others.