If only

In your life sometimes you meet someone with whom you feel a strong connection, a special empathy, and when you get to know that person a little better you suddenly find yourself thinking: ” If only…”. If only we were not married, if only we didn’t live so far apart, if only our lifestyles were not so different, if only I could find a job in another city…”. As life goes on and you get older it seems your “if onlys” multiply themselves as you have a longer story to tell and heavier burdens to carry.

When we were young ” if onlys” did not exist. We were free, and in case we weren’t it was not difficult to become a free person again. Love came and went and being in love and happy were the only reasons for us to be with someone. When they were no longer there, we simply moved on. Then came along the person we thought was “the one” in our life and we naively believed our love story would last forever, and on such “strong foundations” we built a new chapter of our lives and irrevocably linked our love relationship to other, more worldly ties, such as buying a property together, getting a mortgage, and ultimately establishing the one tie that last forever – having children together.

Then one day, as domesticity and routine invade your life and romance and passion are forgotten in the midst of electricity bills and diapers and a new, overwhelming feeling of love for these tiny beings you have given life to – your children – you suddenly look at that person you were so passionate about, who was everything for you, and you discover you are still together because there are so many things tying you to each other; and not simply because you really, truly want to be with that person. That’s the moment when you begin “fighting” for your relationship. And that’s usually when you begin thinking “if only”.

Sometimes “if onlys” are too hard to resist; it takes courage to turn them into “will bes”. Sometimes you have lingered in a loveless relationship for too long and it simply has to end so that you may become alive again. But sometimes “if onlys” are not strong enough to make you change your life, or maybe your life is not so bad that you want to drastically change it, so in the end you’ll put the “if only” thoughts in the back of your mind; you’ll either forget about this person you find somewhat special or you’ll simply try to live this relationship in a different way, without losing it entirely. After all, a special empathy does not always have to be turned into a love affair; it can certainly give way to a fulfilling friendship that can ultimately bring you more joy than a romantic attachment. And even if you both know it could be more than that, you are also sure it’s not the time or the moment, and you can still be content and enjoy this special relationship without any regrets, obligations or jealousy. Aren’t friends, after all, one of life’s greatest gifts? And there is not one single type of friendship, each friend is unique as is the relationship we share with him or her.

A few times in my life I have looked at someone and thought “if only”. Twice, I believe, I took a step forward and had the courage to change my life and never did I regret it. In several others I let “if only” stay in the back of my mind and I truly believe each time has won me a true friend, and a very special one at that.

So next time you look at someone with whom you feel there might be something else but know it’s not possible or just not the right time, don’t feel sad. Enjoy a good glass of wine together and a few hours of fantastic conversation, of opening your heart freely and without fear of being misunderstood. For this special friend will understand you as you do him, or her; there will be no need for pretence, no lies, as you can be truly yourselves with each other.

And when you part, when each of you go your separate ways to live your different lives that will go on as they are – because that’s what you both want – you may look back and allow yourself a sentimental thought of “If only things were different, we might…”. And then you walk away decidedly and soon you lose yourself in the crowd.

However, beware…the gods above are naughty and sometimes they listen to more than they should. And life, the greatest storyteller of all, always has the last word.