The Unimaginable

I’m so sorry that I didn’t give you time to process and I rushed you to recover from the shock of losing him.

I made you pretend to be a rock.

To not let anything show and just be strong for everyone around you.

Two weeks.

That’s all the time I would allow you to grieve.

When the last person left you and it was too hard to be at home.

I made you go back to work.

Day in and day out, I made you smile and laugh and pretend like nothing had changed.

To pretend that you weren’t going through the unimaginable.

Suffering so deep that it stripped you to your core.

Your heart froze over, you hid away the broken parts of you so no one could see beneath the surface.

I hate that this made you feel so alone.

Isolated in your pain.

I’m sorry that it resulted in you crawling into a ball and weeping in the shower.

That you felt like that was the only place that you could let your guard down.

You needed time and I robbed you of that.

Your loss, your pain. It deserved to be heard.

Looking back now, the trip to Africa was the best thing that could have ever happened to you.

You were prepared for something to go wrong.

You made your Will, wrote out all your burial instructions and put all your trust into the unknown.

You let go of the fear of dying and accepted your fate, no matter how it would play out.

Little did you know that it would test you beyond all that you could have imagined.

Digging down for strength that you didn’t know you had.

Trusting people again. Trusting that it was your destiny to complete the trip.

You told your mom that initially. That this was meant for you and you walked to it with intention.

Maybe it was the lifeline you needed.

To start figuring out how to live this new reality.

To deal with the daily pain, to fight back against the darkness.

I know that sometimes it gets overwhelming and you break down.

The rollercoaster doesn’t climb as high anymore, the fall isn’t so deep now.

I am truly sorry that I made you pull away from anyone who tried to help you.

It’s a coping mechanism that I’ve always had.

You see it now, that so many people are suffering in silence.

That they too struggle and put on a brave face.

Pain finds pain.

You can feel it now. The way it radiates from someone.

It’s in their eyes. Just a slight brokenness that is barely visible behind the mask of smiles.

It’s in the those moments that you connect with the broken-hearted, that you see how far you have come.

You didn’t give up, you didn’t turn to drugs or booze to numb the pain.

You pushed away the unimaginable.

Look at where you are now, compared to where you started.

You still say his name as often as you can.

You couldn’t control the fact that he died, but you still tell his story.

So others know and remember who he was, what he did with his life and what he meant to you.

I know you will always miss him, your best friend…

Just know that the rest of the world misses him too.

2.5 Years

I had a thought today that stopped me in my tracks.

It’s been 2.5 years.

2.5 years without him.

2.5 years without looking into those beautiful blue eyes. Laughing at his funny faces. The way he would stomp his feet and growl at me.

I look at his orb with his ashes every morning. I think about where our life would be. What adventures we would have gone on together during this time.

How has so much time passed and I am still so lost without him.

It’s my birthday in a couple weeks and it still hits me so hard that he won’t be here to celebrate with me.

I’ve been bouncing between being super happy and excited for the future and feeling so empty and afraid to move forward.

I am dating a wonderful man. He loves me so deeply and is so understanding of my crazy moods. There has been so many times when I can’t fake a smile and he just gives me the space I need to collect myself. He doesn’t push, he just waits for me to come back to him.

He knows that I struggle every day with loving him. With feelings of guilt and unworthy of love.

I have been having crazy thoughts about he and I. About starting a family together.

That is one topic that has been off limits, non negotiable. Even before he and I were together when we get just kids. I wouldn’t let kids be an option.

Now, I dream of our babies. They are beautiful, smart, kind and artistic. The best parts of each of us. He and I have talked about it briefly. It’s something that is open for discussion at a later date. He is 50/50 on it, I’m more like 25 pro/75 con. Which is actually a huge, scary step for me.

He has a daughter. I want to love her and I want her to love me. I want to be an example for her.

A strong, sensitive, kind, throat punching example.

Maybe our weird little family will be enough to curb this strange desire to have a child. Maybe it will only make the desire stronger.

I’m just keeping my head down, working my ass off and paying off debts.

Working my way to whatever my future will be.

The Butterfly Effect

I have been struggling for the past few weeks.

Instantly taking me back to there. To how it felt when my world crashed around me.

I will be doing normal tasks like driving to work when all of a sudden, my mind will flashback to the morning that I got the call about Frank.

How my heart shattered.

I was supposed to cook dinner that night but had gotten so sick from all the stress from working Valentine’s Day. I told him to go out with friends.

We texted sporadically throughout the night till it got late and I couldn’t stay up any longer. I text him that I was going to bed and he told me goodnight.

Just a normal night. He went out often in the summer when the riding weather was great.

Then I was awoken from a dead sleep by my phone going off and I struggled to see the caller id. Wondering why his mom was calling me so early. It was around 2 am.

“Stephanie! Is frank there with you?” She was so distraughtzzazzzzz and I told her “No, he went out with some friends and isn’t home yet.”

By this time, I had stumbled out of bed, turned on the lights and was walking downstairs to check the couch.

“Two officers just came to the door and said that Frank has been killed in a motorcycle wreck on 85.”

I was speechless.

I turned on the downstairs light and the couch was empty, I checked the garage and his bike wasn’t there.

“He’s not here…..he went out with friends……he’s not here.”

That’s all I could say….I just kept repeating it.

I sat on the couch and just started sobbing.

She asked me if I wanted her to come get me and I said yes.

I tried calling my boss and it went to voicemail so luckily I had her husbands number so I called and told her what happened, that I wouldn’t be at work. That she was my family here and I didn’t know what to do. She asked if she needed to come over but I told her no, that frank’s mom was coming to get me.

All I could think of next was that I needed to talk to my mom so I called the house line and immediately started crying hysterically when she picked up.

I don’t even remember what I said but I remember her praying over me and I told her I needed to get dressed.

I threw on jeans and a tee shirt. The minutes felt like hours and I couldn’t be in our home so I just sat on our porch outside and looked at the stars and listened to the bugs.

It was so quiet and I was so broken.

Susan and I just sat in chairs, in the living room. Not speaking. Just both lost in our own thoughts. I remember hearing the news from the bedroom where roger was laying in bed and it was talking about the accident. As it got closer to 5am it talked about it so often that I asked if he could change the channel. I didn’t want to hear it.

Susan got periodic calls about making sure we had let all the family know before the news station was given the green light to run his name on the story.

I started texting our close friend Neal, that I needed to talk to him. I had terrible news and didn’t want to say it over text. He told me he was up so I walked outside and broke the news to him.

I asked him to call frank’s work and tell all those guys and anyone else that he thought should know before they found out from the news.

I don’t remember much else from that early morning. I kept texting my close friends and then I just felt the intense need to be at home. To be in our home.

Susan dropped me off and I just turned on music to block the silence out and curled up into a ball on the couch and just sat there.

Two of his friends came by the house to offer their condolences. Jaime and Chucky. It was very sweet and I wish I knew what we talked about.

Neal came over later and we just sat on the couch and he wrapped his arms around me.

Because the accident happened early Saturday morning, it was like agony waiting to hear when they would release his body to the funeral home.

His mother did not want anything going out over social media before we had funeral services finalized.

We finally got the word that the funeral home had his body and we went there.

His mom, sister, niece and I.

We had them coordinate everything for a veteran funeral service with the army national guard and paid for everything. Luckily I had just gotten my taxes done so I could pay a good portion of it.

One thing I kept stressing to the funeral director was that he needed to use his best judgement if we should have a viewing or a closed casket. I didn’t want my last memories of him to be torn up. We had no idea the extent of his injuries.

My mom got there that night and by the next day, 2 more of my best friends had drove or flew in.

We bought frames, printed photos and poems, cds for his memorial dvd. Folded countless bandanas for his friends to wear in his honor. A request I had made. Neal came and picked up frank’s other bike to ride lead for the group that was riding to the service.

I stopped by my work and talked to my boss about the flowers I needed.

I was basically a zombie. Getting stuff done and being completely numb. I couldn’t eat for two days. Couldn’t even manage dry toast.

I offered to go to the county coroner’s office and pick up his stuff as his next of kin. They returned a few items. Belt, wallet, his riding gloves and his helmet. It was hard keeping it together when I realized how broken the helmet was from the impact.

I just took it all up stairs and put it next to my bed. It stayed in that same spot for the next two years.

I sat and wrote him a long letter that I would tuck into the casket with him.

They also included his plug earrings and at the last minute, I put them in my pocket before we left for the service. I’m glad I did so they could be put back in.

The one thing I remember most of all when I looked at him, was his hands. The nails and fingers were still slightly dirty from working on Friday and going out straight from work.

Mechanic hands.

Beautiful hands that I loved holding.

For my mind to travel back to that phone call again and again has been agony.

Last night it also invaded my dreams.

If you have ever seen the movie, The Butterfly Effect, the basic premise is that through photos and videos, the main character finds he has the ability to go back in time to very specific events.

My mind decided that I should have that ability too and sent me back a few days before his accident. I bought food to make for dinner that night. I loved on him so much, texting, calling, sending him stuff. He came home that night and we had dinner like countless times before. I got up, went to work. Feeling like I had won. Then I got the call from his mom. He was killed on the way to work.

This scenario played out over and over again. I went back in time to different times. Trying desperately to change something and everything I did just made things worse and I lost him in increasingly worse ways.

Finally it just clicked. No matter what I changed, I was going to lose him.

So instead I went back to happy memories and took more time to love him and to say goodbye.

I woke up destroyed this morning but also strangely lighter.

Like my soul and my mind had finally come to terms that it wasn’t my fault and I couldn’t have saved him.

I could just love him.

To continue to love him.

To miss him.

To reach to the skies and call out his name.

Hoping he is at peace.

Hoping I can also make peace with losing him one day.

Drunk Mistakes = Happy “Accident”

I have been feeling the need to write but have struggled how to put this into words.

I’ve been working through all of my emotions and meltdowns by tapping into my other creative outlets instead.

I’ve been painting, organizing, and decorating my house.

With the world falling apart over Covid-19, it allowed me more time to work on things that I had been avoiding and projects left half done.

It has helped me work through confusion and come to some profound conclusions.

I have reconnected with someone from my past.

Someone that knew me before Frank.

Someone that loved me before Frank.

I had gone out to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day and while playing on Snapchat. His name popped up as a possible connection and as I was decribing who he was to a friend I was with, my finger accidentally hit the Add button.

I freaked out.

Literally screaming “Noooooo!!!” in a crowded bar.

You see, the relationship this person and I had was volatile.

Our highs skyrocketed us into the heavens and our lows were the depths of hell.

We were so young when we tried to figure out how to love each other. He was just 18 and I was 20.

We dated for about 4 years before I finally had enough and didn’t want to try anymore.

We both couldn’t stay faithful and ended up hurting each other over and over again.

We would go on breaks and kept getting back together cause we just couldn’t stand being apart.

He was the last one I dated before Franco and I decided to be together.

Franco literally held me as I wept over my broken heart from this man.

I had looked him up in the past, like everyone does with ex’s and found out he had married and become a father.

I never tried to reconnect with him. I had done that with a previous ex and realized how not smart it was.

So after I accidentally added him, I tried telling myself that maybe he didn’t use Snapchat often or he will see me and decide to say no to the Add.

Granted, I was several beers and Irish car bombs down at this point. I usually only have two beers max but had gone out with the intention to get “Shammered”.

Yet 30 seconds later, he added me back.

At that point, I wrestled with my brain for awhile. Deciding if I wanted to send a “hey stranger, how are you text.”

My brain went through a Dr. Strange moment, playing out many different scenarios. For example:

1. He is still happily married. He honestly wants to talk and catch up. Having not given us a second thought after we broke up.

2. He is unhappily married. He has wondered about me and felt like I did, that we never really had a chance to say what needed to be said. If he had regrets about his actions and held any grudges over mine.

Plus many, many more….

Since I was full of liquid courage, I took the leap and text him first.

Lighthearted and friendly.

Everything was fine until the point where I had to decide if I was going to tell him about Frank or not.

It never goes well for me. It usually makes things very awkward and all conversations stop cause people just don’t know what to say.

Well the opposite happened. It also stopped being light hearted and casual after that.

We proceeded to text nonstop for the next 6 hours.

Both of us far drunker than advisable and i think because of that, we let down all our walls.

I had forgotten how much of a poet he was and how much he made me one.

Turns out that he is getting a divorce, has a daughter that he adores and has held a candle for me….ever since we broke up.

We have talked every single day since then and we have gotten to know each other as adults.

I tried to put up every wall and block that I could but he reached in and grabbed my heart. Cradling it, he has breathed life and love into it.

My heart and my head were at war.

My heart wanted to grab his hand and jump off the cliff, not caring what was below, because we would be together.

My head kept holding me back. Reminding me of the past pain, of my current pain and the struggles that long distance relationships go through.

Then he told me that I didn’t have to choose between loving Frank and loving him. He told me to keep them both in my heart since they both loved me.

He gave me space to talk about Frank and what he meant to me.

And that was it. My head agreed with my heart and we ran full sprint off the edge.

Hand in hand.

He speaks a different love language than Franco did. He is artistic and a poet.

He shows me love in entirely different ways.

Ways that I didn’t know I missed.

For awhile, it made me feel terrible. It made me feel like the love Franco gave me was lacking and then I realized something.

They love two different people.

Who I was with Franco is not who I ever was or am with this new man.

Franco loved me exactly how I needed my “Side A” needed to be loved.

This man loves my “Side B.”

One is not better than the other and I can’t fault either of them for not being able to love both sides of me.

With the travel restrictions in place, we haven’t met in person yet and I worry about that.

I’m afraid that the physical side won’t match our emotional connection. It was never a problem in the past but that was almost 17 years ago.

I’m also worried that the once I am able to hold him, I won’t want to let him go.

I am working my plan and I can’t leave for at least 1.5 years.

In the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a lot of time but it makes life messy.

He makes me crave a life that I didn’t think I deserved or was possible.

Loving him has helped heal more of my heart.

I still struggle almost daily with missing Franco but this man just waits patiently for my melt downs to be over and for me to come back to him.

Yesterday, we were video chatting and I couldn’t stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. I kept apologizing and telling him how I knew it was hard to love me.

He brought the camera close to him and whispered that loving me wasn’t hard and I lost it. Just covered my face, laid the phone on the bed and sobbed.

He just said “take your time, I’ll be here when you are ready. I’m not going anywhere.”

It’s very strange that Franco helped me heal from losing that man. Now this same man is helping me heal from losing Franco.

Just a strange circle of love, loss and healing.

I won’t ever be fully healed from losing Franco but that not stopping me from moving forward, not moving on. I’m taking the love we shared, carrying it with me forever.

It doesn’t matter if this man and I don’t work out in the end.

What matters is that I’m not putting conditions on myself in order to receive love.

Maybe it only lasts 5 weeks, 5 months, 5 years, maybe the rest of my life.

What matters most is telling myself every day that I deserve love, I deserve happiness and I deserve to share that with the world.

Disappointed

This past month was very hard on me.

It felt like January would never end. Preparing for Valentine’s Day at work and preparing my heart for the 2 year mark.

Then February took two seconds to go through then it was over.

I realized something this time around.

I don’t talk to him anymore.

In the beginning, I talked to him all the time. It’s not like the pain has lessened but it’s more like I’ve come to the realization that he is actually gone and he can’t hear me.

So basically like God, he’s not listening so I’ve stopped talking.

My first year without him, I didn’t let myself grieve. I made myself smile, laugh and keep going. Not letting the truth touch my heart.

I was too angry and hurt to say goodbye to him.

My second year, I tried to use other men to hide the fact that I was lonely and missing the touch of someone who loved me. I couldn’t help but compare them to him and they always came up short. It wasn’t fair to them and I was lying to myself.

I think I’m finally hitting the stage when it fully hits me that he is truly gone and I’ll never see that smile again.

It has made me so angry again.

I feel like I keep losing him.

Over and over and it doesn’t get easier, going through the “stages” of grief to end up in the same damn place.

So sensitive and losing control of my emotions.

I don’t like who I am.

I hate that I lost the hopefully and happy me.

I realized I don’t laugh anymore.

Not like I used too. The full belly, loud kind of laugh. The kind that is natural and easy.

I hardly ever smile unless it’s a forced work happy face.

I miss the carefree me who found joy in everything and had a bright light inside.

I talked to Trina about it and she said that I do this every year. That I feel this exact way, every year at this time frame. February is so traumatic for me that the aftermath just leaves me burned out.

It made sense but also made me feel terrible again. Knowing that my best friends see this pattern and I always pull away from them.

That they just have to wait me out till I’m ready to be loved again.

I have been fighting the urge to leave this place. To just up and sell the house now instead of working the plan and getting debt free.

I want to disappear into the woods again. To carry all that I need on my back and be surrounded by nature.

To fight and struggle with the physical demands so it gives my mind a chance to work it out on its own.

The more research and prep I do for when I will travel and hike, the more that the urge to leave drowns me.

I know that no matter where I go, my pain will always be with me. I can’t cut and run cause I carry it with me everywhere. I have to deal with that fact or I will never find peace.

Not when I carry the destruction inside.

I need to stop the bleeding but I don’t know how. I can lessen it but it always shows through the binds I tie around it.

The stitches on my heart keep getting ripped open and I’m not healing right.

I don’t know what to do and I am tired of feeling so tired. Tired of carrying this pain. Tired of going through the motions of living a half life.

I miss him. I miss the joy and the security I felt with him. The confidence his love gave me.

I feel like he would be disappointed in me. That I’ve let his death destroy the things about me that he loved.

His death destroyed the woman I was.

I don’t think he would like this new version of me.

I know I don’t.

Mayday

It’s a funny thing, grief…

To describe it to someone who has never really felt it to the depths of their core is hard.

Most days it’s like holding a 2 lb weight in your outstretched hand.

At first, it easy. You can hold it all day.

Can hardly even notice it.

Then the burn in your arms and shoulders start to make it uncomfortable.

You can’t hold it as high.

You try and breath and focus, it’s just 2 lbs, it shouldn’t be hard.

Minute by minute, the pain gets worse.

You shake and it burns more than you ever thought possible.

Until you give up and drop it on the floor.

Unfortunately, I can’t leave it there and walk away.

All I can do I take a few breaths, center myself and pick it back up again.

One of my favorite quotes about love is from the movie Practical Magic.

“You ever put your arms out and spin really, really fast ?

Well, that’s what loves like. It makes your heart race. It turns the world upside down. But if you’re not careful, if you don’t keep your eyes on something still, you can lose your balance. You can’t see what’s happening to the people around you. You can’t see your about to fall.”

Grief is just like that.

I spin and can feel the point when I have lost focus and am about to fall.

Crashing into myself again.

I have figured out the signs, when the spin is about to tip and go off center.

I recognized that yesterday morning so I sent out a distress call to my closest friends.

Even saying the word “mayday” out loud was tough.

Admitting I was going down and needed help.

They showed up.

With dinner, wine and comedy movies.

Standing by to help me anyway they could.

Sometimes I don’t have the words to say how I am feeling.

Sometimes I just need someone to sit next to me so I don’t feel alone.

So I can get ready to pick up the weight again.

I have been deep cleaning today and stumbling across cards and love notes.

It sent me spinning out of control again.

Just sitting on the floor in my bathroom, sobbing and missing Frank so much.

I have been working myself into exhaustion so I wouldn’t think about the anniversary of his death approaching.

Turns out it backfired.

The physical and mental exhaustion has left a football field size door for an emotional storm to sweep in and destroy me.

All I can do is take a deep breath and hold it as the hurricane of emotions sweep over me.

Hoping I have enough air to wait it out and reach the surface again.

The one constant thing that brings me comfort is that I loved him with everything I had and he fucking knew it.

Franco,

I love you today, I’ll love you tomorrow and I’ll love you a hundred lifetimes from now.

No matter how much pain I have.

No matter how long I struggle with the fact that you are gone.

I’ll never regret loving you.

Night love

I wish I could hold you again, to make you understand how important you were.

I’d tell tell you how good a man that I thought you were. How lucky I was to be your friend.

I’d have parties so we could dominate as beer pong champions and I could watch you laugh.

I’d clean and organize all my stuff in the garage so you could have a space all your own.

I’d remind you more often to go see your mom.

I’d take more time during my day to see how you were doing.

I’d buy sweets and keep the pantry stocked.

I’d records videos all the time.

I’d take time off work to travel and we would have rode Route 66 together on the bikes.

I’d make you dance with me more often.

I’d rub your back every single night, as long as you wanted.

I’d watch all the horror movies with you.

I’d buy buckets of paintballs and schedule games once a month.

I’d go to the range and blow through boxes of ammo with you.

I’d ask more about your dreams and what you still wanted to do in life.

It’s the small stupid things that haunt me. All the things that seemed so unimportant or wrongly assuming that we would have decades together to get it all done.

I grieve the future that I lost with you.

I grieve what could have been, what should have been.

My life is still shattered. The pieces are still laying all around me as I sit there. Bleeding from a million regrets that slice into my skin.

I ache for you, for who we were, for who I was.

I miss your simple texts when you were out with your friends.

“Still alive, my love”……

Words that you knew would make me feel instantly better and know that you were ok.

I have your last text message thread saved.

You sent it just a few hours before I got the call that you were gone.

The last thing you said to me when I said I was going to bed.

“Night Love…”

I wish I had replied that I loved you, but you knew that. You had always known that.

Passion & Pain

Listening to a heart wrenching song called “Don’t close your eyes”, it’s originally done by Keith Whitley. It’s raw, beautiful and hit hard home. Makes me think back to a intense night with a beautiful soul…..

His beautiful green eyes had looked intently into mine as he uttered words that were so hard to hear.

“I know who I look like. Sometimes when we are together and you look at me, I feel like you are imagining it’s him.”

I couldn’t stop the tears from streaming as my heart broke for him and I could only whisper through the knot in my throat.

“I’ve never thought that and I am so sorry if I made you feel that way. You might have some similar things to him but you are completely different and our energy together is completely different then what he and I shared.”

We talked and shared so much that night. My heart cracking, knowing that we were saying goodbye again.

Knowing no matter how strong our connection was, it was never going to be stronger than our individual pain.

I had gotten ahead of myself.

I jumped the gun and allowed someone in the doorway of my heart before I was ready.

It’s so hard to want someone so strongly physically but not be willing to open up emotionally.

To know that outside of the bedroom, our lives would never be compatible, that we were never meant to be together.

That what we had, was never going to be more than a few stolen hours in the cover of darkness.

It is like an endless loop of passion and pain.

To crash together every 4-6 months for a night when the need got too strong. Knowing when the morning light filtered through the windows, he would unlock the door and walk out again.

As terrible as it sounds, it’s worth it.

To be touched by someone so gently, it’s like he was in love with me and I miss that feeling.

I am so much better at compartmentalizing my life and controlling my emotions than he is.

It’s not something I’m proud of but after the first few times of him walking away to work on himself, I stopped letting him touch my heart.

I haven’t officially dated anyone since Franco passed. I’ve had dates, lovers and a guy who I saw regularly but no one person officially.

I really liked a few of the guys but they decided not to continue seeing me romantically and it has all been very adult like with calm conversations.

Doesn’t make it any easier on my ego.

Right now, I am so over dating. It sucks and is absolutely terrible.

I removed myself from all dating sites a month or more ago. Also all my romantic partners “broke up” with me recently.

I have been going through a rollercoaster of emotions with his birthday and the anniversary of his death coming soon.

I’m sure it hasn’t been easy to be with me so I can’t really blame them.

I need to work on myself and figure out how deal with all this pain still left inside of me.

I know I use men to make myself feel better. To distract and feed my physical needs.

That’s not healthy for me or for them.

I’m trying to make smarter choices and to find balance.

To be ok with being alone.

I don’t want anyone to ever feel like a replacement and I need to be sure that I’m not doing that unintentionally.

Always

Sometimes it feels like I’m stranded in a barren land.

So far from where I started but it feels like I’ve been running for so long, just to find that I’m back at the beginning.

The earth continues to turn with no concern for my pain.

Life hasn’t stopped just because he is gone.

Hanging by a string, telling myself to keep holding on. Keep doing the basics. Day in and day out.

Celebrate life and joy whenever I can because tomorrow isn’t promised.

I had a long talk with a dear friend who called me out on my bullshit when I said that I was “fine” and that I was doing “ok.”

She helped me to see my grief and my pain differently. To be more vocal about it. Using a pain scale similar to how doctors use them.

1 – 10, 1 being something I will never see again and 10 being how I felt the morning I got the call.

I told her that most days I operate in the 4-5 range. It can be a 7 or 8 on days that I need to write. She called my daily pain a bearable or tolerable pain. I don’t know why but I have such a strong negative reaction to those words. To me, tolerable and bearable are very passive words. Like I don’t have a choice in the matter, I have to tolerate the pain. I have to bear this burden. While accurate, I need something more positive.

I told her I would find a different phrase for me. I did some research and have come up with: “I’m not having a good day but I’m still here and doing the best I can.” To me, that means that I’m not doing as good as I could be but I’m also not doing as bad as I have been. I’m actively trying to be better.

It’s fluid, so I can change and adjust as necessary.

I’ve been working on setting boundaries and recognizing things that would cause me to have a set back. My coping methods have changed some as well.

I’ve been trying to reach out instead of shrinking away when I’m hurting.

It’s still very hard for me to do that. I don’t want to bring other people down. I don’t want them to feel pain just because I am.

I am moving forward but I haven’t forgotten the love that we shared. I am living with the fact that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye or to thank him for loving me. For being my best friend and having my back in tough situations.

Losing him has taught me a deeper way to love. To know that our time is limited so to not waste it on people or things that don’t bring happiness or light to my world.

I have been trying to stay balanced. To know that in order to stay balanced, I can’t let anyone love me less than I love myself.

There is a lyric that I have always loved that goes:

“I’m fine in the fire, I feed on the friction. I’m right where I should be, don’t try and fix me.”

Yes, I am broken but it doesn’t mean it’s up to someone else to fix me. I have to do that myself.

I had a really rough day a few days ago.

I was smiling and chatting with customers on the outside, knowing without fail that I would be on my knees in the shower, sobbing later that night.

I made it into the car before the tears started filling my eyes.

I drew myself the hottest bath possible and sunk in as far as I could go and just let the tears fall.

He came to me then, like he never has before.

In my minds eye, he peeked his head into the doorway and asked me what was wrong. I told him that it was a really bad day and he asked me if I wanted him to sit with me. I said yes and he came in, shut the door and slowly sat down with his back against it. Groaning as his joints popped and complaining that he wouldn’t be able to get back up. He just sat there, hands on his knees, playing on his phone with one hand and holding my hand with the other. Just letting me look at his beautiful eyes as they twinkled at me and he smiled his secret smile. So full of mischief and joy. I talked to him and told him how much I loved him and missed him. It made my heart lighter to see him and I was able to finally breathe.

Then he was gone and I was alone in the now cool water.

It was beautiful and even though I know it didn’t really happen, it brought me peace and I have been able to carry on.

As I sit, looking at his stocking hanging next to his orb, it’s so hard to comprehend the fact that he will be gone two years soon.

How is it possible that much time has passed already.

My heart still hasn’t fully accepted it and I still forget sometimes that I’ll never see him again. On nights like this, I just lay in bed and hope that I fall asleep before I fall apart.

I’m still grieving what was and what will never be.

After all this time?

Always.

Treading Water

I have always had a restless soul. Always wondering what is around the bend, what is behind the next hill. I have known as long as I can remember that I did not want a “normal life.”

I knew as a child that I was meant to leave my home, my family and explore the world.

My family is military but no one ever told me to join the service.

It was something inside of me that always knew that was my course in life.

For a time in my twenties, I thought I wanted the white picket fence, 2.5 kids and tons of animals.

As I continued making choices and having heartbreak….that idea of life faded.

I used to get asked all the time, like all women do, when I would settle down and have babies.

I explained that until I could be as excited about bringing new life into this world, as I was for planning my next traveling adventure….I was going to wait.

Eventually, I broke the news to my mom that it was never going to happen for me. She accepted it, telling me “some people are not meant to have kids, but I would love my baby to have a baby.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. I just have never felt that pull or desire. If I hold a baby, it doesn’t touch my heart.

It’s impossible nowadays to find a person in my age bracket that doesn’t have kids or desire more.

I try to be as upfront as possible while dating about how I feel.

I don’t want to be a mother, step mother or anything similar.

My heart still hears the call to explore.

Before Franco passed, we had been planning a trip around the US. He shared my passion for travel.

I’ve always wished that I could be a travel writer or work for a guidebook company where I explore and give feedback.

My gypsy soul wants to immerse myself in other cultures, experience things outside my comfort zone and just leave all that I’ve ever known.

I have been living this very safe life. I bought a house, found a job that I enjoy and have fell into a boring routine.

I stopped fighting the current.

I just let myself get carried down the stream of life because it was easier to do that then turn my back on tradition and swim upstream.

I started this past year, swimming against the current but I got to a point of exhaustion.

To where I was basically just treading enough water to stay in the same place.

Not getting closer to my dreams and not doing what was expected of me by society.

I read a story about grief, about how for a long time, you don’t get rocked by the waves of grief……because waves only occur at the surface.

My first year without him, I was definitely underwater. Drowning in my pain, my guilt, the unfinished story of our love.

This second year I’ve reached the surface but I still don’t have my bearings.

It’s like I’m swimming in open ocean. There is no land in sight. My lighthouse is gone.

He was that lighthouse. He was that steady, unwavering support. I was the ship that went on adventures and followed my own course, only to be guided home time and time again to him.

I know I have to learn to save myself, to find the light in me and follow it home but it’s just not there yet.

My light has been out for a while. I’m like an oil lamp that burned as long as I could but I don’t have anything left.

I have to find a way to fill up again, to stay full so I can burn brightly.

Early this year, my friend Chad asked me to do a project with him, a project that we called “Life Goals”.

I wrote down all the things I wanted in life, with very specific categories. Travel, financially, relationship, health etc.

It made me realize that most of what I wanted out of life, wasn’t going to happen on the course that I am on now.

So we have adjusted our course.

We have started a plan. My best friends as I. To leave this life behind and travel.

To see the world on an intimate and long term basis.

By 2024, we will be debt free and there will be no reason for us to not follow our dreams.

Treading just enough water to get by isn’t enough anymore.

We all deserve to follow our hearts into the unknown.

To go against the grain and discover why we yearn for things we can’t explain.

Maybe one day, I won’t need to leave. I’ll find the thing I need to calm my restless soul. Find the thing that makes my heart sigh and say “there it is” so I can stop searching.

Until then, I’m preparing to answer the call.

The count down has begun.