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.

No regrets

It’s almost that time again. Our anniversary. I no longer add the years but I can’t let the day go by without acknowledging it either.

From the moment I saw Franco, to the night he left me….I loved him. Simply, deeply, effortlessly. It’s like my heart took one look at him and dove off the cliff, knowing that his arms would catch me on the way down.

It’s hard moving on from him.

Acknowledging that level of love may never be an option again. That I may never open my heart that completely again. Fearing to need someone, to want someone that much again, to be willing to be destroyed again.

I recently had a conversation with one of the men I am seeing. He has a strong faith in God and told me he knows that God places people in our lives for a reason, cause he wants us to be happy. I replied with a more calloused answer, emotion making my voice crack. I said “I believe to my bones that God/fate/the universe doesn’t want me to be happy and will take away anyone I bring into my life that makes me happy.”

Admitting it out loud was hard. Putting my fears out into the open.

I struggle with this daily. With being happy and waiting for the rug to be pulled out from me again.

This same man has made me feel like I could be with someone again. I’m afraid for him and for us. I’m afraid to bring him closer, that my dark heart will consume him and hurt him.

It’s complicated and messy on both our ends but I can’t help but want more of him in my life.

I’m trying to keep it light, like it doesn’t matter. Like he’s just another casual person but i know it could be more than that.

It hasn’t been long but he makes me want to give up everyone else and consider being “titled” again.

A “couple” is not a word I thought I would ever want to be again.

I’ve been trying to get better, get my shit together, give myself space to breathe.

Give us time and space to figure out what we want to be, together.

Maybe I am taking this too seriously. Maybe it’s not meant to be forever. Maybe it’s just meant for right now. To heal each other, to care for each other, make us better people for someone in the future.

I don’t want to run from happiness or life but I’m afraid to fall in love again. Cause I could fall for this man if I let myself.

If I wasn’t so broken, I would grab his hand and jump off the cliff together. Dive in and see what happens.

But fear has me locked in place. Shaking and doubting that he would want me back, that he would want to take this broken soul and love it until it was whole again. Doubting that I am worth the effort.

Maybe it wouldn’t turn into love…..maybe it doesn’t have to. Maybe I don’t have anything to worry about.

I worry because it matters, he matters.

Maybe that’s enough for now, to admit to myself and to him.

Maybe instead of running together. He will stroll with me. Easygoing and let the path unfold as it will.

Messy

I have been so sensitive this past week.

I have cried every single day, multiple times a day. On the drive home, with friends, at work. Ending up sobbing in a ball on my shower floor cause i just couldn’t be strong anymore.

I have been flooded by memories of Franco and the life we were supposed to have.

I am a disaster zone and everything is a mess.

I have been trying to move forward and it’s causing destruction on my heart.

I have been reorganizing my house.

I took down pieces from his memorial wall and replaced them with every day items. I’ve been playing with paint colors to paint our room, my loft and bathroom. To prepare for my “Legacy of Love” wall.

It feels like a betrayal of him. Like I’m starting to remove him from my life. I know that isn’t true but it doesn’t stop the guilt from drowning me.

I’ve reached out to close friends to help me to go through his clothes that are hanging in the closet. To love me through it and make it a good day not one filled with reminders of loss.

I know that this is for the best and needs to happen but why does it have to be so damn hard.

Why can’t it be easier?

Am I making it harder then it needs to be?

Am I holding on to this pain because I am terrified to be happy again?

I am terrified that if I allow myself to feel again, to fall in love again……that person will be ripped from my life cause I’m not meant to actually be happy or loved.

So instead I find men who I can have very little emotional connection with so I can feel safe and secure.

My heart is safely locked away so deep behind my walls that it’s impossible for anyone to find but then I am in agony that I can’t trust again.

I want to have a story book romance and I also want to remain detached. I know I can’t have it both ways and it’s tearing me apart.

I can’t handle another “what are you looking for” from another man.

Cause this girl right here has no idea and probably has no right to be in your life, just fucking up your world with her indecisiveness.

I am doing the best that I can but lately it’s definitely not good enough.

Franco’s girl

One of the best things that I ever did for my relationship with Franco was read “The 5 Love Languages” and have both of us take the test after I was done.

It turned out that we matched our 2nd language, which was Physical Touch but where my primary language was Word of Affirmation, it turned out his was actually Receiving Gifts.

For YEARS….I had loved him in my language. I would write him notes, give him cards, text him sweet things or just tell him nice things…..all the ways I received love.

So after that, I changed how I showed my love and I could see the difference in him and in us.

I used to have cookies and other sweets delivered to him at work. I would do it for special occasions and sometimes just out of the blue.

He would share it with his co-workers since I always sent enough to go around.

The boys would get excited when my delivery team would walk in with the baked goods and some ridiculous over the top loving balloon.

It would embarrass him but I knew he enjoyed it cause after he died, I found all the small enclosure cards i wrote in the top of his tool box.

He saved them all.

Initially after he died, I would go and see the boys often and would make sure to bring them cookies or donuts, to let them know I was thinking about them and that I was ok.

I haven’t been to the shop in months. With working full time and a small part time job too, doesn’t leave much time to hang out.

One of the boys mowed my lawn this weekend so I swung by to give him cash.

On the way there, I stopped and got a couple boxes of donuts and as I walked through the shop and delivered them, I saw a lot of new faces.

Faces who didn’t know who I was or who Franco was.

I gave a box to one of the admin ladies and told her she was the gatekeeper to make sure they shared. I dropped the other box at the service department office since that was where Franco worked so they always get special treatment.

I was gonna be late to work so I was rushing out when Debbie called out that she wrote a note that the donuts were courtesy of “Franco’s girl, Stephanie.”

I’ve been thinking about that all day.

I will always be Franco’s girl to them. My identity is wrapped up so tightly with his, that they have no idea who I am without him. They would have no idea who Stephanie was if that was the only thing written on that note.

It doesn’t bother me.

It just reinforces that fact that I will always be Franco’s girl to the ones who knew him first then met me.

No matter how much time passes or where life takes me.

I just hope I’m making him proud of me.

Losing him has been the toughest thing I’ve ever gone through and I have been struggling lately with missing him and realizing that it has been 1.5 years already.

Some days are hard and I end up crying cause I can’t hold it in anymore. When it still feels like a terrible dream that I can’t wake from. When I can’t say his name or talk about him without my throat closing up and breaking down.

Most days though, I can talk about him. I can joke and tell stories about meeting him or the first time I saw him. About our crazy adventures and I will just laugh and smile with the memories.

I spent 1/3rd of my life loving him.

Some of my favorite memories are with him. My Alpha male, best friend, battle buddy and my Baby.

We had a inside joke when we would get introduced to new people. It was from one of the fast and furious movies. He would say his name was Alpha and I was Mrs. Alpha. The people always looked at us confused and we would look at each other and just laugh before telling them our names.

I miss his smile and the special wink that he would give me.

I hope that he is looking down on his girl and encouraging me as I’m doing the best I can and moving forward with my life.

No matter what, I will always be proud to say that I am Franco’s girl.

What if I never get over you?

I heard this song today and it stopped me dead in my tracks.

It’s like the words came from the secret place in my heart. The place I try to convince that everything will be ok and that my story doesn’t end here.

It’s by the band Lady Antebellum.

“….It’s supposed to hurt, it’s a broken heart
But to movin’ on is the hardest part
It comes in waves, the letting go
But the memory fades, everybody knows
Everybody knows….”
“…What if I’m tryin’, but then I close my eyes
And then I’m right back, lost in that last goodbye?
And what if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?
What if I never get over you?…”
“….Maybe months go by, maybe years from now
And I meet someone and it’s workin’ out
Every now and then, he can see right through
‘Cause when I look at him
Yeah, all I see is you….”
“….What if I’m tryin’, but then I close my eyes
And then I’m right back, lost in that last goodbye?
And what if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?
What if I never get over you?….”
“….What if I never get over?
What if I never get closure?
What if I never get back all the wasted words I told ya?
What if it never gets better?
What if this lasts forever and ever and ever?…”
“….I’m tryin’, but then I close my eyes
And then I’m right back, lost in that last goodbye
And what if time doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do?
What if I never get over you?…”
“….What if I gave you everything I got?
What if your love was my one and only shot?
What if I end up with nothing to compare it to.
What if I never get over?…”
“…Oh, if I never get over
What if I never get over you?….”

Water

I could tell you were lonely, cause I was lonely too. The haunting look in your eyes when my hands were on your face. The way your body fit against mine. That gentleness was my undoing.

You made me feel like I could be ready, ready to love someone new.

You made me wish I could tell you that I had been looking for you.

Instead of telling you the story of the One I never thought I would lose.

I would have given anything to tell you that you might be the one I took a chance on.

To let the faint stirrings in my soul, awaken into a storm that consumed us both.

I stood at the edge of the cliff, hesitating, looking for a sign from you.

Listening to my brain tell me not to jump, feeling my heart whisper “you don’t have to jump, you just have to let yourself fall.”

I dove into you like water.

Letting the stillness and silence surround us, bodies twisting and turning effortlessly.

I reached out to you, over and over.

Trying to bring you into me but you just turned away.

Leaving me to the darkness and fear.

The pain filled my chest and I sunk like a stone, praying it would pull me under.

Pulling me back to the place where i couldn’t feel anymore.

Letting rage at my own stupidity burn away any glimpse of hope for love.

Tucking back into myself so far that the light couldn’t reach me.

So it would stop tempting my heart to beat again.

Heartbeat

The dreaded day had finally come.

February 17th.

I had made it through my first year without him.

I had warned my family and friends that I was going to go into a social media and contact black out starting the 16th.

I didn’t know how bad that it was going to get for me. I didn’t want to fall apart with the world watching.

I made sure to drink quite a few beers before I tried to sleep on the 16th. I didn’t want to risk laying in bed. Reliving that life shattering phone call.

I slept deeply and dreamlessly till about 6am. Then I crept as quietly downstairs as possible. Made coffee while I watched the gray skies as the sun slowly woke up. Hoping the rain would hold off.

I took his orb from it’s normal spot and held it in my hands as I played his memorial photo video. It had been more than 6 months since I watched it.

The tears ran down in streams, silently and I watched the photos fade in and out on the screen. School photos, baby pictures, sports photos, then our photos.

Memory after memory hit me with each photo. I could remember taking each one and the look he would give me when I wanted to take his photo. The semi irritated but doing it to make me happy face. It made me smile and I felt a peace settle into my soul.

I only watched it once, then put it back in the case and stood watching the rain fall softly outside.

Missing him. Missing who I was with him.

I called Susan, to check in and make sure she was ok. We didn’t talk long but I needed to make sure she knew that I was thinking about her. Especially then.

Trina came down some time later and we decided that since it was raining, we would honor Franco by doing a Fast and Furious marathon. He absolutely loved those movies. It actually turned out to be a great day and excellent way to honor his memory.

As we prepared our shots of Jack Daniels to take for him, we both looked at each other and laughed. Both dreading the shot. As we lifted our shots up, I struggled to say his favorite shot saying, choking on the words. Trina just hugged me close. “Here’s to you…..here’s to me….the best of friends we will ever be…..but should we ever disagree…..fuck you…..here’s to me.”

I don’t know how that saying got started with us friends but he had said it for years. We both would say it together, whenever we were taking shots.

Over all, I thought I handled the day well. Until I realized that I hadn’t been coping well. I stopped doing basic things like cleaning up, paying bills and just let things snowball up.

Neal had been asking me about working on his bikes and I kept putting him off. I had to wait for probate but also, I was not ready to put hands on his motorcycle.

The motorcycle he died riding.

Finally I couldn’t avoid Neal anymore so we agreed that he would come over and we would work on it.

I started without him. Dismantling the metal crate around it. Removing the broken and damaged pieces. As I removed piece after piece, I could feel my burden getting lighter and then a thought popped into my mind.

It just simply said 2 words.

“….It’s Time….”

I realized then that it was time. Time for me to stop being afraid of confronting this issue. Time to stop blaming myself and to get his baby running away. To take him on his final ride, before I bury him at sea. I know that I will do that this year, because in my soul, I know that it’s time to do it.

It took a few weeks, lots of beer and liquor but me and the boys finally finished swapping the performance parts and good parts from totaled bike to his second bike.

His second bike had broken down on Neal while he was riding it and I was in Africa. There was a bolt inside the one of the jugs and it had lodged onto the valve head and seized. We were able to swap the entire top end pieces but realized a few odd and end things that need to still be figured out.

I know Neal was nervous as we put the tank on and connected the battery. Triple checking all the electrical connections. Turned the key and the panel lit up and we all held our breath as Neal hit the start button. It roared to life before the switch was pushed down all the way. It happened so quickly that it surprised us all and Neal cut it off immediately.

I stood with my arms crossed in front of me and just breathed in deep. Unable to speak. I was holding it together pretty well till I looked at Neal. That big man was red faced and trying to hold in his tears. I lost control then and we just held on to each other. Lots of high fives and group bro hugs were exchanged. We hadn’t videoed the moment cause I think we were all afraid it wouldn’t start.

We backed it out of the garage, started it again and let it run as we checked for leaks and noises.

She just purred.

I can’t even explain how beautiful a moment it was to be surrounded by the men that loved him the most and share this experience with them. To get our hands greasy, drink too many beers, cuss in frustration and laugh at our stupidity. To share the love we all have for motorcycles and for Franco. To hear his heart beating again.

Still have a long way to go till she is 100% the way I want but that is mostly cosmetic. I’m going to paint her because black was never my color. She will be chameleon colored in blues, purples and touch of pink. I want the blues to remind me of his eyes and the other colors cause I’m a lady rider.

I miss him more now than ever and I just hope he knew how much these boys loved him, how much I loved him.