Longtime visitors to Thoughtcrimes have been with me through the romantic foibles scattered like shrapnel rain of storms past. It’s even gotten to the point where my brush-off go to move is ‘You’re quite lovely, but WHEN things go awry, we’re really going to disrupt (insert whatever organization or shared social group fitting here).”

I no longer say “You’re quite lovely, but IF things go awry . . . ” Nope. I say WHEN and not IF. And my romantic history accounts for just that with 100% statistical accuracy.

With Clare, we both felt we’d reached a point with each other of the mythical “reset button.” Since the first day we met. We had all the reasons why, and to us it was not mythical, and to steal from Postal Service:

I am thinking it’s a sign

That the freckles in our eyes

Are mirror images and when

We kiss they’re perfectly aligned

We got sick. I got paranoid and defensive, she got paranoid and mean. Still, we had two days of lucidity when we figured out the freckles still aligned. I went in to the hospital and came out. She went into the hospital and didn’t come out. And despite the fabrications, blame-shifting, and outright fairy tales told about me (and I have an audio recording of this, so there should be no need for false denials), the one time I was able to work my way into seeing her, she was lucid enough for me to say, “It’s always been effortless to love you. And I still got my reset button. Thank you. I love you.” And she heard me. And she cried two tears that I wiped away with the back of my hand.

And that, ladies and gents and those of questionable, delusional ilk, is why it’s been difficult moving forward with my life that lacks my love Clare. I spent Christmas to myself yesterday. The intent was to take Clare to fog, planned well ahead of October. She wanted to see fog once in her life. The best I could do was take her on top of Sandia when the inversion layer blankets the crest. It’s been difficult because the reset button was expressed every day, and I got so comfortable in an everlasting reset button would be for a lifetime. And it was, only it was a lifetime that encompassed far too short a time to complete all the promises I made to Clare.

I can’t help but think of taking her to K-Flay in Tucson (had to give those tix away), to take her to Seattle to see her beloved Seahawks, to take her down the Oregon coast where in Northern California she could walk through the Redwood forest where fog is a regular inhabitant. To take her to a Ducks game. To take her to the area around Moab. To travel the world with her. To work on Stand Up To Stigma and change the world, really change the world. To do dick things like Coscto cart rides and exploring abandoned buildings. To go to Popejoy for events. To play dress up and go wine tasting. To have our picnic in the cemetery. To pick clover for Blindboy and Stupid. To do flying dog with Hammy. To do the McCall’s Pumpkin Patch thing. To do the Halloween Meow Wolf event. To spend more time having the friends most important to me get to know her well, and they went out of their way to do so because they saw the change in me. To take her to Tahiti to meet my mom’s family, including favorite cousin Hiro. To bring Bella Josette Castellano-Bringe and Cole Stanley Castellano-Bringe into the world. To love her. For always. Because it was effortless.

With all these thing gone unfulfilled, it’s tough to move forward. I miss her, and we had a life parametaquasi-planned together. I miss her.

I won’t fib that I still dream of her EVERY night. I won’t fib and that she and I have conversations in my slumber every evening. And I won’t fib and that each of these songs are coming from my conversations with Clare during slumber.

I won’t deny that my friends saw a remarkable turn in who I was, telling more lighthearted jokes rather than acerbic jokery that could be taken as cruel in the proper context.

I was happy.

So that is truly why it’s most difficult to move forward. Together, we knew a happiness neither of us had experienced ever, and it was good. It was the reset button.

The last month of her life and the last two months she was on this earth with me were torture. And that they don’t reflect who either of us are, and that our behavior was a sure sign our bodies and minds were falling to shreds, I’m choosing to allow those to be a transitional period where, if Clare had lived, we would have worked together to move forward.

Moving forward on my own, this is rough.

I wrote a song. “Hua Hua.” It’s a really great song, a few blog articles back. And that song really resonated with me this morning, and for the very first time I felt I could begin to move forward without Clare by me, snuggling in bed, holding hands, lying in the grass, playing on the swings…

I finally feel after two months of her being gone that I can begin to move forward. The song helped. Clare is gone forever on this planet, and she is not gone for good. This is reflected in Hua Hua. So I can move forward much easier (but it is not easy).

Also, for the first time in my dreams, last night Clare told me “It’s time, Steve. We’ll always love each other. We just weren’t right for each other. I always told you I would die young, and you stayed with me anyway. You said we’ll live moments. I love you for that. It’s time, Steve. Move forward. Find happiness again.”

So now I move forward, and I will live with the grief, and I will learn to allow the grief to be within me. Much like my Mom who has been gone since 2011. I still cry for my mom, I miss her, and losing Clare feels so much the same. I will find happiness again, and in large part it’s because I’ve reserved space in my heart for both Clare and my Mom. And that makes me feels good. And it makes me feel good about myself.

Something else Clare told me in my dream last night is to forgive. I wrote my letter to her “father”, and she said moving forward is to forgive him for his selfish choices that I strongly feel shortened Clare’s life with me. She said holding on to the emotions surrounding her family and the lies they told her, she knows the truth now, and she should have never doubted me. So she requested I forgive and not doing so will anchor me to a family and friends who I . . . well, I nothing them because they are nothing to the life Clare and I shared.

For Clare, I forgive. And I move forward unburdened. Let go, begged Clare.

Some may say it’s weird or insane to believe I can speak with my Mom and with Clare through my dreams. The nice part of being me is I never feel I have to explain myself and just because fabricated drama, ignorance, and blame might be levied towards me, the only people in my life I feel earned explanations from me are my Mom, Scott, my Dad, Derek, and Clare.

I wrote Hua Hua. I’ve had my conversations and guidance from Clare and Mom during slumber, and it’s the weight of a thousand monkeys falling off my back.

She is free of Bobby who “Is a really great guy except when he drinks and then he beat me.” (Clare often told me he is fugitive status under bench warrants, a fact not lost upon me, and a fact my APD and Valencia County law enforcement colleagues now know). I’m free of the women like Rasma who cheat on me and abuse me emotionally (I’ve heard my own questionable qualms from friends that could also land her in criminal issue, such as subscribing to my YouTube channel of all things).

We freed each other. We did this for each other. Reset button.

Moving forward is going to be rough, and I am equal to the task, and I feel the honest emotion that I’m ready.

Thanks, Clare. Thanks, Mom. I’ll see you again and we can all do crazy, fun shit together again.

Feeling true heartbreak and honest emotion unhindered by mental health issues is a HUGE milestone. And that I haven’t broken because of losing the woman I love and the woman I was 100% vulnerable with is a HUGE milestone.

Clare is a large chapter in my recovery journey. And I won’t trade that for anything.

What an interesting Recovery Journey I live.