The Final Chapter: Goodbye to a Former Life

The Final Chapter: Goodbye to a Former Life

30 June 2017 and 16 -19 July 2017

Pull up a chair, with a glass of your favorite beverage, and soak in this long thread of the final chapter (I apologize in advance).  -KHB

“From the lines on your face
From a time and a place
When we lived nothing but love”             -Sully Erna “Don’t Comfort Me”

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“It’s time to fall away
It’s time to separate
And maybe we’ll be alright
It’s time to fall away, and baby
Maybe we’ll be alright
Life is but the memories we’ve created
For all those too, remember you and celebrate our life
Life is but the memories we’ve created
It’s time fall away
It’s time to separate…and fly”                 -Sully Erna “7 Years”

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“I’m not the same as yesterday
Ooh…It’s hard to explain
How things have changed
But I’m not the same as before
And I know there’s so much more ahead
I can barely believe that I’m here
And I won’t surrender quietly”                 -Thousand Foot Krutch “E for Extinction”

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“Twisting everything, so tight around me
Like a serpent that wraps around my neck
And showing me no respect
You won’t break me.  You won’t fake me
You won’t rub my nose in shit for one more minute”     -Godsmack “Inside Yourself”

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“So much for the pretty life
I guess we’re landed on the darker side
I thought I do meant until we die
But I guess I was mistaken

You had me thinking you were heaven sent
But you were gone once the money was spent
You’re a nightmare that just won’t end
And I’m not even sleeping
But I won’t hurt anymore

There’s no more tears for me to cry
No more lovin’ you tonight
I won’t regret you
I’ll just forget you
You’re dead to me

There’s no more pieces of my heart
I’ve been broken down so far
You took it all, selfishly
You’re dead to me”                      -Hinder “Dead to Me”

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Part One June 30

I did not ask for this life.  I was not asked to be abandoned.  The coward chose not to deal with a goddamn thing and ran to another woman, 17 years younger.  And he gave me an ultimatum that I chose not to accept.  I told him to do the right thing; to stop, to end it.  I told him I was not going to accept his terms.  I told him it was not okay, I was not going to tolerate his bullshit affair, and I was not going to let him continue to treat me in the horrific, most disrespectful, malicious, and demeaning manner that he did.  I chose to begin the dissolution paperwork.  He wanted it.  I was trying to figure out what the hell happened in a ridiculous short amount of time.  He didn’t want to begin the divorce paperwork.  So I took the initiative.  The fucking buffoon was so far gone in Fantasyland that he thought I was going to be the doting wife, standing off to the side watching the train wreck, waiting for his return when he was done with the homewrecking whore who chose to get involved with a married man.

I dug my heels in, and did what I had to do for me because this abandonment was not about me.  This was about someone else who fled instead of facing every turmoil running through their veins.

I have been through hell: walking through the torrential flames that sear the skin, burn the soul, and leave an emptiness.  I moved past hell to find myself in a different place that I didn’t quite recognize.  I look back to seven, almost eight, excruciating long months.  Two and a half months living together; I would not be where I am today if he hadn’t left, after there was a threat of a judge to make the demand.  Coward.  I was truly lost.  I had zero direction.  The only focus was on school, trying to finish, and even he sabotaged me the last three weeks of my education.  I honestly didn’t know if I was going to survive.  Digging my heels in even deeper, I took another leave from work to get it done.  I grew to love my time on the patio-sun up to sun down, and sometimes into the wee hours of the morning, short of the sun rising.

Months of alcohol numbing the pain.  Even now I’m still in a fog, and I still rely on it to quiet the absence of white noise I missed in the house today, and on other days when I am tuned in to the sounds of a house I’ve dwelled in for 16 years.  I almost panicked today when I noticed my rings missing.  Rings that slowly came off when he erased me, friends and family, to create a different Facebook page (again, still doing things to impress the whore… his only friend.  No, his first friend.  Another delusional woman has also friended him on his new page); my diamond came off just before I went to the SNHU Arena for my graduation in New Hampshire.  I walked into my cousin’s bedroom, broke down into tears, and grabbed a hug from her.  I needed to finish this degree as a Hellinger; a strong woman in my family, and it was critical because my family had been standing there with me since the beginning.  Right there with my support system and close friends.

There are good days, bad days, and dark days.  They won’t go away for a while.  There are some days when I focus on the self-care program because, at the end of the day, I know I’m going to be sitting on my couch, bed, or on the back patio crying because of the grief, depression and loss.  I do recognize I am better off without, but it’s pretty damn hard to discount 16 years at the snap of the fingers…unless you’re my ex-husband.

These are the days I need the hugs.  The words of encouragement.  The boost to my self-esteem.  A reason to feel good about myself because I was so easily discarded as the person told me he knew what he was doing and his “eyes were wide open.”

People see me happy and laughing.  I was at the movie theatre opening day of “Wonder Woman” and left feeling empowered.  I read my email once I got into the car and read that my marriage was officially dissolved.  Done.  Over.  There was no going back; not now, not ever.  I turned the ignition off and let the tears rush, sitting in a hot car.  With the tears went the anguish, anxiety, and cares.  I could begin to move forward; I could begin to heal, but the road is long. I still have my friends and family close by to help me begin healing. I’ve even met a few new friends along the way.  Their roles are a mystery, but they have entered my life for unknown reasons.

I would kill for five hours of sleep.  There aren’t enough beauty products in the world to rid of the hideous bags under my eyes. There isn’t enough perfume in the world to be strong enough for me to catch the aroma throughout the day.  I would enjoy having a slightly bigger appetite, but the small bites and kids’ meals is still almost too much.  I have a fierce focus in the gym.  While others are moving around, talking along the way, I have my workout playlist with the volume cranked and I am focused.  I’m not there to talk. I’m there for 45-50 minutes to work through the ridiculous mess I drowned, treaded, and swam through.  I am sweating by the end, and it feels so good.

I’m trying.  I’m trying hard.  Some days are easier than others.  I may be done with school, but I’m not done with writing.  Just as I look at the future as a positive in my life, I view my writing now as my job.  I am working every day.  If I don’t, then it’s double duty to catch up.  Writing has returned to my life, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of the time I was given to understand this.  It just sucks that I’ve had to go through a nightmare to get to this point.

I am in Camp NaNoWriMo for July to finish the last 50,000 words to complete my novel (formerly my thesis).  It gives me a focus.  I forget about my life when I write.  I am in the zone, focused on the characters, their own conflicts, and problems.  It’s my escape.

My degree was conferred, so this wraps up this chapter in the life of Karen Balch.  I want to say that the name became something I lost myself in, but it wasn’t for me-someone else felt the need to piggy-back off the name I chose, at his suggestion and for “professional reasons,” because it was his name.  I officially shed the name, claiming to be happily Balch-less.

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My self-care day on the last day of June became close to what I imagined.  I needed some new shirts, so I picked out colors that look great against my tan skin, and will look great later on.  I went down a cup size in my bra, negating all the bras I own.  I bought new bras, and asked the sales manager for her opinion, as we both looked in the dressing room mirror.  A dear friend continues to remind me to be kind and gentle with myself.  I remembered and did so.  However, at the end of the day, the rings were missing from a finger; the white noise in the house was completely absent; and I am doing the best I can, day-by-day, to move forward, finding new ways to heal.  My headphones are still on during the days when I simply cannot deal.  I still have an instantaneous mood change that cannot be explained, generally resulting in a flood of tears.  I still let the alcohol numb the pain, but try to do it within my four walls.  My friends and family still understand, knowing this is temporary, but outsiders won’t get it, even if they think they understand.  My house still looks like depression met up with a tornado and it will take an engineer to figure out how to piece everything back together knowing the originals will never fit together again.

Back some time ago, I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.  I didn’t really care for the book: a woman who loses her mother and marriage, and decides to hike the PCT.  Thinking back to her story now, I get it.  I…get…it.  There’s something about a woman trying to find herself in the middle of a tragedy, and doing what she feels is the best path at that specific time.  I’ve been on a two week vacation from coast-to-coast. I spent time with myself, friends and family. I feel better when I’m away from the town. I feel better when I return knowing he’s not around because the buffoon tells me exactly what he’s doing… as if he’s trying to hurt me more.  Just as I know I would never go back East again, I know this town is simply too small for me.  I was meant for bigger things, and this is a message that is becoming louder.  I am mixing the last of the lemons.  I moved beyond boundaries, beginning to build walls safely guarded.  I am trying to thrive while I continue to survive.  I am trying to feel alive while I’m trying to live.  The road ahead isn’t easy, but it certainly does not look like the road I just diverted from.  It’s exciting and thrilling.  But, I still remind myself that I’ve only just started out in this new chapter.

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Part Two July 16-19

The moment in time has arrived to wrap up the final chapter of this journey.  I am still on the back patio, and have spent days writing this.  Encompassing everything so that I can leave this life behind and focus on what’s ahead.  Another door is preparing to close, and new ones are opening.  There have been numerous life lessons:

Lemonade

Trial and error. Wasted alcohol.  Mangled fruit.  Too much sour.

After a burden lifted 47 days ago, I had some clarity and made the near perfect glass.  I added some Grey Goose.  It tasted great because I made it.  What a crap load of work it was to hand squeeze those lemons!  Manual labor is good for the soul though. It humbles us; reminds us that life isn’t always easy.

(John D.- I did it!!!)

Sunrises, Sunsets, Moon Glows, Eclipses

These were never shared with me, so I made them my own.  I made them the reason to keep moving forward through a state of depression.  They are such simple reminders we are surrounded by beauty.  Even if we are shrouded in darkness, the sun rises and sets every day.  Some days are more vibrant than others.  The moon is captivating, no matter how bright it is in the sky, or how low it is on the horizon.  Our gaze upon it mirrors the gravitational pull Earth has to the satellite.

And eclipses?  Well, I experienced several eclipses, and I took some great photos of Venus, as it journeyed through the early twilight sky.  These events took place in 2010, when my mother passed away.  I experienced some of these events alone, just as I did in December 2016, so I am not a stranger to these feelings.  I know exactly what it feels like to be alone.  More importantly, lonely next to someone who said two little words that was supposed to mean forever.  Walking next to a person who would not speak to me, while on a boat, in a foreign country; a horrendous trip and time I will never get back.  It wasn’t my vacation.  That’s coming up in the next chapter.

Doors

Doors have closed.  The doors have both positive and negative meanings.  My education was a positive door that closed.  My life?  Not anything close to what I expected.   But I made a decision to take a stand with conviction and close a door on a marriage that was no longer realistic.

Boundaries

I refused to be touched: no arm, hand, back touching; no fist-bumping.  The absence of physical contact drove him crazy, while I felt safe; I felt like I was protecting myself from a disease.  I set parameters.  I set perimeters.  I placed fences and walls up around me. I let the existing fenced-in backyard, with the house as the fourth block, protect me from the outside.  I now think of the house as a temporary sanctuary.  And one that I’m not sure I want to invite anyone (i.e. a male) into.  At least not where I am in this place, in this moment.

Music

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I have always been surrounded by music.  My siblings played musical instruments.  I sang.  I also play the piano.  I have days and days worth of music.  I had playlists to help me get through seven months of hell:

  • “Beyond Hurt” on the boat (2 weeks) and Chile (9 days), getting me through January and February in NM
  • “Divorce Aftermath” February and March
  • “Welcome to Hell” March, April and May
  • “Power and Strength” May to present
  • “Writing Inspiration” when I needed quieter moments for writing
  • “2016 NaNoWriMo” to internalize the music during major thesis writing momemts
  • “Workout” when working out at the gym and walking
  • “Sleep” January and February because I could not sleep with him in the house…not that it’s any better now, but it’s different

Music will never go away.  It’s part of my DNA.  I love all types of music, but will always be drawn to hard rock.  Lyrics were written to get us to feel, experience, understand, and even heal.  I have tweeted to Jonny Hetherington, of Art of Dying, how the music has helped me time and time again. If I knew other musicians would love to hear the same, would they respond, as Jonny did?  Godsmack, Halestorm, 3 Pill Morning, Saint Asonia, Shinedown, Breaking Benjamin, Madonna, Rev Theory, Sick Puppies, Maroon 5, Katy Perry, Ra, Thousand Foot Krutch, Tina Turner, The Veer Union, CYK, Metallica (of course!), Finger Eleven, Adelita’s Way, Dead by Sunrise, Failure Anthem, Three Days Grace, Plain White T’s; Red Sun Rising, 12 Stones, Girl on Fire, Starset, Gemini Syndrome, Alicia Keys, Cavo, Lindsey Stirling (with Lzzy Hale), Saliva, Day of Fire, 10 Years, Within Temptation…and more with time played at a significant high count because these playlists were repeated close to 20 hours some days

Self-Respect and Self Care

Critically important.  I had to learn how to think, feel, and live in a reality that no longer involved my husband.  It was hard because I gave so much to the marriage.  Even through the muck I could see what the marriage was and appreciate it, and I still do.  However, with only fog goggles, and not night vision goggles, I recognize someone with narcissism.  Married nearly 14 years, and I only received three (3!!!) pieces of jewelry…

I’m still exhausted from sleep deprivation; it’s still out of my hands, no matter how hard I try.  I still beat myself up some days, but overall I’m happy.  My dearest, best friend told me today how much confidence I exude and people are drawn to it.

I have embraced this way of life. I understand I will be a better person to my family and friends because of it.

Empowerment from Struggles

I’m still Wonder Woman.  I’m still a unicorn.  I have already stumbled, but picked myself back up, recognized events for what they’re worth, and moved on.  Despite everything I’ve been through leading up to June 11, I managed a 3.9 GPA!!!  I am, personally, astounded. I honestly didn’t think I was going to survive the final three weeks because I was sabotaged nearly every day.  I struggled at some of the darkest hours, in the darkest of the night, trying to give 50%.  I’m an over-achiever.  I am extremely motivated and driven, but this was not something I was expecting; blind-sided once again.

I dug my heels so deep into the ground, far deeper than my golf shoes when hitting a ball out of the sand trap, I was not afraid to get stuck because it meant that I wasn’t moving to do what absolutely had to be done.  I pushed like I’ve never pushed before.  I had friends asking me if I was alive because I walked away from my cell phone for days.  That .10 that I missed from a 4.0 means that I was human, and I survived grad school in the middle of a long term relationship crumbling.  My advisor told me most students would have taken time off, but when things began to heat up in week 7/8 of my fall term (before and while on the ship), I finished that term, and began to clean up some clutter around the house during my one week off before starting my final term.  There was no way I was going to take a break!  It was my last term.  I was so close.  I had to do it.

My final term was not even easy.  I fought the coursework.  I fought for deadline extensions that I couldn’t believe I was asking for.  At one point, during one specific week, I gave up and didn’t care if I took a hit on points for turning work in late.  I turned in notes instead of a research paper draft, was horrified by a zero, asked why, then returned to see what I submitted; I was thankful I was able to submit the real draft.  There were days I was not even in the right frame of mind to think about reading, writing or even logging into Blackboard.  Those were the days that nobody knew about. Those were the days I fought like I’ve never fought before.  Some days I failed, and failed horribly.  And these were just my academic battles!

Some days I won battles.  Other days, I felt like I was wandering around a battlefield, with the wounded crying out for help while the dead lay quietly still, as bullets and canons flew by me; loud crashing noises after impact was made with the earth, forcing up winds, dirt, and dust.  I was taking a 20th American Century Literature course that I should have withdrawn from and found a different class.  We studied the history of literature through wars.  I was fighting my own war while having to identify parts of literature in WWI, WWII, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement; wars in Afghanistan, 9/11 and post-9/11.  How the hell did I write about poetry, fiction, and other narratives in each respective war, when I had days I couldn’t even get out of bed because of my own war?!?

No person should ever have to go through what I did to achieve this milestone.  But, it’s a part of life, right?  You never know what’s going to happen.

I succeeded.  I powered through.  I survived. I was not going to let anyone, or anything, take me down.  Especially not where my education was concerned; this was the degree I had always wanted, and now have!!!

Safe Space

People are in our lives for a reason.  People come into our lives for a reason, and leave our lives for a reason.  I have learned that it’s better to not ask questions because, most of the time, there aren’t any answers.  My friends really care about me.  They want to see me heal.  They see me happy.  One good friend told me to not wait too long to meet someone because they might help in the healing process.  I don’t know where I want to be with having a man in my life.  No, let me rephrase that.  It’s too soon to have a man in my new life.  This shit gets really heavy sometimes, and I don’t know of anyone who would have the patience to deal with a strong woman; especially in my darkest moments.  Another friend told me I’m going to meet a lot of frogs before I meet my prince.  She also told me to have fun and taste the rainbow.

For the time being, I have built in my own safe space.  It’s a sanctuary I’m not sure I want to invite strangers to…and have no reason to, especially at this point.  (This is slightly redundant.)  I want to have a place I can call my own.  I want to build a home.  I want to go back to Disneyland; it has to be a disease at this point!  I might want to get an MBA.

I am going to enjoy this patio as often as I can through February 2018.  I am planning a 2017 vacation to Australia and New Zealand.  I am planning a 2018 vacation to Walt Disney World.  I am adding D23 Expo to my list of things to do every year because Disney has been in my blood since I was a young child.  I have plans for the rest of the year; we’ll see what path crosses in front of me.  I know there will be a few dates.  I know there will be even more fun and laughter.  There will be two novels and a poetry book needing publication.  I hear Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Story by Dr. Seuss echoing in my ears.

I am taking 2017 by storm, and making waves.  I am not going to stop being a voice. I will continue to stumble and fall, but extremely capable of picking my feet up and pushing forward even harder.  This is going to be a good year for me because it’s me.  To me, for me, about me.

I have Duke, and, while he’s getting older, he is still my rock.  With the world in the palm of my hands, I’m ready to begin the new chapter.  Duke’s coming along for the ride, too.  I hope you’re ready, world, because Karen 3.0 is the next chapter!

Thank you, to my readers, for traveling with me on this journey.  Although this one has come to an end, I am not done yet.  There’s a new horizon and a new story beginning where life collides with writing once again.  I hope you continue to hop in the back seat, buckle up, and enjoy the next story full of more exciting rides (yeah Disneyland…).  I am gathering my splintered self, rebuilding, and there’s only two ways to go from here: forward and up!

Until we meet again, and I promise it will be very soon.  -Karen M. Balch, signing off permanently to make room for Karen 3.0.

 

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The Great Gatsby.

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Unicorns

Unicorns

16 July 2017

Unicorns are mythical creatures.  They are majestic, full of strength, and have magical powers.  Even in legends, they were rare.

Over two years ago, I was on a mega cruise ship.  In search of my (then) husband and his friend, I entered the cigar lounge where they were playing Magic and backgammon.  I was introduced to two other men, and one said, “You do exist!  You are a unicorn.”  Then we began talking about football.  They were told I taught my husband the game of football; I did, but they were having a hard time believing it.  They heard I would always let him smoke cigars.  What they didn’t know was that I was always encouraging him to spend time with “the guys.”  I didn’t need to go on every single camping/hiking trip, because a) it was time alone, b) it was good male bonding time for him, and c) I didn’t need to be by his side 24/7/365, as it was the case far too often.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved my husband-then-, but I have always been independent.  I always cherished the times we spent together, and once I began pursuing another degree, I would block in time on our shared calendar every night to let him know that spending the last few hours of the day with him was important (apparently it wasn’t enough for him though).  These men found it hard to believe such a woman existed…until they met me.

So, the unicorn label stuck.  There are many things about me that come up in discussions that becomes hard to explain the why.  Unicorn.  More recently, after a conversation involving movies from video games, I was told, “You are a legend, Ms. Hellinger.”

In some ways, we are all unicorns because we are so unique.  Some have special powers that makes them extra rare.

I am in my favorite spot.  The patio.  I am soaking in the solitude of a Sunday morning.  Well, afternoon.  And writing with my mega Mickey Mouse coffee mug full of the brown addicting liquid that helps motivate me every day.  I have spent another week on a self-discovery tour, and learned many things.

I was on a quick getaway to the West Coast, and to spend more time at Disneyland.  From this short trip, I learned that I was in the right place, but at the wrong time.  I am still in a wrong time.  I have not healed yet.

I am not vulnerable, but I do not want to let my situation define me.  I addressed this with my therapist (yes, I am not ashamed to say I am in therapy, nor am I ashamed to say I am still depressed).  It took me three months to be strong enough to say I was not going to let someone treat me disrespectfully and maliciously.  Taking a stand the way I did was how I gave myself permission to say I may be the victim, but I was not going to let it define me.  I couldn’t.  I’m stronger than that.

I do want things.  I do need things, but these needs and wants aren’t black and white, and I am still searching for an expression.  I want to be happy, and I am.  I need to be in a better job, where I’m paid what I’m worth and using my degrees.  I’ll get there.  I have a temporary plan.  Nothing is permanent, nor is it etched in stone at this point in my life.  My career is this ─writing─ and I can write anywhere in the world, as I have proven time and time again.  However, the reality is that I need a job to pay the bills, but I no longer have to search for a job to make it a career.  Those days are gone, and something I never had to begin with because I was stuck for far too many reasons.  I was being suffocated and drowned.

Suppressed and oppressed.  The perpetual thumb pressing down hard, on me, holding me underwater, nearly drowning me; only releasing pressure to let me resurface to catch my breath before being pressed back under water again.  This is no way to live.  This is not how people should treat each other.  This is not how a man should treat a woman, and vice-versa.  This is not how a husband and wife should live.  This is not a marriage; this is a prison.

It is said the tears of a unicorn has healing powers.  If this is true, then the tears that rushed, like the power behind any massive waterfall (Niagara and Horseshoe Falls comes to mind), on June 2 swept away anything remaining, only leaving room for healing to begin.  It’s going to be a long road though.

I have spent time traveling over the last 36 days.  It has been a liberating feeling, and interesting adventures have been occurring along the way.  Will I write about them?  Some.  Not all.  Some might end up in a poem, or my next novel, the next work in progress.  Some will remain a secret.  Regardless, I know there are more adventures along the way because my eyes are open.

I have also gone out a few times this week.  Girls night out on Thursday that turned into another drink at the bar right after we were done with dinner (and the restaurant was closing down).  Meeting friends out Saturday night.  It was weird.  Very weird.  I don’t know if it’s because of where I am, and people are starting to see me out more, or if it’s because I am beginning to feel like I don’t belong here (another post, in the new chapter).  Some of my dearest friends are here though, and I still need their support.  I try not to refuse any invitations to any quick weekend getaways.  I am returning to golf more.  I still meet for coffee, tea, lunch, dinner, drinks (wine/beer/bourbon), bbq’s, and other events.  I have other friends who look forward to me joining them in Abq.  I am going to the movies more often.  I am still working out and walking Duke every night.

I am waiting for the grass to dry after torrential downpours on Thursday and Saturday.  The lawn needs to be mowed. I almost bought a weed eater and chainsaw today; I wonder what my friends would think of me not only owning, but using, these power tools…  I need to do some house cleaning.  Yet, I chose to sit outside to write.  I am building new dreams as I write.  My moments of restlessness are a result of six months sitting still; not going anywhere, not doing much but the right thing to get to where I needed to be: this here and now.  However, this restlessness is also a sign that I need to move, get up and do something; go someplace.  Most of the time, it’s my way of wanting to escape again.  Of course, I would go back to Disneyland in a heartbeat, but I need to be in other places.  Interact, mingle, do something alone, do something with friends; meet new people. Explore.  Even Duke gets restless. He seems restless even now, torn between the cool shade, letting the sun warm him on the patio, burrowing into the tall green grass I still need to mow, or going back inside where it’s cool, but it’s not where I am.  He still follows me around the house as I move from room to room.

I have a summer reading list.  Football season is drawing closer, and I have BIG plans for this season.  Cannot wait.  I’m traveling.  Job hunting.  Socializing.  Networking.  I need to remind myself daily that I am still healing, but I want to have fun along the way. (Fun also means being safe.)  The final chapter is getting closer now.  I’m still waiting for my diploma.

I officially return to work on Monday.  Something I’m not really looking forward to, but it’s a job that I can leave when I choose to leave.  There is a bitterness that exists: staff isn’t treated well.  I’ve been treated very poorly during this tumultuous time in my life. I am still in a transition phase. I will be addressing various issues in the future.

I bought an Echo and Dot on Prime Day, in hopes it will help negate the absence of white noise that is still bothersome.  It’s not bad on the weekends because I’m home most of the time.  I have been leaving my iPad on, shuffling through all of the music, thinking that the music helps Duke, too.  We both went from busy noise, to a dull noise, to no noise in a short amount of time.

It’s July 16.  I have 25,000 more words to write by July 31 during Camp NaNoWriMo. I am surrounded by a large group of writers.  I stay in touch with my peers from SNHU, and we continue to support each other.  It’s a great circle to be part of.

Is Natalie a unicorn?  No, but she works very hard to be the successful woman that she is.  There is a backstory I’m writing.  I am also working on explanations after Natalie saves Chad because it does alter a few things, but not drastically.  Nick became Adam during my thesis revisions, and he’s still an asshole.  We learn a little more about Adam with this backstory because there wasn’t enough of his character in what I originally wrote.

I am still Wonder Woman, which is a likeness to a unicorn. With the exception of the house cleaning, I multi-task far too often.  I did scale back significantly this year, and will slowly rebuild.  Inner strength is sheer beauty.  And, since I am procrastinating house cleaning and yard work, I am switching over to write another 3-4,000 words (or more) for the day.  Writing, and being out on the patio.  Simple bliss for a Sunday.

 

Treatment: Pampering and Self-Care

Treatment: Pampering and Self-Care

Written 9 July 2017

Cauterize.  It’s been a word I’ve heard over and over during this interesting week.  I’m still waiting to finalize this part of my life, get into the final chapter and begin a new one.  In the meantime, some of my anxiety has returned.  I’m not sure why.  Because I recognize it, knowing I must deal with, I took extra measures.  I am now in a Tabata bootcamp class, and have returned to yoga.  Without having school as a focus, I redirected it to exercise to release the endorphins; in hopes of releasing the anxiety.  I attempt the challenging moves because it gets me out of my comfort zone.  I had a day of pampering.  I deserve it.  I deserve some of the best things life has to offer.  After everything I’ve been through, these are simple affirmations.

I am learning how to be better to myself.  I smile often.  I am laughing more.  I still get hit with bad and dark days, but I need to find happiness within myself before I can be a better person to someone else.  Isn’t this how it should be?

And I’m still writing.  I have to. I want to finish my novel by the end of July, then begin to focus on revisions so that I can seek publication.  I’m also reading for fun, and beginning to compile my poetry book.  This particular one has been a work in progress since June 2016.  The direction I wanted to go with it never changed; I simply had more material to add.  It’s divided into two parts, and these parts make sense. Again, I don’t want to self-publish, so I will make concerted efforts to seek out publication.

One thing I recognized is that I don’t want to stop traveling, and June has been a heavy travel month for me.  It’s spilled into July a bit, and October becomes my ridiculous month.  I take advantage of traveling to watch and listen.  Being observant is part of a writer.  I also enjoy writing as I move from space to space, city to city, country to country.

Maybe my anxiety has been telling me that I have needed the pampering as a way to cauterize wounds. This is how I can begin to heal.  Scars are deep, and they haven’t exactly begun to close.

After all, this is the only (known) life given to us, it’s okay to want to take care of yourself first.  It makes us better people to our friends, family, loved ones, and even when we meet strangers.  I’m away for a few more days of self-discovery.  Writing is still on my list of daily activities.

 

Roots

Roots

1 July 2017

My family has been through a lot over the last 17 years.  I’m the oldest of five children; now down to four.  Life hasn’t been easy for any of us, but we’ve learned to adapt the best we can.  Including everyone having to adapt to my situation.  I have been hurt, deeply pained, betrayed, and discarded, but family and friends have also been hurt by the selfish actions of one person.

I went “home” for my nephews’ graduations, as I previously mentioned.  I have spent a few days thinking about this particular post because it’s nearing the time to close the chapter on this journey, and begin a new one.  I’m waiting for the official degree conferral, then wrapping up the last of a life I lived.

While that’s slowly brewing on the back burner, I took advantage of the time and location to learn more about myself while home.  I recognized the past as pain and abuse, and buried it when I moved to New Mexico. Unfortunately, some of those scars still affect my life in ways I do not want to discuss here.  I must make huge concerted efforts to move beyond some of them, and only some can be advanced with the help of a person who is patient, understanding, kind, and non-aggressive. Basically, leaving me in the driver’s seat, and there are so many men who either don’t like a strong woman, or unsure how to deal with them.  Some are point-blank intimidated.

I observed everything around me, and realized: I miss and love my family (we’re a large unit), but I don’t miss the drama; nor do I miss the humidity, and I especially don’t miss the snow.  I like the sunshine and dry heat.

Several relatives asked me if there was anything luring me back.  “Nope.”  I’m not going East in my next chapter.  I have no fucking clue where I’m going, but because I was granted the “time” I asked for, I don’t have to figure it out right away either.  I can take my time.  I get a sense I won’t have a place to permanently call home in the future.  I would like to own a house; or maybe build one, but the flipside to owning a house is the upkeep.  It was pointed out to me I’m going to be able to walk away without worrying about getting the house ready for sale.  I can just pack up my personal items and leave.  Of course, the remaining contents in the house are now mine. I have plans for many things, but now is not the time to think about it either.

There is nothing drawing me back home to the East.  There is nothing left for me there.  That chapter was closed the morning, a week and a half after 9/11, as I drove West with the sunrise in my rearview mirror.

After the fireworks, while some people were sitting around the fire, I walked the backyard.  The pool, now buried.  The swing set, long gone.  The camper, crumbled a long time ago; it was my go-to place for studying in my senior year of high school.  The truckbox was emptied after my father passed away in 2000.  The firepit that my brothers and cousin created, large enough for a chair, is only a small border, almost unrecognizable.  It was constructed when I had foot surgery, and spending 5 day weekends at my parents house as my then-boyfriend took my car north to be with someone he hooked up with.  Yes, I know the pattern now and have learned one heck of a life lesson.

So many memories growing up that will remain.  I am the oldest in my family of five.  I still remember things my siblings don’t, or simply don’t know, which is why I’ve had a memoir in progress forever it seems.

Returning to my roots helped me discover I was never really gone, just suppressed and oppressed.  I had freedom then, as I do now.  I am the person who walks around and talks to people; I don’t sit and wait for people to come to me.  I am the one who wants to lift a pallet over my head and toss it into the fire, and I did!  I am not being scoffed at for a drink at 11am.  I do not think I’m above people.  My hometown was just too small for me, as is where I live now.  I returned stronger and more empowered.  I am the woman my niece wants to model after.  More importantly, it was nice to know I didn’t forget myself, and the freedom is simply awesome.

I also haven’t forgotten to write.  I still set aside time, and have a goal to finish my book by the end of July.  I’m still in touch with some of my peers and we’ll be critiquing our newest work.  I am also reading for fun now!  I have a laundry list of things I need to begin doing.  Evidence of my depression is still visible throughout the house, but nobody visits so I can pick at it.  The house and patio has become my place of solitude.

It was nice being away.  It felt good.  It was nice to return to New Mexico, with the sun warming me back up, and having Duke with me again.  We’re adapting and will continue to do so.  I miss my family, but I don’t miss where I grew up.  I spent more than half of my life in New York.  My heart will always be there, but I have spread my wings.  I will continue to fly.

bonfire

 

Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith

23 June-28 June 2017

I returned “home” and to my alma mater for my nephews’ graduation.  It has been so long since I sat where the last group of children, born in the 1900’s, are, proud to be finishing their first major milestone.  At that time, my future was bright, and still is; I’ve completed three degrees, and have a life of opportunities ahead.

I got in late Thursday.  Later than my planned arrival. The minute the plane touched down at Hancock Airport, the tears fell.  I was home, back to my roots, changed.  Stronger, thinner, and my head still held high.  I have been through a great deal, and not just this year, but the last 17 years, with a mix of other things in my life.

At the ceremony, the students waited for their name to be called as they began their walk across the stage.  One student rolled through the grass in his wheelchair with very good friends by his side.  He stopped where the stairs began. He did not use the wheelchair lift.  As his name was called, his friends lifted him out of the chair and helped him “walk” across the stage.  A huge group effort by his friends, school faculty and administrators helped this young man receive his diploma and back into his wheelchair.

How inspiring.  To take a leap of faith and “walk” across the stage.  To know everyone would be there to help him with this huge goal.  To just be in the moment.  That young man is going to go far in his education, and in his life.  He’s not letting any disabilities stop him.

High school is where it all begins.  We begin to learn more about ourselves, and grow into our first layer of skin.  We find like-people to surround us.  Some of those people will be friends for life.  I think it’s worth repeating: high school graduation is the first major life milestone.  There will many more after.

It’s a great lesson, watching the young man be assisted out of his wheelchair, and walk across the stage, with a smile on his face as his legs entwined, defying the direction he needed to go.  It was very moving.  He recognized something in himself, and insisted he was going to walk, not roll, to receive his diploma.  He took a leap of faith because a) he wanted to, b) he knew he could do it, and c) nobody was going to let him fall along the way.

This instills a tremendous amount of pride in my alma mater, where the quality of education is still top-notch in the state of New York (compared to what I’ve seen here in NM, yes, top-notch).

We all need to take a leap of faith in our lives.  I took the largest one when I moved away from New York.  I know there are a few other moments waiting in the wings.  I am also taking a leap of faith with my writing, but not going to stop. I’ve said it before, I think 2017 holds some great mysteries, adventures, and milestones for me

Congratulations to the Class of 2017!  Biggest congrats to my nephews.

One

One

12-21 June 2017

Flying solo.  It’s not the first time, but it’s official. There’s more on that later.  However, the moment arrived on June 11, at 3:30pm when I turned in my very last assignment, turned off my computer, closed the blinds, packed up a dog and a human to spend time away on vacation (I still get separation anxiety when I board Duke).

Or, as I call it, the “escape I’ve been wanting since January.”  I was on a mission, a one week tour, and on a self-care program.  I was celebrating three milestones in life, focusing more on my birthday and graduation.  I was concerned about surviving the last three weeks of school.  I was simply trying to move forward one day at a time.  It was the hardest part of my life, but I am thankful I had the trials and tribulations because it gave me a focus.  This is something I’ve spoken of many times.

One.  It was just me.  “How many in your party?”  One.  “How many?” Just one.  Single riders inquire here.  So I did.  “Tell me about single riders.  I’m one.”  A few male cast members fought over who was going to give me a pass as a single rider on the Indiana Jones ride; the third one-upped them and gave me a pass that was even better, and more like a Fastpass.  It was my birthday, after all! They asked about my novel, that I am now calling the most anticipated read of the year.

I spent the best three days of my life at Disneyland, and completed a bucket list: physically spending my birthday at both parks in CA and FL.  I was at Walt Disney World five years ago.  Crazy how time flies!

I did my normal 14 hour marathon. I got the photo I’ve always wanted: an empty Main Street at night.  I ate a little, treated myself to a manicure/pedicure, a nice steak birthday dinner, and discovered the kids menu around the parks was better suited for my appetite.  I lost more weight.  I watched the fireworks on my birthday.  I spent time hanging out in Mickey’s house.  Sitting on the couch, at his desk, shaking my head at the kitchen, and his gardening tool house (still not for me).  It was great…and I forgot to get selfies!!!  Mickey applauded me, and Pluto gave me wet kisses.  LOL.  I want to thank the Green Army Men who taught the crowd how to clap.  I was on the bench finishing two beers before heading back over to Disneyland.  I was drinking when the Sergeant told a guest, “There isn’t any noise when your hands are open, ZZ Top action figure!”  and almost spewed the drink out. He spoke to “ZZ Top action figure” several times during their performance.  I am not afraid or ashamed to laugh out loud, and that’s exactly what I did.

I enjoyed my drinks. I found another new hangout place in California Adventure, in conjunction with the Karl Strauss beer truck.  I had a stalker. I met some new friends, and spent the remainder of my last night in the parks with them.  We met another person who was doing a one-day marathon and wanted to get in a few more rides before he had to leave.  One became three, then four for a while.  AND, there was football talk; three NFC East rivals/fans present: NY Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys.  (The season can’t come soon enough!)

I had the best time with me, myself, and I.  I was told if anyone could pull off Disney alone, that it would be me.  And I did it.  I did it all.  I would do it again. In fact, I’m itching to go back.  Disneyland is a short flight west.  I am also looking at a 2018 Walt Disney World vacation, before I say goodbye to New Mexico.

I have stories.  Then again, as a writer, don’t we always?  I spent time with my in-laws and helped a very special young woman celebrate her first major milestone graduating from high school.  I am proud of her.  She’s seizing an opportunity to pursue her dreams.  We’ll be friends for a long time, and I’m still proud to call her my niece.

If I can replicate a Carthay Manhattan (there’s still something missing), then I can do something with these lemons that are still waiting to be pulverized into the perfect drink.

I miss my patio days.  I miss writing from sun-up to sun-down.  I miss the days waking up late (because sleep still eludes me), not having to go into work because I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I couldn’t perform efficiently.  Several of my family and friends might be relieved to know the drinking has slowed down, and I’m rebuilding my bar.

There are new chapters ahead, but I can’t get to them yet until I finish writing the last ones to wrap up this journey.  I have learned a few more things about myself during the week away.

And for my thesis?  Well, I have approximately 50,000 more words to write to complete the novel, and I’m still writing.  Now, I call it work and make it a priority to write every day.  I have some back stories to insert, and a few clarifications to make.  It is an epic story, and a crossover where women’s fiction meets speculative fiction.  There is female empowerment.  There are moments of paranormal activity.

Stories, journeys, lemons, individualism, an empowered woman; a sister, a daughter, a cousin, a niece, a friend, a new friend; a stranger, a peer, a colleague, a former student…a writer.  I’m not going anywhere, and, as I mentioned, there are a few more chapters remaining here.  More importantly, there is nothing wrong with being alone.  There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.  I am far from the latter.  I encourage you to embrace being alone sometime!

Stay hydrated and cool!

Featured image: Stunning New Mexico sunset.  Below: Walt and Mickey.
Photos by Karen M. Hellinger.  2017

File Jun 21, 11 44 56 AM

 

Crashing

Crashing

9 June 2017

It’s another month of spending time on the patio, writing, reading, listening, learning, growing, and finishing school.  This is week ten!!!  Two long days away.  It’s short because today is Friday and Sunday is the end of this journey.  It’s long because I am working on my thesis defense, and other components of my second final project for my English class, and revising my research paper for my 20th Century American Literature class.  The good news is the bulk of the writing is done, and I can focus on revisions.

The fence that divides my yard from my neighbors has been in disrepair again.  It’s been propped up for several weeks now.  Nothing says vulnerability as much as a fence that’s on the ground, leaving a wide-open gap exposed.  The rabbits loved it, as Duke and I would discover them eating the grass on the lawn in the mornings and evenings.  However, I felt unsettled.  Add this to the wide range of feelings and emotions that hits me at any given moment of any given day; it’s not pleasant.  But, I am no longer responsible for something major like this.

Thursday was a chaotic day.  I felt like I walked into a storm, feeling the power of the waves crashing against me.  Because of a growing strength (on many levels), I felt the force bump me, knock me around, and try to throw me off my feet.  It didn’t last anything more than a minute before I realized what was really happening.  I walked up to and through the waves, walking past the sound of them whipping and whirling, making contact and impacting rocks and the shore.  The shock factor that followed was watching me walk away. And I didn’t look back as the door closed behind me.

The next storm that soon followed was more like a shipwreck.  I braced myself.  I observed the storm, taunting me to with a destructive force, chiding, searching for any loose items that could easily be manipulated and pulled away by the brute force of wind and water. I survived, with the boat intact, but slightly battered and bruised.

A third storm of waves was released later in the evening.  I stumbled. I phoned a friend, discussing the storm, as I was in the moment, and we talked for hours.  It is nice to have friends to turn to at all hours of the day, but I still spend the worst parts of the night piecing together moments of my life alone. I still attempt to wrap my head around the train wreck that hit me at full speed not so long ago.  The short duration, and the lightning speed of actions to immediately follow, makes it nearly impossible.  But, I think I found a book that might help me understand more.  We’ll see.

Sleep still eludes me.  The adrenaline continues to pump through every crevice of my body.  The big crash is coming, but, as my friend and I agreed knowing who I am, it will occur in smaller waves, not being as dramatic…which will be rather refreshing.  But it is coming.

My revised thesis was turned in this past Sunday.  It was complete, as far as the assignment dictated.  But, to begin querying an agent or editor it still needs approximately 50,000 more words.  This means the story is not over yet!  A few edits were made, including changing the name of Nick to Adam.  It seemed to suit the character better.  He was fleshed out a little more, enough to satisfy the final thesis.  What I discovered was his back story that will be written as part of the 50k words to turn it into a complete work of fiction.  I will admit there was one moment when I thought about the 138 page thesis, pitching it as-is.  It is a great product of how hard I’ve worked for 15 months, and writing it in less than 7 months. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby as a short novel, and the book is brilliant!  I had a rock star moment thinking mine could be just as brilliant, but the reality is if I pitched it today, it would be too short.  It still needs more.  I know exactly what I have to do, and will not waste any time writing to reach “The End.”

I am battered, beaten, torn down a little, vulnerable, uneasy, exposed, uncomfortable.  However, I am freakishly strong, independent, learning how to walk through the forces of water after walking through fire, empowered, and finding the right tools to deal with the extremely bruised psyche.  The fence is temporarily repaired, and even single boards have been reattached, so I feel safe once again. I  am focused on finishing the last remaining days of my education strong.  The final chapters of this journey are almost written to its own completion.  The bushel of lemons is on my counter again as I try to make the ultimate lemonade.  “YOU CAN DO THIS” remains on my computer monitor as I force my way through the storm that’s not quite over yet.

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