Traveling Freedom

Traveling Freedom

5 October 2017/11 October 2017

One of the best things we have, as U.S. citizens, is freedom.  One of the greatest moments I have is being able to pack up and travel when I want.  There are too many people who still have an opinion, or expect me to stay planted, and this simply won’t work any longer. I have suffocated long enough.

I’m going to stand on my soapbox for a moment; one friend calls it a soap stage, but a stage is wide and big, and I plan for this to be short.  There are days I remind myself that the clock is ticking, and I can stick it out. Then there are other days I just want to spread my wings and get the hell out of dodge. Either way I am going to call it Operation Freedom 2017.  This also means certain details will remain extremely secretive as I move forward. #soapboxoff

How do you pack for an 8-day business trip that allows only a day and a half of time off to do something fun? Shoes has been my biggest obstacle.  In fact, I had to be strategic about the shoes that needed to be coordinated with outfits.  Welcome business casual.  Goodbye high heels. I needed clothes to fit both day and night, preparing for the warm weather in San Antonio, TX.

It’s been rather liberating packing a suitcase for short and long trips. I’ve always spent time alone flying, but this is a different kind of feeling.  I’m free.  I don’t have to entertain anyone (but myself) on the plane.  Although, I must say I have been experiencing some great moments, and I’m pretty sure I’m the one entertaining those around me; stories to tell.

This freedom.  This innate ability to come and go has been all part of my healing process.  Packing clothes for layering, for different times of the day, for various events through an 8/9 day trip; clothes for the weather, business, business casual, casual and gym. Shoes to mix and match, and ones that have low heels to tolerate walking, sitting, and standing. A blazer and two sweaters. Socks, but not a bathing suit (I won’t have time).

It’s time for more writing.  It’s time to plan “the most anticipated novel of 2018.” It’s time to begin thinking about how I want my plot to evolve; how the characters are going to take over the page; how I want to approach the entire novel, which will be a work of women’s fiction, unlike my thesis-turned-novel. I need to think about character names. I already have the setting established: a mansion on a private island.  How events begin to unfold is going to be the best part of writing this novel, and I cannot wait to begin November 1 for NaNoWriMo.

And I’m sure that’s going to be another traveling adventure story.  They keep compounding!

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Aspects of Fall

Aspects of Fall

24 September 2017

Fall is officially here!  The temperatures are slightly cooler in the morning and beginning to drop more in the evening.  Here in New Mexico, the sun still keeps us toasty during the day.

I’m torn between which season is my favorite: summer or fall.  I love summer because of the dry heat; I can curl up on a chair on the lawn with a book and an icy beverage and get lost in another world, and I love to live in my tank tops, shorts and flip flops.

I love the fall because of the temperatures, which makes it easier to walk Duke early evening. There’s green chile that I will never be without in my life, and took time to package my own last weekend.  It took me the majority of the day, but was something I felt that I had to do.  Next year, I may buy it already roasted, peeled and cut, but for now, I’m happy with the 14 containers in my freezer, while also setting some aside to eat fresh last week.  I enjoy cooler nights huddled in a chair, wearing a bulky sweatshirt next to the fire pit; it’s the perfect time to play more golf, and, of course, football. I love receiving packages of apples from home, and my aunt sends me the different colors of maple leaves.

Unfortunately, the fall is also a season where every part of the environment bothers my allergies, and I suffer.  I’m not the only one; poor Duke is on allergy medicine for a few months every fall and spring now.

I created new summer traditions, and beginning to create new fall traditions, although every season and holiday now warrants a new tradition.  I am always thankful for friends and family.  I have turkey day plans now, which I am very excited about. I am off the hook for cooking (of course), but in charge of the pies and cranberry sauce. I have a new freedom in December, and plan to spend it with my sister, her husband, and my new nephew ready to enter this crazy world in a matter of days!

Fall is a great season to use for showing (not telling) in writing.  You can see it: leaves changing color, leaves falling off trees, crops being harvested; baseball winding down, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta; feel it: cooler temps; a crisp morning chill that justifies why we dress in layers in NM; hear it: leaves rustling on the sidewalk, on the lawn, being tossed up in the air or in garbage bags; the echo of high school, college, and professional football games being played across the country; taste it from foods associated with the season: apples, green chile, pumpkin; and even smell: there’s a distinct smell in the crisp air, lawns still being mowed, the first cool night that causes fireplaces to be lit and the smell of burning wood infiltrating the atmosphere; green chile being roasted; I begin to bake a little bit more, and I even change my perfume according to seasons.

I have used the seasons and weather to show my readers where characters are in a story.  Weather can certainly play an important factor, as I used the howling snowstorm in my previous (unfinished) novel, Stricken, to set up the turmoil my protagonist endures.  Finishing Stricken, followed by Women in the Library, is my early 2018 goal after I have moved and settled in to wherever my new home will be.

I begin edits on Natalie’s story in October while plotting out my next novel for NaNoWriMo.  Another sign that fall is here, and I’m excited to have another focus once my October volunteer obligations are completed.

Life is certainly exciting, and I am keeping busy.  I am also focused on ways to bring happiness into my life.  I auditioned for Socorro Sings yesterday. Although I didn’t get picked to advance to the December 1 competition, all who auditioned were invited to return to sing a group song on that day, and I just might do it.  I figured I would have a better chance being published than picked from a singing audition, and I gave it my best.  It’s really nice bringing the arts back into my life.

While I’m done watching my team today, I do have the Red Zone and NFL Mix, on the tv in the background.  This is the perfect fall day to sit on the patio and get some serious writing done!

Images below by Karen M. Hellinger, 2017.  Green chile: from roasted to cooled to peeled. This is the good stuff New Mexico has to offer!

Soaring

Soaring

18 September 2017

This is football season.  I am back to my “fall” schedule, watching my New York Giants play, while paying attention to how the other teams in the NFC East are doing, knowing the tv will be on all day Sunday, Monday and Thursday night until playoff season.  Some days I have the Red Zone displaying, so that I can watch everything.  I contemplated not renewing my Sunday Ticket this season for financial reasons, but it’s really hard to live without it.  I’ve been an avid NFL since I was a child. And now I’m adding college football to my fall repertoire. This is really going to be a fun 2017!

For the first time in 2 years, I returned to an NFL game.  I met up with friends in Dallas to watch NYG lose terribly. I am still perplexed that there wasn’t a bigger focus on offense during the draft.  Our O-line hasn’t been cohesive. I am thankful the defense is strong… Hopefully, they’ll do much better for Monday Night Football.

So, this has been quite a week.  From suffering a minor hand injury the Friday before I left for Dallas, to flying back Monday morning, then dealing with a perpetual 2 year old deciding to tango with a skunk, a concert that was temporarily stopped for 30 minutes due to thunderstorms, the NMT President’s Golf Tournament, Saturday football, preparing green chile for freezing, and Sunday football.

I mentioned going to a concert.  A friend went with me.  I had lawn seats, but I wasn’t going to complain since the tickets were free. It wasn’t one of my top picks, but I wasn’t sure I would have the chance to use my voucher before it expired.  At least it was a rock concert, and at an outdoor venue that I enjoy attending.

I was looking down on the stage, and my friend noticed I was distracted. I began talking about events over the past week.  He pointed out to me that I had always watched football and attended concerts long before I met my ex-husband.  I was claiming to take it all back, but he pointed out that it was mine all along; I was simply sharing my experiences with him.  He’s right.  He does a very good job putting things into perspective when I’m trying to juggle with my thoughts, or attempting to piece things together to make some sense of my life.

Maybe that’s why he says I’m Karen 4.0.  I skipped the phoenix cliché, by not just rising out of the ashes, but jumped straight up from the ground, not even preparing to take flight, to soar. The same friend who once reminded me to be gentle and kind to myself earlier in the year was the first to comment that I am soaring.

I am soaring because I have the support of my friends and family.  I am soaring because I still fight battles (that many don’t see or know about) and I resolved to put “fun” back into my vocabulary and life. My wingspan is wide.  Everyone has a different definition of fun.  My definition includes: being happy, laughing, enjoying time with friends as if it is the last, talking to family; doing the things I love to do, and living life.

And my imagination has gone wild, constantly creating stories and poems.  I have a large file full of story ideas.  Or, the ideas that I capture immediately. I do not like being without pen and paper most days.

The time has come for me to wrap up the story of Natalie and Adam.  This is a good story, and one that should be read. The themes between this one and the next are going to intertwine a bit, so I will need to spend time including a twist to make each one sound exciting and new. Between everything else I have going on in my life, and watching my calendar continue to fill up, I am looking forward to the finale of the story; the sigh of relief with a large smile knowing my novel is as complete as it can be.

New routines.  That’s what I’ve found with the return of the NFL season-new routines and time management. I have music to practice, a novel to write, a poetry book to wrap up, friends to hang out with, a life to declutter, and a dog who is under close supervision after the skunk incident this past week.  I have finally gotten the smell out of the house, so now I am waiting to take him to the groomers to rid of any last remaining smell.  I guess most people would be terribly upset about this type of episode, but I have found myself laughing (with tears running down my face) because there’s nothing I can do about something that is done.  I simply have to clean up the mess, fumigate the house, and watch him closely when he goes out at night. Yeah, I’m still chuckling a little.  This is my first skunk incident.

I do like fall. I look forward to my NY apples to eat and make pies. I love football.  I forgot what I was doing long before I went back to school, but the only thing that matters now is what I want to do every day. I still take things one day at a time, and thankful on the days I only manage to breathe, but the other days that are full of laughter more than makes up for the harder days. This woman is soaring, but still remembers to touch ground every so often.

Photos: Hoffman hot dogs and coneys from NY-the only food to grill while tailgating with friends. Arlington, TX, for the NYG vs Cowboys game, Sept. 2017.

Signs of Summer Ending

Signs of Summer Ending

4 September 2017

The Great New York State Fair signifies, to me, that summer is coming to an end.  It is a fashion faux pas to wear white after Labor Day, but I created my own fashion rule because I live in a state where we can wear shorts through October, and the monsoon season has officially ended.   When I hear of the leaves beginning to change their color back “home” (NY), I’ll know summer is done here.

I have been keeping busy.  Preoccupied.  Some of my friends have made concerted efforts to keep me busy over a long weekend, and for this I am thankful.  My social calendar seems to be full 2-3 days every week.  I love the days I am with friends, and appreciative of the quiet time I have when I’m alone.

Then I wonder if I’m too busy.  I’ve been told that I haven’t wasted any time getting rid of things in my life that simply aren’t good for me; I have officially begun decluttering specific rooms, getting rid of clothes that no longer fit, and thinking seriously about packing items I won’t use over the next 5 months..  I exploded from Karen 3.0 to Karen 4.0.  In fact, it seemed like the transition happened overnight, but I wasn’t aware of it until I questioned a friend who kept repeating, “4.0.”  Overall, I am filling my days with everything that helps with the self-care program.

Writing.  I’ve had so many people ask me what is the next step, what do I want to do, where do I want to go.  I tell them writing is my full-time career.  I know what I want to do.  I think I know where I want to go (and don’t want to go), but I am being super-selective in giving information, and will be for some time.

I was left in a bad place; I am nowhere near being paid for all the work I do, that is meant for two people. I simply need a good paying job that pays the bills…and have a paycheck that is indicative of my worth. However, that’s a soapbox I’m not going to stand on at this point.  Writing is my new life, and I wonder how I let it slip away from me; a past that has become a huge life lesson. This motivates me to push myself, to find a way to get my work published.

The backstory, as much as I can provide, for Natalie and Adam is complete. I am in the final month finishing my thesis turned novel.  I’ll spend October revising and plotting out my next novel, that I plan to complete in November. NaNoWriMo 2017, here I come!  I am growing more excited about my writing projects. I am even more excited about getting back on the road, in the skies, and around cities to help feed my muse.

And in between some of my huge volunteer projects, work, writing, socializing, and spending quiet time to figure out my next plan in life, I am still working on my full-length poetry book called Broken Systems.

The world is too big to stay in one place. Metallica sings it best in “Wherever I May Roam”-“where I lay my head is home.”  I am almost ready to spread my wings even further to see just how far I can fly. In my flight pack is my trusty Surface that will keep me connected, transforming images to words. In my hand is my phone, with a notepad always available to help when I am separated from my Surface.  I am still healing, so writing is even more important to me.

It’s officially Labor Day and I hope everyone is out and about enjoying food cooked on the grill, keeping hydrated with your beverage of choice (I’m kicking off my afternoon with friends and a Manhattan before dinner), and enjoying time with anyone you’re near. If you’re alone, find something fun to do: watch a movie, read a book, get in your car, crank the music and sing at the top of your lungs.  Embrace yourself and the day you have. Life is too short; we need to make the most of every day.  Maybe next year I’ll place myself on a beach; something I miss.

Happy Labor Day to my friends and readers! I promise I won’t be so far in between posts moving forward. Cheers!

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Moving Forward

Moving Forward

13 August 2017

It’s Sunday.  I woke up rather late, but was glad to sleep in.  Even as the clock was nearing noon, I didn’t really want to get out of bed.  This is my depression.  It certainly didn’t help that the sky was overcast, but it cleared up.  So, here I am now, writing on the patio again.  I am still in a fog; I can’t remember what I did two days ago, let alone last week.  It’s been a while since I’ve been on the patio writing, with coffee and enjoying a mimosa on a Sunday.  The single serving bottles of prosecco are perfect.  Tonight might be the perfect night to sit outside, under the low lights placed below the roof trim, and to try out my new lights I have draped along the base and umbrella of the patio table.  The Perseid meteor shower should be visible in the sky, unless it’s cloudy as it was last night.

I am well aware I am still in a moderately depressed state, as I look around the house knowing I have to clean, but not getting to it.  These are the days that I evaluate my mental well-being to figure out what I need to do.  Some days the answer is get some sun, and not just to keep rocking this deep brown tan I now have, but to let the vitamin D soak into bones as I have been in a state of surgical menopause well over 11 years now. The four walls of my temporary home, now called my sanctuary, provides protection, but I have been writing, reading, studying, editing, researching, and blogging so much on the patio, it really is my favorite place to be.  Too bad that work thing gets in the way.

Writing is my new career, and now a permanent part of my life. I am in the early stages of brainstorming to figure out what I want to do in the next chapter of my life, and it appears some opportunities are already falling into my lap.  I’m approaching this new life with my eyes wide open, remaining optimistic and finding it completely okay to say “I don’t know” when asked what I’m doing next.  As the fall semester begins one week from Monday, I’m sure I’ll be barraged with more questions, and as much as I would love to say, “It’s none of your business,” I will respond, “I’m here for now.  That’s good enough.”  The student officers I work with day in and day out are extremely appreciative and are taking advantage of me while I’m still around.  Leaving is inevitable.  I cannot continue to work with my ex-husband; I want distance, and lots of it.

I begin a new workout program this week to complement the Tabata bootcamp I am taking again in the fall.  Physical activity also helps mentally, and because my mind is reeling, I am looking forward to it.  This also means I need to write more.

I have spent the past few weeks with good friends; surrounding myself with people who have experienced divorce, while connecting with current friends (married and single), writing with my major support system, and letting other friends spoil me by coming over to cook dinner (because we all know I can’t cook), and talk for hours on end; talking about my writing, or new beginnings, but not about what I have closed the door on. This has been good across so many levels. This is part of my exciting new life, and it can only get better.

Alcohol consumption is slowing down, and my social calendar is filling up 2-3 days a week. My volunteer work for SPE is kicking into high gear, and I am planning events for section, chapter, region, and committees. I am working on my short-term goals, planning vacations and trips through February 2018. August is not a pleasant month for me, so I am going to make sure I keep going with my health/self-care program.  Since writing is part of my life now, I continue to make strides towards finishing my novel.  September is now my goal because I need to spend October mapping out the next work in progress to write in November during NaNoWriMo.

The dog-days of summer is nearly behind us. This is a sign that it is time to wrap up my current novel, finish my full-length poetry book, and begin new fall projects.  Here’s to my last quiet week of work, and a week full of caring for my mental health!

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Welcome Back Old Friend: New Horizons. A New Story. A Fresh Chapter.

Welcome Back Old Friend: New Horizons. A New Story. A Fresh Chapter.

10 July-9 August 2017

This is the life.  Liberating.  Free. With no one to answer to.  I’m 100% accountable for my actions, and, did I mention, how liberated I feel? I am returning to old and new ways.

I am writing in places I’ve been, while experiencing new territories.  I’m living.  I’m laughing.  I’m happy, or as happy as I can be given each passing day.  I am in the slow process of healing, but I am nowhere out of the woods yet.  This is going to take some time.  There are going to be so many bumps, potholes, and other obstacles in my way, but if I remember the little stuff is not worth the stress, I can focus on what’s important.

I felt the moment when a connection of (still is) lust was made in January, and that was the final moment I began a long journey. However, this is neither here nor there because this is a new chapter to a new life, new beginnings.  This is the time of reinvention.  I am discovering what I want, what I don’t want; surprised by a few things I’ve done or have planned.  I am in the re-creation stage.  I am rising from a pile of ash.  My voice is stronger.  Fear has left me. I am more determined and motivated than I have ever been in my life to pursue my dreams.

So, let’s talk about fear.  The absence of fear doesn’t mean I’ll do anything.  That’s called a dare, more or less.  One of my fears was basophobia (fear of falling).  I could never get on the Tower of Terror without having a death grip on handles of the seat or against the wall.  I could never get on Soarin’.  I was petrified.  My first trip to Disneyland since my divorce was quite the experience, in a gazillion ways that I can’t even begin to discuss.  I was on the Guardians of Galaxy at least six times.  Arms were up.  With the numerous drops, I felt my butt leave the seat completely feeling the adrenaline rush.  I didn’t hang on.  My second trip, a month later, back to Disneyland was even more interesting.  My last day in California Adventure was an early morning.  Since I had done nearly everything during my June trip, I decided to try Soarin’ again.  Sure enough, I inhaled the experience without hanging on as if my life depended on it.  I watched the scenery unfold in front of me, silently saying, “Been there, done that.  Going to do that next.  That’s on my list.”  This is only one of many examples.  So much more will go into my next work-in-progress; hoping to finish November 2017.

My cousin put it perfectly. People are coming into my life for a reason.  I may not have the answers to why, but I’m not going to question it and simply take it for what it is.  I am learning to love myself, if, for nothing else, to be a better person.  I have a wide network of friends, worldwide.  I am thankful they are a part of my life, and continue to be.

I don’t need a career at this point in my life because I have made writing my career; I just need a job to pay the bills until bigger things happen.  This is my new dimension.  Welcome to my next adventures as Karen Hellinger, aka Karen 3.0.

Photo by  Karen M. Hellinger. 2017.

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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