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”
“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”
“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”
“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”
“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”
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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!!!
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.