Monica Bielanko
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Saturday
Jun092018

Leveling Up

Pale skin hangs loosely over my bones like an old white sheet draped on a clothes line to dry. I'm tired. No energy. I drink too much but never get drunk. Maintenance drinking, I tell myself. I drink my evening beers like you take your Prozac. It's the ritual more than the alcoholic effect I crave.

No wonder I'm tired. But I can't break the cycle. Get up at five, get three kids ready for school or daycare or summer camp and out the door by seven, work by seven-thirty, home in time to catch the 2:55 bus arrival or daycare pick-up, do the breakfast dishes, maybe a load of laundry, straighten up bedrooms, stare at Twitter in horror for ten minutes and then it's dinner and bed and can I not enjoy an ice cold evening beer or three, dammit?

I could, but I won't let myself. I constantly analyze my alcohol consumption to the point that it ruins any enjoyment of consumption. I've been monitoring my intake for a decade and I'm still fine. Which means I could've spent the last ten years enjoying my evening beer instead of sweating it.

I am at war with myself but am desperate for a truce. The only casualty of war with one's self is one's self.

In other words, be kind to yourself.

Here's something. After spending my entire adult life trying to change situations usually not within my control, I have resigned. Instead of attempting to change the situation, I change my perspective. It's the only thing I truly control and even that is an exaggeration, sometimes we're just victims of a perspective forced upon us by society and unwitting parents who passed down their own shitty hand-me-down perspective.

It's all perspective. The only real happiness you'll find in life is adjusting your perspective to the thing, not endlessly endeavoring to change the thing itself because most of the time the thing is not within your control. Work with an asshole? Quit focusing on it. Not a whole lot you can do about it other than alter your view of the situation. What I'm saying is, let it keep bothering you until it festers like an infected wound or change your perspective. Change your anger at the asshole to empathy for the asshole. It's a small thing, but it's also a huge thing.

I just finished reading Cold Mountain, a gorgeous book that has changed my relationship to nature, to the Earth, or at least smacked me upside the head with a reminder to pay attention. Pay attention to the sun's path over my house each day, to the sound the wind makes when it whips through the trees in my backyard, to the way I can hear the river out behind my house on quiet days when the kids are with their dad, to the different bird songs that wake me up each morning and the way the grass smells just after a fresh cut. There are countless beautiful lessons in the book but the one I'm thinking of today is about perspective.

We mark some days as fair, some as foul, because we do not see that the character of every day as identical.” - Charles Frazier

Most of our days are identical. Sure, there's a bit of variation; your kids are being jerks one day, you get a flat tire the other, you're late to a meeting... But even those things are identical in their nature. They are the average stuff of life which makes up, what, 90% of our days? It's how you respond to those things in your mind that makes all the difference. If we mark most days as fair then that is what they are. I may have had a flat tire today, but my ex-husband rescued me from the roadside and I listened to a great chapter from my audio book while I waited for him. It was a fair day. Instead of Oh my god it was the worst day ever, I got a flat tire.

I have fought so hard against so many circumstances life has thrown at me. Divorce left me fucked up and lost. Scrambling for new meaning. Recalibrating my life and searching out a new vision for the future. And the actual fallout from divorce; I've lived with rage roiling in my gut for months and months, years even, and I've focused my anger outward, at those I rightfully or wrongfully believed caused the anger. But, at the beginning of this year I made a hyper-conscious effort to let it all go. To not be mad. To stop viewing situations with the same perspective I've always viewed them. I changed myself, the only thing I really can change - while allowing others to be who they are and full accept who they are as a part of the wonderful fucked-upness of life. I widened my perspective. I stretched my brain. It was hard.

Recently I realized my anger is mostly gone. My gut unclenched. The burden lifted. Beautiful things have occurred as a result of the letting go, including inner peace and drastically improved relationships. Leveling up. It's an everyday battle. But it's worth it.

Reader Comments (8)

I don't know if I've ever commented or written to you, but you're one of my people. I've been reading since before you had kids. :) I got married in part because of things you wrote while you were married to Serge. Now I'm getting divorced, which is sad, but not as sad as staying married would be. I had a home birth with my second kid sometime around the time you had a home birth with your third. Mostly, though, the similarity is inside.

Last summer I finally had enough of suffering or something and a transformation occurred. A really huge one. I hope that we will share this, too.

Love from another mom. xo

June 9, 2018 | Unregistered Commentersara

I think you're so wise. I've spent years meditating and reading and studying Zen to basically get to the same realisations.. That instead of resisting the way things are, accepting them and letting them be, ends our suffering. Just let it all go, and you find yourself so much happier. Always Love to read something new from you.

June 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAyesha

Laying here at 4am with pregnancy insomnia...you’ve been on such an amazing journey. Thanks for letting us follow it.

June 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

I really REALLY needed this today as I get ready for work. ...change my perspective about it...we'll see what happens. LOVE YOU.

June 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMama

yes! let it go and breathe...

June 10, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterana

"I am at war with myself but am desperate for a truce. The only casualty of war with one's self is one's self."
monica, for what it's worth, this is why you are a great writer. this is why - i have always said - you should write books, not just articles...
and, for what it's not worth, this is a big part of why i fell in love with you and the reason why i will never fall out of love with you...

June 12, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

Refreshing thoughts on making the ordinary, if not extraordinary, then perfectly fine to be that way. Thanks for sharing. Couldn't sleep and suddenly remembered you and your gang. A old poem I wrote years ago on the ordinary old day:

An ordinary day arrived again and ticketed talk
it cost me just to say "one second more- let's go for a walk"
"Yes- if you will promise-just to see me as yourself
and not the thing you made of me, that clock upon your shelf"

We strolled through misty meadows on that ordinary day
I learned to love my freedom and the things which come what may
We had our time together, now I can't recall the date
I want to say an extra-ordinary day but just you wait

"Why is it every day can't be like this one is today?"
and Ordinary looked at me and pointed towards the sway
"That same old wave is NOT the same no ordinary roll
and waves through placid water seem to change the water's soul.

The ins and outs, the ups and downs of every single day
are separate parts of sameness but unique in every way"
"try not to over think it be quiet, or you'll miss
the things you take for granted make for silence, calm the hiss!"

and so my ordinary date had tried set me free
to wander down the road without a single peep from it to me
a silent celebration seemed no ordinary day
reset my pace for living and now no fine to pay!

"Where do you think you're going? as the sun sets in the west
"I've got to get a move on but you've been a splendid guest
I'll be back tomorrow just an ordinary mate
but if you care to have some fun we'll make another date!"
.

July 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Hi Monica- I read your article about unibrows and kids on Babble. First time i evee felt comfortable with the choices I had without feeling judged. Thank you!!

August 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterImi

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