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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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Tuesday
Nov112014

The Most Important Thing I've Learned In Therapy So Far

After years of avoiding therapy, I started seeing a therapist right around the same time Serge and I separated. Sitting (lying?!) on a couch, bemoaning my fucked-up childhood, held no appeal to me as I’ve seen far too many people use crappy childhoods as an excuse to behave badly. What’s done is done, I reasoned. I've got enough brains to sort through the fallout resulting from the stereotypical smorgasbord of issues I’ve been jamming into the tattered suitcase that is my proverbial baggage. Why go back and—like tonguing a sore tooth—revisit pain?

Except at this point my suitcase is heavy as hell and it’s an older model—no wheels.

Turns out, while managing to be astoundingly insecure, I was simultaneously wildly egotistical. Because, as you may have already guessed, when it comes to attempting to sort out why we do what we do on our own our brains are tainted by the fact that they’re in our heads which renders us generally unable to view certain situations with the proper perspective. Like someone facing options after a cancer diagnosis, we are in desperate need of a second opinion.

To keep reading click over to Mom.me.
Tuesday
Nov042014

My Darkness Is Shining

It's been there so long I know to avert my eyes at just the right second to avoid seeing it. If I want to. Lately I've become curious about its state of decomposition.

I was riding my bike one sticky hot July afternoon and there it was, right in my path; nearly perfect except for the being dead part. As if the magnificent animal got drowsy while loitering there on the side of the highway and decided to lie down for a snooze.

I'd cycle past the dead deer a couple times a week when my bike routes took me that way and I'd drive past it on my way to work. I figured some kind of government agency would come cart it away, maybe? Or some backwoods livin' hillbilly who don't mind a little gravel in his meat but no. There it stayed. What with it being July and all it started to stink within a day or two. Death funk. Kinda smell that makes your eyes water, can melt your face and induce gags if it catches you unawares. When biking I could smell it before I'd see it and I'd hold my breath, look away and hum a little tune to myself because fuuuck.

Roadkill destroys me. It's been known to ruin my day before. A bird once flew into the windshield of the Honda when Serge was driving. It flopped heavily across the glass before sliding off the side. I cried for an hour. Every time I got ahold of myself the frantic flip-flap-flopping would replay in my brain and I'd add a new terrible detail that may or may not have actually happened - imagine I saw bird eyes wide with terror just before it hit, stuff like that - and tears would begin anew. I don't know why I find it all so fucking tragic. Certainly there are a million worse things in the world than a dead deer or even the dead groundhogs that give me pause, their tiny paws stretched stiffly skyward, little faces frozen in a rictus of horror.

So it was The Summer of the Dead Deer. I passed it a lot and got to thinking that its slow melting into the pavement was representative of my marriage which died a million deaths over the past six months. A million deaths that amount to one big fucking flatline. There were moments I thought we'd make it. Like those paddles, what are they called? Defibrillators? A couple moments like that when something would happen and I'd look at him and he'd look at me and I'd feel zapped and think maybe we would make it, maybe it didn't have to be this way. But we flatlined. And we've been decomposing along with that deer.

It's still there. I passed it today on my way to work. It's flat. Nothing's left but a kind of skin silhouette lying flush with the road. Pretty soon that'll be gone too.
Saturday
Nov012014

The Zero Fucks Club

Membership requires that you give zero fucks about what anyone thinks about your life. Want in?

I am bearing down on 38 harder than when I gave birth to my son at home and I couldn't be happier about that. Oh sure, there are some potholes along the way but all of those are of the physical variety, what's going on inside my heart and mind more than make up for the sagging tits or the way that, after three kids, my belly button isn't quiiiite sure what it's supposed to be doing: Am I in? Out? What is my purpose, WOULD SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME. Would it be too much to admit my vagina appears to be suffering the same identity crisis?

That shit's A-ok though because stuff is happening inside my head that cannot be stopped. Major, life-altering awesomeness that I keep getting glimpses of during my quieter moments and am now busily trying to lasso like the star of the damn rodeo.

I've got a few things to say about being a woman/mom/ex-wife and whatever other titles the world has bestowed upon the various stages of our fair gender. The thing about it is quite simply this; I know what I'm doing. Also? I have no fucking clue what I'm doing. That is to say, I know enough to know I don't know shit. And that's enough. If more people knew enough to know they don't know shit the world would be a far better place, believe me. The people who hit the highest highs in life are the ones who fake it better than the rest of us. They don't know more, they just do a better job faking it. The people who think they know everything are the most dangerous. Truth is, nobody knows what they're doing. Not even your mother-in-law, or your Great Aunt Edna who cannot shut up with the advice. Don't discount everything, there may be a few gold nuggets in Edna's dirt pile because she's lived a few decades longer but don't assume. Look for the gems that make sense to you and toss the rest.

Zoom out. Google Earth-style. Long lens. Look at us going about our days. A massive herd of cows wandering around, bumping into other cows. Oh, we're going this way now? Gluten is bad? Ok. Wait, what? CrossFit is the way? That's the thing? Well, alrighty then. I'm doing it wrong if my kid still sleeps in my bed? Wait, he was never supposed to sleep in my bed? He's supposed to be potty-trained by when or I'm an abject failure of a parent? I've permanently damaged the light of my life if I do it this way? Ok. Wait, So, I can never smoke a joint again because I'm a mom? Oh, I CAN smoke a joint I just can't admit it publicly or I'm an unfit mother? What about alcohol? No at playdates, yes at a party in my own home? Even if my kids are present? I can't let my kids play outside anymore unless I'm there? Can I be drinking wine at that time? So confused. Who's making up the rules? You know who's making up the rules? Other dumbasses who don't know shit. A million Aunt Ednas and a couple money-grabbing 'experts' who write books and then live for giving soundbites to CNN and Today to promote said books, are making up the rules and perpetuating them and making you feel less than.

Guess what? Fuck. Off. All of you. With your ideas and your suggestions and your finger-pointing and your fucking Pinterest pages. Oh my god, the Pinterest pages chock full of all the perfection in life that you will never attain, you failure, you. If a talking cake baked around a stuffed animal you stuffed and hand-sewed yourself, including the beautifully crocheted scarf that adorns its neck, is what gets you off, makes you feel alive as a woman and a mother, then GO ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF. I am not judging. But if you're just doing it because someone else is doing it and she's doing it because she saw it on Sarah Joneses Pinterest page and Sarah's friend Emily put that shit on Facebook and everyone knows Emily is the best mom on the planet... Just stop it. Free yourself from the chains of Pinterest and the notions about what constitutes a good mother. Join the Zero Fucks Club and just live your life. Upon joining the Zero Fucks Club one of the first things I learned about myself is Pinterest Projects are not my game. I have no patience and the one or two "restoration projects" I did try turned out the same as pretty much every elementary school art project I ever attempted; a hot mess. And that's ok. I excel in other areas; I can drink a 6-pack and not turn into tearful, whiny, drunk girl (although it still happens from time to time) and I find that far more impressive than your stuffed animal cake.

Similar case with the endless online debates over how to raise our kids. The 10 tips for this bullshit and 7 ways for that nonsense. You know some idiot blogger wrote that shit for a couple nickels or for page views or their ego. You wouldn't give that person two cents of your time in the produce section at Walmart so why are his or her words from God's lips to your ears when viewed in print? Sure, read the damn article and maybe you'll score a few takeaways but view it at worst as entertainment and at best an opportunity to connect with someone else who, say it with me, HAS NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT THEY'RE DOING. Wanna know how I do it? I'm a Feral Parent. Let 'em do what they're gonna do/eat what they're gonna eat/wear what they're gonna wear while I try to ensure they don't die doing it and, sure, okay, teach 'em kindness/solid manners because that's the stuff that makes the world go round, not the age at which your kid should be reciting the alphabet or sleeping alone or eating an organic, Gluten-free diet of pureed peas. Life's too short to spend even fifteen minutes negotiating vegetable intake with my kid. Eat it, don't eat it, but that makes your hunger in thirty minutes your problem, not mine.

Let yourself let go. Everyone you're so afraid of judging you is just as worried about being judged. You got a thing for nose rings but you're not sure if they're tacky for 42? Fuck it, get a nose ring. Like wearing a shitload of eye make-up because it makes you feel powerful? Pile that shit on, yo. Completely over high-heel shoes because what the fucking fuck, who made those things, a dude? Stop wearing 'em. Only like to wear the color black? Get it on, sister. Love short skirts but feel like you've maybe reached a certain age where you might be too old for 'em? A 'certain age' my ass. Zero Fucks! Put that itty bitty skirt on and rock it out. Anyone that judges is locked in their own cage of self-judgment and you should care not for their two cents. What do you care about what they think, anyway? They don't know what they're doing either. In fact, the more intense the judgment from someone the worse they feel on the inside. Know this when dealing with assholes. It's not about you, it's all about what's going on in their solar system. Makes it easier to feel compassion while brushing off their judge-y bullshit like so much lint on your shirt. Besides, look at it the way I do sometimes; would you rather watch a movie starring you with your black eyeliner and short skirt giving zero fucks as the main character or Pinterest Mom? Case closed.

I urge you to sit quietly and just feel Zero Fucks taking over your body. Like a massage or the slow body burn of a shot of Vodka... Feel how liberating it is to no longer care what people think about you. Contemplate the days of your life wasted on caring what others think about your choices. I look back and giggle with the ridiculousness of all the hours I've spent worrying what people think about me to the point that I avoided parties, developed a pretty serious social anxiety issue and hesitated to even call my landlord if the water heater flooded the basement because I didn't want him to think I was an annoying tenant.

ZERO FUCKS. Feels good, don't it?

Say what you wanna say. Do what you wanna do. Live how you wanna live. Just be kind. Especially to yourself.

*Typed while drinking a beer at 11:27 AM because I give ZERO FUCKS about your predetermined drinking times and also it was the last beer left in the fridge after Halloween festivities and it seemed so lonely. That beer needed me. I am confident I did the right thing. And also I might be flirting with a complete breakdown so read this and take it with a grain of salt because remember: I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK I'M DOING EITHER!

To summarize:

Thursday
Oct302014

The Blue Nightmare of My Heart

I spend a lot of time feeling like I've just been punched in the gut and am trying to catch my breath. Walloped while in the middle of some mundane bullshit like doing the dishes, making dinner, cleaning up shrapnel from the toy grenade that goes off round these parts every couple hours or so.

I take the hit, stop, double over my own body, hands clutching knees like I've just taken a line drive to the belly, eyes squinched tightly closed to roadblock tears or open wider than wide, boring lasers into the floor as I concentrate on making it to the other side of the moment. When 'one day at a time' is reduced to 'one second at a time.'

When Reese Witherspoon was divorcing Ryan Philippe I read a quote in one of those dumb magazines I've wasted hundreds of heard-earned dollars on over the years and it stuck with me. It's how I feel a lot of the time now. Most of the time. A quick google shows I remember it almost verbatim:

"I was sitting in a parking lot, and I felt like I just couldn't get out of the car. It was like, I can't get out of the car. I thought, 'Okay, half the parking lot has dealt with this,'" she added. "'More than half the parking lot with this. Okay, let's make it a little bigger. Half of this city has dealt with this. Okay, let's make it a little bigger -- half of this country,' until I finally got out of the car."

That moment occurs to me at least once a day. Some small facet of divorce, some previously unrealized fallout from the great divide, will enter my consciousness in a most abrupt manner and encompass my entire capacity of thought; as if I'm trying to contemplate some mind fuckery like the concept of infinity or its opposite: ceasing to exist at death. That shit's intense. Messes with your mind to the point that your brain shuts down and you can't fathom interacting with people as if it all ain't no thang. But what's the flip side? Revealing how you really feel? Flopping onto the floor like an exhausted toddler, screaming your ass off about how unfair it all is until some calm grown-up offers you juice and tucks you into bed for a nap? Because that sounds nice. The breakdown, it is alluring. Sympathy is demanded as opposed to pretending like you got this; relinquishing all control, letting somebody, anybody, step in and take over while your brain hops the next plane to Maui, away from the unforgiving grind.

Each day brings a new, innard-churning moment. Whether it's coming home to an empty house or the stark opposite; realizing holy motherfucking shit I am the caretaker of these three lives right now and back-up ain't coming when I've had enough, or the sudden awareness last week that Christmas will never be the same, forever bittersweet now, a clumsy tap dance of kid-sharing/tolerating new mates/loneliness. Hearing my kid tell me she likes the way Dad does something better or contemplating my alone-ness/the space where he used to be... The reality of divorce uppercuts me into excruciation. Panic. The gaping wound in my personality that has been festering since my own parents divorced thirty-plus years ago rips open again, torn stitches - they were sloppy, I sewed 'em myself over the years - blood seepage. I try to talk myself down, Witherspoon-style. 'Keep it moving, Butler. Your pain ain't special. Half of everyone you know has dealt with this. People you previously egotistically judged of weaker mettle. Those people made it through so get ahold of yourself, Sad Sack. Do it better than your parents did it. If marriage wasn't a possibility make your divorce better than your marriage. What else is left? Why not? Why make it harder than it has to be? We're all in this together, just people trying to make our way and be happy so let it all go and just try to be the best you that you can be in the face of the most difficult challenge of your life.'

And yeah. At times I feel stronger and more clear-headed than I've ever felt. Really. I'm not trying to go all Morrissey on you here. There are so many positives underway or else the divorce wouldn't be happening. The good is nearly equal to the bad but at times the bad just seems more consuming. The beauty of the finish line to forty is you find yourself giving little to no fucks about what other people think. It's liberating. A beautiful thing. I was telling my therapist how different I feel and how I look back and mourn the massive amount of time I've spent in my life hating on myself and worrying about what others think of me. What a waste! Except I had to go through that to get here; a lifetime of social anxiety; second-guessing myself; apologizing for my personality. I have stopped apologizing. I am who I am. Like me, hate me but I'm over here giving life my best. I'm a good person, a nice person, one who cares about others and if you don't like me then your feelings aren't my problem anymore and I ain't gonna devote another second of my life wondering why. So that's the nice part stitched into all the awfulness. Couldn't have one without the other so I just have to get through it. Reminds me of a famous Winston Churchill quote: "If you're going through hell, keep going." Almost stupid in its simplicity because really, what the hell else are you going to do? And yet it's worth keeping close, worth repeating every now and again. Keep going.
Monday
Oct272014

And Then We Met