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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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I Don't Want To Be The Me You See

In a relationship, who your mate sees becomes who you are. I don’t want to be the me you see.

That sentiment has been lodged deep in my mind for years, I just wasn’t able to articulate the concept. It’s why I felt so goddamn terrible during my marriage. His view of me doesn’t feel like the real me. Maybe I displayed a particular trait during year one or two or five of our marriage and that view of me overshadows who I am now. He took a snapshot of my personality during a specific time in my life and, for him, the photo is who I am and always will be.

Click here if you wanna read it all.

Charlie Max: 7 Months


I'm The Prettiest

Guess where I'm going this weekend? Isn't that the fucking worst, by the way? When someone seriously wants you to guess something you have, at best, a mild interest in hearing about and/or no idea what the answer could possibly be? Guess who called me last night? Guess what I just ate? Guess what I just bought? Too bad, though. You will hear about where I'm going this weekend and you will be fascinated. Or mildly interested. But maybe my digressive foray into annoying people traits has served to ratchet your mild curiosity into the fascination realm? We can only hope or the five more minutes it takes for you to read this post will be like trying to orgasm and not quite getting there.

On Friday I'm headed to the greatest city in the world, that's where. God, I love New York City. I spend most of my time strolling purposefully/aimlessly, grinning like a lunatic because the electricity gets all up in my body and shocks me into feeling alive like it just ain't possible to feel while walking anywhere else in the world.

New York City is a looming character in the story of my life. We've had to break up a couple times due to distance, but we never stopped being in desperate love and the happy ending of our relationship involves me dying within its ramshackle embrace. I fully plan to be a drunk, old woman lugging a laundry cart filled with groceries - half of them shoplifted - Gwen Stefani red lipstick smeared onto teeth and bleeding into the deep creases of my face, wild, white hair joyously dancing in the wind whipping off the Hudson River/East River as I talk/curse loudly to myself and anyone within a 30 feet radius and God help any motherfucker who dares mess with a drunk, old lady because I will wield my cane ferociously and should anyone try to call me out on my bullshit I will immediately feign helplessness, tearfully explain I'm lost and need help finding home.

I started this site more than ten years ago when I lived in Brooklyn. Fun fact: didn't own a computer then. I had just married, lived in Williamsburg and could barely afford my rent, let alone a new computer, so I relied on my job at WABC in Manhattan for computer time and when home I'd scribble all my blogs on paper and run up to the Internet cafe on Bedford and type the posts onto the site at an exorbitant per-minute fee - the blogging equivalent of using a rickshaw to commute an hour to work. And even after all that effort only one person was reading back then and no, it wasn't Mom. The one person who was tuning in to read about my life in New York city was and is my most loyal reader and I certainly returned the favor, reading everything she's ever written online and developing a debilitating obsession with her that continues to this moment. So I'm headed to NYC to meet up with Serge's ex-girlfriend from London. After a decade of online shenanigans I am going to meet her in person so we can figure out once and for all who is the prettiest. We've rented out a boxing ring at Chelsea Piers and are filling it with Jell-O so we can finally wrestle. She's screwed. I pull hair, twist nipples, poke eyes, whatever I gotta do. Her refined British sensibilities put her at an immediate disadvantage. For those of you newish to this website you have no clue what I'm talking about and it's hard to explain. A kind of you-had-to-be-there situation. I'd link you to the dozens and dozens of posts we traded back and forth but this site was scrubbed clean of all mention of her and she took down her blog about us years ago. A year ago, after nine years of online awfulness that kept trainwreck blogs chock full of content - including endless debates about who was prettier, we started messaging. The irony of her being the one person I can talk openly to about the failure of my marriage is not lost on me. Crazy how life works, isn't it? A girl who I allowed to be the cause of constant anxiety and frustration for nearly a decade has been one of my biggest sources of comfort this past year. Me neither, Caroline. You'll always be my favorite person to stalk online. It's just the way it is. See you Saturday.

Sometimes A Divorce Is So Positive It's A Negative

We hung out quite a bit throughout the summer. With the kids and without. Habit, maybe? The thought that reconciliation might be a possibility? Most of the time it was nice. Most of the time it was confusing. I’m not sure if it was the right thing to do, but when your loneliness is strangling you and you start flailing about for any kind of human connection you sometimes end up contacting the one person with whom you should probably be erecting boundaries, not inviting on a bike ride...

To read the whole damn thing click over to Babble.

The Experience of Beauty

"The experience of beauty comes when we put our interests to one side, when we look on things, not in order to use them for our purposes or to explain how they work, or to satisfy some need or appetite but simply to absorb them and to endorse what they are." Roger Scruton

My mind is cracked open. A saw to the skull, a sound like the dentist's drill in your head and there it is; open mind. So much of my life has been judging people on bullshit. Welcoming them to the friendship team, judging them worthy of a relationship or discarding them based on ridiculousness. Learn a fact about someone that doesn't jive with my preconceived notions of what is good/bad cool/not cool moral/immoral and then create an entire story about their personality and whether or not I will like them based on said fact: He likes pop country music? Pop country makes my ears bleed and his musical tastes must be indicative of his idiocy across the board. Next! There's a Seinfeld episode where Jerry explains why he broke up with his latest girlfriend:

George: So, what's going on with you and Melanie? I mean, I know you're not getting married, but uh, things are happening?

Jerry: Well...actually, we kind of broke up.

George: You what?

Jerry: Well, you know, we were having dinner the other night, and she's got the strangest habit. She eats her peas one at a time. You've never seen anything like it. It takes her an hour to finish them. I mean, we've had dinner other times. I've seen her eat Corn Niblets. But she scooped them.

George: . . . she scooped her niblets?

Jerry: Yes. That's what was so vexing.

That's me. Someone exhibits a quirk, a notion, an opinion, a personality trait that differs from my thoughts and feelings about life and I internally express disdain, manufacture an entire universe in my mind about their personality and mentally write them off. I can't date someone who eats peas one at a time! Note to self: KNOCK THAT SHIT OFF.

I want to just observe people - family, friends, strangers - without judgement. To absorb them and endorse who and what they are. Conversely, I want to be who I am without tailoring myself to the expectations of others. I'm getting there. Had a conversation with a lovely man the other day that unexpectedly segued into his onetime solicitation of a hooker. Initial instinct; withdraw and write him off based on my previous notions of who hires a hooker and why. But I just observed and endorsed his experience and as the story unfolded I realized it wasn't so very awful at all. It made sense. By the end of his tale I was very nearly good for you-ing him over his hooker experience. I believe my exact response was "Hooker habit; unseemly. Once; not a huge deal." And I really feel that way. I withheld judgment, observed and made new realizations about myself and how I truly feel about certain things. It makes me wonder what else I've been missing all these years when interacting with others because I responded with judgment, particularly the moral judgment that was my birthright as a Mormon, instead of just absorbing and endorsing. Funny how I've spent so much time shouting about how angry I was over what I feel the Mormon church did to me as a person and yet I haven't recognized that it was still infecting so many of my interactions. That's how insidious religion was to me. It polluted my brain and your mind is all you have to guide you in life, so even when you think you've overcome the brainwashing and are as open-minded as possible, especially compared to so many people you grew up with, you realize yet a deeper level of religious infection. I suppose these realizations will continue happening until I die. I look forward to overcoming each one.

New mantra: observe, endorse, experience beauty.

I feel as if I've learned more about myself in the past year of my life than I have during the 36 that came before. And yet I'm just wise enough to understand the realizations I'm having now will give way to greater understanding as I keep aging. I'm excited for that. To continue becoming the me that feels right and true, sloughing off old perceptions and expectations like so much dead skin.

Talking to a different friend the other night who is so perceptive he seems to be in possession of extrasensory powers and he described me thusly: "A restless spirit. This insatiable auto-didact. Starving for things. Always hungry. Still get that. Just more measured, outwardly contained."

Ask me to describe myself a thousand times and I'd never come close to those words and sentences but they bitch-slapped me so hard I still feel the sting. As usual my friend was on point. I've been starving for things since way back when. Starving, needy. Searching for something or someone to not only fill me up but lend me the approval I couldn't muster for myself. I intellectually understand where all this comes from. Tired cliches about childhood issues involving abandonment/neglect/religion. Recipe for disaster for anyone with brain enough to escape that scene and spend the rest of their life attempting to fill the potholes left behind.

There is a seismic shift underway. I feel it taking place. I am experiencing the dirty beauty of others just as they are while starting to recognize that my story is also beautiful in all its fucked-upness. Yes. My fucked-upness is beautiful, that's what I'm saying. Because each messy experience is a stepping stone to greater understanding. Ironically, my hunger is also my sustenance. Being hungry feeds me, a survival mechanism all this time, it urges me to keep clawing forward. The hunger and the neediness inspire intense connections with those willing to reciprocate. I like those connections, they make life worth living.

I'll always be restless and hungry, probably, but I like it. I want to be. The opposite of restless - to me anyway - isn't necessarily fulfillment but complacency. I choose restless. I'm not trying to find the prescription anymore, not trying to fill the neediness, just embracing it, observing it, endorsing it and allowing it to propel me forward, ever forward.