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Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Uncomfortably Numb

At 5 she is old enough to articulate the fact that she wishes Dad were sleeping at home at night.

At 5 she isn't old enough to comprehend the complex logistics of the two adults she loves most in the world deciding to separate and so, for now, she thinks he goes off to write or "work" as we often call this crazy-ass thing we do on the Internets.

Dad's going to work. Really it's no different from dads who leave the home every day for 8 or 10 hours to work. But it is different.

He still drives them to or from pre-school, stopping at the park on the way home, is often at the house to fix breakfast after they wake up or make their dinner in the evenings before reading a couple stories or watching some cartoons. Either way, her blunt questions and our evasive responses are heartbreaking.

Mostly I feel numb, though. Long stretches of numb interspersed with grenades of pain. I watch my life unfold in much the same way I observe tragic news stories about strangers. That's so sad, I think and then I move on.

Onward and upward. Or sideways. Just so long as I'm moving. Gotta keep moving. The baby is crying, the kids are watching me.

I think about the sadness but I can't stay there. He's always been better about acknowledging emotions. I can't bring myself to let the sadness infiltrate insides that I have under lock and key and booby trap and anything else that will help keep my emotions in check so I can hold this whole thing together. It can be and often is confused with being unemotional. But last week a therapist told me I'm a very emotional person I just hide it well. I think that's what she said. I can't be sure because I was busy nodding indifferently while avoiding her hawk eyes.

During the worst of the labor with Charlie I envisioned myself swimming underwater in the ocean. Aqua everywhere, the surface - a kaleidoscope of blurry shapes and colors - flickering far above me, schools of crazy looking fish darting past; silvers, blues, yellows and greens flashing in the sunlight filtering weakly down from above, seaweed dancing erotically, and my heavy, exhausted body floating along feeling so fine, so free. I was aware of the pain but it was almost like it was happening to another person, I could hear Serge and the midwife talking but they sounded far away, like listening to neighbors' muffled voices through a shared wall.

I feel that way a lot now but it isn't the peaceful escape it was during labor, it's a heavy numbness that comes on quick; a morphine injection to the upper arm. When I can't think another thought, when my chest cavity feels like it's imploding around my fractured heart I feel myself sinking underwater. Everything is muted except for my thoughts which are loud, so loud.

There is no way around these things I'm experiencing. No shortcut, no avoiding. I've spent a long time avoiding so many emotions that they're clogging my insides and now I'm choking on them as I puke it all out.

But at night, as the wind howls around my windows, my newborn son makes his clicking insect sounds and the dogs snore, I stare at the ceiling and acknowledge that mingling with all the pain is relief.

We are two angry people whose jagged edges have rubbed each other so raw we're hemorrhaging.

"Stop interrupting me," I hiss at him when he steps on my sentences, anxious to make his own point without listening to mine.

"You're a mean person," he shouts at my back when I turn away from a conversation I can't continue to have, the same conversation we've been having for months.

"Would we have even gotten married if we really got to know each other?"

"That doesn't matter now. We've been married for ten years."

"It shouldn't be this hard."

"Marriage is hard. Life is hard. Deal with it."

"But it shouldn't be this hard, should it?"

"Stop talking so loud, the kids will hear you!"

"I can't have this conversation anymore. I just can't."

"I just need space, I don't even know who I am anymore when I'm not reacting to you. My personality has become one big reaction to you."

"I don't even know how to answer that..."

How Mama Got Her Groove Back

Writing about weight loss on the Internet is tricky, at best. When it’s baby weight you’re talking about getting rid of you can pretty much bet you’re going to piss off someone. Either you’re trying too hard to lose weight because you should love your body as it is, stretch marks and all, or somebody doesn’t like what you’re doing to lose weight or you’re lying about how you lost weight or you’ve lost so much weight you shouldn’t lose anymore and you’re fat-shaming anyone bigger than you – a veritable minefield of controversy ripe for the Internet masses to detonate. Here’s the thing. This is my story. That’s all it can be. I’m just throwing it to the Internet winds and maybe some of it resonates with somebody and that’s great.

To continue reading and check out the first full-body photo of me in all my postpartum glory, click on over to Babble.

37 Years/1 Month


She's A Jar With A Heavy Lid

What a bunch of nice folks y'all are. Well, most of you, anyway. Some of you are sad. Anyone who actively attempts to kick someone when they're down is subhuman. But you already knew that. You know it every time you look at yourself in the mirror. Just know if you're a dick here I'll delete your comment with the quickness. I used to feel obligated to let all comments stand in the interest of this being a place where I solicit them and because I'm generally interested in hearing your opinions, even the negative ones, but not anymore. If you're typing a comment to be a jerk I just giggle that you wasted your time crafting your little hate missile and then hit delete on your sad sack ass while feeling all drunk with power and stuff. BUH-bye.

So. Yeah. It's a relief to get that off my chest. It's kept me from wanting to write here for months.

It may seem strange to you that this comes so fast on the heels of giving birth to the amazing Charlie but the separation preceded his birth by several months. Additionally, for anyone to suggest we decided to have a baby to 'fix' the marriage is dumber than someone who would actually have a baby to fix a marriage. Newborn kids are hell on marriages, anyone who's had one knows that. Shit, kids in general are hell on marriages. And then somewhere along the line they become the reason so many of us stay in unhappy unions for decades. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Like I said, autopilot is a dangerous thing. You live out your life according to some plan you have set in your head. Our marriage is fine, this is just how life goes, let's have that third baby we've both always wanted because we're getting old. Maybe your marriage isn't horribly bad but it's rarely all that good. You don't hate the other person but you aren't in love with them anymore and so you stay because of kids or the thought of leaving is scarier than the thought of staying or the marriage is like a business and you can't close up shop just now or you don't want to die alone or you just had a kid or you had a really great vacation together so maybe things will be different or you don't want to disappoint your own seemingly happy parents or you can't afford to separate or negotiating your way through a divorce seems too daunting so you open another bottle of wine and turn on the TV...Whatever the case may be.

Every decision to separate or divorce is an intensely personal one and each person's idea of what circumstances should or shouldn't lead to divorce are vastly different. Anyone on the outside looking in at the dissolution of a marriage can only speculate on the circumstances.

Simply put, however, after months of evaluating whether our marriage, us being together, was a positive for our kids or a negative I determined that it had slid over the line into being a negative. We are not setting a good example for the most important people in our lives and I don't know that we ever can while living together within the bonds of marriage. In fact, I'm reevaluating the entire notion of marriage. I don't know that it's a state of being I'd subscribe to in the future. Not in its traditional state, anyway.

I don't know what the future holds. I'm scared as hell. And the recurring thought that Violet, who is 5, is my only child that will vaguely remember her parents together is a sledgehammer to my chest a thousand times a day. This partnership and family we've spent ten years building will never be something my boys know. I was also 5 when my parents divorced. But I feel wide awake for the first time in a long time. Amidst all the heartache is the reassuring notion that I'm living consciously, that I am actively seeking a content, happy life and not slogging unhappily through the days. I want Serge to be happy too. Life is short. So short. I don't want to wake up at 50-years-old and find I've spent decades in an unsatisfying marriage just so I could prove to myself that I'm not my parents.

So. That's where we are. But enough about me. What about you? Do you believe in marriage? Where are you in your marriage? How long have you been married and what are you learning about yourself, your partner, your life?

Buckle Up

Life has been happening to me for a long time now. What I mean by that is for years now I've just been sitting on the sidelines passively watching it all go down like some funky parade lumbering down my street. Sometimes it's exciting, other times I'm bored but there I am, slumped down in my chair as it all passes me by.

I don't want to let it all happen to me anymore. I do not accept where I've suddenly found myself. I want to happen to life.

For so long I've allowed myself to be this dysfunctional individual who struggles within a dysfunctional marriage, even going so far as to convince myself that couples who fight are normal, that Serge and I are charmingly dysfunctional, even, that it's kind of our thing: two fiery, passionate people who love each other and really get each other and also argue a lot and, oh yeah, say really mean things to each other sometimes.

Serge and I do get each other. You don't grow up with a single mom, no dad around, no money and not develop a kind of kinship with others who experienced similarly traumatic childhoods and exhibit the resulting behavior well into adulthood. But dysfunction conducted between two people who have a wicked sense of humor about it is still dysfunction. Simply put: it's not funny, it's painful, no matter how epic the initial love story seems, regardless of how I've attempted to portray it here in the past.

Several months ago, after another argument about who the hell knows what, it all just kind of bubbled up inside me. I stepped back and assessed our union with an objective eye and what I saw bitch-slapped me onto my ass.

Our marriage sucks. And it has for a while now. I've been unhappy for a long time but have become so used to living this way I assumed this was it in life. Grow up, get married, have kids then break out the lawn chairs, crack open a couple cold ones and watch the fucking parade go by.

The parade is over. Or else I'm finally putting down the beer, getting up out of my chair, kicking it to the curb, storming the parade and commandeering the grand marshal's float. This is my parade now.

What does all this talk of parade even mean? I don't know. In fact, I don't know much these days. I do know that I love Serge desperately and I always will. Meeting him was the best thing that ever happened to me. But we're also facing the hard truth that maybe some time apart would be beneficial - the first of many hard truths we're both facing right now. Call it separation, call it a 'conscious uncoupling' call it whatever you want but for me to continue writing here I need that information on the table. I can't write around it, can't write around the biggest thing going on in my life.

For the past several years Serge and I have spent almost 24 hours a day together. Not only do we work together for the same company but we physically work together every day. I don't think you'll find a therapist worth their sky high prices that wouldn't tell you that space, for us, for now, is a good thing. And because we're having a hard time defining what separation or space means for us I can't exactly define it here for you either.

And kids. The existence of children changes everything. Every thought you have, every decision you attempt to make - it all has to be filtered through what will be best for them. Can you make it work because if you can, you should. Should you make it work if you don't feel like it? Are unhappy parents that live together better than content parents who live apart? Are we unhappy? Is our marriage negatively affecting our children or is us being together still a positive thing?

I don't know. These are all questions that have yet to be answered.

I turned 37 yesterday. I am determined to make it a milestone in my life. I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I'm an excellent mom, my kids are the most important thing in my life, I no longer care what anyone thinks about me, I want to be content, I want to be happy, I want to allow myself to be vulnerable and not be afraid of what might happen as a result, I want to live a very deliberate, mindful life and not ever slip back into the comfortable numbness of autopilot.

I have kicked off the autopilot switch, grabbed the wheel and intend to steer this life into the storm, even though I'm heartbroken and scared as shit. So buckle your seat belts.

(Serge's story is his own to share... Or not share.)
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