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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Wednesday
May252016

Weeds or Wildflowers

I was fine in the waiting room, all things considered.

Tears threatened constantly and my insides churned ferociously but I was sitting quietly, my charade of equanimity securely intact, is what I mean when I say 'all things considered.'

"Monica?"

The second she called my name panic hopscotched up my throat and blackness crowded my vision. I stood up anyway and followed her down a hallway where she asked me to step on a scale then sat me down and proceeded to velcro the cuff thing to my arm and pump for blood pressure.

Despite the fast-approaching panic attack I had the womanly gall to experience the familiar, deeply ingrained, split-second bolt of disappointment over the 132 that had beeped redly on the scale rudely broadcasting my weight: 132? What the fuck?

Chicks and their weight, man. It's a goddamn tragedy, ain't it? I love looking at a big, round ass except when it's on my own body. Makes no fucking sense.

The societal brainwashed part of my mind that can tell you how much various celebrities claim to weigh and the "health regimens" they've utilized to get there briefly cursed all those late night cylinders of Pringles inhaled while catching up on The Walking Dead and then joined the rest of my brain with the freakout already in progress.

The nurse noted my blood pressure then told me to get undressed and put on one of those glorified sheets with ties in the back that hijack a person's dignity faster than a zipper mishap during an important business meeting. I stared at her, mouth open in an attempt to force out words that stubbornly resisted my effort and then I froze. Knees weak, heart thumping, I could feel the earthquake coming; rumbling up from my guts, rattling my ribs, stealing the air from my lungs and then tunneling wildly through my esophagus like a tiny freight train. There was this bizarre moment when I tried to speak but the quake was happening and there we were staring awkwardly at each other like lovers about to kiss and then I fell apart.

A full-blown panic attack at the doctor's office.

*****

I had been waiting for this appointment for several weeks when just one day would've been too long. In early May I received an ominous call after my usual yearly physical. "The doctor would like you to come in and discuss your results." I've seen enough hospital dramas on TV to know this is not a good thing. The doctor was not seeking a friendly chat about the general state of my well-being. Never before have they asked me to come in to discuss my results. It's always a call or a voicemail, even, telling me everything looks good.

A moment of vertigo and then I rejoined the conversation in time to hear the receptionist ask me if I could come in on Monday. I agreed and hung up in a daze. What could it be? Then I realized it was Friday. I was supposed to wait all weekend to "discuss my results" with the doctor? Aw, hell no. I called them back and said they needed to make room for me today. They did.

Turns out, they found Something during an ultrasound to check out my lady parts the doctor had requested I have done because of some irregular appearing things combined with my family's medical history and that Something that was found on the ultrasound was the same Something someone very close to me found several years back. A hereditary often deadly Something that terrified her and was now threatening me. The someone very close to me is fine, some things were removed and all is well but my doctor sent me to a specialist where I was certain I was about to be sentenced to a similar fate and was not handling it as well as I might have liked.

*****

I'm fine. Everything is fine. After I lost my shit in the doctor's office they sat me down, called in the specialist - a very sweet, young man and what the everloving fuck I am now older than all my doctors, IT HAS HAPPENED - who looked at my charts and said the Something was not a big deal, they would initiate some increased monitoring but it was just a precaution and all is cool so hey girl, here's a tissue and stop all that blubbering. You're fine. You're good.

I like doctors younger than me, turns out.

Still, though. Doctors needing to discuss your results in person and hereditary things you're barely aware of only because you have to put them on paperwork about your medical history actually manifesting in real life and all the waiting waiting waiting will take it out of you. Because as much as your loved ones assure you that it'll be fine and it's not a big deal, that same shit gets said to the people who get the bad news too and you become acutely aware of that as you wait: One minute you're living life all worried about a zit on your face or the fact that your roots are gray as fuck and the next minute you're fighting for your life. It's how it goes. You realize "at least you have your health" is truer than true and not just something said when shit is hitting the fan in your life even though it is totally something an asshole says to you when shit is hitting the fan in your life.

Unrelenting awareness of a possibly serious health issue for nearly a month coupled with speculating about mortality and such gives one pause, you know? Lots of contemplation and evaluation and Who are you and what the hell are you even doing, Monica? What is important to you in the grand scheme of what you got going on, girl? GET IT TOGETHER.

I think I've been selfish since my divorce. I didn't mean to be. I was doing what I thought was the right thing. I initially tried to move back to Utah for a really great job and to be near my family and when that couldn't happen I moved in a panic and landed in a really beautiful area near where I now work. It made sense. A home with a huge yard in which I imagined my three kids running and playing. I was coming off a stint out in the country where I learned that although I very much like the idea of living out in the country where I envisioned wandering around a huge garden in a flowy sundress plucking giant heirloom tomatoes for dinner, in reality I don't enjoy weeding every damn day and mostly I don't like being so far away from things.

So while I got myself situated in the nearest city, Serge moved out into a small country town where rent is extremely affordable. We're thirty minutes apart. It's not that far but it's a lot of car time for three small children who didn't ask for a divorce and have been through enough. Lately, instead of the beautiful home in town in the fantastic school district I thought I was giving them as some kind of divorce consolation prize, I just see lives filled with division. One life in mom's town with one set of friends and a separate life in dad's town with another set of friends and a thirty minute road trip in between. It all sucks any which way you look at it.

I can't do that to my kids. I need them to be minutes from their dad. In the same neighborhood with a very fluid custody schedule. Close enough that in a few years Henry can tell me he wants to go watch a movie at dad's house and be home in time for bed and maybe even walk there himself. Same town. Same friends. It ain't about me or where I want to live, it's all about them.

Holy shit. I can't fathom moving again, don't want to move again. But it feels right. Right?

Reader Comments (15)

I have been a stepmother for 12 years, and my stepson's mom lives across town from us - a 10 minute drive. Lately he has taken to hopping on a city bus when he wants to go between houses and doesn't have a ride (he's 14 now, old enough to do so). We have also done the 30 minutes apart thing - except it was an hour - and it sucked. Being close is much better. It gives him a feeling of continuity and of always being home, no matter where he is. Having fluidity in the schedule is also wonderful. Moving sucks, but based on my personal experience I'd say it's probably worth it.

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRuth

My ex and I had a terrible divorce and godawful custody battles but the one thing we did right was live close to each other. Same friends, same school, extra nights at dad's or mom's when the urge struck. I feel really good that we raised them - despite the divorce - with as little disruption as possible. So I totally get where you're coming from.

xo

Katie

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Wow. I cannot even imagine how many people are going to feel better and cope better with one of those awful, head in the noose moments in the future because one of their friends or a family member somewhere along the line has said to them, 'Hey, you. Check out this gal Monica Bielanko and her blog.'

Over time, that is going to be a *lot* of people, Monica. I think (presumptuous, I know...) that you should feel pretty damn brilliant about that right now, and I want to thank you, once again, for writing about your life with such extraordinary honesty, openness, and fearlessness. You're funny as fuck, too, of course. Which makes that other stuff even better. ;-)

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I am glad you are okay. Even considering moving again, again, again is so wonderful and selfless. I would do the same, if only to not waste time and gas money. It's not forever anyways, just for now. If coparenting is going okay and you are okay with being that fluid with timing and schedules... That sounds great for the kids! That's my random, two glasses of wine in, opinion.

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Right. If it feels right then it is. You've moved so many times, what's once more ;). Love when you post about your life.
By the way, saw a new doctor today who cooed at my baby and said, oh I love babies. He looked about 26, so I asked if he had any thinking he'd laugh and say nope, not yet. Turns out he has 3. He looked at my chart and said he was 2.5 years younger than me. Then of course I had to ask him when he graduated high school. Yup, two years after me. My first younger-than-me doctor. Then I guess he thought he was paying me a compliment by saying I don't that old. Um thanks. What does 41 look like?

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

Are the kids going to have to switch schools?

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

I think it is amazing how willing you are to put yourself out there ... it is brave and beautiful. My ex husband and I have been living an hour apart since I remarried about 4 years ago. We have a very fluid custody arrangement, but I do bear the brunt of the driving. I have worked really hard to make sure my son feels connected to his Dad and his friends, even when he is with us. We do a 50/50 schedule, but it is really sporadic around his Dad's airline schedule and my military schedule. And it works for us. That's the key - you have to do what works for you and Serge and your kids - however weird and unconventional that looks to anyone else, nobody else gets a vote or really has a stake in it. My gig works for me, but I have one kid and a lot of autonomy at work (even though I am in the army) and a very cooperative ex-husband and an even more flexible, loving and supportive husband. You are totally on the right track - it might take a few years to solidly know that in your gut and to really truly feel that it all worked out the way it was supposed to.

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered Commenternovemberjuliet

Yes, Monica, I truly believe you absolutely right to want to be near their dad. It would sure make your family's life easier. It is understandable that you want to live closer to the town but it can be worked so you can have that too. I think sellishness after a divorce is normal and it's also normal to experience these thoughts after you go though that kind of a scare. you want to feel safe and secure. At least that is how would feel, have felt. Anyway yeah, I think you are smart to consider a closer proximity to Serge. I have had a similar scare which drove me to keep peace with my ex who is like a safety net emotionally, when he is not driving me completely insane. Cutting out any stress in your life is wise. Isn't it like you to consider all of the possible scenarios and then pick one and go for it. See how it goes? Seems that way. Another chapter.. Maybe you can simply find a duplex. Whatever you choose, it is all for the best and It's gonna be okay, Monica. You should watch "Duplex" it will take the edge off after all of those WD episodes. I get very anxious inside after watching that, you know, even though Rick...and Darryl.. I will pray for you. Just wait and see. I wish you well. PS. Avoid Caffeine as if leads to ovarian and breast cysts.

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Yes, Monica, I truly believe you are absolutely right to want to keep your family closer together..Less travel etc. It would sure make your family's life easier. It is understandable that you want to live closer to the town but it can be worked so you can have that too. I think sellishness after a divorce is normal and it's also normal to experience these thoughts after you go though that kind of a scare. you want to feel safe and secure. At least that is how would feel, have felt. Anyway yeah, I think you are smart to consider a closer proximity to Serge. I have had a similar scare which drove me to keep peace with my ex who is like a safety net emotionally, when he is not driving me completely insane. Cutting out any stress in your life is wise. Isn't it like you to consider all of the possible scenarios and then pick one and go for it. See how it goes? Seems that way. Another chapter.. Maybe you can simply find a duplex. Whatever you choose, it is all for the best and It's gonna be okay, Monica. You should watch "Duplex" it will take the edge off after all of those WD episodes. I get very anxious inside after watching that, you know, even though Rick...and Darryl.. I will pray for you. Just wait and see. I wish you well. PS. Avoid Caffeine as if leads to ovarian and breast cysts.

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGina

Yes, everyone gets a turn being older than their gorgeous doctors. I was actually on friendly terms with a coworker doctor who did my colonoscopy and after that I could NEVER go back there again and quit that job. hahah

May 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGina

I see nothing but downside to moving to leaving town for worse schools in a depressed area. Porous boundaries with an ex also seems naive to think would be better for the kids than having twice the number of friends. Divorce is hard on everyone, and you haven't been divorced for very long at all. For someone with admittedly bad boundaries already I can't see the logic here, for you or your kids. Take a few deep breaths: no one likes weeding anymore than commuting, but it's necessary. Seems like it would be far more beneficial for the kids to keep as much stability and routine in their lives as possible right now so they don't feel like they have to keep adjusting their lives.

May 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

So glad things turned out okay health wise. Scares like that really have a way of putting things into perspective. Even though moving sucks, I think that the upside for your family will outweigh the negatives. Love these posts where you share the realities of navigating co parenting and life post divorce.

May 28, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I have never lived more than 2 miles from my children's father. We're in different neighborhoods so it's not like we have to see each other across the street and I honestly almost NEVER run into him at stores and stuff. But I sure have burned a path (I call it the path of least resistance) between the houses because someone always forgot something or needs something or he can't make it home in time, etc. I swear to you the convenience of that is worth so much. My quality of life matters and I don't always want to spend my time in a car. I agree with you wholeheartedly and think this is a wise and selfless choice. Good on you!

May 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

I have to say that I agree with Lisa and am a bit surprised that we are the only two voices suggesting that you slow down and stay where you are. I don't think you should define wanting to live in a town close to school and with excellent schools as selfish. Raising kids in a more rural area with schools that aren't as good (if that is the case) isn't necessarily a positive. And your work and life balance matter. Being close to where you live and work and where your kids are in school all day is much easier when someone needs to come home sick, etc. And you deserve a life as much as Serge does. The kids will be fine. 30 minutes to go between two homes where people love them isn't any sort of tragedy and is something millions of kids would give their eye teeth to have. Take a minute and breathe and stop listening to the voices that want to applaud your choices when they are similar to theirs'.

June 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

@Kathy - I appreciate this comment and agree with much of the sentiment wholeheartedly, but it's also a calculated financial decision. Rent where he lives his half the cost of the area I live in right now. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I truly appreciate it.

June 13, 2016 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko

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