Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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I Am The Rock

Know how in the movies there always seems to be a funeral scene where the main character doesn't cry, instead sits stone-faced while everyone around them falls apart? Cut to three scenes later when they're explaining to a friend/love interest how they never cried at their mom's funeral and What's wrong with me?! or whatever and that's when they finally completely lose their shit?

Yeah, that.

That's how I've felt for the past four or five months. The expressionless sitting at the funeral part, not the losing my shit part. Except the funeral isn't the death of anyone I know, it's the death of my marriage. And I can't help but wonder when/if I'm going to lose my shit.

I talked to my therapist about this the other day and she says I've always been the rock, that it's the only way I know how to survive. It's true. I come from chaos, married into chaos and my remedy has been to withdraw into myself and Handle My Shit or else risk swirling into the abyss with everyone else around me.

Throughout my life I've been called emotionless and even mean, I told her. But I don't feel that way on the inside at all. On the inside I feel so emotional, so raw and scared, that if I let out even a little bit of that I'll shatter. Maybe forever. Those alcoholic, homeless people have a story, you know? They used to be somebody who probably never expected to be where they are now and yet there they are. Life happened. And they shattered and never recovered.

So I play the Tough Girl. I act the role so well it becomes reality.

Someone left a link to an old YouTube video of mine on my Facebook page the other day. I watched the video and then another one automatically started. This one. It's just a funny video I made years ago about what a maniac Milo is and Serge is just riffing and being silly and you can hear me giggling from behind the camera but it just about fucking killed me.

He was the love of my life. Always will be, in a way. It became so hard and we were so miserable but there he was, being his silly, stupid self and making me laugh and if I hadn't been at work when watching the video I would've completely lost my shit. My clichéd breakdown scene in the movie of my life. We probably argued immediately after I shut off the camera and slammed into our separate bedrooms or whatever but those minutes of him joking and me laughing and us just doing our usual thing on that sunny day in Utah, my entire universe contained in that car at that moment... I don't know.

Serge is properly mourning the death of our marriage and I am not. I am doing what I always do and soldiering onward and upward and jamming so much stuff into my days that I barely have time to breathe let alone think, thank God. But what will happen to me when all the busy-ness stops and I am left to my own devices? Serge will have moved on and I will finally allow myself to contemplate all that I have lost and I don't know what will happen.

I am afraid to be vulnerable. I am afraid to let myself experience the loss of Serge in my life. I am afraid if I let myself go I'll never make it back. So I am the rock. It's the only way I know.

Reader Comments (17)

Mourning and growth are always work. Just because the labor of your sorrow doesn't resemble another's, it is no less valid. Sending strength for your journey, Monica.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

@Katherine THANK YOU for that comment. It means a lot. Sometimes I do feeling like I'm grieving wrong or something. You know?

July 26, 2014 | Registered CommenterMonica

I have learned that there is more than one way to grieve. We don't have to be a mess to be experiencing grief. I am handling my separation much like you. I have just soldiered on. I did much of my mourning and sadness before he moved out. I have learned not to compare my lack of craziness now and his utter loss of control. Keep kicking ass and taking names! Your kids appreciate it.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

The fact that you are writing about it and contemplating and putting plenty of thought into it before the decision was made, indicates to me that you are "properly "morning.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSaffoula


July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSaffoula

@Monica, as someone who felt like she was doing EVERYTHING wrong for most of my life, I DO know. A great life is built with as much creativity and agony as any revered art work; I realize that now. I think the most powerful form of self-love and grace stems from all of the stumbling and interior ache towards acceptance of one's own frailty. In that acceptance it finally feels "safe" to expose the self to a trusted soul, be vulnerable, brave, acknowledge whatever IT is at that moment and move on. There is fear, anxiety and risk, always in being the fullest version of the you that feels most authentic. The rewards are superior to all of the suffering. You are a warrior of wholehearted living, don't lose sight or faith.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

There is no wrong way to feel. You just do it how you do it. You can't compare your experience to Serge's - he is a different person. His way is not the right way because it is sadder sounding than your way. There is a lot of value to the way you are handling things. I see a lot of grief in your writing, a lot of sadness. And a really strong person who knows she was in danger and is finding her way out. Do it your way Monica!

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

You're not doing it wrong; everyone handles grief differently. When I separated and divorced from my ex I cried a LOT. But at some point I also got angry, and the anger (and also staying very busy) is what kept me sane until enough time had passed that I could finally move on and be forgiving. I think you do whatever you have to do for yourself and make adjustments as necessary. In my case anger was justified, so that's what worked for me. If soldiering on works for you then that's ok. But I don't think you need to be afraid of losing it either. While I was angry I still had a good cry every day; sometimes it feels really good just to let it out.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

Maybe you're not sad. I'm newly separated and soon to be divorced and don't have an ounce of sadness in me. Relief and happiness are more the emotions that come to mind. When people find out I've just separated they tend to say, "I'm sorry". I almost feel like an ogre telling them not to be, it's the happiest I've been in a long time! I've learned that there's a societal expectation for those of us separating to be sad - especially for women - but it's truly a new beginning. It doesn't have to be a time of sadness just because that's the expectation. If you're truly sad, then embrace it. But, don't be sad because society thinks you're supposed to!

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBarb

I always enjoyed the videos you made and like many others came to love a family I never met. I always appreciated your transparency and honesty. I can also appreciate your feeling like a rock. You are just keeping it real as you do. As for the present, my thoughts are: You can keep the Serge you love and just live apart until you can't live apart any more. When that happens you will have fallen in love with him all over again. Until that happens just enjoy the life you have and the fact that you two don't HAVE to slam any more doors. Monica, that is how I live everyday, still appreciating big Al,"for all his love, kindness, help, and not just that he is a fox" (said Al), and being real and true to the way I feel about him. So anyway that's my 2 cents. By the way, there were no tears when we split was a blessing to both of us. Not everyone is a bleeding heart, a dying swan, You just be yourself. Love is the purpose, right?

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGranny Apple

Monica, I am a longtime reader and I just wanted to come of out of the woodwork to say that your utter honesty in every situation has made your blog a thought-provoking pleasure to read. I agree with the above commenters that there is no wrong way to grieve...and it sounds like your reaction thus far just shows that you've made the wisest decision. I wish you and your family well.

July 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

Monica, I have been in your shoes, like twice. NOT MY choice. "Both exes approached me with the breakup of my marriages with, "It's not YOU, Mimi, it's ME".... so how did that make ME feel?!? Well, after talking to my therapist, longtime friend and numerologist for over 20 years... KARMA. I met all the men in THIS lifetime, that I WAS in past lives. With my male ego (being more males than females in my past lives), I wanted to be a WOMAN who was "wronged" by all these men. I am basically a good person, WHY oh why did I make such poor choices? Well, well, well, NOW I KNOW> And the last time I spoke with my numerologist, he informed me that all my Karmic Debt has been fulfilled. NOW is the time to manifest MY destiny... to be HAPPY... what, what was that? be HAPPY... and so now I soldier on...

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMimi Owen

i just want to share my experience and testimony here.. i was married for 6 years to my husband and all of a sudden, another woman came into the picture.. he started hailing me and he was abusive. but i still loved him with all my heart and wanted him at all cost…then he filed for divorce. my whole life was turning apart and i didn’t know what to do .he moved out of the house and abandoned the kids.. so someone told me about trying spiritual means to get my husband back and introduced me to a spell caster…so i decided to try it reluctantly. although i didn’t believe in all those things… then when he did the special prayers and spell, after 2days, my husband came back and was pleading. he had realized his mistakes. I just couldn’t believe it..anyways we are back together now and we are happy. in case anyone needs this man, his email address his spells is for a better life. again his email is

July 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdavisha

so.... sometimes, when you write, you are being very open... sharing your vulnerabilities... and i know you feel good when you do that...
are you saying that a lot of times you put on the "rock" facade? is that your autopilot survival mode?
and, if so, would you rather be yourself, your vulnerable self? or do you fear that you would lose something (or some things, like opportunities, respect etc.) by doing that?

July 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

Monica, I just watched a few minutes from your He Said/She Said collection. It made me sad, because although there was humor, it seemed the proverbial writing was clearly on the wall in those videos. I also saw what you mention here, when you were on camera. (A defensive wall, a "laugh at the pain"...a reluctance to be vulnerable.) I saw someone who has been hurt a lot in her life, and has learned to turn off her own feelings.

I've felt alienated from your writing in the past, largely because of entries that generalized marriage as a hostile state. I know you understand what I mean. I just didn't relate to what you wrote...but more than that, I felt there wasn't space over here for someone whose marriage wasn't like that. However, now that you've reached this point, I would like to say something that I hope you'll take to heart. I say this because I think you're in pain, regardless of whether you can tap into it right now. I say this because I suspect you don't really want to feel like this.

My husband and I have been through a lot together, and have had our marriage tested by a variety of events. Fortunately, we have fought through it, faced the darkness together, and come out stronger than before. This isn't to say that you and Serge should be together. But, if it is important to you to be loved in your life, to experience real connection, either now or in the future...I do think you're going to need to let go of the wall. You're going to need to learn to be vulnerable. From my own experience: you simply cannot love someone openly, and be loved in return, if you have a hardened heart. It's just not possible.

I hope you have some space to reconnect with yourself, now. I hope you won't fill all your time with distractions. I hope you'll fight for yourself, and fight to feel something. It will definitely hurt, at first. It will take time. But it will be also be very, very worth it.

July 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervulnerable

Just be honest with yourself and allow yourself to feel relieved. Relieved to not feel like you are burdened with a task to "make it work". Stay busy and keep your focus on what truly matters, your kids. Everything else falls into place. It took me 8 months to have the mourning of my marriage. My ex announced he didn't love me as I stood there nursing our newborn. I had to pick myself up off the floor emotionally/mentally and march on to a new life. Guess what? I've never been happier and things have never been harder. Working full time/daycare/karate/play dates/traveling for work/custody schedule/doctor appointments.... the list goes on and I'm doing it all by myself because I chose happiness. I'm now dating and have hit a few bumps in the road where I experience raw emotions of the dark days. It feels good to feel! Cry it out sister. I'm so glad I found your blog and wish you success in your journey. p.s. wine and chocolate help

July 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteph

YAY Monica!!!! You found your voice and did the hardest thing possible -- you separated from Serge. Not because you don't love him, but because it wasn't working. You've thrown yourself into therapy and go even when you don't want to (man, can I relate to that). The best part? You and Serge are acting like RESPONSIBLE parents during this difficult time. Its refreshing to see two adults acting like a adults during what has to be a difficult transition. And Serge bringing the sexy back--- I love that. Gotta give the guy some credit, doesn't seem like he is giving up easily.

You need this time to work on yourself and figure out who Monica is. Its hard to do that when you're both working from home, together all the time, and raising three kids. And trust me, I've been married for 38 yrs and we do tend to settle into routines that are not becoming to us.....its hard to break the mold we've created. So yeah, I give you and Serge much respect for not taking the easy route; and to you Monica for realizing that you want more than what your life was giving you. You woke up...... good for you. It doesn't make you a bad person or parent, either of you. So get rid of any guilt you might be carrying around for "breaking up the family". Marriage is a hard gig, I don't care what anyone says.

This doesn't mean you and Serge will be apart forever, or it could mean that. Who knows? I'm just glad that both of you are making honest attempts at a more fulfilling life. Not many have the courage to do what you're doing.

Additionally I find your writing honest and powerful. Actually I enjoy reading both your and Serge's perspective on marriage and separating. Writing is a powerful tool.

Good luck to both of you!! Kids included.

August 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDona

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