Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Lots To Be Glad About/Lots To Be Sad About

The house. It was a character in the play of our family. An important one. The dream, the house fire, move out/move back in, a child born, slipping into the world in the living room in which we loved and hated and hoovered nachos and drank too much beer and watched Dexter/Louie/Breaking Bad and gave up on Mad Men... The house in which we made the eventual decision to separate and leave it all behind...

It is no longer home. I don't live there. But, like every other place I've lived for any significant period of time, I could close my eyes and negotiate every room with ease. Instinctively knowing were to place my hand to flip on a light, the way to sway my hip slightly to the right to avoid the sharp edges of the kitchen island, exactly where to place my left hand to open the cupboard and grab a water glass...

Sometimes it feels too sad to contemplate, the twists and turns life takes. That if I think too hard about it all I might crawl under my covers and cry myself hoarse, which has already happened more than once. I've spent much of the last while experiencing numbness interrupted by lightning bolts of rage. Not rage at Serge. Okay sometimes rage at Serge, but I challenge you to find a couple in the midst of this scenario and rage isn't involved, but mostly just rage against the fucking awfulness of life. A dead animal on the side of the road/a dying relationship/a news story detailing the death of a 1-year-old in the back of a hot car/Billie Holiday singing I'll Get By on scratchy vinyl/Violet's toothy smile grinning goodbye as we drop her off at pre-school down the street from Dad's place/Henry saying the word MAMA? in a way that breaks my heart a little each time because I know it won't last/hearing Charlie chuckle for the first time/seeing Serge set up house in a place not mine but with things that have been mine for ten years - it all makes me weep uncontrollably at the ferocious beauty of life.

If I think too hard about it all I wonder if I'll ever feel true happiness again or if I know too much about how shit can turn out. And yet, amidst all of it, I'm relieved too. The house was the stage for much unhappiness and a new place of my own feels good.

In the old house my kitchen was in the back, the window above the sink looking out into the backyard. I thought I liked that best but in my new house the kitchen window is like a large movie screen playing the world's latest offering. A doe and two fawns, baby rabbits, joggers, walkers, cars, trucks; all manner of life passing through the theater that is my kitchen. I like it. And I like the smallness of the house, mostly.

The largeness of my old house often overwhelmed me. Too much house to take care of. Me, responsible for all that. For heating all the nooks in the winter, cooling all the crannies in the summer, miles of floor to scrub/vacuum/Swiffer, many rooms that I had to keep not only organized but clean... I often ruled my kingdom like a crazed dictator, yelling about crayon on the walls and toys on the floor, shouting demands like Hitler announcing plans to invade Poland.

But my kingdom has been reduced, my dictatorship responsibilities seemingly halved and I am enjoying the freedom and simplicity of living in less with less. And the new job, I thought I'd dread working full-time again but it's been fantastic to have structure imposed upon me on the days the kids are with Serge. My God, what would I do with myself otherwise? Not having my kids with me feels like I imagine jonesing for a fix would to a junkie. I pace restlessly, itchy, pick up stuff/put it down decide to go for a walk/decide not to go for a walk/I need to smell Charlie's head/sing to Henry/touch Violet's face/this is awful/someone help me/I can't do this/I can't fucking do this/this is a nightmare/whose life is this?

But then, the blessed air-conditioned halls of AccuWeather, the thrum of people doing their thing...Surrounded by people but alone, something I very much need right now.

So. Babble is restructuring. Many changes over there but they've asked me to continue writing parenting-related news and, more interestingly, they've asked me and Serge to continue writing a relationship column together. We've agreed. We have nothing to hide and probably a lot to share when we're individually ready. Not about the reasons for separation but the aftermath and creating new, separate lives for ourselves. Hopefully you'll stick around.

Despite all the upheaval I feel very calm and present in my life. There is no more arguing, no more anger... Okay, some, but not much. I'm seeing a therapist weekly who I like very much. Although each time I get ready to go to an appointment I have this brief moment when I decide I don't want to go/I'm not going and then I just go anyway and end up glad for it.

There is lots to be glad about/lots to be sad about.

Reader Comments (10)

It sounds like everything will be alright... as it will be. I hear your voice coming back in this entry, even though it may be hoarse from sadness right now. And-- 'not going to therapy' to 'so glad I went: perspective' is what I've experienced as well. Sending love to you, your littles, and of course, Serge, too.

June 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Monica, you always say things that hit me like a brick...I was reading along,feeling sad, nostalgic, just a ton of emotions hitting me....But then you said..."hearing Henry call me mama" and it made me break down and sob..You're right, it doesn't last forever so suck in every second of it! I think about that often, and wish I realized that.... back when I was your age....With MY babies....With you.

June 28, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermama

I am so happy/proud/sad/mourning for you and yours, and regardless of the mixed feelings, I am so happy that you are all moving forward. It sounds like you are all in a good/progressive place, and regardless of the outcome, the upheaval will be healthy. Good for you.

June 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

Peace be with you.

June 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Life is good and you will come out on top of it because that's just who you are.

What a fantastic idea for you and Serge to continue writing a relationship article together. :o) People need to read about successful divorce. People need to know that children are the most important part of our lives and that no matter what we are going through and no matter what are decisions are the kids need to be loved and need to know that Mom and Dad are both loving and good people. It will be interesting to see how you and Serge handle the togetherness along with the apart-ness. Bravo!

I remember the pain of separation from my children when they were with Dad. The good news was that their dad was a trusted, good and loving person. I eventually came to cherish both my time with the kids and my time away from the kids.

June 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJust Jill


June 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSerena from Italy

I am so sorry that it is so hard and that you are feeling sad. You know the sadness will eventually fade -- it will come and go for awhile and hit you hard when you think you're through it, but eventually it will go and not hit you so hard anymore. You're right that it is good you are working when the kids are with Serge - it would be awful to be at home alone at those times, at least right now. I wish you forward progress in your grieving process, minimal backsliding in it, and great peace at the end of it.

June 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

I hope Serge has the same kind of numbing distraction of work when you have the children, and he is "jonesing" for them. I've always thought of him as being a most amazing father, based on what you both have written. It hurts my heart and does sound quite nightmarish to imagine the ache of what this would have been like when my babies were that small, and the concept for them of not being able to access both parents except for a timetable and schedule. I'm glad you feel happy, relieved and moved on about all of it - that really didn't take long. You're doing so well!!
All the best, and Serge, if you are reading, please start writing again. I miss your perspective, if you are willing to share.

June 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeah M

I'm saddened that your beautiful chemistry together has come to an end.

I could feel your 'lost' for a while now though. Sometimes that is what motherhood does. While it is the most beautiful experience it also sucks the life right out of you, so that you feel lost, overwhelmed and a kind of restless that is hard to explain.

I could hear in your words the things I had gone through as a Mother and a wife. I had hoped you would find a way to work it out and stay together. But since it is not to be, may you find the peace you are looking for.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShaniesj

Glad to hear from you and sending you loads of support and compassion. Currently looking for my first full time job since having my kid and more than a little bit anxious about how it will all go. Of course, it will work itself out. Change is hard, change is good.

July 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterstella

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