Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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She's Coming On Like Smoke

I went home for lunch today. Too tired to make anything that required more than two steps, I ate one of the Cup O' Soups I keep on hand because the kids like them just as I did at that age. I read another strange chapter in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, took an unapologetic swig of icy lemonade straight from the container in the fridge then turned up the heat a smidge in anticipation of my kids' afternoon arrival. Two hard-earned rights of The Divorced, I acknowledged with a small smile; drinking straight from the container and turning the thermostat up to seventy-goddamn-five if I feel like it.

Drove slowly back to work in the rain experiencing an unexpected and inexplicable jolt of pleasure at the swooshing noise my tires made as they splashed through deep puddles. Then I sat in my car in the parking lot, rain trickling down my windshield like tear streaks, listening to this song, thinking about this girl I kissed once who introduced me to it. A girl I will probably always be in love with. She's a Lifer, a term I use to describe people in my life I will always be connected with in some way. The people you can not communicate with for six months, a year, and pick right back up where you left off.

As if sensing my mood the rain increased, transforming the windshield and the bleary objects beyond into a Monet painting. But still I sat. The same parking lot in which I had the worst panic attack of my life almost a year ago. An attack so bad my muscles cramped up and I couldn't breathe. Divorce, and the shit you have to slog through to get to the other side, will do that to you.

I willed myself to return to my desk inside the building. Not that I dread work, it is often a respite from the chaos of regular life, but recently I feel like molasses. I find myself staring at nothing while thinking everything.

Over the past year I crammed a lot of stuff in my head, I guess to avoid thinking about reality. I binge-watched a bunch of Netflix series, read book after book and took countless road tips alone while listening to music as loud as the volume would allow to drown out my thoughts. But lately I've been unable to follow a series, realizing I've zoned out and can't remember the past five minutes of whatever show I'm attempting to watch. I think a thought and follow that down to the next thought and before I know it I've lost time. Instead of avoiding thoughts, I'm losing myself in them. It's interesting and mostly good yet I feel a pervasive sadness creeping into my bones.

Maybe it's just that time of year. Daylight Saving Time change is always a bitch. But maybe it's just where I am right now. I feel restless; a longing for something I can't define. The trick is to not look for someone to fill the void or numb the pain no matter how tempting it is to spend time in the company of someone who is clever or funny or cute or whatever else it is that initially draws us to people. Diving into the aloneness is key to figuring shit out. It just is.

Ain't no shame in hanging out with someone who gives me butterflies or makes me smile - because, GOD, that is some of the best stuff in life - but it has taken many years to realize I have a pattern of unconsciously transforming people into what I need them to be at that particular moment in my life, even if it's not who they are at all. Mentally creating or exaggerating certain characteristics - or focusing only on the good things and disregarding red flags - until the person fits who I want and need them to be. Then I have the gall to act surprised, disappointed and even accusatory when I eventually realize they aren't who I turned them into at the outset. Unfair all around.

At this point, when I'm working and succeeding at being comfortable alone, I want to make legitimate connections based on who I really am and who somebody else is, not who I'm attempting to be because it's what I think someone will like or who I need them to be based on what's going on in my life. Truthful connections. No pretense or bullshit.

Anyway, regarding the restlessness or longing: whatever I need is here within me already, it just requires the right thoughts and shifts in perspective. Everything is perspective. Your entire life is perspective. Reality is an illusion. All we have are our individual perspectives. I feel whatever it is I need to learn or figure out right now hovering at the corners of my awareness, I'm just not there yet, I guess.

In a week it will have been a year since I said a final goodbye to Max. I think about him constantly then wonder if it's weird that I do. His absence in my life has fucked me up immensely but I feel silly acknowledging that particular pain. As if a dog, a pet, shouldn't warrant this kind of intense grief a full year later. People are grieving spouses and children and here I am, still sobbing regularly about my Max. But there it is. I miss my dog.

Reader Comments (13)

It's been two-and-a-half years since I said goodbye to my dog and I still miss him every day. My eyes still well up with tears when I think of how much I miss him. I avoid going in the back yard because every time I look to the base of the giant old hackberry tree, I can see him sitting there on his last day, facing south, eyes closed and nose sniffing the warm incoming summer breeze.

My husband and I agreed that we wouldn't get another dog because they're a hassle and expensive; but I didn't know how much I loved that dog until he was gone and the hole in my heart was bigger than I could've expected and still lingers as raw today as it was in July 2013. He doesn't get it, and neither do I.

Most days, though, I'm able to remember him happily now, but I still miss him.

November 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKrystan

Thanks for this comment. It was beautiful to read.

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Wouldn't it be nice if there was an off switch to our brains? I used to drive a hour to work to sit for at a desk for hours at a job I hated and get there and realize that I didn't remember anything about the drive...automatic pilot (or driver). And I thought it was awful and unsafe of me, but now sometimes I wish that would kick in more often, so I wouldn't have to think, so that time would pass quicker.
That, and it's totally normal to mourn a dog like you would any other member of the family. Don't feel silly.

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

Don't feel silly about mourning a dog, no matter how much time has passed. I still miss my family's border collie after seven years. I still miss my cat Hannibal over a year after his death and feel terribly guilty about how he died, even though there was nothing I could have done to prevent it (he was hit by a car on the road in front of my house). If we have open hearts and we share our lives with animals, they become family members and they leave a hole when they die.

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJason

My cat Bowski died on December 28, 2012 around 1:30 in the afternoon. Every December 28th is Bowski Day, now. Every 28th of the month I think about him and feel a little wave of pain. Every day I think of him and feel a twinge. It's a good thing, I think, when you can love another being enough to think of them that often. Your remembering Max is honoring how important his life was, and there is nothing silly or weird about that. It's a testament to your humanity and his dogginess. Good for you for feeling him, still, despite the pain of it.

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStacey

I'm going to a memorial this weekend for my friends' first dog together who died very unexpectedly. We are going to celebrate that little guy's life, and the lives of all companions, with some Champagne and company. You've had two, huge losses this year~ and one wonderful addition... it's bound to be terribly hard!

November 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Your beautiful Max has left a huge hole and that is nothing to feel even remotely ''silly'' or somehow remiss about. In a world of imperfect, inconstant, disloyal others, our loving furry family are there 100% and with total devotion, forgive us anything and love us unreservedly. I feel tearful on your behalf, because you are totally entitled to feel incredible sadness for the loss of him and the long life you and he shared. This is the downside of loving an animal, the knowing you will almost certainly have to be the one to say goodbye.

Totally made myself cry now, thinking of losing my dogs. Dammit.

November 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCaroline

Please don't try to minimize the loss of Max. Did you feed him, take him to the doctor for checkups and when he was sick? Did you hold him close
in the end and tell him how much better he made your life or what a good boy he was? Would you do any of these things for someone who was not your family? How many human beings in your life have loved you so unselfishly, so unconditionally and so faithfully? He may not matter to anyone else but he matters to you and you mattered to him. I still miss my sweet Georgia Brown. I long to sniff her ears and tell her what a good girl she is and she's been gone for nearly two years. My mother still grieves her dog, Allman, and it's been nearly a decade. Any time you love someone, whether they are human or canine or feline, it matters. They matter.

November 12, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKaty England

There is nothing like the love of a good dog, especially your soul mate dog. I lost my most special girl in July and I miss her EVERY day and I get verklempt whenever her pic pops up like it did today as a FB memory. I don't think you can differentiate the hole in your life from losing a beloved animal from having a person close to you pass.

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSaffoula

My family got a boxer puppy when i was 3 years old, she died when i was 13. I had to take two days off school as i couldnt breathe without her. Her picture is on a cork board near my computer. Im 42 and still miss her so yeah.....

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

God, I so get it and I haven't even had to say goodbye to my dog. I just know that someday I will, and the thought of it makes me sob and wonder how I will get through life without him. He is the love of my life. And yes, that may sound silly to people who don't know the unconditional love of a dog, but it's the truth.

November 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSonie

When my sweet lab died in 2009, I made a video/photo slideshow of her, in a feeble attempt to commemorate her life. I set it to "La vie en rose." To this day, whenever I hear that song I wind up a weepy mess, no matter where I am. Time hasn't changed my grief for just spaces it out longer.

It's good to "hear" you in your recent writing, fyi. I could practically see you sitting at your laptop as I read this, like a direct connection. It's nice.

Feel your feels. The path will keep unfolding.

November 15, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterheartsong

It's like you're living MY life. Divorce, kids, panic attack, alone. all of it. Finding my way too - glad I found your site.

November 24, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBeccaD

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