Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Stop Trying And Just Be The Person You Want To Be

Brooklyn '06

Max lasted long enough to see me through the worst year of my life: he solemnly accompanied me through the screaming/crying/panic attacks of Spring 2014; through the move from our home of several years - a move that signified divorce was our new reality. Max was my constant companion through the bone-rattling adjustment of shared custody; through starting a full-time job for the first time after several years of freelance writing. He saw me through it all and then he let go. At the end I whispered as much to him: It's ok, buddy. I'll be ok now. You can let go. It's ok...

His timing in my life was impeccable. He was impeccable. A fucking gentleman of the highest order. Probably loved me more than anyone in my life ever will. Still not able to think about him much without crying. I thought I felt lonely the first time Serge drove away with the kids after our separation, leaving me to my own deviant devices (youporn!) (kidding!) (maybe!) but that wasn't shit compared to what it's like without Max. Yes, Milo is still here but Milo is very different from Max. Max was a person dressed in a dog suit. I used to joke with him, pretend to search all over his body for the zipper while scratching all the parts I knew he liked scratched the most. "Where's the zipper! I know it's here somewhere. Come on, Max. Where's the zipper to your dog suit?" As if I could unzip his black labrador suit and Max the perfect human would step out, leaving his furry costume in a wrinkled heap on the floor around his feet.

He was so tuned in to every emotion I experienced, every movement. A finger snap, a sigh, a heartbeat and Max would twist his glossy noggin to study my face, often sensing something amiss and readjusting his body so he could rest his head on my lap or stick his velvety nose into my palm and lick. Who else on the planet cares about you so deeply their life is based on constantly monitoring whether or not you're ok?

Milo is all dog and instead of following me from room to room throughout the day - like Max - he prefers alone time, usually finding some nook or cranny in which to hibernate until the next time he's invited outside to play Frisbee. I don't know what he's doing: meditation, satanic rituals, listening to Morrissey and writing sad poetry, who the fuck knows? What I do know is he looks like a 12-year-old caught jacking off every time I enter the room: surprise then annoyance. What are you doing here? Get. Out.

All the hair I lost over the summer is starting to grow back. It looks ridiculous. All along the part in my hair are one and two inch hairs sprouting up. My hairline around my face is full of tiny hairs swirling every which way. It's annoying. And fascinating. My hair is reborn. And I'm in the process of being reborn. I feel a control over myself that I've never experienced before in life. It goes back to realizing that I am in control of my response to everything. My emotions don't lead me, I lead them. Life isn't happening to me, I'm happening to it. I can choose to let myself swirl down the drain of dysfunction or I can take a couple deep breaths and move forward. I still lose it from time to time but I regain control fairly quickly and often, if I can, order myself to bed because everything is always better after sleep. During the night fresh perspective always slips into the room and climbs into bed with me.

I was talking to Serge the other night about how hard it is to go through a divorce during a time of social media. We aren't friends/don't follow each other on anything but sometimes I stumble onto things I wish I hadn't seen. With our divorce final in weeks, the dreaded notion of him seeing other women is inching ever closer to reality. I know he talks to women, as he should, but it's a really fucking bizarre thing to witness women overtly flirting with your husband. Ahem. Ex-husband.

So I was telling Serge I was having a hard time not letting curiosity get the best of me and wandering into internet neighborhoods that it's in my very best interest to avoid at all costs. "I'm trying to be such a good person, I'm trying so hard but..." I trailed off helplessly and we stood there silently, looking at each other across ten years of history and the future divide of divorce. "Don't try." He finally said. "Just BE the person you want to be."

Just be the person you want to be. It just might be that easy.

Reader Comments (14)

Oh, thank god you're back...I was getting worried there! Relating to so much you write (as usual), but this one's hitting home today. It's such a different perspective from the norm of thinking life is happening to us rather than the other way around, but I like it. I need to remember that right now. Trying to find that control is a challenge lately, so thanks for the reminder that we have power over our response.

December 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChristine from Canada

What happened to Sophie? is she still around.

December 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersaffron

Glad to read something new from you!!! Good ole Max was there to help you until you were ready for him to go... sniff. Be the person you want to be-- great advice. Harder for women than men as there are more 'pressures' upon women in general--- which I am sick of, quite frankly. Sending lots of love to you, Monica!

December 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I don't think you need to beat yourself up for checking on stuff. Honestly. You're still in the 'adjusting to a new reality' phase, letting go, figuring out how you feel about things you can't control....I'm just saying, be patient with yourself. You'll become when you're ready to become.

December 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterall the same

@saffron - You mean Max's sister who my best friend adopted? She got a weird illness while camping two years ago and they had to put her down. So they're both gone now...

December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

I have a 12 yr old Shih Tzu who is like Max. A human inside a dog suit! She's my baby girl and I pray hard for many years. Wishing you a peaceful holiday season during this difficult time. Just be YOU!

December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenda

The vultures who are circling Serge on social media strike me as pretty pathetic, to be honest. It doesn't have anything to do with him...the fact that he now falls into the "available man" category is enough for them to start acting out their desperate "I can love you better!!!" fantasies. Seriously, they're gross.

December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFWIW

That, my friend, was your heart dog. You are blessed to have had one. I had one too, but lost her to cancer almost 2 years ago. I have two other dogs, but neither will ever be my heart dog. I'm not sure if I'll every be so blessed as to find another one. You may not be either, but how lucky were we that we had that one that made such a difference in our lives? RIP sweet, sweet Max. Have a sniff around for my Wrigley - you guys could be the best of friends.

December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKerri

Being broken, a cracked pot, has amazing potential when filled with the knowledge that you are completely loved, as you are, without condemnation. Being understood as and unfinished and damage piece of work liberates you.... to embrace the beautifully flawed person you are, and to allow the essence of yourself, of acceptance and love within pour out through the cracks...and bless others. So poetic. Milo wrote that. I got it yesterday :) Hugs

December 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergina

Hi Kerri above me!

Monica this is going to seem so strange but I have thought many times in the last few weeks that I wish I could text you. I've been following for a while and once you and Serge separated, I found that I was more drawn to Serge's position and writing. I didn't quite understand why until it hit me that I was unhappy in my marriage, that I felt lost as a person and when I explained these things to my husband, it was hard for me to see his pain. I think I felt sympathy for Serge as a way to make up for the way I was making my husband feel. It was strange.

I've been trying to find out who I am within the confines of my husband's world and how I got in be in a place that isn't my world at all. It was all decisions I made or agreed to but I still can't figure out quite how I got here. I am rediscovering the woman I am independent of motherhood. I'm looking for enlightenment. I don't want to live in the suburbs anymore. I'm a city girl and much like you and New York, where I really feel at home is San Francisco (I live in L.A.). Even that I'm trying to change, I'm spending more time where I grew up in Hollywood, more time taking in the Christmas lights downtown and more time by myself. I've loved my husband for so long, I forgot how much I love being alone.

Anyway, kind of feels like we are in a similar boat and sometimes I was to share my feelings with someone who fucking understand ME.

December 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKerri L

I can't find wherever it was I read about the bananas. I wanted to tell you to GIVE THE BANANAS TO SERGE when he comes to get the children. The whole point is that the children eat the bananas so they can eat them over at his house. I've been divorced for 7.5 years and raising children that whole time. I long ago learned that fruit is often expensive so I send all fruit that hasn't been eaten at my house, and which I'm not planning to eat myself, over with them to their father's house. No waste that way. I can't stand throwing away food. And if I have extra of something, say a big pot of soup I've made, I put that in a container and send it over as well. I try not to look at it like, "Oh, he can make his own soup," but rather as "He can spend more time playing on the floor with the kids and servicing their spirits." I also think it shows the children that you're working together.

Christmas is another sticky time in co-parenting. Little kids don't have any money but they do love their father so take them to pick out a gift for him (you don't have to spend much) and help them wrap it and be excited about giving something to their father. I swear to you it's the best way. You're not doing it for HIM, you're doing it for THEM.

Putting aside the anger/pain/confusion of divorce and showing a spirit of generosity is one of the best lessons you can teach your children.

I know that giving advice that wasn't specifically requested is called "assvice" so please take it with a grain of salt if it's unwanted.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

hope you are ok...

January 6, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

I hope you are well.

January 8, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermonica

Read you're abortion article reposted on Tango.
Dr. Dobson's Group Focus On the Family has an awesome tape, (maybe now CD) believe called "Tilly. People that told me they had abortions, named the child and had funeral service for; and in counseling. I collect books regarding "Heaven" and that's where your child is. Rebecca Springer's book is my personal favorite. Contact WEBA organization, "Women Exploited By Abortion". Look at book ""Heaven Is For Real", what is says about Baby Sister is Heaven, wow. Forgiveness is amazing. Contact: Google; Priscilla Van Sutphin (her testimony regarding). God is there to forgive our sins. Maybe do a documentary, or support group, bring people together who are struggling with same issue. Luke 11:4; 1 John 1:9. Find Richard Rossi, Producer/director of Saving Amy Movie; he will give you Love, Grace and Mercy; no guilt and condemnation along with George Crites (retired pastor). Contact WEBA. Elders at Crestwood Church in Santa Maria, Ca are awesome also. A woman spoke in Santa Barbara talked by the name of Pam who had over 10 Abortions and her awesome testimony of God's, Love, Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness.

April 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterD

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