Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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The Blue Nightmare of My Heart

I spend a lot of time feeling like I've just been punched in the gut and am trying to catch my breath. Walloped while in the middle of some mundane bullshit like doing the dishes, making dinner, cleaning up shrapnel from the toy grenade that goes off round these parts every couple hours or so.

I take the hit, stop, double over my own body, hands clutching knees like I've just taken a line drive to the belly, eyes squinched tightly closed to roadblock tears or open wider than wide, boring lasers into the floor as I concentrate on making it to the other side of the moment. When 'one day at a time' is reduced to 'one second at a time.'

When Reese Witherspoon was divorcing Ryan Philippe I read a quote in one of those dumb magazines I've wasted hundreds of heard-earned dollars on over the years and it stuck with me. It's how I feel a lot of the time now. Most of the time. A quick google shows I remember it almost verbatim:

"I was sitting in a parking lot, and I felt like I just couldn't get out of the car. It was like, I can't get out of the car. I thought, 'Okay, half the parking lot has dealt with this,'" she added. "'More than half the parking lot with this. Okay, let's make it a little bigger. Half of this city has dealt with this. Okay, let's make it a little bigger -- half of this country,' until I finally got out of the car."

That moment occurs to me at least once a day. Some small facet of divorce, some previously unrealized fallout from the great divide, will enter my consciousness in a most abrupt manner and encompass my entire capacity of thought; as if I'm trying to contemplate some mind fuckery like the concept of infinity or its opposite: ceasing to exist at death. That shit's intense. Messes with your mind to the point that your brain shuts down and you can't fathom interacting with people as if it all ain't no thang. But what's the flip side? Revealing how you really feel? Flopping onto the floor like an exhausted toddler, screaming your ass off about how unfair it all is until some calm grown-up offers you juice and tucks you into bed for a nap? Because that sounds nice. The breakdown, it is alluring. Sympathy is demanded as opposed to pretending like you got this; relinquishing all control, letting somebody, anybody, step in and take over while your brain hops the next plane to Maui, away from the unforgiving grind.

Each day brings a new, innard-churning moment. Whether it's coming home to an empty house or the stark opposite; realizing holy motherfucking shit I am the caretaker of these three lives right now and back-up ain't coming when I've had enough, or the sudden awareness last week that Christmas will never be the same, forever bittersweet now, a clumsy tap dance of kid-sharing/tolerating new mates/loneliness. Hearing my kid tell me she likes the way Dad does something better or contemplating my alone-ness/the space where he used to be... The reality of divorce uppercuts me into excruciation. Panic. The gaping wound in my personality that has been festering since my own parents divorced thirty-plus years ago rips open again, torn stitches - they were sloppy, I sewed 'em myself over the years - blood seepage. I try to talk myself down, Witherspoon-style. 'Keep it moving, Butler. Your pain ain't special. Half of everyone you know has dealt with this. People you previously egotistically judged of weaker mettle. Those people made it through so get ahold of yourself, Sad Sack. Do it better than your parents did it. If marriage wasn't a possibility make your divorce better than your marriage. What else is left? Why not? Why make it harder than it has to be? We're all in this together, just people trying to make our way and be happy so let it all go and just try to be the best you that you can be in the face of the most difficult challenge of your life.'

And yeah. At times I feel stronger and more clear-headed than I've ever felt. Really. I'm not trying to go all Morrissey on you here. There are so many positives underway or else the divorce wouldn't be happening. The good is nearly equal to the bad but at times the bad just seems more consuming. The beauty of the finish line to forty is you find yourself giving little to no fucks about what other people think. It's liberating. A beautiful thing. I was telling my therapist how different I feel and how I look back and mourn the massive amount of time I've spent in my life hating on myself and worrying about what others think of me. What a waste! Except I had to go through that to get here; a lifetime of social anxiety; second-guessing myself; apologizing for my personality. I have stopped apologizing. I am who I am. Like me, hate me but I'm over here giving life my best. I'm a good person, a nice person, one who cares about others and if you don't like me then your feelings aren't my problem anymore and I ain't gonna devote another second of my life wondering why. So that's the nice part stitched into all the awfulness. Couldn't have one without the other so I just have to get through it. Reminds me of a famous Winston Churchill quote: "If you're going through hell, keep going." Almost stupid in its simplicity because really, what the hell else are you going to do? And yet it's worth keeping close, worth repeating every now and again. Keep going.

Reader Comments (10)

I cried every single day for about a year and a half after my ex and I separated. Only for a few minutes, usually, but I had to get that emotion out before I could go back to being angry (it's not for everyone, but I had good reasons to be angry and it kept me sane) I was lucky to be able to work for a friend for a while at that time, and every day when I walked in he would ask how I was, and about every other day I would answer by dissolving into a puddle of tears, and then we'd talk it out. Again. He never stopped asking. A couple of years after that I was talking to him and I said I don't know how I got through that, and he said "you got through it because you kept breathing and your heart kept beating and you just went on." Somehow that seemed amazing to me, because while I was going through all the misery it just felt like I could die at any moment. Just fall over dead because I couldn't take it any more. And honestly I had hoped that would happen, but obviously it didn't. I did get through it and things got better. Much better. It takes time to adjust to what is your new normal, and it's ok to grieve. For me divorce felt like being ripped apart, and it takes time to heal a gaping wound like that. But when you have enough distance from the all the changes things will fall into place and you'll think about it less and less. Just keep breathing; you're doing great.

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

I appreciate your perspective here. Sometimes I try and tell myself that what I'm going through is much different than what anyone else has experienced, much more lonely, much more painful, because I'm alone in my ex's hometown and he's getting married soon and he doesn't ever come home to an empty house and have a home that just doesn't feel like home when the kids aren't in it. But really, I'm not special. I'm just a member of the half of all people in this country that go through this all of the time. A saying I've adopted awhile back, which serves me most of the time when I think that I can't possibly continue putting on my "I got this life thing on lock" face, is "Fake it 'til you make it." I can fake this stuff like a pro. Now I'm just waiting until the makin' it part comes around. :)

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStef

Glad you're still seeing a therapist! And if it helps, and I don't even know if you believe in any of this shit, but a couple friends have thrown it in my face since I've been having a shitty s̶e̶a̶s̶o̶n̶,̶ ̶n̶a̶y̶,̶ ̶y̶e̶a̶r̶, month, that we just finished Mercury Retrograde (as if that explanation will help). Also, I kinda agree with Reese, it's often helpful to remember that other people are going through, or have gone through what you're dealing with and have survived.

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie

"so get ahold of yourself, Sad Sack"
New mantra.

Saturday marks one year my kids and I have been in the new house.
Every day gets a little easier, a little better. Until one day it's bad. I find that the bad days have slowly reduced to minutes from whole days.
Just keep swimming <3

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Elizabeth B said it so well. You DO keep breathing and your heart keeps beating and you get through it because you have to.

You took the huge and crucial step to get rid of what you don't want (and by that I mean settling for being in a miserable marriage); now you are open to receive what you DO want. And big, beautiful surprises will come. I promise they will come and your life will be more amazing than you ever thought possible. I know this because I am living it.

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate

You've got this, Monica…time will heal….

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHanni


I've made it to the other side(through hell) and it's nice over here. Keep moving, you'll join us all eventually.

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBecca

I separated from my husband 7 years ago. He left to go on holiday alone(!) and never returned. I read his credit card statement, got the reference number for his holiday, found her address the day before he returned. He left me with a 6 month old, a 4 year old and a 6 year old. It hurt like hell for months. Then my 4 year old ended up in hospital seriously ill. He walked in to the hospital and was so busy looking at me in my tiny jeans, I couldn't eat, and it dawned on me. I was finally in control and weirdly the happiest I'd ever been,
You will reach that point and it looks like you're having a great journey xx

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCat

That business about reaching 40 being liberating is Fo' Real. I may not be grooving on the rapid onset of grandma's fine forehead wrinkles, but everything else about reaching 40 is the shit! Keep loving your babies and you do you, and behold the zero F's giving that is the rest of your life and ENJOY. It's so great.

October 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMona

It does feel like a deep black hole at times. Then one day you find the bottom of the hole and then you aren't falling anymore, you are just trying to figure out how to get out of the hole. Then, with no ability to foresee, a ladder, a rope, a jetpack, will appear for a day, or an hour, or a minute, and you will get up to a ledge. And so it goes until you find yourself one day on the ground, in the sun, looking down into the hole grateful you aren't in it any longer. There is no formula for when that will happen, but it will.

November 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarty Coleman

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