Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
« Your Tits of Yore | Main | On Dating After Divorce »

The Trenches

Last year was all adrenaline. No time to breathe. Pregnancy, separation, have a baby, leave freelance writing from home for a full-time job at a real place for the first time in five years, move twice, start a kid in kindergarten, lose Max. Divorce.

Adrenaline like a coked up motherfucker. This year is adrenaline too but in a subtler way. I'm constantly aware of its quiet hum but the ferocious roar of THIS IS MY LIFE NOW is deafening. Divorced, nearly forty, a full-time job, three small kids and an ex 25 minutes down the road with whom I constantly negotiate the business of co-parenting while maybe trying to date other people, both of us knowing we're seeing people - talking about it together a little bit, even - and trying to be cool about it for the sake of co-parenting.

Co-parenting, when your kids are so young, basically dominates the entirety of your existence. In some ways, I am more beholden to Serge and his schedule and his life than when we were married because we're coordinating our children from two different locations. It's pretty much like running a company with him. Running a company with your ex. Except it isn't business, it's personal. Ha. How are we going to do this and that and the other thing and who's the sexy blonde leaving all the comments on your Instagram and who's picking up/who's dropping off and when and registration and oh you had a woman over for dinner that's nice and soccer practice and school concerts and yes, I'm kind of seeing someone and parent-teacher conferences.

All the complexity involved in the constant keeping alive of small humans who, if left alone, challenge death at every hazardous turn: Take the ping-pong ball out of your mouth, don't jump from there, sit down in the tub you're going to give yourself a concussion, STOP running ahead of me that car almost hit you, sit down in the cart, don't stick things in the outlet, get out of the road, don't touch that it's hot, don't hold your brother's head under the water, he can't breathe.

And simply keeping them alive isn't even good enough! YOU SAVED SOMEONE'S LIFE SEVENTEEN TIMES TODAY AND IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH! You have to do other shit like brush their teeth and put clothes on them and wipe shit off them and force them into bed every night then beg them to get up the next morning. I knew this before kids, of course, but much like I imagine experiencing war from the frontlines, one can't fully realize the intensity and trauma involved until you're living it. You can read all the books, watch all the movies and hear all the stories about something but until it's your reality, you can't really know. You can watch Saving Private Ryan 800 times but until it's you in the landing craft storming French beaches you just don't know.

And it's not only keeping them alive and relatively clean but you kind of need to enrich the lives you are saving on a regular basis with quality time and reading and do you know your alphabet and smiles and can you tie your shoe and I love you so much it's terrifying and here's your chocolate milk and reassurance and unconditional everything and get in the car I'm late for work and I'm sorry I made the wrong dinner and inspiration and right from wrong and oh you wanted lemonade not chocolate milk I'm eternally sorry and here's your glass of water and no I won't buy that for you today and just one more story and holy shit.

Also, that's not enough. You must constantly deal with the ever-present, suffocating guilt that you aren't doing all of the above all the time and if you are you're probably doing most of it wrong. They say so. I don't know who THEY are but they told me you're doing it wrong and they probably know because they have 75,000 followers on Instagram. By the way, do you know how easy you have it? So easy. So many people are worse off than you. You should feel guilty for feeling overwhelmed because there's this thing called privilege and you have it and so you should feel guilty for not constantly acknowledging your privilege. They told me so. Your overwhelmed-ness is an offense to those who have it worse.

Oh. And savor all of the moments. All of them. Because it goes by so fast and in a blink it's gone and look Mom look Mom! Watch me! Watch me. Savor it all and if you aren't savoring feel guilty as hell because you love your kids more than anything, sometimes you just gawp at them and the magnificence of their being is so overwhelming you start to cry because you can't fathom that they are yours and you are theirs forever and of course you would die for them in three seconds but also can you just get a moment to yourself because you are tired as fuck. But your beautiful 4-year old boy is asking you to play Superheros and how hard is that? You selfish bitch, get off your ass and make the smashing crashing noises he likes. He's not going to be this magical age forever and in ten years you'll give anything for him to ask you to play. Who has time for savoring when barely surviving?

Dog paddling in the ocean. That's what it always feels like. Paddling like a sonuvabitch to stay above water. Tired as fuck. Too many thoughts. Too much alcohol muting thoughts that become louder anyway. Constantly wondering what constitutes too much alcohol. Wondering if wondering about what constitutes too much alcohol is my answer.

I do this thing a lot where I think about myself in my late-forties and I'll look back at me now at 38 - just like me now looks back at me in my twenties - with a kindness and compassion I can't ever seem to muster for myself in the present moment and be like; aw, I remember going through that. Fuuuck. You feel fucking awful, right now, don't you? I know. But we got through! I wish I could come back and tell you this thing and that thing and don't waste so much time worrying about that other thing because I know EXACTLY how you're feeling but, girl, you're gonna be fine. This is the trenches. We were in the trenches, but it's better now and look at all that you learned!

Or fuck. Maybe life will be so much shittier then that I'll look fondly back on this time as 'the good years.' But even if these years that feel so intense end up being 'the good years' I always think about that Louie CK bit about what you get with a basic life and it keeps it all in perspective.

We get to be on Earth. I mean, look at this place! We get to eat. Every time I eat a burrito I think about that. Like, shit, I am in debt or my job sucks or that relationship was lame but how bad is it all really when I'm EATING THIS FUCKING BURRITO and am going to sleep shortly thereafter in a warm bed after I look at porn and masturbate. I can masturbate! That alone is pretty miraculous, no? I can make myself cum. I know how! And I'm not embarrassed to tell you about it even though maybe you're embarrassed to read about it. Unclench your butthole and get over it, Uncle Byron. I also get to read heart-wrenchingly beautiful books and listen to unbelievable music. Sex. Sex with other people is also part of the basic life package. We get to fuck.

I'm getting older and wiser and in case anyone is wondering, fucking is way better when you're older. I want to do an 'It Gets Better' video for girls in their twenties enduring shitty sex for various reasons but mostly because they just don't know any better. If you're lucky enough for all your physical and mental shit to align in just the right way, you can really have a good time in your thirties and beyond. In stark contrast to the overwrought sexual/relationship/body drama of your twenties, you've maybe learned a ton about sex and relationships and are fucking the right people for the right reasons while giving less of a flying fuck about bullshit body issues and if you're really lucky you never lose that OH MY GOD, I'M FUCKING ANOTHER PERSON feeling from your teens and twenties. It can all come together in a really excellent way, is what I'm saying.

So there's that. Talking to you about fucking. But whatever. We're all grown-ups here. Quit being such a prude. I'm just trying to tell you that when I get down I like to remember how lucky I feel to be participating in the basic life package deal which is pretty much the greatest stuff ever: Earth and food and music and books and fucking. And dogs. Dogs save lives. Get one.

Reader Comments (12)

Great post. Favorite one in a while. And life is pretty good, mainly because of masturbating.
6) “He/she’s going to a better place”
This one always cracks me up. The one thing we will never, ever know as humans is what it’s like after we die, but people sprain an ankle racing to be the first dipshit to say “Well, he’s in a better place.” I don’t know about that. First of all, right here we got blowjobs, cheeseburgers and baseball. We can go to the beach, tell Yo Mama jokes, we can pay an “escort” to put on blackface and pretend she’s Nell Carter from “Gimme a Break.” Seems to me like that’s tough to beat. I don’t know what’s on the other side and I never will, but I’ll take my chances with a world that has potato chips and “Alf” dvds. Secondly, if death means going to a place that’s better than here, and you’re sure enough of it to say it out loud, why wouldn’t you kill yourself?

September 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterXmastime

God, I miss Nell Carter. But she's in a better place.

September 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMonicaBielanko

'Gimme a Break'

September 17, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Yes to all of this. I separated when my littles were 2 and 4, and this is how life has felt in the past year.
Freakin' exhausting, but also filled with possibility.

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercurlycue

I've been reading here for years. This made me cry today, for some reason. I'm not in a similar life situation to you, but if you're ever wondering if your writing helps other people feel less alone, then you should know it does.

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRose

going through the motions (and that includes masturbation and fucking) just like the rest of us (albeit, at a different level, because every situation is unique) is not what makes you different. what makes you different is your ability to paint the picture of going through the motions so vividly that your readers can relive the feelings of their own ride just by reading your words.
this ability is clearly mothered/fathered by your analytical mind which clearly holds the keys and antidotes to your momentary/temporary lacks of happiness and bouts of depression.

i've always liked your thoughts and their frankness (the latter of which is at its best when you don't point it out or worry who is reading you). years ago, i commented that i was here (on your blog) for the wrong reasons. today, you have made me realize that they were the right reasons all along. so thank you!

September 18, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

Loved this, Monica.

September 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterE.

I guess I'm in the minority, but it's Still weird to read about your new life, sex and all. I loved reading about you and Serges home life; fights, kids, fire all of it. Kinda like my favorite couple On my soap broke up. I don't like that they've moved on. I know, weird.

September 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterL

I would like to see "legendary omnishambles" taken off. I think Serge said that to you and I don't see it at all. You're keeping up with three small children, a job, a house, a yard, relationships, co-parenting schedules, appreciating all the wonderful things life has to give (as mentioned in your post) and still lookin' mighty fine to boot. I wouldn't call that an omnishambles. I would call it kicking ass.

September 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

I'm in agreement with Jacqueline -- It is easy to think about all the ways it feels like your life is falling apart (especially when you are tired!) but the truth is: You've got this. You're showing up, and you are doing everything that needs to be done every goddamn day. And your kids see how hard you are working for it, and even if you can't play super heroes every single time, they see YOU and they will respect you for every ounce you are pouring into this life of yours. Shut the Netflix off, go to bed early for once and give yourself the break you deserve. You've got this.

October 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHeather MK

I feel and live every single word of this. Divorce, 3 kids, guilt, work, sex, figuring out who the fuck I am and what the fuck I'm doing.

October 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterM

I have never in mu life written on someone's blog , With that said U are the most amazing , funny, REAL, person I have ever read /met whatever ..
I am your age 38 basically living your life with a couple differences one of them being I have a teenager and a preteen but I just had to write how much u make me laugh, inspire me with all your crazy shit and how basically we are the same person , ok now that I am borderline stalking u thank u for giving me some hope thru your comedy and perspective ... U are awesome

December 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>