Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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These Are The Days

I woke up at six today. Before the neighbor's rooster, even. I usually hear his signature crows as I slowly drag myself from dreamland but this time all was silent. Still dark. I like that, waking up before everyone else and should attempt it more instead of letting Henry wandering into my room substitute for an alarm clock.

He's next to me now. Henry. My little sidekick. Just about potty-trained. Which gives me, what? Six full months of no diapering bliss. My first diaper-free six months in five years and then back to the grind. I don't mind.

I do what I do with my kids each day often while floating above myself marveling at how it's all turned out for me. Not that it's overtly amazing or anything. The amazing bits shine through the drudgery like gold flecks sparkling among dirt in a prospector's pan. Life is a grind a lot of the time. Get up, feed people and pets, make sure the people are cleaned and dressed and get to the places they need to get to, clean up the messes the people and pets make. The same fucking messes day after day after day after day. Toys everywhere: under couches, on shelves, in shoes, in the sink, everywhere but the playroom. Dirty counters, dishes left on tables and in the sink. And finally, if there's time, make sure I don't look like a zombie, the walking dead. That's just the physical stuff. That doesn't include the mental and verbal acrobatics involved in raising small kids. The intricate tap dance that is keeping little people who aren't that great at entertaining themselves from boredom. That'll exhaust you faster than cycling loads of laundry on a hot summer day.

But while dog-paddling awkwardly through the river of life I float above myself and realize that these are the days. Not to get all Natalie Merchant on you but yeah, I'm going to get all Natalie Merchant on you. These are days you'll remember. Never before and never since, I promise will the whole world be warm as this.

I am keenly aware of this bit of Natalie Merchant wisdom all the time. Too much. Sometimes I just want to get lost in the moments and not analyze but it's not how my mind works. Even when Henry is throwing an epic tantrum I feel mostly amused instead of annoyed. I can immediately imagine him as a sullen teenager, too cool to discuss life with his mom and I feel lucky that even in the midst of his toddler wrath he still wants to hug me, still needs comforting from Mama.

"Mom, you're my girl, okay?" That's what he told me the other day. And then Violet, who is obsessed with the baby growing inside of me, with babies in bellies and the growing from newborn to kid said, "Mom, ever since you came out of your mama's tummy you growed into a wonderful mom."

I don't even know where she learned the word wonderful. It's not in my vocabulary, at least not in its sincere form. I've uttered a sarcastic "wonderful" a time or two. Sincere wonderfuls are reserved for slacks-wearing, bespectacled middle-aged women or kind-hearted, sweater vest-sporting teachers congratulating you on the "A" you just earned in Chemistry. And my sweet daughter.

I feel the same way about the Internet, lately. Floating above it all, watching in amusement as all the action goes down. Facebook debates, shitty comments, adults wasting hours and hours of their lives desperately trying to prove their point to strangers. I feel old. Like my grandma trying to watch an episode of The Real World and not getting why people enjoy all the yelling and drinking. It's too loud. Turn it off.

For the longest time I felt like it was my duty, my obligation, to read shit written about me on the Internet. That, like a musician reading reviews, it was my duty to read what people had to say about me or this blog. But I think paying attention to that kind of ruined this website for me. Not only paying attention to what was being said about me, but reading the idle gossip about anyone making some kind of name for themselves on the Internet. It was all there in my head every time I logged on and started to write something. How will this be received? What will they say about this? What kind of comments am I going to get about this? You can see why it started to ruin writing for me... And the negative comments about others made me start reading their blogs in a judgmental, negative light. Hate-reading, I think they call it. I was infected.

I was trying to write here with everyone but myself in mind. I had to tune it out. Turn it off. That's when I realized I am not required to read these things about myself. It sounds silly and simple in retrospect. If I had a dollar for every person who told me to stop reading the negativity over the years I'd be able to buy a really nice pair of shoes. But when you know stuff is being said about you it's hard not to peek, harder still not to respond or shape your writing in a way that answers. I realized it's kind of like trying to win a Facebook debate: pointless. The only hope is to stop reading. I was becoming a victim of an Internet experience I was creating through my choices. Your Internet experience is what you make it. I was filling mine with poison, hatred and angry people instead of using the time to feel uplifted, informed and happy.

I stopped reading. It's been several months. I stopped blogging too, for the most part. I had to reset my brain. Let it all go. Accept that I cannot shape the opinions some people have of me. That not everyone is going to like me. And that's a tough one for me. I have an insatiable, almost sad need to be liked. When I meet new people I'm all teeth and forced pep and loudtalking. It's pathetic, really. So yeah. Pleasing Internet strangers. For years I had this If they really knew me, they'd like me mentality. It took a long, long while to realize I was pandering to people I wouldn't like if I knew them.

What a waste of my mental energy.

And so I'm back. I feel good. Second trimester. Morning sickness gone. I went to the gym for the first time in months and trundling away on the elliptical while The Killers howled felt better than the best massage... "Comin' outta my cage and I been doin' just fine."

I uploaded some photos and realized there were some I didn't take. The absence of Violet in the photos and the appearance of a suspiciously small finger leads me to believe she was snapping photos with my camera when I wasn't looking. While they are, perhaps, the most unflattering photos of me ever taken, I love them. They candidly capture the neverending business of motherhood I described before. This is my life. These are the days.

Reader Comments (25)

Glad you are back!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeccaV

I love this post! This is exactly what I went through, on a much smaller scale. I had to reset my mind, take a break from blogging and refocus my energies. I'm back now!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJess

What a great post. So true and so real.

And, even thought it doesn't matter in the very, very least - We are very different women, and yet you remain one of my favorite bloggers. Despite our differences, you are able to connect with me,through your words and experiences. That's why I keep coming back. I love it. I am so happy you are feeling better and are back!!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

LOVE. A whole lotta love to you woman. Haters gonna hate and that's just how it is. Prolific huh? Authenticity is honesty is often shamed and misunderstood. Meh.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSelena


August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusan


August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Monica, I'm sure this has been said, but BEST POST in ages. I'm glad you found your voice again. I look forward to more!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChar

Yeah! I'm glad your back. Like others said, haters are gonna hate. They will always try to find the negative. I love the way you write. If I didn't, I wouldn't read. I love your honesty and the rawness of life that you write about. I like you just being you. Looking forward to more of it.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVicki

Love the pictures. Photos taken by kids are so cool. Love seeing their perspective on the world!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDanni

SO glad you are back. I felt like that time I quit taking my lexapro cold turkey, all brain zappy, restless and out of it without my monica fix. I have that same compultsive need to be liked- you are about the only one I read anymore. Too much toxic out there- blech.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersarahjo

I've been wondering where you were, welcome back. I missed laughing with "The Girl Who" keeps my day entertained here at work.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTR

Just wanted to say, wow. Loved every sentence of this post. Glad you're back.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDanicaB

I love this post. I think I used to have the social, George Costanza, "everyone must like me!" disorder, too. Somewhere along the way, I got over it. It does sound trite to say, "life is too short," but it's true. Keep writing!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCristin

i was thinking, looking at the pictures that violet took, that she probably sees you taking photographs and she looks up to you. i find it so sweet that she wanted to capture you.
regardless of how the negativity on the internet has made you feel, and that obviously you will need some time to yourself, away from blogging, every so often... i think you will be ultimately happy that you kept at it, and think how wonderful it will be for your daughter to have all these words to know her mother more intimately than in the daily grind of living together.
these words may be here long after you're gone. i think that's beautiful.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteranother monica

Wonderful! (har)

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJacqueline

Glad you're feeling better and well enough to write this *wonderful* post. I like you. And I don't like very many people. You're pleasing the pickiest person picker EVER. So there. Just be you.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDianaP

I like you. And I love this post. It feels... turning point-ish?

Keep going, come what may. You have words in you that need to come out. xo

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTracey

This is so great. I love this. And you.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenteragirlandaboy

Beautifully done. This is the you I love. I've been hanging around for a while hoping you'd come back to this. So glad you did. Congratulations sweet girl.

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura B

Beautiful, insightful post, Monica! And I just adore Violet's photos. A great reminder of the worthwhile things in life.

With my 5 o'clock drink, a toast to enjoying yourself and taking things in stride! Cheers!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterashley

Welcome Back!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered Commentershuga

Yay! And very nice to see you back. Love, love the photos that Violet took. Fantastic post!!!

August 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHanni


September 2, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterstella

That a girl.

September 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

Any one else immediately get Natalie Merchant songs stuck in their head after this post - anyone ?

September 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJami

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