A Broad View: The Mother of the Boy

Posted inCreative Voices

Confusion is always the most honest response.
Marty Indik

I sit in my new/used minivan in the parking lot of the orthodontist Violet sees once a month-ish, waiting for them to come out. I pop what is probably strawberry Icebreaker number eight into my mouth and remember trying to talk to my ex-husband in the same parking lot nearly two years ago while we waited for the doctor to glue the braces to Violet’s teeth.

It was early COVID days and parents had to wait in their cars in the parking lot. Me and Serge, parked side-by-side, camped out in our little iron tents awkwardly not acknowledging each other like two uneasy mob capos waiting for the drug deal to go down so we could lay rubber and get out of there.

It seemed so nonsensical, his abrupt and easy dismissal of our roles to each other as co-parents to three incredible children I know we both love more than anything. We had disagreements, sure, what divorced couple doesn’t? But we had completely stopped speaking and I couldn’t accept the non-communication, the loss of his presence in my parenting life.

In a momentary burst of fortitude courtesy of my music playlist du jour, I steeled myself like a misbehaving mafia soldier asking the don’s forgiveness and dared to approach Serge’s car to ask for his friendship or, at the very least, friendly co-parentship, if only for our kids.

As was my habit during our ten-year marriage, I spent several agonizing minutes struggling to convince him his perspective of me was wrong. I’m not the me you see!

I cringe now, looking at the spot on which I once stood, pleading with him through the passenger window while he stared forward, stubbornly refusing to meet my eye. His car engine ticked hotly in the buttery June sun, matching my racing pulse.


A pulse. A heart. A time bomb.

Somewhere in the middle of the excruciating, baffling conversation, in an attempt to cut through digression and the tired, familiar arguments, I whipped off my Walmart Foster Grant sunglasses to reveal my eyes and stared hard into his dark pupils, searching his mask of a face, hoping for a knowing smirk to twist his lips or a thread of humor to pull at his eyebrows.

“Why is this happening? What did I do? Nothing has happened we can’t work though. It’s just me. I am not a monster. It’s just me!”

He stared blankly. No recognition. Or maybe in recognition of the monster he believes me to be?

I drove home sobbing at the dismaying realization that years of a life with someone you know as well as you could ever know anyone can amount to nothing but blankness. My brain could not compute how the intensely intimate act of bringing children into the world could end in disorienting strangerhood. How my children will grow up with the same agonizing discomfort I experienced because of my divorced parents’ shitty relationship. I am the mother of our incredible children! my brain shrieked. You held me as they slid from my body into our world. We owe them our friendly co-parenthood.

It’s just me, I had said in bewilderment. But “just me” is monster to him. Or worse, “just me” is nothing to him.

Alone in my car in the same spot I had parked two years ago, my heart thunders behind a heavy chest and my stomach aches with familiar anxiety. I’m not sure why. Now is not then. Serge is not parked next to me. I haven’t exchanged words with him in person in years.

The tight chest and churning stomach are as much a part of my days as allergies only I can’t swallow a Claritin to calm the symptoms. The anxiety is like the lower back pain I often wake up with now that I’m coasting on the downhill slide into my fifties. It’s just there. A routine part of my day, a routine part of me.

The therapist tells me I have complex post-traumatic stress disorder and says I spend much of my life in “high alert or survival mode.”

Where PTSD is typically related to a single event or series of events within a short period of time, complex PTSD is related to a series of events that repeatedly occurred over an extended period of time: a chaotic childhood, or a dysfunctional relationship. People with complex PTSD have trouble managing emotions. They experience some symptoms of PTSD along with additional symptoms including difficulty controlling emotions or feeling very angry or distrustful towards the world. They can also repress memories of traumatic events and experience shame and guilt.

I shove another Icebreaker into my face, tongue it to the roof of my mouth and lick the ridge-y pink strawberry part. I take a deep breath and pull the visor down for the third time to stare in the mirror at the two furrows deepening near my eyebrows and the bridge of my nose. Tiny lightning bolt flesh trenches that are starting to make me look permanently angry. Fuck it. Show me an American woman who isn’t angry right now.

I suck the Icebreaker until I can’t resist biting into it then shift in my seat so I can study the elderly couple sitting in their car a few spaces to my left. Noses nearly touching iPhones jammed up to wrinkled and sagging mugs, they haven’t uttered a word to each other that I can see. Maybe it’s a peaceful, companionable silence. Maybe they’re filled with hatred and resentment for each other.

I obsessively wonder if other people experience the world as I do or if I’m exclusively fucked up? There I go again, wondering where I fit on the bell curve of human fucked-upness. My whole life feels like one big masquerade of trying to act the part of Normal Human while my insides are a violent tornado of confusing emotions.

The regular happenings in life send my emotions contracting and dilating like a heartbeat. If you strapped one of those hospital EKGs to my body to monitor my emotions it would be heart attack city, baby; the little line would skyrocket and plummet over and over again like the skyline of a great big town. The emotional reaction doesn’t even feel like it comes from my brain, from rational thinking. It feels physiological. An automatic response, like breathing or blinking. I wonder if I will ever be able to make the knee-jerk emotional rollercoaster go away or if I’m too far gone. Shit, I’ve spent 45 years building this fucked up personality. Dismantling all the shoddy work often feels nearly impossible.

Are my responses rational? Am I hypersensitive? Mostly, I just don’t know. I often ask Cory, Mr. Well Adjusted, “Am I overreacting to this or is my response normal?” There’s that word again: normal. But what even is normal?

This is classic Borderline Personality Disorder stuff, I reassure myself for what feels like the millionth time. You can handle this. You aren’t your emotions, you’re the awareness behind the emotions. You’re the blue sky and emotions are just clouds, passing through. Wait out the storm, it’ll be gone in an hour.

Christ, I’ve googled “Borderline Personality symptoms” a thousand times over the past six months.

  • Unclear or shifting self-image.
  • Impulsive, self-destructive behaviors.
  • Extreme emotional swings.
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness.
  • Explosive anger.

Five of the seven symptoms hit me in some capacity every day. I think of myself as a bunch of mismatched puzzle pieces jammed together to form a person. The pieces kind of fit and everything looks okay from a distance if you’re squinting, but get up close and you can see that shit is all fucked up.

Existing as myself sometimes feels unbearable. I envision reaching up and digging my fingernails deep into the center part in my hair, grabbing a nice, big handful of scalp and ripping. Tearing off my skinsuit, beginning at my crown. Ripping, ripping down hard, massive flesh fillets accordioning downward until I can drop it all into a pile of white and pink Monica sludge at my feet then exit this existence. Step out of this body with its faulty brain and view things clearly.

But what does “clearly” even mean? Everyone is caught up in their own little reality show with its ticker tape of bullshit flickering across their brain screen. There’s no escaping.

Damn, she sounds fucked up.

Interesting that the voice in italics is me speculating on what you think about me while reading this. My entire life has been an obsession with what others think about me. I’m a Westworld robot programmed by humans. A black hole who became aware by compiling other people’s opinions of me into a personality. I am consumed by what you think of me and will adopt your view as my own. If you think I’m bad I’m certain your opinion holds more merit than mine. I have a limited ability to completely blow you off.

I’m reading How To Do The Work, a book my therapist recommended by Dr. Nicole LePera, who writes extensively about the power of the self to create meaningful change. The following paragraph hit me like a bomb. It describes a phenomenon I’ve experienced my entire life but could never articulate other than to awkwardly explain that I feel like I don’t have a core self or personality that isn’t based on someone else’s opinion of me.

“Those of us raised in homes where free self-expression was not supported may find ourselves overly focused on what others think or feel about us. This was a common experience for many of us, and I believe it is one reason why social anxiety is such an epidemic today…Most of us spend loads of mental energy trying to be understood. Our fear of being misunderstood drives our body’s physiological reaction, propelling us into a stress response in which cyclical thought patterns and egoic stories drive our behavior. This fear binds our sense of identity with the perceived approval or disapproval of others. As social creatures whose evolution was based on community and acceptance, rejection from our herd could have dire, even fatal, outcomes. The evolutionary drive toward social acceptance makes it impossible to connect with the people around us when we are in a fear state. It makes us reactive and irrational.

Holy shit. That’s me! The Westworld robot. The black hole.

People struggling with complex PTSD often have emotional flashbacks and experience the intense feelings originally felt during the trauma. Fear, shame, sadness, despair. I cycle through those daily. I don’t know if it’s an emotional flashback, though. Most of the time I feel like I’m still in the trauma part.

The winter and spring were rough. I hate winter. I like to walk barefoot from my backdoor, leave the house without bundling up, sit on the porch and watch the kids and animals roam the yard. I’ve been dragging myself over the finish line of every day, dousing my fiery nervous system and lulling myself to sleep with my beloved Sierra Nevada pale ales that taste like I’m nursing from one of the beautiful, big-mama pines surrounding my yard. Pine tree juice. Most definitely not nutritious.

My central nervous system is constantly jacked, stuck in the on position, yet I feel more burned out than I ever have. It’s an odd, jangly dance; feeling wired and burned out at the same time. Parenting four kids, full-time job, college, running a house, and navigating the unnervingly sporadic landmine-riddled emails fired at me from the kids’ other parents along with personal/work/school emails and Slack messages filled with intolerable office jargon like bandwidth/circle back/touchpoints/low- hanging fruit (which always makes me think of saggy balls) My inboxes (plural!) are an endless assault on my well-being and there is nothing to be done about it.

Trapped in the Matrix.

I haven’t written here as much as I want because I also write for work and lately even that has become daunting. Previously easy story assignments are inexplicably requiring me to rip sentences from my guts and string them onto empty pages I have been staring at like calculus problems. Writing even the most basic sentence feels like coked-up Johnny Depp mirror-painting with a severed finger; is this legible? Do I make sense?

There I go again, worrying about what you think of me.

During a session the other day my therapist and I were talking about art and artists, I don’t remember why. Maybe because I was excited about this podcast my boss asked me to create for our company? Specifically, a “prototype” of a podcast, the top-floor suit told me, to see if we wanted to “move forward with the concept.”

I love podcasts and I really enjoyed the time a few years back when I hosted one. I produced and edited Our Ex Life with Serge for a hot second before it exploded like a broken sewer pipe into a spectacular shitshow. I guess you had to see that coming out of a podcast hosted by exes navigating each other and two new relationships. I mostly blame myself. But, it really scratched an artistic itch for me. I listened to this episode the other day and although it just about killed me, hearing us banter, argue and laugh like we used to, I felt really proud.

Anyway, my therapist. He wanted to know why I don’t consider myself an artist. I must’ve downplayed something, I’m not sure what prompted the specific question.

Why don’t I feel like an artist?

I’m a writer, right? Is that not art? It is. It is my favorite art. I think in words, I feel in words. I connect with others using words. I express my truest self with the written word. I love twisting words into surprising and pleasurable sentences. I suppose I did feel like the artist until I married and became the audience in more ways than just standing in the crowd watching his band play.

Am I an artist?

Throughout my marriage, I defaulted into the position of landing the right job that offered the right health care. I was captain of the ship, anxiously, desperately, trying to sail my family into financially functional waters while hurricane-force winds constantly conspired against me.

While his artistic inclinations and intentions were admirable and alluring, they forced me into a position and personality I am still trying to understand. Not only was keeping dependable money rolling in and budgeting, saving, and setting goals my job, it subliminally designated me as the “real-world” personality in the marriage, most certainly not The Artist. The Artist gets to be the enticing one, the interesting one, the dreamer. The real-world personality is a boring, money-obsessed nag.

I still read most of what my ex-husband writes. He’s a thoughtful, lyrical writer who has a flair for poignantly articulating both the mundane and profound moments of his and my kids’ lives and you should subscribe to his stuff. Mostly, I read to see what life is like for Violet, Henry and Charlie over at dad’s place. Because I just don’t know! I think that’s what hurts the most. I am missing half their lives and the near-total loss of control over anything involving them when they aren’t with me is breathtakingly terrifying.

I don’t know what my kids act like with their dad. I don’t know how he interacts with them or what parenting decisions he makes or what problems he ignores. I miss the camaraderie, the knowing looks or texts exchanged over kid antics. I don’t know what he thinks about the incredible people they are becoming or if he’s clocking the little things I’m clocking about these beautiful humans we created.

I also don’t know much about their relationship with their stepmom or stepsiblings. I try not to ask them about it too much because I don’t want them to feel like I’m prying into their lives. Besides, asking the 11 and 13-year-olds anything means they have to press pause on their iPhones or, god forbid, remove an earPod or headphones to answer mom’s dumbass questions about what flick you watched for movie night at dad’s place.

I’ll go several months without reading and then I’ll check in on his stuff just to see what’s up, usually clicking on the ones about our kids, which I love to read. The other day, after a self-imposed stretch of not reading, I took a trepidatious peek and saw a thing about our son’s birth that felt like a powerful right hook to the jaw. Probably, I’m overreacting. Maybe I’m not. As I said, I never really know.

He was in my arms/ warm/ breathing/ alive/ and I could feel the light heavy that you feel when it’s your baby. The dull outline of shoulders through the tight blanket. The powdery scent of his scalp coming through his skin like Broadway grate steam; the dark netherworld where he was up until now/ now empty/ void of his presence/ given him up to the world out there.

To the light. And the wind. To the stormy winter sky. And the overdrive coffee breath of his father.

The other people in the room that day/ I don’t have relations with any of them. There are no words. We parted somewhere back along the trail as people do. Nurses, doctors, maybe a grandparent, the mother of the boy/ they have faded from my world now because that’s the way things go sometimes. A lot of times, actually.

And yet the boy remains.

My son. My oldest boy.

Henry we called him.

“The mother of the boy.”

Like an uncredited extra in the background of a movie scene.

“Faded from my world.”

Like a ghost.

He disappeared me. Like a ruthless, cutthroat mafia don he chained a cinderblock to my ankle and shoved me into the East River.

I’m Jimmy Hoffa.

The mother of the boy carried him for nine agonizing months, filling plastic grocery bags with Slurpee puke on the way to and from work. She napped in her car or under her desk during lunch breaks. She shit her pants twice when she couldn’t get home in time, gained more than sixty pounds, three chins and an abdomen full of stretch marks. Then she painfully pushed him from her aching body into existence.

I feel desperate to write myself back into the story.

I remember Serge nervously fiddling with the blinds in his lifelong quest for “mood” lighting, especially in the overly bright, antiseptically white hospital room. He anxiously pulled out the computer on which we had downloaded a birth music playlist. I see him standing to my left, veritably vibrating as he excitedly counted to ten while I pushed and pushed in a way that, after experiencing natural childbirth, seems violently unnecessary. But I did what I was told. I remember the heart-stopping moments just after his birth when they whisked Henry off my chest because of breathing issues. Serge and I stared at each other so panicked we were unable to say words and then it was all ok, Henry was crying lustily and dad was bending over the clear bassinet in the corner whispering to his first son that he was going to be ok as they delivered the placenta from my exhausted body.

I feel erased. I can’t fathom it. My kids are growing up in a home where my existence is largely ignored. I don’t know how you share the incomprehensible experience of bringing three magic children into the world with someone, spending years raising those children together, only to end up pretending like that person doesn’t exist. That can’t be the end of the story.

“That’s the way things go, sometimes,” he casually wrote as if he stepped in dog shit and disgustedly scraped the sole of his Vans on the edge of the sidewalk to get it off and kept moving on down the street.

Look, I get it. Millions of parents divorce every day and don’t look back. Time with dad is his time and time with mom is hers and never the two shall meet. But, for me, that doesn’t compute. I’m wired wrong, I guess. Because I don’t know how to recover from being disappeared, especially as a mother. I am a broken record spinning the same tired lyrics. I can’t escape the pain cycle. Is this the Borderline Personality Disorder in me? Is this shit common sense easy for other people?

The rejection not only of me but the almost total erasure of my motherhood is short-circuiting my existence and trapping me in this pain loop. This whole thing, this entire post, me unable to deal with rejection and the extreme emotions that follow, is probably some kind of super obvious BPD blueprint to professional and armchair therapists the world over.

I totally get it.

But I don’t know how to go to heaven and hell with someone so many times and then walk away like I never knew them. But maybe that’s exactly why he chooses to forget?

I should’ve seen it coming. While he has always been excessively nostalgic about the items of a life – kid artwork, tiny baby shoes, sawed-off blue spruce stumps Sharpied with “Xmas 2010,” ornaments, sticks, rocks and pinecones from hikes, hundreds of road trip magnets carefully procured from isolated truck stops – people have always seemed less important to him, a self-professed loner. I knew this at the outset when I saw his easy dismissal of previous girlfriends when he met me and now I know it firsthand. I am another ex, thrown away and forgotten. My motherhood to the most important people in his life is no longer acknowledged in any meaningful way.

Hatred or rejection from a person who was so important to me, especially as a co-parent, a person whose intelligence I admired and who I always felt had a good read on others, feels like a small death. Aside from my dad, he was the main man in my life. Now, just like my dad, he is gone.

The father of my kids ghosted me.

I am embarrassed and ashamed of this. It seems to confirm my monster-ness. A judge’s gavel on the verdict of my personality. Still, finally admitting what has happened and how I can’t seem to let it go feels like jamming a pin in a bulging boil and watching the infection squirt out.

Violet gets in the car, headphones already on, iPhone in hand, thumb hovering, ready to press play on their secret Spotify song stash they won’t let me hear or see as if even my stupid mom eyeballs will taint their tunes. Their face is his face. From the moment of their birth, it has been uncanny how much the two look alike. It hits me all the time; the ghost of Serge lurking in their creamy skin and haunting me at the strangest moments.

They will get their braces off in July, they tell me impassively. Text your dad, I tell them. Let him know.

Violet was diagnosed with autism the year we got a divorce. It was a tough year. Separation, newborn, autism, moving. Serge took the diagnosis far better than I did. Sitting in the psychologist’s office, hearing her words, I almost blacked out. My vision tunneled, my ears buzzed and a burning, chemical smell wafted into my nose. Serge just kept nodding calmly, like, this is no problem. Violet is Violet. This doesn’t change anything. He shines in a crisis. Like when our house caught fire. Solid as a rock. It’s the details in life that tripped him up.

“So, what’s the next step,” I remember him asking the doctor after she had crashlanded her diagnosis speech into my now mutilated chest.

“I think we need to give your wife a minute,” she nodded gently in my direction and that’s when Serge turned and seemed surprised to notice me sitting silently, tears streaming down my face as I gripped the arms of the chair hard and wondered what the diagnosis would mean for Violet.

Turns out, Violet’s autism diagnosis has been the main thing that has helped me understand and deal with my Borderline Personality diagnosis. People with high-functioning autism – previously called Asperger syndrome before the wide range and severity of symptoms unified into a single diagnosis known as Autism Spectrum Disorder – often have difficulty ‘reading’ other people and recognizing or understanding others’ feelings and intentions. This can make it very hard for them to navigate the social world.

After my diagnosis, I went to Violet’s room and told them about it. I said that just like they can have trouble correctly perceiving certain subtleties within a conversation or social scenario and worry that their responses aren’t appropriate, I feel the same way about my emotional responses. I often have no idea if my feelings or reactions are rational or irrational, just as they don’t know if they said something too bluntly and hurt someone’s feelings.

Autism impacts the nervous system and can cause stress and anxiety. Similarly, the sympathetic nervous system in people with BPD may be overly stimulated, causing intense or irrational reactions and just like people with ASD, those with BPD tend to display signs of stress longer than others. Minor situations that wouldn’t impact other people can cause an extreme physical response.

I’ve spent Violet’s life translating confusing social customs they don’t easily pick up on so I have an acute understanding of what it feels like to “fly blind” when trying to figure out how to respond to scenarios or if your instinctual reaction is appropriate or “normal.”

When I get really down on my emotional volatility or feel shame for an overreaction to a situation, my therapist kindly reminds me of my Violet. This shimmering star is the smartest, purest person I know and, at thirteen, is steadier and cooler than me by a longshot. “Would you be this mad at Violet if they misunderstood a social situation and behaved in a way society would deem inappropriate?” he asks.

He’s right, of course. But it’s hard to love me even one-tenth of how much I love Violet.

Close to the end of my marriage, when I was pregnant with Charlie, I pretended to go all Mother Earth and told everyone I was planning to use a midwife and give birth in a pool in our living room. I talked Serge into it and spent many hours defensively telling anyone who would listen how shitty hospital births can be. How maternity care in America is based on industrialized, patriarchal perceptions of maternity and men trying to control yet another exclusively female experience. I really do believe that but, in all honesty, I never would’ve talked myself into that home birth if I had health insurance. The notion of giving birth at home in a rural farmhouse as an ancient 37-year-old scared the shit out of me. Geriatric pregnancy, they call it. Grandma’s having a baby.

A freelance writer at the time, I couldn’t afford to have the baby any other way. The one time in my life I tried to be The Artist, I quickly found there’s no room for two freelancers in one marriage, especially if kids are involved. Somebody gotta pay for the health insurance and it’s always gonna be the boring, “money-obsessed” nag. I knew I needed to get a job. I also knew my marriage was over.

We were ill-suited for the constant, calm, communication necessary for a stable romantic relationship. I look back at those two people with a compassionate, aching heart. He was a self-described insecure, “husky” kid who suffered from relentless anxiety and depression that I made worse with my own emotional volatility and angry outbursts. Two emotional, moody motherfuckers maniacally treading water to keep from drowning in each other and ourselves.

I had to leave that marriage. But I didn’t want to so I clung desperately to a friendship after the divorce. Because I felt as if I had abandoned him, I tried so hard to keep him in my life and help him move forward. I experienced so much anguish and guilt for leaving the marriage that I became over-involved in his post-divorce life. It is only now, nearly eight long years after my divorce, where I am grieving being erased, that I realize how unhealthily enmeshed I was with my ex after the divorce.

Once I didn’t have to dance with his moods on a daily basis and could retreat to my own home, I was able to connect with him in the ways that first drew me to him: His intellect, his wild, silly imagination, his humor, his perspective, our shared love of voracious reading. He became my confidante, my comrade, my war buddy in the foxhole of life.

We both come from fucked up childhoods with mostly absent dads and overwhelmed moms. His perspective on humanity and the terrible beauty of being alive is something I haven’t experienced from anyone else. While most people run on autopilot, he’s operating from a hyper-aware and observant baseline. He’s forever trying to balance an artist’s mentality with real-world responsibility and that has proved an exhausting, anxious, depressing experience for him.

I’m more comfortable around dysfunctional people. I understand their rhythms, responses, and overreactions. We are kindred spirits, as Anne of Green Gables would say. Mentally healthy people who obviously have their shit together make me nervous. Like they’re x-raying through my pasty, aging skin directly into my blue-black soul. I feel judged.

“You’re not allowed to play with Monica, that Butler family is bad news,” childhood ghosts whisper menacingly in my ear.

There’s an edgy vibe or spark within most functional adults who come from dysfunctional childhoods that I recognize. I’m drawn to them, fascinated by their tough luck, phoenix-rising-from-ashes stories. Your dad was gone too? You were abused? Your mom was on food stamps? Was your house scary and chaotic? Did you feel neglected? How old were you when you got out?

Although we’re kindred and I admire our survival skills, I don’t usually pair well with my dysfunctional peeps. We tend to one-up each other with our fuckery. Escalation. The life strugglers, the anxious, the sad and depressed emotional rollercoasters like me need the calm, grounded folks. People like Cory, whose parents have been married for nearly fifty years. He’s never seen them fight and he couldn’t fight dirty with me if he tried. He is a natural de-escalator who operates with sturdy, quiet compassion I’ve never, ever experienced from another human being.

I can be mean. Everyone who has loved me has told me so. Relentless. The Viper, Cory and I call that part of me. Monica has left the building so don’t fuck with The Viper, she’s an activated amygdala in survival mode launching missiles. Alchemizing every emotion into anger, she lobs fireballs at everyone and everything.

You’re a beautiful person, Cory says to me when I tell him I’m terrible. You’re the kindest, sweetest most empathetic person I know, he says. You make sure everyone is taken care of. You move earthworms to the grass, relocate ants and spiders to safe places and cry over roadkill. He validates my motherhood and calls me the best mom he’s ever seen.

It makes my chest tighten with so much suppressed joy that I have to stretch my arms for relief and turn away so he doesn’t see my delighted smile. But he knows it’s there.

There is so much good in my life but the sadness, pain, fear, and anxiety still manifest as rage sweeping through me like wildfire freight-training down a dry California hillside. Lately, I try to force my awareness up and out of my burning body, bottle-rocketing into the sky to shoot for that life-saving drone perspective of what’s happening to me. It’s hard. The hardest thing, maybe.

What’s happening here, Monica?

Why are you so angry?

No, that’s not quite it. Think harder. Why are you really mad?

Ahhh, so you’re not mad! You’re actually sad…

Ok. So you’re sad because you feel helpless.

It’s hard for you to experience helplessness because control makes you feel safe.

Hey Monica, it’s ok that you’re sad. You’re going to be ok. Deep breaths. Feel the steering wheel between your fingers, your ass on the seat, the spring sun beaming into the sunroof. Put your hand out the window like you did on those Sunday rides as a kid and let the wind stream between your splayed fingers. You’re ok. You’re ok. You’re ok.

You. Are. OK.

Serge struggled with losing a wife and then he moved on and erased me. I quickly moved on from my husband and still struggle with losing a co-parent.

Mismatched until the end, ol’ Monica & Serge; the gas can and packet of matches flaming into the cosmos. Maybe this is the way it was always going to be?

I’ve spent most of my life being mad and not knowing why. I now realize that, mostly, I wasn’t mad.

I was anxious, sad and really fucking scared.

The rage, anger, heartbreak and grief all wash in and out like ocean waves. Some are tidal, others barely register.

Underneath it all, I just miss my friend and co-parent. My war buddy. But I don’t think that person even exists anymore except in my memory.

I’m so sad about that. I don’t know how not to be.

Hey there! I’m going to give being “The Artist” a real try. I have some exciting video content coming up involving interviews with my favorite women that will likely include a paid subscription, although most essays will always remain free. For now, if you appreciate all the work that goes into this newsletter, consider supporting me via the Venmo tip jar below.

Now Reading/Watching/Listening:

Reading: Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Nonmonogamy by Jessica Fern. Polyamorous psychotherapist Jessica Fern helps people break from defaulting to monogamy without truly exploring what relationship style really works for them. In this first-of-its-kind book, she offers strategies to help people move toward secure attachments within multiple relationships.

Reading: Emma Louise Alvarez on Why Is Monogamy the Default for Injection.

Listening: Smartless podcast with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. Forget Mark Maron and Dax Shepherd. These fellas are a constant laugh-out-loud delight. Will Arnett is my celebrity crush, I’m just waiting for him to come and find me.

This essay was originally published on Monica Danielle’s blog, A Broad View, a real-time memoir about starting over in mid-life. You can keep up with her work here, or join her community at Substack.