Please Hold On To Me: A Memoir (post 1)


I have prepared for this year all my life, a primordial fate once hidden under a melting sheet of ice; now cracked, the rushing river underneath sweeps me off my feet and threatens all I once called mine.

I made it to another Friday; it’s 4:00 a.m. and as with every morning after waking up two hours before my alarm, I get up, splash water on my sunken eyes, swallow something for my throbbing head before stumbling downstairs to feed my dog and cat. Coffee is first; I add the filter, two tablespoons of ground Starbucks Verona and six cups of water. As I wait for the magic that is coffee, I check my email and Facebook to see if something has changed since 11:00 p.m. Black Friday sales are coming early but otherwise nothing. The coffee pot beeps and the sound of hot liquid pouring into my cup whispers to me that I can do this thing I have to do today, unbearable even one month ago, yesterday; any earlier would have killed me, but I feel mostly dead anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

The only thing that matters is to save my girls from losing their childhood far too early, from losing their connection with their parents from divorce like I did. I sip my coffee at the kitchen table, vanilla cream and chocolate stirred in to cut the bitterness. It’s dark still, rain pelting the windows that look toward the Olympic Mountains in the distance, one of the only houses in the golf community with a view other than the course. My girls sleep for another couple hours before it’s time to get dressed for school, excited to say goodnight to their dad for the first time since we moved back to Washington State six months ago. Our one magical year living at the base of America’s first ski resort, Sun Valley, Idaho, turned into an avalanche sending all five of us careening down the mountain I spent the past seventeen years climbing.

Every morning since the end of August, I crawl out of a dark crevasse; the routine of getting my three girls to school is my only foothold to what had been my beautiful life. I am in shock – the I-have-to-choose-to-breathe-in-and-out kind of shock. At night I only fall asleep after reading Pema Chödrön’s book, When Things Fall Apart, with a hot water bottle on my chest, melting the ice crystals lodged in my heart, constricting even a breathe without conscious effort. My blood pressure is so low I should be passed out on the floor and I’ve lost twenty-five pounds, my weight less than my ten-year-old self. Every night, the same prayer, “Please help me. Please tell me what to do tomorrow,” and every morning I get up with a singular focus. There is no weighing of options, always just one thing I must do.

This evening I have to take my girls, the three people who mean more to me than my own life, to stay overnight with their dad for the first time since our lives collapsed from the weight of secrets and lies and madness. I thought living in the Rockies for a year, my husband’s fly-fishing dream, would be a magical year of togetherness, of connection, and outdoor adventures, but instead ended in complete devastation. The end of June, my husband disappeared from our driveway with the Uhaul hitched to the back of his pickup without us, excused by his travel schedule that kept him away most of the time during the past year – while we waited for him next to the river, on the trails, on the mountain. I never saw him again, at least the guy I thought I was married to. And now, tonight, I will drop my girls off by themselves, my worst nightmare based on my own childhood defined by divorce, with this person who became untethered living at 6,000 feet above sea level, that I don’t know anymore, and may as well have shot a bullet into the center of me and left me for dead.

8 thoughts on “Please Hold On To Me: A Memoir (post 1)

  1. First, thank you for your unveiled heartfelt words. I can feel what your feeling and the weight of it. But I also have a lot of questions. Chocolate in your coffee? Where is your tribe? If I lived closer, I would have pulled up a chair and told you, shown you through my listening that it will be alright. All is well. I know all too well the darkness you speak of. Although, I am the one who did the leaving of relationship then, tethered myself back again at a distance. No matter how it happens, to our children we still have to rally. I am certain they will look back in these years and see a mom who was resilient and powerful even as weak as you felt. I see you. And thank you for writing. ❤️

    1. Thank you for writing a note. The whole story is not this intense but overall it was a very tough year to say the least. Yes, chocolate in my coffee. ❤ And for the tribe, there are times in life that you are so far into the abyss that the only way out is through. Others can root for you, but certainly can't get you out; you have to do that. All the best stories have one hero, don't you think? xo

  2. Certainly the only hero of your own life is you. You are brave and doing the best thing that you know to do. Our daughters grow strong in life, just like we do. I think it’s important that they see us weak and strong, so that they know they can be too. It’s always one step at a time.

    1. It’s at the point when your knees hit the floor you learn what you’re made of. I think you are so right, Cindy, our daughters learn so many things from us, but if they learn nothing else, it’s that it is okay to embrace where you are, not hide or pretend or smile anyway. It’s okay to be on the floor and then you get up and do what you have to do. That is courage. Thank you for reading and commenting. ❤

  3. thank you for your courage in writing this Janna. You are a wonderful role model for your girls and for the rest of us that are not as brave as you. You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

  4. Janna,your words are filled with such depth! Why is it that tragedy and sadness plummets us to the depths of despair yet also gives us the opportunity to soar. I watch you soar. You are a strong beautiful woman. Thank you for allowing the rawness of your life to be transcribed. Healing crosses all barriers of time and space.

    1. Thank you so much, Carol. The depths of despair is only the beginning of the story. The story is always about rising out of the ashes, soaring higher than you thought possible. Thank you for helping me through the tragedy and sadness my friend. xo

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