Monday, July 9


I awoke feeling anxious. Free-floating worries which previously resided independent of one another had joined to form small knots of anxiety. I couldn't qualify it as a rock in my stomach, rather it felt more like a dozen pebbles sitting fast in the pit of my belly. Something akin to polished marbles in a leather pouch with a drawstring closure, the worries click-clacked against each other. Agitating. Stirring. Click-click-clacking. Creating a general feeling of unrest.
  • Would Andrew survive the day under my friend's care awaiting Don's 6:00 p.m. retrieval after work?
  • Would my friend survive Andrew, his singing-frog-itis and his high energy for the day?
  • Would she be my friend after that experience?
  • Could Don survive the weekend of single parenting for three?

This particular marble--worth double points--carried double anxiety. The nagging second question following the first,

  • Would he survive it so beautifully and so easily as to wonder what it is exactly I get on about in my daily whining?


The list seemed endless.

  • Could I do this by myself? My bags packed, my tickets purchased, my travel instructions in hand. But always when we travel together, I chiefly rely on Don to navigate tube stations, decipher routes, and fuss with ticket agents. Am I capable of handling the inherent challenges of travel?


And a yet unnamed anxiety settled deep in the pit of my stomach.


I suppose it would be easy to chalk the entire thing up to hormonal surge, and that wouldn't be entirely without street credibility. However, the gut level truth of it was I was frightened. Just like my seven-year-old self waiting in the wings for my first solo on the big stage. What if I trip? What if I fall? What if I'm no good at this? What if? What if? What if?

With apprehension I approached my husband and confided my fears. I confessed to the child in me feeling afraid. He consoled. He counseled. And as he most often does, he left it to me to decide whether I would be walking out the front door to claim my weekend alone. I knew his support would be mine regardless of the decision I made.

I also knew with a certainty that I had to do it. Had to.

With the zero hour of departure eminent, I gathered my courage, hoisted my bag and my camera over my right shoulder and marched out the door with my pre-schooler in tow. My shoes made a resounding slap-slap on the sidewalk. My heart beat loudly, but resolutely.


As we walked to the tram stop, my inner dialogue was not so much 'I think I can, I think I can' as the little blue engine might chug, but more an 'I must, I must, I must'.


While Andrew and I rode the tram across town, I examined each of the worry clusters individually, running my own one-sided conversation--a self-talk lecture, if you will--inside my head.

  • Of course Andrew would be fine.
  • As would my friend who had agreed to take him for Thursday afternoon and the whole of Friday.
  • Obviously, we would still be friends upon the conclusion of the exchange.
  • Naturally, Don would manage. And even if it did go swimmingly without a bicker, a bark, or a blow-up, I know he appreciates the job I do daily. Further, he does not begrudge me the whining. He never has.

We arrived at my friend's home where I deposited Andrew, his Lightning McQueen backpack, and instructions for his care. Specifically, tips on how to feed a boy whose food vocabulary is woefully inadequate. Andrew had immediately galloped off to play with best friend, Harry, and barely acquiesced the perfunctory kiss goodbye.


After that, I stepped onto the bus which would take me to the Central Station, and with the worry marbles whirring, inadvertently told the driver "Naar Schipol" (to the Airport) which exposed my innermost thoughts that I just may double back if he didn't quickly get me to my airplane. It was a lucky light moment and as the driver handed me my stamped ticket, he jovially pointed out my mistake and we laughed together. At that moment, I caught my reflection in the mirror and realized that in cracking a smile, I was cracking through this anxious mess my gut was in.

Once at Central Station I boarded the train and contemplated the other contents in this sack of marbles.

click-click-click-click. I must. I must. I must.

This was the rhythm I was reduced to as the train whoosh-shushed along the tracks toward Amsterdam. Somewhere along that line, I dug deep to examine the most nagging worry of all. I named that last great worry, suddenly fully conscious that the last time I had attempted a weekend without the children was the very moment I lost someone very dear. At the moment of realization, this very glimpse into my psyche, I sucked in my breath and heaved an open audible sigh.

  • 'Grandpa isn't going to die again'. I told myself 'You are going to be okay'.

The remainder of the train trip, I allowed the tears to flow, the worries to wash away. The big one carrying the small ones in tandem until most had flushed clear. When I arrived at the airport I felt put together from the inside out. I was breathing in a normal cadence, and smiling with genuine enthusiasm.

The last worry about my personal potential to travel alone was already resolving itself as I stepped through the security gates, navigated hallways and boarded the plane.

  • Indeed I could do this, and what's more, I wanted to do this.

When I disembarked in Vienna and my feet hit Austrian ground, the only click-clicking left was the quick stepping tap-tap-tap of Italian made shoes on posh Viennese women. This offered a fresh counter rhythm to the comfortable slap-thuk slap-thuk of my own flip-flops as I strode through the corridors of the airport heading for the subway, to the train, to my destination.

I was well on my way and I was going to be just fine.

*Upon encouragement from Soccer Mom, I am submitting this piece to Scribbit for the August Write-Away contest.


  1. BEAUTIFULLY written post, Jenn. I'm so glad that you decided to take the leap. I'm sure you've learned so much about yourself--including how strong and independent you can be. How exciting!

  2. Welcome back girlfriend! I am amazed at how you read my blog-mind in terms of topic. Just take a look at my blog tomorrow to see what I mean! Glad you're back and hope you had a great break. Lookin' forward to pics and stories (I have some very romantic Austria memories (sigh)).

  3. This piece reflected all my own anxieties about leaving my family, even for a brief weekend excursions. It was an important reminder that it's good for everyone if Mom has a little independence (and a good time, too!). Thanks!

  4. Good for you. I hope you have a lovely time. I think that get-aways like this are really good for recharging one's "self" batteries.

  5. And you were fine! And you ARE fine! I backpacked alone through Europe in 1990 and was protected by that nothing-bad-can-happen-to-me feeling.

    Then flying alone to Cape Town from Jo'burg as a "much wiser" 30-year-old I was gripped with what-the-hell-am-I-DOING?!?! But I took deep breaths, drank wine, and had an incredible experience.

    And I can't wait to hear more about yours!

  6. and I was going to be just fine

    ...and so you were and so you are.

    Welcome back!

  7. Jenn, you are a beautiful writer! I felt like I was there with you. You have a gift, girl.

  8. brill-
    Thanks friend. You've said it all perfectly there!

    Yes, stories and photos to come. But first I had to tell the truth about just how hard it was to get there.

    I am glad to know this is a universal experience. Or if not universal, at least yet another which you and I share.

    Indeed. Recharging is exactly what I was in desperate need of, and the lack of energy is nearly what cost me the experience.

    Precisely. As I age I lose that edge that I am invincible.

    Yes! And Yes! And thank you.

    Kind words will get you ANYWHERE with me darling.

  9. Hi Jenn- I can really feel that click-clack anxiety. I have it rolling around in my stomach right now, too. Good for you that you conquered it...

  10. That was extremely well written. I was totally THERE with you! :)

    Hooray for overcoming!

  11. GREAT post Jenn. I know exactly how you feel with that anxiety, though. I haven't had a night away from my kids...well...since they were born. I LONG, LONG, LONG for a weekend away...(nowhere as glamorous as Vienna, though, Brisbane or Sydney will do) but whenever I think about it I am plagued with anxieties.

    How will they cope?? How will the person looking after them cope?? What kind of disasters would I come home to?? What if someone gets hurt or sick while I'm away...unable to be at their side immediately.

    I'm sure being away is something you can get used to though. A bit of "letting go' is what is needed.

  12. Good for you! I have to admit as much as I'm looking forward to BlogHer, I'm nervous because I've never been away from my kids for that long. I can identify with your post!

  13. Love this, and can totally identify with the emotions--leaving kids can be hard--and I love your exciting life. Thanks for entering and good luck (if you win again I'm going to look suspicious!) :)

  14. What a lovely story, told so beautifully. Congratulations on the runner-up in Scribbit's contest. I wouldn't have been too suspicious if you'd won first place again!

  15. What a great post. We've all been there, in some way.

    Congrats on the honorable mention!


  16. You are a very gifted writer! I enjoyed reading your post!

  17. This is so evocative and something that I think most moms can relate to. And indeed, we must, we must, we must. I liked the syncopated onomatopeia that you scattered throughout. Just lovely piece.

    I want sacher torte now.

  18. Very well written. It really held some intensity. Congrats on the honorable mention.

    I was in Amsterdam this past March... if you consider sitting in the airport for a 10 hour layover being in Amsterdam that is.

  19. I just popped over from My Mommy's Place. That was beautifully written... I will definitely be back for more.