My Husband And I Separated. When We Met Up 14 Years Later, I Was Surprised By What Happened.

"I found that living life in an unscripted way made people uncomfortable."

A year into the global pandemic, G, my husband, and I went to Sun Valley, Idaho, to end our marriage. It was a place neither of us had ever visited — either as a couple or with our two daughters. It was neutral territory with no nostalgia.

The plane from Los Angeles, sparsely filled with masked passengers and crew, jolted and bumped as we came in for a landing. I hated turbulence — it was a reminder that I had willingly placed myself in a precarious situation. Instinctively I reached for G, my hand hovering over his before I pulled it back. We may have looked like a couple who had been married for 25 years, and legally we were, but we had been living apart for longer than we were together.

Fourteen years earlier, I had asked G to leave our family home. At the time, I had a basic schematic of what divorce should look like: someone moves out, lawyers are called, everything is divided, children get shuffled from house to house, end of story.

Our dissolution did not quite turn out that way.

G and I met when we were 18 years old, living on the same floor of our freshman dorm. He was from Long Island; I was from the Midwest by way of Utah. G was well liked, and we would all pile into his room to hang out. He held space like a magician, captivating us with his sense of humour and lightning quick mind.

We hooked up on a drunken night and started dating. I had only had one boyfriend before him, and this felt different — less fumbling and more electric. We shared a love of reading that was intoxicating. I had never met anyone who devoured 20th century American literature like I did.

I remember the moment we fell in love. I flew to New York City for the first time to visit G and his family. I had seen the city in movies and on television, but nothing prepared me for experiencing it in person: there was the top of the Chrysler Building from “It’s A Hard Knock Life” in “Annie,” the stark towers of the World Trade Center, Lady Liberty holding her torch. G’s parents were larger than life — his mother with her weekly blonde bouffant beauty parlour appointments and his father with his office high up in Rockefeller Center. Over dinners we laughed at their outrageous stories, like the time G was a baby and his mother folded up the stroller and put it in the trunk of her car, forgetting he was still strapped in. It all felt straight out of a sitcom or a movie.

One day, G took me to lunch in the town of Oyster Bay. We had been writing letters all summer, swapping book recommendations, and there we were sharing a bottle of wine and talking over one another, trading insights about Hemingway’s Nick Adams and Steinbeck’s Ethan Allen Hawley. We were captivated by those men writing iconic stories about life, death and the American dream — stories of moral compromises and the loss of innocence.

Sitting in the late summer light of Gatsby’s Gold Coast, flushed with wine and flattered by my charming boyfriend grinning at me from across the table, I felt alive. With college coming to an end, I had been struggling with an escalating inner gloom, fuelled by panic over the impracticality of my Latin American History Major. G was studying to be a doctor, and it came easy to him. I wanted to do something that helped people; I also wanted to be a mom. There, with the sound of the sea lapping at the shores of grand mansions, I wrote myself into a story that transcended my small-town origins and stifled my simmering depression.

We moved in together after college and two years later, G and I were married.

"This is me as a suburban housewife in 2005," the author writes.
Courtesy of Lisa Mecham
"This is me as a suburban housewife in 2005," the author writes.

In Sun Valley, a shuttle bus picked us up after we landed and in the eerie world of COVID, we were its only passengers. It had been years since G and I spent time in person together. We lived about an hour apart in California and most of our interactions involved quick check-ins during handoffs after our daughters spent time at his place. We talked on the phone when there was a pressing issue, but since the girls had been in college, we barely saw one another.

Now, G sat across the aisle from me. What little hair he had left was going gray. We were both turning 50 soon, and I thought back to how young we were in Oyster Bay. How we believed that following our parent’s blueprint of settling down and having children would be a safeguard against misfortune. And how it worked for a while: G completed medical school, residency and fellowship. I went to graduate school and worked as a community organiser, and then stayed home to raise our two daughters. We moved to Connecticut, a Gold Coast of our own.

G made small talk with the driver, and I found myself studying him: Was he talking too fast? Were his jokes bordering on inappropriate? Were his hands trembling? Were his clothes clean? So far, he seemed fine. He caught me staring and smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. The lenses of his glasses were smudged. It made him seem fragile, and my vigilance downshifted.

The shuttle pulled up to Sun Valley Lodge.

Built in 1936 and modelled after European-style ski resorts, it was once a glamorous getaway for Hollywood stars. Now it’s known for its exclusive summer conference where titans and billionaires convene to shape the fate of the world. It is also where, in Suite 206, Ernest Hemingway wrote “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” and where a few miles away in his Idaho home, two decades later, he would end his life.

G and I agreed to reconvene at the heated pool for a dip before dinner. In my room, I unpacked clothes, ski gear and a folder labeled “Divorce.” At the end of a marriage, there are state-specific calculations for figuring out what you owe the person you once loved and what is owed to you. I had done some preliminary research, and the pages I printed from the Internet were neatly organised. We were here to try to navigate the legal part of our divorce without lawyers.

I had no family role models for how to do this. Growing up in the 1970s, divorces were few and far between, or represented in movies like “Kramer vs. Kramer” with its frightening portrayal of parents destroying their lives and that of their child. In my own family, to my knowledge, no relative has ever sought a divorce.

I come from a long line of Mormons, and as a child sitting in church on Sunday mornings, the pews were filled with one kind of family unit: a husband, a wife and children. From the podium, men preached about the Celestial Kingdom, where you ascended to be in white robes alongside God on a throne. If you were not perfect in the eyes of God, you would end up separated from your family in the afterlife. And if you did not get married and stayed married, you would end up all alone, on earth and in heaven.

As a little girl, I would lie awake at night scrutinising my day to make sure I had been good, so I could go to heaven with my family. I dreamed of my husband and our picture-perfect life. Even after my parents left the Mormon Church when I was 12 years old, the echoes of that righteous life still ran in my blood. It made it hard to breathe sometimes, the weight of women’s choices and the dangers of dabbling with desire.

The author in 1979.
Courtesy of Lisa Mecham
The author in 1979.

At the Lodge, I got to the pool before G, and watched the pink and purple ribbons of sunset slip behind Baldy, the mountain where we would be skiing the next day. Snowflakes fell as I sank down in the 100-degree water, my body surrendering to the warmth. The past year had been nothing but trauma: millions of people dead in the global pandemic, Trump dismantling democracy, our daughters’ college lives upended by COVID, my writing career stalled.

When G finally arrived, I looked away as he dropped his robe. The last time I saw his body, he was ravaged thin by sleepless nights and bipolar disorder eating away at his sanity. Last he saw mine, I did not have cellulite or sagging breasts. We used to have a palpable electricity between us, and our sexual encounters were intense, sometimes risky. I didn’t know what true intimacy could feel like or how to express what I wanted with my body ― instead, I used it as a bargaining tool.

Early in our marriage, we took a trip to Laguna Beach. I kissed G, tasting briny crystals as I moved my mouth to the sea curl of his ear. “Let’s make a baby,” I whispered. I hugged him close and was afraid to look at his reaction. If I did — and saw how scared he was and considered how we had never talked about having kids before, how neither of us had jobs, only debt — I might make the wish go away.

Floating in the pool, we drifted on our backs, gazing up to spot the first star. Flesh grazed flesh, but we could not do that anymore, use our bodies to talk. Water rippled as we propelled ourselves away from each other.

The next morning, we rode a gondola to the Baldy summit. I worried I would not be able to keep up with G — I did not start the sport until we met, when he was already a seasoned skier. “Oh, hell yes,” he said as we both looked down at the steep, narrow runs. My entire central core seized up as I realised G had brought me someplace not only challenging, but potentially dangerous.

And I was also seized with the thought that maybe the problem was me. This was an old fear: feeling grotesque, out of my element, and worried about never being a good enough, confident enough, wife.

The ski pants I had bought years ago now barely buttoned at my waist.

We skied off the lift and made our way to the top of a slope. It was cloudy and cold, and my stomach lurched at the precipitous run beneath my feet. “You go first, and I’ll catch up,” I said.

I watched G kick off ― and down he went. The snow bent to his will as he carved a path with precision through the powder. Witnessing his ability to flow with confidence should have been reassuring after our life had been chaotic for so many years, but instead I found myself irritated.

With a deep breath, I took off. My body had no memory of the sport, and I felt the last year of languishing on the couch in my legs — they would not turn fast enough in the deep snow. Terror took over as my skis sped up and my limbs flailed as I crashed. The bindings disengaged, the poles went flying, and I tumbled over and over.

G had stopped halfway down and started side stepping up the hill toward me. A man on his way down the hill found my poles and brought them to me. I crawled over to my skis and tried to put them back on, but one escaped from my hands and took off down the run. A child whipped past me and intercepted my lone ski before it could get too far.

The button of my pants had popped off.

G made his way to me and held out his hand. “I’m fine,” I said. “Just go on without me.”

He propped my poles up in the snow and stood over me. Maybe it was his medication levelling him out, maybe the years of neutrality cultivated by dealing with patients and their complaints, but in that moment his competence felt like arrogance.

“Why did you bring me here?” I shouted.

The author skiing during her trip to Sun Valley with G.
Courtesy of Lisa Mecham
The author skiing during her trip to Sun Valley with G.

When we moved to Connecticut in 2004 with our daughters, ages 4 and 6, I thought G was just a little overwhelmed, and I was a little depressed. After almost a decade of medical training, G had finally started his first job, and I was in Full Time Mom mode, managing our kids and our household.

Banks had loosened their lending standards, so we were able to get a no down payment “physician loan” to purchase a large but run down house on two acres of land. I made myself busy with our daughters’ school activities and scraping off old wallpaper in our ramshackle home, but I could not shake the feeling that something was not right. Was I missing my career? Friends? Maybe I was just a Midwestern fish out of water in the tony suburbs of the east coast.

About a year after our move, G’s overwhelm turned into something else. Where his old self was steady and calm with a healthy sense of humour, this new version was overly gregarious and at times, inappropriate. He started to withdraw and pace around the house. He would sit in another room endlessly doing crossword puzzles. He was not sleeping, and looked exhausted and emaciated. Our girls were walking on eggshells when they were around him. He would forget his thoughts or moods from day to day and would be surprised when I would remind him of them.

One day I noticed everything in the freezer was melting. The door had been left slightly ajar. I closed it. The next day, it happened again. I asked my daughters if they were messing with it and when they said no, I asked G. He told me I was imagining things. A few days later, it happened again. I asked my daughters, and they said no. I asked G, and he was cagey. I pushed him, and he admitted to it. When I asked why, he started out confident in his line of thinking: Since we were struggling to make ends meet, he was simply trying to lower our electricity bill. When I asked how, I watched his mind scramble to remember how this had made sense to him: If the freezer door was left slightly open… then… it would use less power! When pressed further, he got frustrated with me that I couldn’t understand the brilliance of his plan.

This was a turning point: The disruption in logical thinking inside G’s mind was finding its way to the outer world.

Finally, G agreed to see a therapist but downplayed what was going on. After a few sessions, when his symptoms continued to get worse, I found him another one. G knew “doctor speak,” and the sessions would end up being more collegial than therapeutic. He told the story that he was an overworked, magnanimous doctor whose wife was bitter and unsophisticated when it came to complex matters of the mind. They believed him, and sometimes, so did I.

It was not until G admitted to one of his therapists, “It’s not that I want to kill myself, it’s just that I don’t care if I live or not,” that the situation was taken seriously, and he was admitted to an in-patient behavioural health facility. There he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

We let our parents know what was happening. Whether incapable, unwilling or afraid, it was clear they were not going to be the kind of help we needed at that moment in the crisis. My father-in-law came to visit when G was released from the hospital and told us, “I was going to wait because it always seemed to hit when they got older, but… this runs in our family. G’s grandfather, he was depressed. A couple of uncles. One of them may have jumped out of a window or something like that.”

My parents flew to check in on us and admitted that when I had initially tried to explain what was happening in our house, they did not believe me. “We thought you were the one going crazy,” they said.

G and I continued to live together for a few weeks, but he was reluctant to accept his diagnosis and continued to manipulate doctors to under medicate him. I was afraid of the diagnosis and what it meant for us, and searched the internet for more information, scouring the psychology section of the library for clues of what was to come. The fact it ran in G’s family terrified me; the fact it was withheld from us infuriated me.

G was given a leave of absence from work and was now home all the time. I would not let him drive the girls or be alone with them. I started sleeping in the guest room. I would say to myself: “No, G would never hurt anyone.” And, “Yes, I am afraid.” It was hard to reconcile the man who used to be tender and safe with the man now telling me not to wear a certain nightgown, because he did not know what it might make him want to do to me.

I asked G to move to a hotel for a week or two so I could have space. He was very reluctant to do so, but I told him if he did not leave, I would leave with the girls. Eventually, he agreed. His parents — whose outrageous stories about G’s childhood now took on a different significance — told me I was overreacting; they did not want to hear that their brilliant son was deteriorating. My parents could not understand why I had asked G to leave — what about in sickness and in health?

I tried to explain to our young daughters what was happening in an age-appropriate way, but when they saw him, anything reasonable went out the window. One night, we met him for dinner, and he generated an entire poem on a napkin before we had ordered the meal. On another, he showed up at our house, sobbing, saying every nerve ending in his body was on fire.

One daughter started biting her nails to the nub, the other had facial twitches she could not control. He came to a school performance, and the other parents stared at him while he hooted and hollered in the audience. My daughters begged me to help him.

On days when G was in the hotel and the girls were at school, I would go for long walks in the woods near our home. One afternoon, I realised I was going to be late meeting the school bus, so I started to run. My lungs contracted, wheezing shut. I pushed and ran faster. I stumbled over a tree root. A ragged gasp moved past my heart, down to my stomach. Nausea. I doubled over, hands on my knees to steady myself.

Men with their stories. Men with their blessings. Men with their hands on me. Women with our closed throats.

A primal cry from deep inside, I let out a scream. An explosion, violent and luminous ― and for a moment the brightness absorbed everything.

The problem was not G or his bipolar disorder. The problem was me — afraid to live from the part of myself beyond the good girl/bad girl binary. Beyond books, my family, and God himself.

At the time, I was seeing a therapist, and she asked two simple yet revolutionary questions: “How do you feel?” and “What do you want?”

I feel scared.

I want to be safe.

Shortly after, I asked G to move out permanently. He was angry but found an apartment in a converted garage the next town over.

The author's Connecticut home where she lived with G and her daughters before moving to California.
Courtesy of Lisa Mecham
The author's Connecticut home where she lived with G and her daughters before moving to California.

When I finally steadied myself on my skis, G was waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain. He asked how I was, if I wanted to keep going. I had to admit, once I got my equipment back on and skied down, I was feeling more assured, and I nodded yes.

We skied a few more runs, but G seemed deflated. The day grew colder, and maybe it was the biting wind or the tentativeness between us, but we did not have a lot to say. I was embarrassed about my fall and outburst, but also wondered if this whole trip was an expression of his mania and my fears were earned.

G had been stable for many years but with bipolar disorder, there were no promises. I had prepared for this trip, made calculations about how we would end things, and now realised that in all my permutations of what might happen to me when we cut the legal cord between us, I was also haunted by what might happen to him.

Later that night, G and I decided to go to Ketchum where there were restaurants with looser pandemic restrictions. We had both been vaccinated and felt cautious, but no longer wanted lukewarm food in plastic containers. In my room, I flipped through the “Divorce” folder and looked at the forms I had printed from the Los Angeles County courthouse website. One page was an overview of the process, a complicated flow chart of arrows and boxes, like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” starting at “Summons Served” and ending at “Court signs Divorce Judgment.”

I thought back to Connecticut, when I first started telling people that G and I were separated, and friends directed me to other women who had gone through the process. One told me to start taking out small amounts of cash and stashing it away. Another told me to secretly record my phone calls with G in case I needed them for evidence. Many people told me to move two steps ahead on the chessboard and secure legal representation.

I met with a lawyer.

“You have to be smart about this,” she said. “The system is already stacked against women. Assets, property, alimony, they aren’t divided equally in this state, they’re divided” — she raised her fingers in air quotes — “‘fairly’ and that essentially means, at a judge’s discretion. And once you’re divorced, you’ll need your ex’s permission to move with your kids within a certain distance away from him.”

When I mentioned G’s mental health struggles, she proposed a strategy of psychiatric holds, restraining orders and supervised visits with our kids. And the price tag for her services? Without skipping a beat, she said I should plan on starting with at least $20,000.

Our bank account was nearly depleted. We had no savings, only graduate school debt. A pile of bills, some of them second notices. A mortgage going underwater. One half of nothing was nothing; all we had were our daughters.

So, G and I stayed in separation limbo. I did not trust the law to help me end my marriage while protecting me and my family. I did not trust G’s parents, who were continuing to encourage him to downplay his illness. I did not trust my parents, who kept telling me they did not understand because G and I seemed like we had been in love.

Maybe no one had to understand. Maybe there was nothing written in stone or on paper that could guide me. I had to create my own map for getting out. I took my time. I tested each decision against my new framework: How do I feel and what do I want?

I wanted to be safe. I would do no harm; I would accept no harm.

New rules: Unless he accepted his diagnosis and took steps to take better care of himself, G was not allowed to be alone with the girls. I called up my former boss in St. Louis and asked for freelance work. I started keeping track of money in and money out. I could not afford to live in the large, deteriorating house with my daughters, isolated on two-acres of land. I did not like living on a Gold Coast after all. My therapist kept reminding me: I could feel both safe and alive at the same time. By alive she meant, in life. Of life. Life on my own terms.

Having a relationship with our daughters was one of the few goals G had at the time, so he finally started to take his bipolar medications. His paranoia was once so intense, I’d given him a note card that read, “Lisa is not out to get me. She wants to help me.” But now that he was stabilising, he invited me to be a part of his therapeutic team, so I could provide the insight his illness took away. He finally listened when I said, “We have to leave Connecticut.”

He said, “You choose.”

I chose California, a place that has lured many dreamers, and moved to Los Angeles with our girls. One year later, G moved to a town a bit south of us. We shifted into a different story for our family: We would live apart but work on stabilising our family unit together.

G had some bumps but continued to secure his mental health, became a highly regarded doctor, and rebuilt his relationship with our daughters. With the stability of G’s career and me being able to stay on his health insurance, I was able to be a full-time mom while taking on freelance work.

The girls primarily lived with me, but I drove them on weekends to G’s place. I took charge of our family finances and cleaned up our debt. I had the time and resources to help our girls navigate the roller coaster of teendom. I leaned into becoming a writer. Maybe it was the change of scenery, distance from family, the imagination and reinvention at the heart of the place itself, but things finally started to turn around for us when we moved west.

The woods behind the author's Connecticut home where she lived with G and her daughters before moving to California.
Courtesy of Lisa Mecham
The woods behind the author's Connecticut home where she lived with G and her daughters before moving to California.

Before dinner, G and I met in the resort lobby, all bundled up, and started the 30-minute walk to Ketchum on a nature path that hugged the road. I held the “Divorce” folder under my arm and kept my hands in my coat pockets. It was dark, and the upside of COVID meant no cars, no headlights piercing the landscape’s quiet immensity.

“Do you remember that time we skied in Park City?” G asked. I did remember a trip we took with his family before we had kids. “Remember when my dad fell on that first run, went over the side, and the ski patrol had to come and haul him out, and when he came up, his toupée was gone?” I nodded. “Well, at least your fall wasn’t as bad as that,” he said. “Too soon, G. Too soon,” I said. We started to laugh.

We found a saloon with rough-hewn timber walls and mounted moose heads. After our order was placed, I pulled out the folder and my papers clipped together in different sections: How to file for divorce, how to respond to the filing, how to complete the Declaration of Income and Expense. We did not need child custody forms now that our daughters were both over the age of 18. We never said it out loud but perhaps we waited this long so we would not have to legally divide up our time with our girls or let a judge decree whether G was a competent parent or not.

I had a spreadsheet of figures. What was left of our graduate school loans, the girls’ college loans, and car payments. The one potential asset, our Connecticut home, was reclaimed by the bank after rotting on the market during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis and now we both rented. His physician’s salary, my freelance writing salary. He had retirement savings, I did not. The earnings on my social security statement for the dozens of working years where I was raising our daughters and helping our family stabilise was $0.

Then there were our children. The decision to separate was brutal for them. They were 5 and 7 when I told them their dad was not going to live with us anymore. Their mouths fell open, their heads shook “NO!” and one daughter ran from the room and then the other followed. I sat on the couch by myself, frozen, listening to their howls of sorrow trail through the house as they ran upstairs and back to me. One returned with a framed photo of our family, pointing out her gentle and loving dad, as if I forgot who he was; the other held her stuffed bunny to her face and wept.

Before G’s illness took root in Connecticut, we had lived in Baltimore where he was pursuing his fellowship. My life with our girls was a blissful routine of preschool, and the zoo, the aquarium and historical sites. In their double stroller, I would push them, stopping at whatever caught their interest. Then, dinner and baths and warm pyjamas and playtime as G set up elaborate worlds with ”Thomas the Tank Engine” train tracks and Playmobil people. There was nothing more satisfying than the contentment I felt with all of us at home at the end of the day. We weren’t preparing for the disaster our life was going to become, we were just living.

I would never feel that way again.

As our food arrived, I kept pulling out papers from my folder. G put his hand over it as if to say, “Enough.” There was country music playing, and the foam of cold beer lined my lip. While we ate, we talked about our daughters and how they were doing in the pandemic: One was living with friends in a big house having graduated from her university right when COVID started, the other was making the best of a dissatisfying remote college experience. We laughed at the caption one of them sent to our family group chat for The New Yorker cartoon contest. We worried about what their futures would hold.

“Remember how much we used to love ‘Star Trek Deep Space Nine’?” said G.

“And making lamb stew,” I said.

“Walking around our neighbourhood at twilight, timing it so we caught the gas lamps turning on.”

“Sitting at that tiny restaurant in Capri, popping ripe tomatoes into our mouths, with the bright blue sea stretched out below us.”

“How much the kids loved those wacky ‘Baby Einstein’ videos.”

“And how much they loved that old fashioned roadside stand with the soft-serve ice cream in Connecticut.”

The waitress dropped the check at our table. G took it, added a tip and signed it. Then he cleared his throat. “I want to say something, but I’m not sure I can.”

I watched him take the copy of our bill and turn it over. He scrawled something and pushed it towards me.

He wrote: Whatever happens, I still want to be a family.

G had said that out loud once before. When he first moved to California, we met halfway to exchange our daughters after a weekend at his place. The girls were in my car playing their handheld video games, and I sat on the curb of a closed bagel place with G for a few minutes. “I’m doing better,” he said. “I want to live together and be a family again.”

That time, as excruciating as it was, I said “no” because it meant going back to something old, something that felt dead. This time, I said, “yes” because we had created something new.

Because our marriage, and then our family, had been our best investment.

Because our daughter kept a leaf from the ground outside the chapel where we were married in a box on her desk.

Because once, two young people sat in a cafe in Oyster Bay, filled with wonder and possibility, and then their life turned left instead of right.

Thirty years later, crying in a cowboy bar on the other side of the country, we created the ending they deserved.

A view from Sun Valley.
Courtesy of Lisa Mecham
A view from Sun Valley.

The next morning, G and I decided to ski for half the day before heading to the airport. This time, we skied apart. G took off for the advanced part of the mountain, and I took the gondola back up to the top to try the challenging run from the day before. It was a bluebird sky with puffy white clouds, exactly how I pictured heaven when I was a child.

It is hard to find the courage to leave a marriage. We are told the institution is stable and desirable, and culture and laws reinforce it. Divorce stories have been structured to require a hero and a villain.

For the years G and I remained married yet separated, people had questions. “Why aren’t you divorcing him?” “Don’t you want to move on?” Their maps, their routes. Their compasses of perfection. What I found was that living life in an unscripted way made people uncomfortable, especially when deviating from the patriarchal norm. And that the stigma of mental illness is very real.

At one time, those projections would have burrowed inside me and like flint to steel, lit my shame on fire. But no longer. G and I used our love for one another, in this unconventional arrangement, to find our best selves. We had both moved on in relationships with other partners, but while our daughters were still in our care, we did not want to lose the bond of marriage, the container of our family.

Divorce would be untethering — releasing me from the role of being a wife and a mother as I had come to define it and rely on it. Although I worked hard to create the conditions for all of us to thrive, I did not direct the hand of fate. Whether G stayed the course with his treatment, or our daughters found careers and partners that brought them joy were always beyond my control. And it was time for me to step boldly into whatever a writing career would bring.

All I knew was what I wanted: to live in the messy, unpredictable world with agency and vitality.

And even though G and I would be leaving Sun Valley without the nitty gritty of our divorce figured out — we would get through that part one year later, gracefully, without lawyers — we had already given each other what was owed.

The gondola reached the summit, and I skied over to a look out. Snow-covered ranges billowed out as far as I could see. The mountains were birthed in a grand drama of magma pushing through the earth’s crust, relentless in their pursuit of light, sculpted by a delicate balance of creation, erosion. Like our family, shaped by its own rules.

Lisa Mecham is a writer living in California. Her work has appeared in The New York Times: Tiny Modern Love and Roxane Gay’s bestselling anthology, “Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture.” She is working on a novel about what happens to a family when mental illness is hidden beneath the veneer of suburban perfection and co-editing an anthology, “Happy After: Women Thriving In Divorce.” She’s interested in resiliency, agency and hope — especially for women. For more from Lisa, visit her website,, and her Instagram @say_the_thing.