“On a Thursday morning in early June,” Kathy wrote, “I was helping my four-year-old daughter get dressed for school.” And so began her story.

Kathy was recounting a seemingly ordinary moment, on a quite ordinary day. But as Kathy’s story goes on, something quite other than “ordinary” would go on to happen.

(But before your mind starts to wander, don’t worry. Everyone in Kathy’s story was and is fine. There was no danger in the story, no ill circumstances to overcome.)

Rather, Kathy’s “ordinary” seeming story was interrupted when something extraordinary was realized. Kathy made a sudden discovery. A few words, a sentence, a sentiment, spoken by her husband, shifted an understanding in her mind. That spark — a lightning strike of awareness — felt extraordinary to her in that moment of ordinariness.

Despite her valid exhaustion, the mundanity of the task, and the impossible sum of patience given to her daughter, Kathy discovered, remembered, and realized, that there is no one else to do the hard work of parenting.

There was no one else to do this job, but herself.

The discovery she made lit a glowing fire of revelation; a warming, nurturing source of self-knowing that felt vitally important to her to recognize and honor. There was a lesson in this knowing. So she captured the story, and made it into a gentle offering:

“Consider the most formidable question or challenging challenge you live with at the moment,” she wrote, “Knowing that ‘there is no one else,’ what will you do?”


Kathy’s personal narrative essay, “There is no one else,” has remained with me ever since I read it, as a rough, first draft, during one of last year’s runs of my writing class, Writing the Personal.

(Kathy wrote the story with us in writing class in just a matter of days!)

Her playful descriptions of a child (“rolling and lolling around like a crazed pre-verbal hedgehog with selective hearing”) and the impossibility of dressing a noncompliant four-year-old (“she does her best impression of a boneless, opinionated jellyfish”) made me laugh out loud.

But those words, “There is no one else,” have stuck with me. On long and tiresome days, I hear me recite them to myself:

There is no one else.
There is no one else.
There is no one else.

And I mean them not as a desperate plea for help, but rather, as Kathy meant them in her story: as a grounded affirmation of the hard truth that, in whatever it is that we are each called to do, and in who we are called to be, we must do challenging things. Exhausting things.

Kathy’s life lesson and personal affirmation could have stayed anonymous or invisible.

It might have been just another fleeting moment from an ordinary “day in the life.”

The story, in other words, could have disappeared. But it didn’t. Because she didn’t let it.

Kathy turned a moment — a sudden discovery, a bright spot of awareness, a potent insight, and something of true meaning and significance to her — into a story, through its writing.

When we capture stories, and when it feels right to share them, we make meaningful offerings to the world. To others. We codify our core beliefs and honor our innermost values.

We build little monuments to what we know to be true and good.

We stand upon our feet, a little taller, and pull our hearts proudly forward. Not because we’re perfect. Not because we are “experts” who know better. Not because we have all of the right answers.

But because we are our own meaning-makers.

And the meaning that we make, within us, so often helps others around us to make their own meaning, as well.

We are each our own story’s teller, yes, that’s true.

But all stories exist in the world through us, through one another—through the stories we are so patient to harvest, and so brave to speak, and so strong to share.

Stories only exist through us.

Please, for all of our sakes, do tell yours.