the stories I tell

| October 11, 2018

Today I looked back over the past five years, and I wrote down two versions of each year. For example, this is what I was telling people in the fall of 2013:

My new husband David and I have moved to Wichita, Kansas, so that he can spearhead a middle school theater program. I’m pursuing a career as a freelance writer. Meanwhile I’m teaching yoga and Skyping voice lessons with students back in MA.

Next, I wrote down what I tell people about that season now.

Within two weeks of moving to Wichita we could tell David’s job wasn’t going to be a long-term fit. Meanwhile I slowly came to realize that I couldn’t handle the solitude of being home for long stretches each day, trying to write. When spring came around we both were looking for teaching jobs back in MA.

Pretty different, the story I tell now and the story I’ll tell in a year or two or twenty.

I wonder what story I’ll tell about this season.

I’ve spent the past five years exploring new forms of work. In Wichita it was writing. I returned to teaching for the next three years, but the work no longer felt true to me. Every ounce of me wished I could convince myself to keep going as a teacher, but my spirit would have none of it. After finally letting go of teaching, I spent the summer of 2017 training as a chaplain. I loved it, and it convinced me that I want to work with people who are struggling, but I didn’t feel a call to become a chaplain.

So last year, I developed a new form of work that I call resonance coaching. I’ve led workshops and monthly “resonance circles.” I’ve worked with individuals, using voice and mindfulness exercises to explore authentic expression. It’s been joyful and fulfilling work.

Nonetheless, over the summer I gradually realized that my coaching work feels as lonely as my year of freelance writing in Wichita. A lot of my job involves trying to perfect my website and figure out how to optimize social media; I don’t have enough time face-to-face with others. I’ve decided to keep doing my resonance work in the form of workshops and a client here or there, but I want a “real” job again. I want to engage with people for more than a couple hours a day. I want to spend the better part of the day doing work that feels meaningful.

That’s a lot to ask, and I know it. Nonetheless, I’m asking. I’m combing through the job boards. I’m looking at master’s programs. I’m exploring and I’m praying. I’m waiting for a door open, for my heart to say yes to something new.

What will I say about this season a year from now? What will I say about it in five years? Something will happen, and my circumstance will change. This time will take on new meaning when I see it in fuller context.

So in the midst of the waiting, and all the frenzied thinking that waiting tends to stir up, what do I do with myself? I can only spend so many hours in front of my computer, trying to figure my life out.

If there’s anything I know at this point, it’s that my life will never be totally figured out. I’ll always be in some sort of transition. So my aim is to delight in my life just as it is today. I’m not as busy as I usually am, so why not enjoy it? Heaven knows this won’t last forever.

I go apple picking with my friends Melissa, Andrew, and Desmond. A couple weeks later I go apple picking again, on my own.

I walk the beach labyrinth that my friend Cameron created.

I take long bike rides. I take more time walking Birdie.

I meet friends for coffee.

Life has become more walking, less driving. More reading, less time online.

Friday night my beloved friend Greg and I went to see David play the role of Benedict Arnold in the new musical Treason! On the way there, we spoke of the challenges this season holds for each of us, respectively. We settled down into our seats at the theater and let David’s voice carry us into a different world.

Afterward, we walked out of the theater into the crisp autumn night. David had performed beautifully, as he always does. The show had been a lot of fun.

Greg took my hand and reminded me how grateful he is for David and me. I looked at the stars above us and said to him, “This is as good as it gets.”

“It is,” he agreed.

Greg and I have been friends for twelve years now, and when we get together we talk about those years, how much changes and how much stays the same. Having his hand in mine gave me an even better sense of perspective than writing out the two versions of my year-by-year stories.

Whatever change may come, I no longer care so much about my accomplishments as I care about my relationships.  In every season of my life, I want to choose delight. I don’t need to have answers to the big questions. I don’t need to tell a perfect story. All I want is a hand in mine – the hand of a friend, the hand of a husband, the paw of a pet – and the bone-deep knowledge that this is as good as it gets.

 

Category: beauty, creating, journey, love, outside, the seasons

About the Author ()

Hannah Lynn Mell grew up a missionary kid in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Now she lives in Rowley, Massachusetts with her exquisitely kind husband David, their plucky three-legged cat Thomas, and a needy-yet-lovable dachshund named Birdie. She's worked with singers since 1998 and loves to help people of all ages free their voices.

Comments (6)

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  1. Susan Gore says:

    Hannah, I love you.
    Your last paragraph “resonates”!
    Ha, well of course it does!
    (I feel similarly)
    Love love love your insights.
    Love following your paths.
    I will keep walking alongside you,
    with gratitude.

  2. Gratitude for you, your words and images Hannah. As always, many things to enjoy and ponder what you share.

  3. Catherine says:

    Not only do my stories change over time, they even change depending on who I’m talking to. What does this person want to hear? What story do I tell to protect myself? Can I really be honest with this person? Like you, I find it hard to let go of the idea that my accomplishments are what make time valuable. When really, it’s exactly like you said: the people in our lives are what make time beautiful and stories worth telling.

    Thank you for writing.

    • Catherine, you are SO right … each time I tell my story it changes, at least a little. The audience makes a big difference. Our stories are ephemeral, not unlike our lives themselves.

      Thank you for reading. And for being one of the people who holds my hand!