Find Yourself in Everything
by Jennifer Paros
"Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart
give yourself to it."
Years ago, I had just put my youngest son to bed when I heard tell
tale sounds, ran in, and found him throwing up. Excepting the desk
and the walls, there was much to be tidied. A bit rattled over
where to start, I cleaned the child first and set him out of the
fray while I stripped the bed of everything. Awkwardly scooping up
bedding and clothing, I headed for the laundry room, still fueled by
my emergency mentality. But while crossing the living room, I
stopped – perhaps to reconfigure my load – and something happened.
In a moment, I went from concerned and agitated to… a happy person.
All of a sudden I felt grateful for being able to take care of
someone I loved, for having the son I did, for all of it. No longer
did it matter that I had initially judged the conditions as
unwanted. The details of the experience itself didn’t matter; I was
feeling love for the opportunity of life.
This moment has remained with me, a reminder that if I could feel
authentically happy and blessed in the company of a vomiting child
there is something in me so smart and loving that the specifics of
my experiences never matter to it as much as the creative act
of living itself. And since 100% of what I worry about are the
specifics of what might or might not happen – as though my happiness
depends upon those details – I am left to wonder why I am
worrying when I’ve already been taught that that is simply not
When I judge something in the negative I withdraw from life in order
to protect myself and prevent feeling bad. On the surface, this
seems sound, but the truth is being present for the whole of one’s
life is what enables us to feel fulfilled and capable – regardless
of the content of the experiences. Too much retreating makes us
feel like we’re always on the lamb and never really safe. And then
retreat, which we intend to use as comfort, ends up
frightening us more than life ever could.
At fifteen years old, in the throes of high school, I did my best to
completely retreat from my life. Having judged almost all of it,
including my physicality, as unworthy, bad, boring, or potentially
uncomfortable, I closed door after door until I was left renting a
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2010
corner of the basement of my psyche. There I stayed, hiding,
waiting for the unpleasantness to wrap up so I could finally step
forward. I spent many hours in fantasy during that time – imagining
a different me, different circumstances, different thoughts and
feelings, envisioning scenarios I believed I would feel happy
showing up for.
What I didn’t understand is that if I had softened my judgments upon
the components of my actual life, it would have made showing
up a lot more comfortable. And if I had shown up for my life, my
life would have opened up for me.
"To the question of your life you are the answer, and to the
problems of your life you are the solution."
When I started writing my first (to be published) children’s story,
I actually thought it best if I didn’t show up completely for
the process. I judged myself as a somewhat problematic, emotional
being with a tendency towards complicating projects and I
wanted to write a simple story- easily. But
what happened was I wrote a story that editors encouraged me to
flesh out. Soon, I had to bring myself into it more and more, for
the very self I thought would muddy the process turned out to be the
one I needed to make my story come to life. When I started
acknowledging myself in the story is when I found the story. And
the small, inadequate self I had judged me to be turned out only to
be a phantom byproduct of how much I had limited myself.
In life as in writing, every effort to distance ourselves from
possible pain or complication makes us feel diminished and actually
makes things harder. When we start showing up in all the
experiences of our lives, our lives expand, and so do the gifts we
have to offer. And then we start finding the full, rich stories we
are all intended to live and to share.
More Author Articles...
Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.