Putting to Rest
"My Miserable Life"
by Jennifer Paros
“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”
I remember being three or four, standing beside my grandmother, who
was sitting in the big club chair in her living room smoking, and my
father snapping, “Another nail in the coffin!” – his heavy-handed
campaign to get her to stop. She did eventually quit her 3
½-packs-a-day habit cold turkey and went on to live to 87 years of
age. The woman who used to muse over how she once had an ashtray in
every room of her house left it behind, with no withdrawal, never
craving a cigarette again.
She had a thirty-something-year-old story about herself as a smoker,
but in one decision, she abandoned it. This is the power all of us
As a young child holed up in my room intent on writing a story,
pacing around, imagining all sorts of ideas, I remember thinking:
“Writing is like magic - you can create anything you want!”
What I didn’t understand was that it isn’t writing per se that is
like magic; it is the decision as to what we want to create
that holds all the real power.
Making a decision – the “act of reaching a conclusion or making up
one's mind” – is the most powerful thing we can do. The interesting
thing about decisions is we’re making them all the time by default.
So, even if we think we’re not putting anything in particular into
play, we’ve already made up our minds whether we’re aware of it or
not, and are living the results.
“You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and
control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own
It is inspiring to watch someone change their minds about themselves
and/or their situation. For out of this creation of a new mindset,
they open a new life. Hope grows new ideas and new visions and from
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2011
vision, the potential for a new decision. It’s like a flower
blooming. It happens all the time. It’s just that often instead of
starting from hope, new ideas are born from a sense of hopelessness.
From there, decisions are made accordingly, and what comes to
fruition reflects its origins.
Going numb on life means we feel powerless, which means we haven’t
found our way to deciding on purpose yet. There is nothing more
life-affirming than being in the flow of I Choose and I Decide.
Feeling disappointed and wanting to withdraw comes from not feeling
the power of choice – from having so many of our experiences form
themselves unconsciously and grow from despair planted as old
negative images of ourselves.
When my oldest son was in elementary school, he used to have a catch
phrase: “My miserable life.” (I think the complete version was:
“Time to get back to my miserable life.”) It wasn’t one a parent
much cares for, but it was said with some humor that served to ease
a little of our discomfort. Then one day, we were all riding in the
car and he was talking and about to use the phrase, but stopped at “Misera-“.
Correcting himself, he said, “Actually, my life is not
Sometimes, we develop catchy, pithy, maybe even funny ways to
describe our lives that are actually outdated. Where once a
decision had been made, now a new better one is waiting in the
wings, but we’re not even noticing where we are now. It’s
good to check in and see who we are without our old story because
the story we tell forms the basis for our experience. My son’s
decision to stop describing his life as “miserable” meant that he
had decided to line up with what he really wanted his life to
In writing as in everything, I Decide is always relevant. The blank
page asks, “What do you want next? What do you want now?”
And we answer with our focus; we answer with our decision. The book
we create then reflects that decision. Though life seems
predetermined by where we’ve been, each moment is actually just as
blank as a fresh piece of paper, asking us again, “What do you want
now?” And the decision we make, in this moment, has the power to
override all others, opening new life experiences and writing new
More Author Articles...
Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.
Please visit her website at