By Choice The Best Resolution of All
by Jennifer Paros
“Life is a sum of all your choices.”
I’ve always liked the New Year’s resolution; it is deciding purposefully to practice choice. But what if, instead of just one Big Fat Choice, like Quit Smoking, or Lose Weight - what if the choice we think we are making for at least an entire year (if not a lifetime) is seen as comprised of an infinite number of choices of response we make moment by moment? This way, we start recognizing our choice in everything; no longer are we victims to anything. Now, regardless of what we choose, we are aware of choosing. And since choosing is our only power, we’ve got ourselves back in the driver’s seat. And that’s the whole point of a New Year’s Resolution, to put ourselves back in charge of some area of our lives, back in creative control.
The other day I was in the kitchen talking to my husband and the more I talked about what was bothering me, the worse I felt. Finally, I had to end the conversation. My husband left the room and I was alone with the dirty dishes and my distress. I started washing each plate with the intention of changing my downward spiral and the first thing that came to mind was, “I am choosing to be unhappy”. And so I repeated this thought. Dish after dish I told myself, “I am choosing to be unhappy. I am choosing to be miserable.” And I started feeling better. Then I added, “But I don’t have to.” Literally, within minutes I had shifted my mood. Awareness of our ability to choose is the cornerstone of creativity, in life and in writing; if we deny our choice we deny our own power. And that is sure to depress.
“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond . . . The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”
When I was in college years ago, I worked independently and wrote a children’s novel for credit. I had never written a story longer than three pages before and so I approached it as a full-time job and set my hours strictly. I wrote from 9 to 5. And sure enough, by harnessing inner pressure, good-student
mania, and a strong work ethic (as they say), I did it. And sometimes, I even enjoyed it. Sometimes. But a lot of times I was living more of the pressure and stress of my mindset than I was the joy of discovering the story. But in the end I had my 150 page children’s novel. So, in that way, I accomplished my goal. But looking back I see how all that inner pressure was unnecessary and how I ended up playing the victim to my own choices. If I had remembered that every thing I was doing was by choice, how much freer and happier I could have been.
“The artist is the only one who knows that the world is a subjective creation, that there is a choice to be made, a selection of elements.”
Conscious choice always makes us stronger. I was reminded of this again, recently, when my oldest son selected Ayn Rand’s 700 page The Fountainhead to read for school. When I asked why he chose it, he said because it seemed like a challenge and he was choosing to challenge himself these days. When I asked what the greatest benefit of this is, he told me he’s found that things he once thought were hard soon become doable and everything else seems easy. Overall, it makes him feel more capable.
Awareness of our choice and deliberate choosing puts us back in touch with the influence we have on our experience – whether it’s writing a book, reading one, or working with our emotions. No matter what, there are always a myriad of choices surrounding every situation that can be made intentionally. And it is the purposeful ownership of thosechoices that I think makes for the best resolution of all.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.