by Jennifer Paros
When I was five, my mother put me in a class called Creative Ballet
and I loved it. Then, the next year I told her I wanted to continue
my ballet studies and she enrolled me in a new class for six
I remember putting on my tights and leotard and being funneled into
a room with other little girls. We all sat on the floor in a small
circle while the teacher spoke and the next thing I knew we were
lined up to practice leaping over a pair of ballet shoes. When the
class was over, I met my mother with unambiguous negativity. This
was NOT like the other class. Where were the drums? Where were the
tambourines? WHERE was the marching?
My impression of what was called ballet was that it involved these
things. My thoughts had already concretized around my personal
definition whether it was technically incorrect or not. And that
definition was now infecting my new experience. I had expected
that but got this and I didnít know how to reconcile the
difference. But most importantly was that I was unhappy Ė not
because the class wasnít the same as the other one Ė but because I
thought it should be. And with all these thoughts that it
should be different than it was, how was I ever to enjoy what it
When I write or draw and donít accomplish what I want or what I
think I should, I can find myself feeling awful. In the past,
I saw feeling lousy as an inevitable outcome of things not going
ďwellĒ Ė which really just means, ďThe way I want.Ē But now when my
work is not going as I think it ought, I perceive a choice. My
choice is to persist in the demand that my experience be something
other than it is, which is inherently stressful, or to see myself in
a creative process and get curious about what new might come.
Because many of us are in the habit of immediately railing against
that which we do not think we want, the latter takes a bit more
effort. But itís effort well spent, because, in the end, the work
comes together and we arenít miserable during the process.
Even in the writing of this essay, it has not come together as
easily as I thought it should. When I invest in this
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2009
judgment, I feel rotten. From this vantage point, it would make
sense for me to go around telling people how badly my writing went
today. But I have a choice: hold to my original perception, or let
go and see what else might come. As I decide to do the latter, and
open a new blank document to freeform random ideas for the article,
I find myself happier in the process of discovering What Might Be
than pushing against What Is.
Years ago when my son was no more than six himself, he had created
an imaginary world called Demondonia. One day he was distraught
about the destruction occurring there and I suggested he change the
events as he was the creator of this world. He argued
virulently that it just was how it was and there was nothing
he could do about it. He had ceased to notice that that world and
those thoughts only had life when he breathed life
He didnít understand he was standing in opposition to his own
perception and that that perception could be changed.
Sometimes itís easy to forget our sense of power correlates with
intentionally working with our thoughts or habitually reacting to
what comes up. Whether itís a pretend world, a ballet class, or
what weíre writing thatís seemingly got us, our choice of thought is
always the determining factor in our experience.
If itís Creative Ballet weíre expecting and we find ourselves in
Ballet I, we may want to keep up the fight. But what about the value
of Ballet I? Giving something a chance is really an act of opening
our minds and allowing ourselves to think differently about our
experience. It is giving ourselves a chance, a chance to
adjust, a chance to see more, a chance to discover what can be
gained, different, perhaps, than what we expected but still valuable
and maybe even ultimately - better.
More Author Articles...
Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.