You Know that You Know: Leading Your Life, Creating Your Story

by Jennifer Paros

Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2008

Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2008

Over nine years ago, I found myself in the hospital after the birth of my second son, having lost near to half my blood.  Without going into (possibly) unwelcome medical explanation, suffice it to say, there was a glitch in the labor process that had resulted in my severe anemic condition. 

In the hospital, I was surrounded by concerned people.  People who had studied to be there, who wore white often and who wanted to take my temperature, take samples of what little blood I had left, and wake me from sound and much needed sleep.  I found these people caring, for the most part, but often fear-inducing.   

On the other side of the equation was my family, many of whom were scared.  Because my hermaticrit (the measure of red and white blood cells) was so low (at 18—I was later told by a nurse—it was comparable to people she’d seen on chemotherapy), the doctors were recommending a blood transfusion.  In fact, it was mentioned every time one of them came into my room, with growing urgency and pressure on me to decide. 

Outside of me was a cacophony of frightened voices, concerned faces, and emphatic doctors.  Inside me, I knew what I wanted.  But still, neither the influence of those other voices nor the evidence of my body’s extremely weakened state could be denied.  I found myself feeling ungrounded and reacting to life as though it were a nightmare.  After a while, I knew I had to retreat from what was frightening.  I quieted myself and I did my best to listen to me and only me without any fearful story. 

I knew that I knew what I wanted.  I wanted to heal without the transfusion.  Soon after taking this time for myself and accepting what I knew to be true for me, I thought to call our son’s pediatrician and ask for her opinion.  She said, “Well, can you get better without it?”  The next question I asked of the doctors was just that.  When I determined I could, I took the decision I’d already made within, made it official, and began living it.  Fear passed and clarity began to lead the way. Now, all those around me mirrored back support for the decision that had arisen from this clarity, and I began my recovery – my way.

In effect, at that time, Life caught me in her embrace and stopped me for a moment, to ask: “How Do You Want to Live Now?” and I had to choose how I wanted my story to go.  There would be no guarantee of the outcome, but the story could be based on what I truly wanted or it could be based on fear.  And that is true of all of our choices in life and all of our choices, specifically in the creation of our writing. 

We may not be literally surrounded by those adamantly pressing for their idea of what our story should be and what approach should be taken, but we all contend with a conditioned, internal voice that does not match with what we really want, but remains compelling and influential, nonetheless.           

In life, as in writing, a gift is offered.  At moments of difficulty and challenge we are temporarily held still, made to stop, and asked to clarify what we choose as the basis and direction of our story.         

Criticism and commentary from the world or our own fearful thoughts are not our true voice.  And whether we are stuck on rewriting Chapter Three or facing a medical challenge, it is invaluable to remember that we know that we know our way – the way that is right for us simply because it is what is wanted by us.  

Beyond our experiences of fear or anxiety, anger, or sadness, there is the feeling of knowing  And once we know that we know, it is just a matter of trusting what is there and using it as our next step in writing the book or creating the life we want, allowing clarity to lead the way.

Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.

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