You Know that You Know:
Leading Your Life, Creating Your Story
by Jennifer Paros
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
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
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
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.