Monthly Archives: February 2013

La Vie = C’est Beau

Life.

It is so beautiful, is it not?

We saw all the Oscar nominees this year. I was struck most by Amour (painful, yet true) and Life of Pi.

I loved the book Life of Pi, which I read far before I ever had any significant challenges and everything was so very wonderful, adventurous and free. I was speaking to a friend and trying to convey how fabulous my 20s were. “Everything I wanted was easy to pick from the proverbial tree. Nothing was difficult, I was glamorous and valued everywhere I went. I worked with Royalty, American and otherwise, and everyone cared what I thought.”

Who can possibly sympathize with such a spoiled child? I’m stunned now to realize this was my existence for so many years. What a brat I was. How undeserved was my every success.

When I read Life of Pi back in 2002, I cleverly and shallowly deciphered the text and meaning for a book club, just to try to impress others. “Richard Parker is God,” I confidently stated. “God is unknowable. He is impossible to befriend and doesn’t care about our own desires and fears as far as we can tell. God would walk into the forest, never to stop and look back at us with any type of regret. This is why the tiger is Pi’s perception of God. God is with us, but He is unknowable. But is it better to have Him in our life?”

When I watched the movie, I realized that I had been right all those years ago. Yet, I had not really known how very much the future me would understand the movie. When I had my miscarriages, and when I heard my impossible diagnosis, God stalked into the forest, to part from me for a long, long time.

Like Pi, I have a more universal view of God than most. I think many religions strike upon the truth, but I have a hard time accepting one particular truth. I kind of believe the Ang Lee/Yann Martel version: that it is more difficult and unpleasant to not have a Richard Parker in my life at all. Richard Parker may be unknowable and harsh but he is beautiful and engaging and a comfort in some ways. I’d prefer this.

And I can’t remember a more beautiful movie or score than this one.

Life is harsh, and hard and mean. But it is so very, very beautiful. And I am so very lucky to partake in it.

The most beautiful song I’ve heard in years.

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Filed under Discovering joy

Disoriented

Back Camera

Rarely, there comes a period of time when everything I think I know for sure is questioned. I mostly like the new, the different. I enjoy novelty, new trends, new technology. This is perhaps why I love to travel and why I enjoy our proximity to Silicon Valley: I love NEW.

But I don’t necessarily love surprises.

The Meteor

I think a general feeling of confusion began when that meteor hit Russia. I hate meteors. They scare me. I think the primary mission for NASA should be predicting and protecting earth from asteroids hitting us. Yes, I am totally serious. One of the reasons I support President Obama is because I know he thinks meteors are a real threat. I know this makes me sound like a crackpot, but well, there you have it.

SO: when I heard on the radio that a meteor had hit Siberia, I was freaked. I had read that Asteroid 2012 DA would narrowly miss earth (yes, I keep track of this stuff) so this was an unhappy surprise. I rushed home and went on YouTube and watched the videos. Shudder.

The Tragedy

A week later, the uneasy feeling still trailing after me, I met with the contractor who has been redoing our basement. He told me that his main sub-contracter, a man I saw almost every day for a month, a nice guy who had painstakingly reassembled a fussy Venetian mirror that is a family treasure and who had chatted with the twins: he was dead. Our contractor had been driving to the store to pick up dog food when he saw a van parked on the side of the road surrounded by police cars and an ambulance. With a sinking feeling, he recognized the van as the one that belonged to his employee. He pulled over, only to be told there was no hope. The sub-contractor had passed away of a heart attack while driving. He was only 52. I am still dumbfounded, and sad. I assumed he had many years ahead of him.

The Joyful News

That very same day, I got a text from Esperanza asking if I was sitting down. If you haven’t gotten the good news yet, please visit her! I don’t know if I have ever talked about this, but I have been taking Esperanza’s diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve rather personally, since it was the very same diagnosis I received at the exact same age. I know her diagnosis was not about me at all, but I was so very angry when I heard the news, because I remember how hopeless the prognosis was, and how no one understood how different and poor the stakes were. Also, truthfully, I am a bit of a know-it-all about DOR. I have really tried hard to keep out of E’s decisions, and respect her very different set of factors determining treatment. And also try to remember that the same diagnosis can lead to different results. (Wildly different, even.) I’ll admit here too that I didn’t have much faith in Eastern medicine to primarily treat my own infertility because of my OWN experience (The diet and the supplements were flop until I combined them with Western medicine) so I’ve been astounded at what has happened with E. And truth be told? I feel kind of stupid. Did I not try hard enough with the Fertility Diet? Did I rush to use fertility drugs? Will these decisions be hazardous to my health later on? I’m feeling a lot of self-doubt and regret. Before, I’ve always been able to confidently say why my poor prognosis directly led to our decision to do IVF, and to do it fast. (“Time is not your friend,” I was told. After 2 1/2 years of TTC, I had not once gotten pregnant on my own and my chances of TTC naturally were “less than 2%.”) But now, I find myself second-guessing that rush to treatment.

At the end of the day, it’s silly to second guess such things. I’m so very happy that I have my wonderful twins. And that’s all that matters.

I will say, however, that both of these antidotal episodes have reminded me of the incredible importance of eating the right foods, unlike any major medically-backed studies that I SHOULD have paid attention to. Growing up, my family ate peerlessly healthy meals: dark green vegetables, a lot of fish, olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, beans and legumes. These were the MAIN parts of every repast. There was no dessert, and locally baked sourdough bread was our only treat. The twins eat the food I grew up with now. But I don’t. There is a major reason for this: I have horrible acid reflux, the legacy of a drug I took to increase my breastfeeding supply. (Was I too obsessed with “Breast is Best?” More regrets.) A lot of food is painful to digest, so I end up eating things that are the LEAST painful: crackers, rice cakes, yogurt, bananas. Nothing very nourishing. I take a good multivitamin but it’s not the same. Then there is my Matcha Green Tea addiction. (Caffeine from green tea is the only kind I can tolerate.)

I think it’s time for a change.

Have you ever gone through a period where your “certainties” have been questioned? Was it a good or bad thing?

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Filed under cooking?!?

The Queen of Versailles

The-Queen-of-Versailles

I don’t know that much embodies better the Great Recession than the rise and fall of the Siegels, the Floridian couple profiled in The Queen of Versailles.

David and Jackie Siegel are living large when the documentary begins. They are in the process of building America’s largest house, a modern day Versailles. David is a billionaire from a very successful real estate empire he has built over many years, Jackie is a former Mrs. America and engineer. They are looking forward to living in splendor (“He deserves it. He works so hard,” says Jackie about David) and spending the rest of their days with their seven children. (They are incredibly fertile as well as tremendously wealthy: the overabundance in their lives is a major factor of what makes the story so compelling.)

“My husband, when I got married to him, I wanted nothing but love from him. He always said ‘trust me’ and I put my trust in him. So, we’ll see what happens.”

Jackie Siegel, 2007

***

Florida’s wealthy citizens are quite different than the wealthy of San Francisco. Even new money acts like old money here, and being rich is much less conspicuous and more tied to cultural events, like the Opera or Symphany or the De Young museum. Homes are rarely built, they already exist and are older. Think the famous Victorian mansions you see in the movies.

Judging by The Queen of Versailles, instead of Prada and the opening of the Rudolf Nureyev costume exhibit, in Florida, you become a patron of the Miss America pagent and wear Versace. You invest in Vegas. Disney (and its idea of beautiful princesses marrying rich princes) looms ever large. Women are valued for the way they look in a swimsuit.

In 2007, the Siegels were at the top of this scene. Trying to top themselves, they were in the process of building their dream home, Versailles, overlooking a swamp. They even specifically designed a window to be able to watch the Disney fireworks. Apparently, the design was influenced by the infamous palace in France and the Paris hotel in Las Vegas. Yes, for real.

But the home and David’s empire were leveraged by cheap credit. And that was not a good place to be in 2008.

***

The second part of the movie chronicles the fall in status and wealth of the Siegels and how various house staff members, business employees and family members cope. Most touchingly, a nanny from the Phillipines who has not seen her own son in 10 years talks about how she sends all of her money back to her family and her father so he too might be able to live in a concrete, comfortable home. Eventually, he dies never being able to live in one, although his tomb is concrete. (“And isn’t that almost the same thing?” the nanny asks heartbreakingly.) At one point, Jackie appears overwhelmed by all of her children (she says she had so many because she had all of the nannies to help her) and tons of pets in the still enormous home they live in. David tries to keep his company afloat and prevent his enormous Vegas property from defaulting. Instead of buying french antiques in vast quantities, Jackie goes on shopping binges at Wal-Mart.

Halfway built, Versailles languishes and fills with cobwebs and dirt. The echoes to Xanadu are inevitable.

***

As the grim economic crisis doesn’t change for the Siegels and time passes, a funny thing happens. Jackie seems to rise to the challenge. She begins to cook for her kids and throws casual parties for family and friends. She realizes that money comes and money goes; she’s been lucky to have what she has. Her love for her husband (even though I personally wonder if he deserved it: I didn’t like his overly attentive displays toward the Miss America contestants) and children remains strong. In the end I found her resilience kind of inspiring.

“If we had to buy just a normal house, like a $300,000 dollar, 3 bedroom house, I would do it. I would be fine with that, I’d make it work. (I’d) Just get a bunch of bunkbeds, you know.”

Jackie Siegal, 2011

I guess this is what the economic crisis has done: it has made us shrink our expectations of what we need and deserve. I like to think it made me focus much more on what’s most important: shelter, food, friends, family.

Have you seen Queen of Versailles? What were your impressions of it?

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“It Was Just Like Her To Take A Cause Too Far”

The above quote is from “A Short History of Women” by Kate Walbert

What can I say about the incredible and honest discussion that has gone on in the comments of The Pain Olympics post? I have a greater understanding now for why they happen. More to come.

Today I read a post that was eerily familiar, by Courtney. Check it out.

I’ve had several discussions with Darcy about his utter bewilderment with my involvement in the ALI community. “When are we going to stop discussing infertility?” he wondered recently.

I try to steer clear of talking about my blog with him, which is funny because Darcy is in the blog business and it is he who first suggested I start one. He had no idea it would turn into the world of its own that it has.

And as I have stated repeatedly, I don’t want to blog solely about ALI. The truth is, I don’t. But my passion for advocacy remains. I do see writing as an advocacy tool. I am a writer, I have always written in my career and in my volunteer efforts. It makes sense that I would write to advocate for better public awareness of the disease I suffer from.

But I have to stop and always remember the long term. What am I doing? Has Faces of ALI done good work? Has it made a dent in how the general public sees infertility?

Eh. I’d say the verdict is still out. Those profiles do go (relatively) viral and get viewed thousands of times on Facebook and that can only be a good thing. But has it led to any of my subjects (or really ANYONE awesome in our community) being featured in the newspaper of record in an honest, accurate piece? Or on The Today Show or Good Morning America where the greatest visibility still exists? No. That is still the end game, in my mind.

(I will say that Pinterest is pretty great tool for advocacy I’m finding: tons of views of Faces of ALI come from there. So if you want to share any of the tales, please feel free to pin away! :))


Extreme Advocacy

Here’s where I worry that advocacy takes away from the here and now. I agonized over stepping away from the Bitter Infertiles podcast as a regular panelist, but the truth was I could not sacrifice the time. The podcast needed several hours over the weekend and my family needed that time from me, too. I feel sad sometimes that I no longer get to discuss such relevant topics with those brillant, funny women.

In my comment to Courtney’s post, I noted that if I was alive in 1910, I would be working to try to get women the right to vote. In 2013, I work to try to open the public’s eyes to what infertility is.

Have you read “A Short History of Women?” It’s about the legacy of a woman who performs the ultimate sacrifice for her cause: she starves to death for the right for women to vote. Something that has many ripples in the subsequent generations of women, both within her family and at large. (Women DID get the right to vote, and you could argue that the “Iron-Jawed Angels” did play a significant role in obtaining that right.)

I do have a hard-earned family (arguably A goal of my cause, although not THE goal) and I do not want to lose sight of that in any way shape or form. So balancing my passion for changing people’s minds with just living a “normal” life needs to happen.

Do you find that you tip over the edge into too much advocacy? Do family members express bewilderment over your blogging?

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Filed under Blogging

The Pain Olympics

There are many types of bloggers.

For example:

A) Those out to promote themselves and their talents in specific ways (design bloggers, food bloggers, style bloggers)
B) Writers using their blogs as a platform to promote other works (novelists, non-fiction authors)
C) Experts advising on the right way to do things (nutritionists, doctors)

On the other hand, there are also bloggers writing about painful experiences they are going through. These writers are trying to find their tribe, a group of like-minded people who have gone through something similar or perhaps are suffering from a disease. These bloggers are a different kettle of fish to me. (Yes, I like my fish metaphors.) In these cases, blogs are a type of support group for people isolated by geography.

We had a really interesting discussion here about criticism. But one thing I neglected to bring up was The Pain Olympics.

What is The Pain Olympics?

I don’t know where the term came from and I wish I did, because it is such a great phase. The Pain Olympics aptly describes the following phenomenon: people minimizing your pain by comparing what you are going through to another experience.

Here’s an example. I was listening to the latest edition of the Bitter Infertiles podcast. I am a sometime contributor to the program, and I was aghast to hear that a listener was annoyed with my participation because someone with DOR who conceived twins on her first IVF attempt is unusual. The overall complaint was that the panel wasn’t diverse because the other panelists are now all pregnant. Not only were the “facts” about me wrong, but the notion that I hadn’t suffered enough to represent the community was sort of offensive. The assumption that my fellow panelists had not suffered enough was DEFINITELY offensive.

(Aside: I have heard complaints that Faces of ALI only features the “worst case scenarios” and not the Clomid/injectibles/IUI cycles, which also leave their marks on those who go through them. It’s a complaint I am taking seriously.)

Bottom line: You can’t win when you play the Pain Olympics. No one can.

Finding Your Tribe

No matter how I approach it, I just can’t reconcile people criticizing the support group bloggers. They often write anonymously, they aren’t looking for fortune or fame, they have nothing to promote. They just want someone to say to them: “You are not alone. I also have been there.” Why follow someone to their anonymous blog about infertility to say: “Your experience is not worthy of sympathy or empathy.”?

I just don’t get it. Why bother?

What do you think about Pain Olympics and blogger comments?

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Filed under Blogging