Monthly Archives: July 2013

Living in An Enneagram World

I think I mentioned a while back that I took an Enneagram personality test, via Project Progeny. The results? I’m a type four, an “Individualist.” I didn’t enjoy reading the personality description. It was not very flattering, in fact, it was pretty judgemental.

From the site:

“We have named this type The Individualist because Fours maintain their identity by seeing themselves as fundamentally different from others…They often see themselves as uniquely talented, possessing special, one-of-a-kind gifts, but also as uniquely disadvantaged or flawed. More than any other type, Fours are acutely aware of and focused on their personal differences and deficiencies.”

I would say this description sort of fits my blogging persona, which mostly focuses on my infertility journey. And being infertile? Well, it means that I am in reality a person who IS “disadvantaged and flawed” when it comes to reproduction. I think it’s probably true that I still carry the scars of infertility, and that I feel flawed overall sometimes. But I don’t think I am uniquely talented or that I possess special gifts. If anything, I think I am exceedingly ordinary.

It gets worse.

“They (Individualists) are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity.”

Ouch.

In other words, the description was “Way harsh, Tai.”

When I joined a company a while back, I took the Meyers-Briggs personality test. I was classified an INTJ. I don’t remember feeling that the description made me feel, well, deficient. The INTJ description embraced my personality for its good points and offered useful ways to work around my weaknesses. The Meyers-Briggs used a constructive criticism approach, if you will.

In most of the parenting books I’ve read, positive reinforcement is praised as the most proactive tool we have to affect change with our children. It’s difficult sometimes to remember to give that positive reinforcement to children, because our eyes can be so focused on the negative, on the lookout for the worst.

And so it seems in blogging, too.

I was struck by this post by Uppercase Woman today. I’ve gone into my feelings about how blogging has shifted from a landscape of “letting it all hang out there” emotionally to a picture perfect world of bloggers whose lives are beautifully turned out at all times. And I’m starting to think that this change is really reflecting society at large. It’s a case of a zeitgeist shift.

Here’s my theory. Back in the 2000s when we all thought the economy was good and all groups in society seemed to be making gains, and all economic levels were encouraged to make the American Dream a reality by buying homes, remodeling homes and taking expensive vacations: well, maybe we all felt a bit privileged, whether we were or not. Maybe we were more open to being sympathetic to others, to the plight of others. Maybe that expansive sense of security led to listening more. Maybe we felt secure enough to speak about problems and issues we were facing, from infertility to parenting.

We are obviously not in a good economy any more. Things are improving, but the sense that things are going to be better for any of us? That optimism seems to be mostly gone. Women have been the beneficiaries of most of the jobs in the Great Recession. And guess what? With that gain has come the biggest backlash on women’s rights I have ever seen in my lifetime. But there’s more than just a backlash at work, as troubling as that is. There seems to be a pervasive, stoic, “suck it up” attitude. A sort of revised “keep up appearances,” if you will. Had you ever heard the term “first world problems” before 2008? I hadn’t. Yet now more and more infertility is dismissed as a “first world problem.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is it seems to me to be a shame that in an increasingly judgemental world, a woman can go to a conference like BlogHer, which I found to be a wonderfully empowering event last year, and be afraid to let her guard down.

But back to the Enneagram test. Right now I feel like we are all living in an Enneagram world instead of a Meyers-Briggs world. A place where we are judged for not fitting into a graceful, perfect mold. And I find this to be a very dismaying development.

What do you think? Have you noticed a more harsh, stoic sense attitude among others or even yourself since the Great Recession began? Are you often afraid to express negative feelings for fear of being labeled ungrateful?

Advertisements

13 Comments

Filed under Blogging, writing

The Courage of Our Convictions?

IMG_1807

We just wrapped up a long family vacation in Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is one of those destinations I have been to more years than not: as a child, as a student, as an adult and finally now, as a parent. Each time I visit, I focus upon something different. This year, I noticed all over again the spectacular natural beauty of the place I thought I knew so well, and the surrounding environs. As well as the constant exhortations on every car bumper, street corner and storefront to “Keep Tahoe Blue.”

IMG_1804

Who doesn’t try to be environmentally conscious these days? I do my bit too, by composting, growing my own vegetables, buying organic and local mostly, recycling, and attempting to keep our level of materialism at a minimum. (Hence, my policy of buying quality clothing that will last.) We live in the suburbs, and drive to our twins’ school, but Darcy takes public transport more often than not. We try to teach our children that we need to try to leave as gentle a footprint on the earth as possible.

IMG_1744

But of course, there are issues. I fly once a year to Europe for the family business. I fly across the country to visit my parents in the South once a year. My brother lives in Austin, I often visit him too. We’re all so far flung. It’s difficult. Darcy flies a lot for work.

I was thinking all of this as we drove through the pristine Tahoe National Forest, then I thought: “Blah, blah, blah.” (As Furby, possibly the most annoying stuffed animal EVER would say, complete with his awful vocal fry).

What would Julia Butterfly Hill have to say?

Do you guys remember Julia Butterfly Hill? She was a cultural touchstone in the late 90s. She decided to protest the then-common practice by the logging industry of “clear cutting” (a horribly destructive logging method of basically torching the thousands of years old fragile ecosystems of redwood forests with oil and fire) by sitting in a really old, really tall redwood tree. For TWO years. By herself. During that time, she was harassed by lumber company employees via helicopters, dealt with El Nino gale-force winds, and all sorts of other physical and mental challenges.

You can argue whether her actions made a difference, but she ultimately did save a portion of the forest she was trying to protect when she finally exited her beloved tree, named Luna by Hill.

I remember her adventures pretty well. We were fairly close in age, and I admired her actions and courage and respected what she was doing. But I also wondered how she could give up prime years in her early twenties. I already had my eye on my career (and also meeting the man of my dreams) at age 22. I had a difficult time understanding how Hill could basically devote her young life to a cause so singularly, so fiercely. It was almost like she joined a nunnery.

I decided to Google Hill today to find out what she’s doing now. And to my surprise, I learned she has a blog. In fact, she posted on it today.

Interestingly, Hill admitted in today’s post that she has difficulty dealing with public interest in her. And that she is constantly asked even today what she’s going to do next. Do NEXT?!? The woman sat in a tree for two years and won the battle for her forest. While the eyes of the world watched. You know, no biggie.

To me, the best part of her big action, her grand gesture so to speak, was to plant the seed in many of us to try to do our best, to make the choices that might not be easy, but are right. I think of Hill when I compost, when I bring my recycled bags to the store, when I walk instead of drive, when I plant my vegetables and use organic soil and old-fashioned remedies to keep pests away. When I preserve and can. When I don’t take non-essential plane rides. When I decided not to buy the more convenient minivan or SUV. These are small actions. But it’s what I can bring to the table.

And I think of her too when I make the wrong choices.

Are there any role models that help you make good choices, who have inspired you with the courage of their conviction? If so, who and why?

4 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Traditions Revisited, What Say You?

An Apology

I’m back to using my iPad, as I’m on vacation. Forgive me for any typos, etc.

Thank you, all, for your respectful comments and discussions on my last post.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the birth plan topic. Something that has been echoing in my brain is this comment, from SRB:

“It’s important that we talk openly and without judgement about this. Wishing each other peace and fulfillment in our mothering will only serve to better us.”

That’s when I realized something: Holy Crap! Was my wedding day analogy like those awful, empty platitudes we all hear going through infertility? I think for the most part, the people we are hearing “just relax and it will happen” and “why don’t you just adopt?” They mean well. They cause harm but it’s (mostly) not because their intention was to hurt, but rather to soothe. Similarly, when I was trying to make women feel better who are hurting about their birth plans not turning out the way they had planned, was I minimizing their pain by saying it was “just one day?”

Probably.

I’m so sorry if I made anyone feel that way. I remember how awful those comments about “just” made me feel.

I want to clarify for the record here that I truly support your choice, goals and dreams, whether it’s Josey’s upcoming home water birth (go get it, girl! :)) to the huge smile I had on my face when I read about Courtney and Belle’s C-sections that were so lovely and supportive. And I think E’s embrace of a flexible birth plan is a great choice for her: it shows a sense of self-awareness and capacity for her own personal growth that I always admire about her.

And for those who had a similar approach to me (seeing birth as a means to an end and a day to, well, survive) I’m glad (as always) to not be alone in my thinking and reasoning for my experience. Thank you for sharing your stories, and I’m so glad everything went so well for you!

Ladies: I’m rooting for you all the time, no matter the differences in choices or styles of, well, anything. All of you, not just the people I called out, but everyone in my extensive blog reading list of women parenting and not parenting, those in the trenches and beyond. You amaze and inspire me all the time. You make me think, you make me reflect and you make me (I hope) a better person.

Thanks for educating me.

Humbly yours,

Jessica

8 Comments

Filed under What Say You?

Your Birth Story: All You Wanted It To Be?

Babies 11-10-07 011

There’s been an interesting discussion going on at Esperanza’s blog about birth plans.

Here’s where I admit I have noticed there seems to be an increased emphasis in my circle (blogging and real-life) on putting together detailed birth plans and becoming upset if the experience doesn’t match expectations. And I have been shaking my head over this, feeling like I am missing something.

And I think I am. Truly. It’s not you, it’s me.

Even when I was a young woman, I never really imagined giving birth. I saw it as a means to an end, sure. To becoming a parent and that was the good stuff. But college friends and I shivered with fear when we imagined the pain, the scariness, the whole experience really. Why is this?

Well, my mother’s own labor with me was anything but textbook. It’s a family saying that I made headlines the day I was born, because I actually did. My mom was sent home from the hospital in the middle of labor (she had back labor, they didn’t notice) and she started going into the late stages of labor at our home. This was back before the days of 911. Luckily, my parents lived one block away from the local fire station. My dad panicked, ran down the street, brought the firemen back to their home and they helped give birth to me in the nick of time. I’m one of a very small number of people born in Sausalito, which is a source of pride for me, because I love that town and it is so beautiful and idyllic. But the birth took a heavy toll on my mother. She flatlined in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. We’re lucky she’s still here.

Meanwhile, the firemen were interviewed for the papers and a good story was “born.”

When I was diagnosed with infertility, then Diminished Ovarian Reserve, I honestly never thought I’d have children at all. When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I did nothing but focus on the day at hand. I made no plans of any sort.

My pregnancy was very complicated. Among the many complications: a low-lying placenta, one baby that was breech and one baby that was transverse. I don’t think there is a midwife or OBGyn in the land that would not have recommended a C-section. So I knew that I would have one. No question, no decision: it was what it was.

I wasn’t disappointed, either. Honestly? My expectations were nil. I wasn’t convinced the babies were out of danger until I actually heard them cry. I cared absolutely not at all for my experience giving birth. (Nor did it even occur to me to care.) I just wanted to be comfortable so I could greet them. Which I was. My OBGyn did an excellent job stitching me up (my scar is minimal). I did have a horrible day the second day (Oh, the pain! And the scary allergic reaction to a pain medication) but I was so focused on being a mother that I barely even gave my birth a second thought. I do remember that Darcy told me he loved me right before the babies were born, which he never says unless we’re about to die in a plane crash or we’re getting married. He believes his actions say he loves me every day. Still, it’s nice to hear 🙂

I don’t want this to devolve into a natural birth vs. medicated birth discussion at all. I respect both points of view and that’s not what this is about.

But I have noticed women expressing pain and remorse and sometimes blaming themselves if their birth plans don’t work out and that makes me sad for them.

I commented on Esperanza’s post:

“But I see the birth experience similarly to how I see a wedding. Maybe you’ll be lucky to have the wedding you always dreamed of: your parents have a lot of $ or you have the DIY skills to put on the most awesome wedding ever. But the wedding is one day. Just one day.

Your marriage is for life.

And so, your birth is one day. Maybe it rains on your wedding day, maybe you can’t afford a big wedding so you elope. Maybe you go to City Hall.
This doesn’t mean you won’t have an excellent marriage! My parents eloped and they’ve been married 45 years.

Similarly, your birth experience is one day. It’s such a small part of the overall experience of parenting.”

I don’t want to negate any feelings women have about disappointing experiences, but more find out why increasingly birth experiences matter? And I mean when a healthy baby was delivered, not with a scary or bad outcome. 😦

Was your birth experience all you wanted it to be? Did you care about what kind of birth experience you had or will have? Am I totally bizarre for being so blase about this?

31 Comments

Filed under Infertility, Parenting After IF

Project Dreamcatcher: A RANT and Motivation

dreamcatcher

Before I get started with this week, I want to address a criticism one of my Project Dreamcatchers received on her blog. It made me REALLY mad. Like, hopping stinging angry.

One of the biggest reasons I started this project was because of what I was seeing in our culture. So many of us put ourselves dead last, whether because of the demands of caregiving, our careers or whatever the case may be. It seems to be what is expected of us, as mothers, as wives, as professionals. But: this is not good for our relationships, our professional lives, our marriages or our families. When we are more balanced and more fulfilled, we are more productive, happier and refreshed. But don’t take my word for this: many have found this to be true.

What drives me nuts is when women finally decide to pursue an activity or hobby or goal and they get feedback about how this activity is preventing them from spending time with their child or marriage or whatever. THIS IS BS! These women are not running off and chasing a band or whatever self-destructive behavior we can imagine. They are simply taking a little time out of their day, whether it is a few minutes or a few hours, to pursue something that makes them happy. They then return, refreshed and recharged, to their duties and responsibilities. Chances are, they return to these activities with renewed vigor and increased productivity as well.

SHEESH. OK, Rant OVER.

Onto the Ted Talk for this week. It’s by Greg McEvilly and it’s about motivation. Greg has done something I think we all think about doing from time to time. He started his own business doing something he is passionate about, in this case trying to create products that will end Malaria-related deaths in Africa and create sustainable products throughout the world. He used Kickstarter to raise money for his company and way exceeded his fundraising expectations. His talk is really inspirational and moving, because he talks about how each of us are worked on by two motivators: fear and love.

Fear is that we won’t be able to keep up with the Jones, that we are afraid of the “other,” that we need to stay in our own world with our blinders on. Love allows us to connect with others, open our minds to the possibilities of helping others and helps us combine our lives with service for others.

I could really relate to this, because my book is a way to make others dealing with infertility feel less alone, less marginalized, less, well, “other.” It seems just when I lose motivation, someone or something comes through to help me keep going. Last night, as I was feeling kind of not very motivated, I received an email from someone whose acquaintance was going through a third miscarriage. Her acquaintance found “Faces of ALI” through a Google search.

The email said:

“She was so thankful for the message because no one in her life has understood what it’s like…and she has felt so alone. It wasn’t until she read Courtney’s profile and blog that she felt like someone else knew what it was like. So even though you know these profiles are helping women everywhere I thought I’d tell you of yet another instance where – because of your choice to create this amazing thing and feature these profiles on your blog – you just helped another woman to not feel alone.”

I want to clarify that it is the words of the women I am profiling that have led to this project. All of you have made this change, this difference.

And every goal on the Project Dreamcatcher list is making a change for good in this world, whether through a better life-balance, creating a better family and professional environment, creating better health through improved physical fitness, etc.

Rock on, ladies. Rock on.

Does it chap your hide when people accuse women with hobbies or goals of not being engaged enough in their family life? Are you motivated by fear or love, or a combination of both?

{What’s Project Dreamcatcher? Click here to find out.

8 Comments

Filed under getting published, Miscarriage, Project Dreamcatcher, writing