Thursday, 23 May 2013

The 75 Year Plan

I have always been a huge fan of the films of Wes Anderson. I know others find their quirkiness cloying and the characters too full of affectation, but for me there's just something about the offbeat amalgam of the absurd and the angsty that speaks to my heart. The comedy is often not very comical, and it strikes me that it is in those same awkward moments of being human where, in real life, we find not just comedy, but real humour. His stories are almost never about what they say they're about; a lot like life, I think.

There is a particularly hilarious scene towards the beginning of Bottle Rocket in which Owen Wilson's character Dignan unveils a 75 year plan, just after springing his friend from a prolonged stay in an institution where he was hospitalized after having suffered an emotional breakdown. This will be the manifesto that will launch the characters as new men headed on a new trajectory, and they seem to embrace it whole-heartedly. It's a scene I've always loved. The 75 Year Plan is a regular off-hand, jokey reference point in our household. I used to cite it a lot to tease my husband about his Germanic penchant for planning (as in, obviously, you can't really plan for all eventualities, especially not that far in advance). I found it hi-larious.


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We've been talking through and re-talking and brain-storming and deconstructing a lot of potential plans in these parts the last few weeks. There is a need for it; for some kind of plan, or at least contingency, to be in place for us. With H's contract ending in August, being the anchor that has kept us here, in this particular spot, we need to figure out a way to scrape together a living, and preferably some quality of life, come autumn. About this in and of itself, I am nervous, but not too fussed; we've always managed before, not just to survive, but usually to make an adventure of it in the process. Something will come (prettypleasethankyou). Patience is called for. I don't feel that same sense of confidence about my fertility journey though. We're on track, it seems, for IVF by the end of the year. Obviously, this would be facilitated by a sense of how things will look in the coming months. (Yes, I'm aware I'm on repeat here). But the more I think about IVF, the more uncertain I am if this is really the right path for us. And it's not just because of the logistics or the potential expense. As far as the 'right path' for our family building, I'm sifting through some big thoughts which I hope will take cogent form soon enough, but for now I'll leave it at that.

Still, it's all a lot to consider, and not the sort of stuff that will sort itself out in a matter of weeks, or even months. And this doesn't even begin to touch on the more existential questions doubts circling in my brain: does questioning IVF say something about my lack of commitment to parenting, which in turn says something about why we haven't managed a healthy pregnancy so far? And just what business do a couple of itinerant, gainfully unemployed holders of PhDs and not much else in the way of worldly possessions have trying to make a baby anyway?!

I'd love it if I actually had a crystal ball that allowed me to see what the future holds for us; I'd like to think that even if it's something difficult, I could handle it if I only knew what I was in for. If I'm destined never to raise children of my own (biological or otherwise), then let me get on with it; building the fun, adventurous, irresponsible, compensatory (yeah, right!) life that will follow for us as a childless couple. I could be good at that too. Yes, I realize none of this is that easy, and attempting to preempt the turmoil is probably no way to deal with things. I wish any of it was easy. For any of us.


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Dignan's plan, a series of confusing and yet meticulous sub-categories and 10 year breakdowns all scratched out on a standard lined notepad, concludes with the reminders to 1) remain flexible and 2) consider alternatives. Fair enough. It also offers prompts for further contemplation in the form of two questions:

Why not plan ahead? 
Why not continue?

(OK, so at this point it is probably also incumbent upon me to mention that Bottle's Rocket's characters are hatching a 75 Year Plan to become professional burglars. I'll add a (hopefully unnecessary) caveat that this aspect of the story is clearly in no way analogous to our life situation. Let's not invite any other, screamingly obvious, cinematic comparison here. Raising Arizona!!)


Anyway, where was I? Well, even if things take their sweet time to work themselves out, I can tell you that I certainly don't want to be doing this, what I'm doing now, what I've been doing for three tortuous years now, for the next 75 years to come. Not that I could, obviously. Ya know, menopause and death and all that...

But at the same time, our own road continues to be long and winding into an unknown, unknowable future, so we will indeed place 1) remaining flexible and 2) considering the alternatives as central tenets of our own long-term plan. We may not have 75 years in which to hash out these contingencies, but perhaps that is kind of the point. Once you've faced the kind of prolonged uncertainty that loss and infertility bring* - making any long-term planning seem laughably naive - maybe the best kind of 'plan' you can make is to keep stumbling along, finding what moments of laughter you will, hoping for the best from your yearly sub-plans, recognizing that some things are out of your hands while also trying your best to grasp what opportunities come, and being proactive with the things we do have some command of.

Thinking about it now, that notion of a ridiculously unwieldy life plan stretching into the hazy middle (long?) distance...Well, it doesn't seem quite so comical anymore. Or maybe I'm just growing up.

Why not continue? Wise words indeed, Dignan. Because really, what else is there to do?


Source.
















*Yes, people. I am drawing pre-celebrity Owen Wilson into an analogy with infertility and loss. Wacky and wonderful, no?

18 comments:

  1. Sadie, I really hope that everything works out for you... both in life and with TTC. I also feel like my life has become this long and winding road of uncertainty... I'd kill for a crystal ball right about now!

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    1. Thank you Catherine, I hope so too. For both of us. If I ever manage to get my hands on that crystal ball, I'll pass it on to you!

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  2. I have a draft of a post with similar sentiments - about how I wish my future self could visit my present self and tell me everything is going to be OK. But then I think about all the points in my life where I've despaired and been unable to comprehend how it was going to work, and it always does, even better than I imagined. I'm just hoping infertility is like that.

    Wishing the best for you in life and in fertility. I'm very jealous of your globetrotting ways, btw. The two of us are here in the same town we grew up in, anchored by close family all within 10 square miles and the comfort of familiarity. Sometimes I wish we could ditch it all and see the world.

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    1. Yes, I try to remind myself that very often in life, when things have seemed bleakest, there have been unimaginable delights around the very next corner, waiting to change my life for the better. I'm just impatient, and really, really ready to turn that corner NOW.

      I won't lie, having lived in so many cool countries has been an amazing privilege and an adventure, however much I moan about wanting a home base. I think I'm just in need of a break!

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  3. One thing is for sure, 10 years from now you'll look back and say, "Oh, so that's how everything turned out." And I'm betting whatever you wanted the most will somehow, someway find itself to you.

    Sometimes life is about faith, no? And continuing on, as you say. And of course the adventures. Thank goodness for the adventures.

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    1. True! All of what you say.

      And yes, thank goodness for the adventures. We actually have one of the international, adventure-seeking variety coming up very soon, and I can't hardly wait!

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  4. I love Wes Anderson too. I feel like I'm on some kind of fabulous drug when watching his movies. What drug, I don't know, since I'm not really the "do drugs" type.
    Remaining flexible and considering the alternatives seem like essential parts of staying sane in any fertility/infertility journey, if not life itself. Having those as tenets to planning your future seems a wise stance to take.
    I know it's stressful to not know what/where your next jobs will be, but I'm with belovedburnttoast-- I'm envious of your open possibilities! I'd love to move around a little, but it seems we're staying put for the time being. I hope it turns into a wonderful adventure for you.

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    1. What does it say bout me that, when watching Wes Anderson films, I don't so much feel on drugs as I think to myself: 'just like being at a family dinner'? ;)

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  5. I think I know exactly how you're feeling. I struggled so hard accepting, and I am not sure I have, the reality that IVF was in my future. It just wasn't the path I wanted to go down but, after being told many times that I probably wouldn't get pregnant alone, I gave in. Sometimes I wonder if my inability to stay pregnant, or get pregnant during my frozen cycle, is partly due to my inability to accept IVF (I know in my sane moments it isn't). I often wish someone could tell me how long I am going to be stranded on these rocks, with the waves of infertility crashing over me, before my life boat comes. Whether the life boat is a healthly baby or an acceptance of a childless life, I just don't know.
    As I type this a rainbow has just appeared outside my window (yes, really), so I think we're going to be alright. Whichever way the road takes you, you'll find the light. You have been through so much already and have the strength and presence of mind to really celebrate the memory of your son with fun and laughter; to completely bring him into your present and cherish him. And I think if you can do that, you can do anything.

    Oh, thank you for the article on early embryo assessment. It didn't come up on my blog but I found your comment when I was trying to figure our Google Plus. The article was really helpful. Thanks.

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    1. I think in our case, it's not even so much about acceptance of our reality, it's more that I'm not convinced IVF will be the *right* path to expanding our family. I know that biology matters a great deal for some parents, and I understand that, but I'm not sure it's true for us.

      Ana, your comments are always so uplifting and encouraging. Thank you for your kind words, (and for understanding the headgames I play with myself!). This much I know: we ARE going to be alright, even if we have to build our own lifeboats.

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  6. I think that not having a crystal ball was the hardest thing for me as we were waiting for our baby ... and now it's still turning out to be the hardest thing as I am trying to plan what life is going to be like in 7 months, 10 months, 2 years, 5 years with a baby. Really trying to take it one day at a time... but it's tough, so tough. Especially when you want something so bad.

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    1. Thanks for understanding Alicia, but moreso for the reminder that regardless of what life looks like, even when we get our heart's desire, there are still no givens. I think one of the hardest things about this for me is that I feel I'm wishing my days away, hoping to reach that rainbow always just out of reach, instead of living in the moment. It's a balancing act, and I keep trying.

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  7. Oh, Sadie, you know I know exactly how you feel on both fronts. Some certainty would be nice every once in a while. I'm so tired of being flexible and open to alternatives all the time. But what choice do we have, right? For what it's worth, I don't think your doubts about IVF have anything to do with your committment to parenting. No one who wasn't fully committed would put themselves through any of this.

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    1. I know you know my friend. I guess at the very least, we'll have developed really strong flexing muscles.

      And thanks for saying that about my doubts too; I know it's not true in my rational moments, but it doesn't stop me from second guessing sometimes. You're right though, we have no choice but to be committed.

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  8. Because what else is there to do... except continuing?

    "Maybe the best kind of 'plan' you can make is to keep stumbling along, finding what moments of laughter you will, hoping for the best from your yearly sub-plans, recognizing that some things are out of your hands...".

    There you have it, I now find "the big life plans" kind of comical. All the things I thought would have happened by now... where are they? You can do your best, try as hard as you can, but it is highly probable that something else with happen.

    Flexibility is a good idea.

    I do not think reflecting about IVF makes you less comitted to parenting, on the contrary. It is quite a huge deal, a lot to ponder. I have been doing some reflecting on my own, but all I can think of is that we want to jump, no matter what. The alternative, stopping now, would feel like losing the battle. It is something we can not do just yet. So on we continue, even if we have no idea how things will go. If you need to talk / vent / rant let me know.

    Sometimes not thinking, also helps. Like walking the path that lays in front of us, seeing where it gets us.

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    1. Thank you Amanda, and of course as always your words have a lot of wisdom. Reflecting *can* turn into a kind of spiral effect for me, and so I try to remind myself not to overthink. Easier said than done at times! I used to be a very go-with-the-flow person, and now I'm not sure I'd even recognise that version of myself.

      I'll email you with furthering ranting ;)

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  9. "Once you've faced the kind of prolonged uncertainty that loss and infertility bring* - making any long-term planning seem laughably naive - maybe the best kind of 'plan' you can make is to keep stumbling along, finding what moments of laughter you will, hoping for the best..." Very well said! I wish you the best as you and your husband weigh out IVF and other options.

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  10. I laughed as soon as I saw the title to this post. Like you, I have felt the same way about IVF. It looks like we are on the same timeline to begin. If IUI does not work for us in July or August, then we would begin the process in September. My understanding is that I'll have to go on birth control for two months. Me, someone who has avoided the pill her whole life because I don't like to take medications. I would never choose IVF, but it seems like the only viable option. I keep telling myself I should be grateful for the opportunity, but I can't seem to get there. Like you, I wonder if it means I want it less and that's why I'm not pregnant. I am trying hard not to judge myself too much and just be. If you can survive 3 years of this BS, then I can keep going too. It hasn't even been 2 years for us yet--but, of course it feels longer. We can do this Sadie! We can!

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