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Preparation, or My Lack Thereof

As you read this, I am currently on my way to BlogHer (unless you are reading this after I land, in which case, I am there), and I feel a little ill-prepared.  When I first signed up to go, I had great intentions to make new business cards with my correct information as opposed to using the out-dated business cards that I’ve used for the last four year.

[So few people seem to want my business card that I still have over half a box left.  Do YOU want my business card?  I swear that it’s really cute.  I think my overabundance of business cards is a sign of just how few times I interact with bloggers in the face-to-face world.  Either you already know me, so what’s the point in getting my business card, or you don’t know me and I haven’t even told you that I have a blog much less a business card.]

I had great intentions of writing out a schedule for myself — a strict schedule — and making plans and sucking the marrow out of the experience.  It’s very hard to suck out the marrow if you’re spending half of your time discombobulated.  You can suck much more marrow out of an event if you walk in with purpose.  I think.

I read a lot of posts these past few weeks of people planning out their clothing and getting manicures and generally becoming well-groomed.  I did not purchase new clothing.  I never get a manicure anymore because my nails are of two different lengths for guitar (non-existent on my left hand and medium-length and a little scuffed on my right).  I did not groom myself except to shave my legs and that was so I didn’t mortify myself at the pool earlier in the week.  I feel a little like Missy Wallflower, going to the dance in a dress she made out of old curtains while all the other girls are blond and sleek and dressed to the nines.

I’d like you to picture me, for a moment, in old curtains.

I seem to be going into BlogHer goal-less.  Without a clear purpose beyond Thursday afternoon when my Pathfinder Day presentation ends.  I mean, I want to meet people — but that’s sort of an amorphous goal.  I plan to sort of just drop into conversations with new people and find new blogs to read.  There are panels that sound interesting, but I don’t have a highlighted schedule yet as I did the first two years I went.  Other people seem to know exactly what they want to do, exactly where they want to go, exactly who they want to meet.  They have signed up for exciting opportunities outside of the walls of the hotel.  I have not.  I just want to see my friends and make a few new ones.  But that doesn’t sound like it falls into the realm of “enough” when you hear what other people have scheduled into their trip.

I have come to realize, as of late, that I tend to lack purpose.  My guitar teacher asked me what I wanted to learn and my only answer was… guitar.  I have no goals with guitar, no songs I desperately want to learn.  I am happy playing whatever comes up.  I’m happy achieving whatever I achieve.

The same attitude has followed me through much of life.  I am not a competitive person, and sometimes that comes out as a lack of ambition.  I have had three major ambitions in life post graduate school and they mostly make me sound like a 1950’s housewife: I wanted to get married to someone great.  I wanted to have children.  I wanted to publish a book.

I’ve had smaller ambitions since then.  It was my goal to be the room mother at the twins’ school.  I made a beeline for the sign-up sheet, forgoing being social with any of the other parents milling about.  While they were chatting, I was triumphantly signing my name to the sheet.  I felt like I had just won a 10K.  It was also my ambition to hit #1 on the Kindle list with Life from Scratch, but that hasn’t happened yet.  You win some, you lose some.

Perhaps the problem with achieving your major goals is that it can make you complacent elsewhere.  When I was single, I was hungry to make relationships work.  I’m lucky now that this relationship works on its own because if I had to guide it, we’d be lost.  When I was doing treatments for the first time, I had this amazing drive, able to push myself into doing anything.  I’m not sure where that drive went because I certainly haven’t poured it into something other than family building.  I think a lot of us do well with the lead-up and then flounder with the happily-ever-after.  How many posts have you read that ask “now what?”  Anne Lamott beautifully covered this phenomenon in the writing world in her book, Bird by Bird.

Except that I’m totally happy with the “now what.”  I am utterly content to keep trucking along as I am, though I worry from time to time that I’m missing something.  That I should want to have more goals.  That I should be more driven.  It’s sort of like when you’re young and you don’t really know if it’s YOU who wants to get married or if you’ve received a message from society that tells you that you should want to be married. (For the record, I really sat with this question and I decided that it was me who wanted to be married.)  I’m not quite sure though, when it comes to ambition, if it’s me or societal expectations that I’m following.

I read these blog posts that speak about outfits laid out and new business cards made and I feel like I missed something, which makes me feel like I must in turn be missing out on something.  A fabulous new friendship?  Memories that will float me happily into fall?  A fantastic new opportunity?

Sometimes I wonder if it was infertility that has turned me into this ill-prepared being, unable to organize herself properly before attending something so she can suck all the marrow out of it.  It’s easy to blame infertility since it’s such an ugly beast and therefore naturally serves as the receptacle of problems, but I think something needs to be said about negatives and how they beat you down.  It is hard to keep getting up and plugging away at your goals when the finish line keeps getting moved. (Well, yes, you got pregnant, but now you need to stay pregnant.  And now you’re staying pregnant, but you need to get to term.  And now you’re nearing term, but you hope the child is born healthy.  And along the way, you keep getting sent back to start.  Or sometimes, you don’t even start down the path at all.)

Publishing rejections hurt, especially when friends are having an easy time in the writing world.  But they didn’t drain me in the same way that infertility did.  Publishing rejections made me angry.  Anger is a fire; it produces energy to make you keep going and prove them all wrong.  Infertility made me sad.  Sadness is like finding out your gasoline cap has been off for the last few miles and now your engine is full of air and not working (or whatever happens when the car starts stalling because your husband left the gas cap off).

Maybe it’s just old age.  Maybe it’s the fact that blogging is no longer shiny and new, but more like a comfortable sweat shirt.  Maybe it is infertility.  All I know is that I had great intentions to prepare myself prior to arrival and I didn’t.  I’m here, without a goal I’m trying to accomplish.  Simply being.  And hoping I don’t miss out on anything by living my life this way.  But feeling like I probably do.

Do you like to plan things out or just see where life takes you?  Do you think you can truly suck the marrow out of an experience if you enter it ill-prepared and needing to take time to figure things out?  Do you think you can truly suck the marrow out of an experience if you over-plan life and try to control it rather than just letting what happen, happen?


1 luna { 08.03.11 at 12:58 pm }

wishing I was going to be there to see you on the other side. feeling a little nostalgic for my 1st and only blogher 3 yrs ago when I met you and so many other amazing women. if I was not on travel embargo, I’d be there, if only for a day.

I like to feel prepared, but I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to let it go. I definitely feel like my finish line keeps getting moved, and that it’s impossible to truly be prepared for so much.

better to just be present.

2 Sharon { 08.03.11 at 1:04 pm }

By nature, I’m a planner. There’s no “go with the flow” about me. But that is actually something that my struggle with infertility taught me: that a lot of things are outside my control, and that that’s OK. That I can make plans, but they may not come to fruition.

Like most things in life, I think there’s a happy medium. I think I’d feel unmoored without *some* plan (though others might not), but I think overplanning can suck some joy out of experiences, too.

3 serenity { 08.03.11 at 1:40 pm }

This is a fantastic, thought-provoking, amazing, insightful, omg-you-just-solved-my-after-TTC-crisis post.

I’m having issue with the fact that I have nothing to FOCUS on. No goals. Infertility gave me a focus. I was going to be a mom, and I looked at whatever I needed to do in order to MAKE me a mom. It gave me a goal, and when I got to the end result, I was content to ride it out until the next time we tried.

Then again, focus.

And now that I don’t have that? I feel untethered & unhappy, floating in the ether of life. I’ve tried focusing on little goals I’ve set for myself – run a marathon this October, for example – but somehow it’s not enough.

And unlike you, I am not totally happy with it. I’ve ALWAYS been driven to get better, do something new, prove to my parents and the disbelievers that with hard work I can do whatever I want to.

And now? Well, that’s not TRUE. I can’t make myself pregnant with another child. And I’m TIRED of the pressure of having to PROVE things to people.

But the alternative, sort of going with the flow, living my life? Scares me too. I’m just not sure I CAN exist like that; I’ve been living my life for so long as Ms. Goal-Oriented “I’ll Show YOU!” that I’m not sure I can do anything else.

At the end of the day, I need to figure out how to be happy. If you’re happy, Mel? That’s all you need. If you’re the girl who goes to the dance in the dress made of the old curtain, you’re the all the manicured, fashionable people look at and whisper – “Man, look at that vintage dress!”

My point is, happiness looks GOOD on you. And really, at the end of the day, it should be all you need.

So I hope you’re having a fantastic time there, enjoying whatever comes up in San Diego.


4 Esperanza { 08.03.11 at 1:43 pm }

AH! I want to go to BlogHer so bad. Boo hoo. Life is so unfair.

Okay, end rant.

The reality is I’d be TERRIFIED if I were going to BlogHer. My friend who was going to join me wouldn’t be able to go (family emergency) and I’d be losing my SHIT going by myself. I’d probably end up alone all weekend watching other people hit it off. It would have been a disaster. I guess I’ll just have to wait to BlogHer graces California shores again.

As for goals and ambitions, I think they can be a double edged sword. As someone who does have many goals and ambitions and feels very far from achieving them, your life of contentedness sounds just about perfect – an achievement in and of itself. I wish I had that feeling of being okay with what I have and where I am. Instead I feel like I’m still looking for a way to make my life work and I’m wondering if what I hope for is even possible.

I think you’ll have a great time at BlogHer. I hope that you do. I wish so much that I could hear you speak. I was planning on going to the Pathfinder day to meet you. Bah. Maybe some day. I’ll just keep “going to BlogHer” on that list of goals I hope to achieve. 😉

5 a { 08.03.11 at 2:56 pm }

I’m not much of a planner – which is not to say that my day is not a rigidly set schedule. I get irritated when my plans are thrown off. Therefore, in an effort to remain un-pissed off, I don’t plan much. Which then irritates my husband. It’s a lovely cycle we inhabit! 🙂

But, realistically, I have overall goals – have a family, have a job that doesn’t suck too badly, be financially secure – and they are mostly met. So when I have to meet unexpected (or expected) challenges, I have a secure base from which to operate.

The problem with having everything mapped out is that when you’re on your way from Point A to Point B, you’ll miss that detour that takes you past the waterfall. Or the road that leads to the really good Mexican restaurant. Roll with it, baby! There’s more to see that way!

6 loribeth { 08.03.11 at 3:04 pm }

I’m definitely a planner. I probably would have the agenda highlighted, agonized over what to pack & had my nails done.

But ambitious & competitive, I’m definitely not. Case in point: I’ve not only been with the same company but in the same department & practically the same job for 25 years, & we’ve been in the same 1400 square foot house for 21 years. Sure, it would be nice to make a little more money (especially as we start heading toward retirement), but I do not need the long hours & other headaches that would come with a higher-ranking job with more responsibilities. Our house is not as big or fancy as the new 3000 square foot houses some of our friends & relatives have, with walk in closets, en suite bathrooms, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances — but it’s paid off ; ) & it suits our purposes just fine.

I’m not a complicated or high maintenance person. The things that make me happiest are being with dh & my family, going to a good movie with a bag of hot, fresh popcorn, or sitting on the sofa with my laptop or a good book & a cup of tea. I am just as happy with a $15 T shirt from Old Navy or the Gap as a designer T-shirt that costs several times that much.

Dh sometimes says he lost his competitive drive after we lost Katie. Inflated titles and big houses just didn’t mean as much anymore, if they ever meant anything. I think aging has something to do with it too.

When you don’t plan at all, you can miss some stuff because you weren’t organized. On the other hand, being too rigid & overplanning means you might lack the flexibility to take advantage of interesting opportunities as they arise. Whatever happens, I hope you have a blast at BlogHer. : )

7 Searching for Serenity { 08.03.11 at 3:58 pm }

You’ve mimics many of my thoughts recently.

After attending National Night Out last night I discovered that I’m not quite the person I thought I’d be. I blame most of it on infertility and pregnancy loss. And how I’m not happy with the person I am today. And why can’t I just accept this journey rather than try plan (there is no planning in IF or PL) out every detail of who I think I should be and where I should be going.

My thoughts are obviously scattered. I should write about it just like I intended to this morning.

Have a great trip. Southern California is wonderful in so many ways. Enjoy!

8 Mali { 08.03.11 at 4:11 pm }

I’ve noticed this in myself. It came after infertility and loss. There was a realization that there is more to life than being the best. That there was more to ME, and that being me -take me as I am – is okay. And it took pressure off; pressure that wasn’t particularly making me happy. I wouldn’t beat myself up if I were you Mel, you’re a high achiever!!

As for the planning thing. Well, you’ve been to Blogher before when you’ve planned everything, right? So now you’re just trying a different approach. There are joys in both. Enjoy!

9 Willow { 08.03.11 at 4:30 pm }

I used to be much more of a planner, and I do think it’s infertility that derailed that, because it taught me so unequivocally that I can’t plan things like I used to think I could. I miss being the organized, driven person I used to be–not that all of that’s gone, but I do feel like I lost a lot of it during my years of battling infertility. Then again, while I never could control my fertility, there are plenty of things I can control, like how much time I spend on my writing–well, except, with a 2-year-old, I don’t have as much control over my time as I might like. All of which is to say, I agree with you that it’s easy to blame IF for everything, and I think it actually IS to blame, to some extent, for some of what I’ve lost in my life at large–a certain sense of confidence and belief that I can do anything I put my mind to–but I also worry that I let that beaten-down feeling permeate too far when I should be rising above it. However, I’m going to go ahead and give myself a break for a little while longer since I am just now finally pregnant via DE and have (hopefully) 10 weeks to go before I meet my (hopefully) healthy baby. So it’s not like I’ve been out of the trenches for long! Anyway, hope you have a great conference, and I just want to say how impressed I am by all that you do.

10 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.03.11 at 5:10 pm }

Ours is a very masculine-energy culture. We are DOers.

So it’s admirable that you bring balance to humanity in your own way. You are in a part of the cycle in which you’re content with BEing.

That’s not nothing. That’s really something.


11 Manapan { 08.03.11 at 6:23 pm }

Life from Scratch totally deserves to be #1. Reading and re-reading kept me entertained during the bedrest days (but also a little worried what my son’s future Rachels are going to think about the whole uncircumsized thing, lol). I can’t wait for a sequel!

12 Mrs. Gamgee { 08.03.11 at 6:45 pm }

In the small scale, I am a planner… to the enth degree. When I go on trip, even if it’s just a day trip or an overnight, I have list upon list. What to pack, timelines of what I need to be doing when, etc. When I’m having guests over, my to do list is a mile and a half long. The thing is, I drive others insane with my need to plan.

However, when it comes to my life as a whole, I’m wandering aimlessly right now. We now have what we’ve been focussed on since before our first anniversary, but I’m left wondering ‘what’s next’. Where do I put my energy, my focus?

I guess the questions never really end, do they?

13 HereWeGoAJen { 08.03.11 at 7:35 pm }

I hope you have a lovely trip. Take lots of pictures for me to live vicariously through you. 🙂

14 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 08.03.11 at 7:37 pm }

I do love to plan and control, but I have learned that there are too many things over which I have little or no control, so I am now much more go-with-the-flow than I used to be. DH is super go-with-the-flow and after many years it has finally rubbed off.

Have fun!!!

15 Another Dreamer { 08.03.11 at 11:28 pm }

The only thing that I really had a drive for, and needed to plan for, was dealing with infertility and pushing through it. Even then though, I didn’t believe in keeping the deadlines/plans set in stone… always open for change. In every other aspect of my life, it’s always been “What will be, will be” and I made it all up as I went along. I don’t plan much, and never asked for much… I’m mostly content with that.

16 Queenie { 08.03.11 at 11:57 pm }

Can’t happiness be a goal? It seems like a pretty good one to me.

I am a planner. But, I have mixed feelings about whether it truly allows you to suck the marrow. Yes, you can pack more in if you plan. On the other hand, you are so busy sticking to the plan that you often miss the amazing, rich moments that seem to unfold when you are just being spontaneous and rolling with things. The best thing is probably to plan a little, and then see where life takes you.

17 coffeegrljp { 08.04.11 at 1:09 am }

I’m a planner – probably 90% of the time. But I’m also happy to sometimes just roll with things. I like to know the major highlights of what I’m about to encounter. But a certain amount of “come what may” is fine once I know that I won’t miss THE speaker I want to hear or THE museum that I’d kick myself for missing. I went to Rome, Italy just once years ago. My husband’s mom insisted that since she’d been living and teaching there for 3 years that she would show us around for the 4 days we’d be there. Only she had no plan and we ended up walking in circles and having no idea where we were going b/c she really wasn’t as familiar with the city as she thought. And I half the time she couldn’t tell us why “x” cathedral was significant. I still wish that I’d had my “Must see” list so that at least I would have felt that I didn’t miss anything. Instead, I feel like she had no clue what she was doing and I was missing all this stuff that I could have seen…..A rough plan works best for me. 🙂 Enjoy Blogher in whatever capacity works for you. .

18 Mina { 08.04.11 at 8:37 am }

Oh, so it’s not just me feeling the odd egg in the basket for not planning the life out of me?
Whenever I make a list, I find it after I don’t need it anymore. I used to make plans and lists and not one plan came to fruition. I mean, I did get married and had a child, but it was not the result of my grand planning skills. My career vanished up in smoke when I had to chose between family or job, and I don’t regret it not even the tiniest littlest bit. And I have never been happier in my life!

I still try to plan bits of my life, because I am a slow learner like that, like we go to visit the grandparents, and “I” plan to do some thing or the other, or at least I imagine we would do this or that. Know what? It never works out “my” way. So, planning is not for me.

Consequently, in your place, I’d do the same, and have a great time.

Happy BlogHer, Mel! Come back with pictures!

19 {sue} { 08.04.11 at 9:13 am }

At this stage in my life, I’m more of a marrow-soaker than a marrow-sucker. Which doesn’t make sense exactly, but I tend to let let experiences wash over me (like marinade?). I still sometimes feel like I should be sucking the marrow (especially when I read something by someone who does), but maybe I’m too tired. Or I don’t need the the highs and lows anymore and am more happy with the gentle tide. Or maybe I’ve learned to stop seeking happiness everywhere and just work on BEING happy.

I hope your trip is exactly what you need.

20 Anna { 08.04.11 at 3:54 pm }

I don’t know how to express this elegantly but I think you’re doing fine and I know exactly how you feel about big events and not planning. However, I guess this is like students chatting before going into an exam, some people’s unprepared involves a lot more preparation than others. In order to enjoy BlogHer you don’t need a manicure or a new outfit, anyone who would think you were odd for not having a manicure really isn’t worth thinking. In order to get the best out of being there you just need to be there and be yourself.

You could highlight the timetable, have big plans and have a horrible time. When I highlight timetables I go to things that sound good but aren’t, I enjoy immensely happening across events that I didn’t anticipate and that’s part of the point, spreading your metaphorical arms wide. Without specific things you’ve decided that you must do I think you’re well situated to do what you want to, feel like or are drawn to.

Have an amazing time! Take your amazing self there and I’m sure you will have a good time. With all those major ambitions realised you have nothing to lose, you’ve already got the best things.

21 Bea { 08.05.11 at 9:54 am }

I think infertility has a lot to answer for on this one. You spend so much time trying to stay in the moment, trying to live with an uncertain future, that you forget how it is to plan ahead. And I guess maybe you stop wanting to. Or maybe you’re old after all ;p

Me, I’m now casting around for the next thing. And today I started putting some thoughts together. And if either of my kids would let me leave the bedroom I might actually get to start looking into these thoughts but that’s another story.

22 B { 08.07.11 at 4:42 am }

Mel – you’re the last person i would attach to the words “lack purpose”. The opposite. I see very definite purpose from here – connection, community, and fun – and I admire that and try and learn from that.

Sometimes running around doing everything can be a tell tale sign of a lack of purpose. Someone who doesn’t know what they’re on about.

Not you lovey.

Although, I have made the error of not studying the gig guide at a music festival and feeling like it took me half the weekend to find my groove. So, maybe you should at least read the seminars.

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