Fertilité féminine: un enfant à 40 ans? [fr]

[en] Numbers and facts about female fertility. Do you know what the success rate of an IVF is at age 40? and 42? Many links at the bottom of the article are in English.

Je suis, encore et encore (depuis quelques année) sidérée de voir à quel point les idées ambiantes sur la fertilité féminine sont à côté de la plaque. Régulièrement, j’entends parler de femmes de 40 ans (ou plus) qui pensent qu’elles ont toutes les chances de concevoir, si elles le veulent assez.

Vous êtes maintenant en train de penser à toutes les femmes que vous connaissez et qui sont devenues mères (ou qui ont enfanté à nouveau) autour de 40 ans. Ça arrive tout le temps, me direz-vous!

J’espère, chère lectrice (cher lecteur aussi) que tu es familier/familière avec les mécanismes du biais du survivant et du biais de confirmation. Le premier nous rappelle qu’on entend parler des survivants et de ceux qui ont réussi, et beaucoup moins de ceux qui ont tout tenté et échoué. Vous savez donc bien qui sont les femmes de votre entourage ayant réussi à enfanter autour de 40 ans. Vous ignorez peut-être toutes celles qui ont essayé et échoué, parce qu’on ne parle pas trop de ça, sauf avec les intimes. Ça nous fait donc surestimer les taux de réussite. Le biais de confirmation, lui, nous rappelle qu’on remarque et retient les choses qui viennent confirmer ce qu’on croit. Si on croit qu’avoir un enfant à 40 ans est facile, on aura dans sa tête une liste de toutes les histoires qui viennent confirmer cette croyance, et on aura tendance à ignorer et ne pas retenir celles qui pourraient l’infirmer.

Ce qui n’aide pas non plus, c’est la médiatisation extrême des célébrités qui font des enfants “tard”. Genre Janet Jackson, récemment. On retient “Janet Jackson enceinte à 50 ans” et on se dit “ah ben 40, j’ai encore tout le temps!” Mais ce qu’on ne sait pas, c’est:

  • combien de temps elle a essayé
  • combien elle a dépensé
  • si elle a porté l’enfant (les photos ne prouvent pas grand-chose)
  • et surtout, si c’était ses ovules du jour, ou si elle a fait appel à un don d’ovules ou si elle avait congelé les siens quand elle était plus jeune.

Ce dernier point est important, car l’âge de l’ovule est un facteur déterminant dans les chances de succès d’une grossesse, bien plus que l’âge de l’utérus dans lequel l’enfant se développe.

Quelques chiffres pour remettre l’église au milieu du village:

  • la fertilité féminine se casse la figure grave vers les 37 ans
  • 1 femme sur 5 née dans les années 60, et 1 sur 4 née dans les années 70, arriveront à 45 ans sans avoir d’enfant – jusqu’à 80% d’entre elles “pas par choix”
  • les chances de succès (naissance) d’une FIV à l’age de 40 ans tournent autour de 10% (et ça se casse la gueule grave après ça)
  • les chances de concevoir lors d’un rapport sexuel durant la période fertile, quand on est jeune, sont de 15-20% max (oui, vous avez bien lu)
  • FIV avant l’âge de 30 ans? au max 40% de chances de succès
  • les chances de succès d’une FIV ne baissent pas avec l’âge si l’ovule utilisé est jeune
  • si vous êtes une femme et que vous voulez des enfants et que vous attendez 35 ans “pour vous y mettre”, vous avez de fortes chances de ne pas réussir à en avoir (donc sérieusement, si vous avez 40 ans ou proche, passez sans attendre à la FIV si c’est important pour vous d’être mère… 10% de chances c’est déjà mieux que ce que vous allez avoir autrement)

Oui oui, je vous entends: vous connaissez tous des cas qui “contredisent” ces chiffres. Si vous pensez ainsi, c’est que vous ne comprenez pas ce qu’est une probabilité. Un événement peut avoir une probabilité de 1 sur 500 d’arriver, et arriver la première fois. Ou la dernière. On espère tous être “le miracle”, mais être un peu réaliste quant à ses chances permet de s’investir de façon mesurée, et peut-être de mieux supporter la dure réalité de l’échec quand il arrive. Donc quand je dis qu’une FIV à 40 ans a 1 chance sur 10 de fonctionner, et que vous me répondez “mais je connais Josette qui est tombée enceinte après une FIV à 42 ans du premier coup”, ce n’est pas une contradiction des statistiques. C’est juste que Josette a eu beaucoup de chance. Elle est “l’anomalie”, ou plutôt, “le miracle”.

Bon à savoir, pour la Suisse:

  • le don d’ovules est interdit (info critique quand on sait que l’âge de l’ovule influe lourdement sur les chances de succès)
  • le don de sperme n’est pas ouvert aux couples homosexuels, non mariés, ou aux femmes seules (du coup, exit FIV aussi)
  • la congélation d’ovules (qui n’est pas la panacée) n’est possible que jusqu’à 35 ans et pour une durée de 5 ans (je n’arrive plus à retrouver la source pour ça)
  • pas juste pour la Suisse, mais tout ça coûte cher! Entre 5000 et plus de 10000.- pour une FIV à Lausanne par exemple, et c’est pas remboursé…

 

Je vous laisse avec quelques sources pour creuser, vérifier, vous informer… Et faites passer ces infos autour de vous afin de lutter contre les idées reçues (fausses) concernant la procréation et la fertilité féminine!

Ne confondez pas les miracles avec la norme.

 

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Animaux, humains [fr]

Ce n’est un secret pour personne que j’aime les animaux. Bon, j’aime les gens aussi. J’aime comprendre comment on fonctionne, “on les humains”, mais aussi “on les êtres du monde”.  J’aime comprendre comment tourne le monde, de façon générale. Une quête qui ne risque pas de s’épuiser, pour nourrir mon besoin insatiable de stimulation intellectuelle.

Alors, sur Facebook, je suis dans pas mal de groupes “animaux”. De chats surtout, vu que je suis une mamy à chats. Il y a celui que j’ai l’honneur de co-administrer, celui du refuge où j’avais adopté Tounsi, et une poignée d’autres.

Laissez-moi vous dire que la plupart des groupes “animaux” sont terribles. Je ne compte plus le nombre de ceux que j’ai quittés. Parmi d’autres choses qui m’égratignent, je suis effarée de voir avec quelle violence certaines personnes (malheureusement pas rares) “amies des animaux” se saisissent du moindre prétexte pour accuser les êtres humains de tous les maux.

S’il arrive quoi que ce soit à un animal, ou même si on le soupçonne, il y a systématiquement derrière un être humain malveillant ou irresponsable, sur lequel on ne perd pas de temps à déverser tout son fiel, invitant les autres au lynchage public. Un chat se promène dehors et semble avoir faim? C’est sans aucun doute que ses maîtres l’ont lâchement mis dehors et abandonné. (Si vous avez des chats qui sortent, vous saisirez tout de suite à quel point ce raisonnement est… contraire à la nature féline.)

Pour ces personnes, les erreurs n’existent pas. Les accidents “la faute à pas de chance” non plus. Il y a toujours un coupable. On connaît ce mécanisme, qui se retrouve un peu partout: un mal est toujours “la faute à quelqu’un”. C’est ce mécanisme qui est d’ailleurs à la racine des excès sécuritaires du monde d’aujourd’hui. Ça ne vous étonnera pas que je vous dise que ma vision du monde ne va pas du tout dans ce sens.

Parfois, cette compassion poussée à l’extrême pour les animaux ne semble servir que de prétexte pour la haine de l’humain. Et je finis par me poser la question: ces personnes accusent-elles sans cesse les humains car elles aiment les animaux, ou bien aiment-elles les animaux car ceux-ci leur donnent en toute bonne conscience une raison pour vomir sur les humains?

On est des animaux, après tout. Les humains sont nos amis, il faut les aimer aussi… (Je sais, Les Inconnus, ça date!)

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Laisser tourner ma tête [fr]

Ces derniers mois, j’ai réalisé que… (J’ai toujours l’impression que c’est ces derniers mois. Mais ça vient sournoisement. Ça doit mettre des années. Bref.)

J’ai besoin de pouvoir laisser ma tête tourner à vide. Au ralenti. Au point mort. En roues libres. Être constamment soit en train de lire, de discuter, ou d’écouter des podcasts, ça ne laisse pas de temps à ma tête pour juste divaguer. J’ai pris conscience de ça de façon aiguë dans les semaines avant de partir en Inde.

Alors en Inde, j’ai fait un gros effort de déconnexion. Lecture de mon livre, oui. Facebook: très minimal. Trier des photos, oui. Podcast: lors des insomnies du décalage horaire. Ne rien faire. Laisser mes pensées se balader.

Ces jours, alors qu’il se passe plein de trucs dont je vous parlerai plus tard, je sens fortement ce besoin. J’ai arrêté d’écouter des podcasts en conduisant, en faisant la vaisselle, en mangeant. A plus forte raison vu que je ne peux pas faire de sport (repos complet pour ma hanche, toujours), à peu près la seule activité que j’avais “sans input ni cogitations intellectuelles”.

Ma tête a besoin de bande passante, elle aussi.

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Choice [en]

Earlier today, I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell on the TED Radio Hour podcast. He was talking about choice architecture. In short, how the way we frame the available choices influences decisions (think: opt-in or opt-out, for organ donors for example). James Clear has made me think about this a lot, under the title of “environment design”.

A podcast or two later I’m listening to Fresh Air, about Bannon and Sessions vision for remaking America. Terry Gross and her guest are talking about Breitbart and the kind of coverage it puts forward, namely crimes committed by immigrants.

Do you see the link?

The media landscape we float in, the ideas we’re exposed to, the articles we read — they are the environment in which we make our decisions about what to believe. They are the choice architecture of our beliefs. They follow the path of least resistance. That is why things repeated often enough become truth. Choice architecture.

Note: don’t see a title? Normal, this is my first aside.

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Tounsi: Hope Is Easier Than Grief [en]

[fr]

Une réflexion sur l'espoir et le deuil. Souvent, l'espoir est ce à quoi l'on s'accroche par peur de souffrir. Il vaut mieux faire face à cette souffrance, mais garder de l'espoir dans nos actions. Par exemple, en acceptant qu'un chat malade risque de mourir, mais en faisant tout ce qui est possible pour le sauver. Ou qu'un chat disparu est peut-être mort, tout en étant actif dans nos recherches.

On n'aime pas que les gens soient en peine, on veut leur proposer un remède pour les en sortir. L'espoir semble pouvoir jouer ce rôle. Mais il vaut mieux peut-être simplement les accueillir dans leur peine.

This is what I was thinking, after dropping off Tounsi at the Tierspital, our national animal hospital and veterinary school, at 3am just before New Year’s Eve.

I have noticed that in the face of hardship and pain, many want to offer hope. But I think we need encouragement to grieve, rather than hope. Even though I am pessimistic by nature, I find it easy to hope. It’s something you can cling to to avoid the pain. Depending on the shape it takes, it can even be fodder for denial.

Grief, on the other hand, is hard. It takes courage to dive into the pain. You need to trust that it is the way out, or at least forward.

When I got the preliminary diagnosis for Tounsi, I knew it was very bad. I know there were high chances he was going to die. There was still hope, though. Sometimes it is possible to dissolve the clot, and depending on how far along the underlying heart condition is, the cat can go on to have a few more months or years with decent quality of life.

I could have refused to grieve and hang on to this hope with all my might. This is what people around me wanted me to do. Don’t be sad! Don’t consider him dead already! You have to hope!

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I’m not superstition. I don’t think that hoping or giving up hope per se has any incidence on an outcome. I don’t think telling your friends about a job or flat you’re hoping to get will jinx it. I do accept, however, that our internal state (hope or not) influences our actions, and can in this way have an impact on an outcome.

Understanding this, I did what I think is the most sane thing to do in this kind of situation: separate emotions from actions. Let me explain what I mean by that.

  • Emotions: there was a high chance Tounsi wasn’t going to make it. I knew it. So I grieved, already. Trying to suppress my grief and hold on to the meagre hope he would be OK would have made me extremely anxious. Often, it’s better to face the pain and deal with it than have to deal with the anxiety that comes out of trying desperately to avoid it because you’re scared.
    I cried so much in those two days Tounsi was in the hospital. I stopped on the motorway to cry. I cried at home, along with Quintus. I cried when I visited Tounsi, and when I got news that there was no real improvement. All this crying helped bring some acceptance to the very serious situation Tounsi was in.
  • Actions: there was a hope that Tounsi could beat the clot, with the help of the medications he was getting. This chance was not so small that it was not worth putting him through the discomfort he was in. So when it came to my actions and decisions about him, I bet on hope. I could have put him down immediately, and we discussed this with the vet. As his pain was under control, we decided it was worth it (and ethical) to give him a chance. To hope.
    And when the situation changed (another clot to the kidneys that sent him into kidney failure), I was more capable of accepting it, because I’d been processing my grief in parallel, and making the decision to end his suffering, although it ripped my heart out. I did not find myself in the situation I have seen some cat owners, where the decision to end the cat’s life is the obvious one, because there is no hope left, but they just can’t let go, because they are unprepared.

A parallel “cat situation” is when a cat is missing. Emotionally, it is important to process fears that something bad has happened to the cat. These fears may be rational or not, it doesn’t matter: they are there. They are the fears of pain and loss and grief, and the earlier one faces them, I think, the better off one is.

It doesn’t mean that one should consider one’s cat dead as soon as it doesn’t show up one evening. But if a missing cat puts one in an immediate panic, as it used to do to me, it might be worse facing the fact that pretty much whatever happens, we’re at some point going to have to deal with the cat’s death. I remember the time when I couldn’t even entertain this idea.

Cats are there so we can love them, and they die so we can grieve them.

When it comes to actions, however, one must hope that the cat is not dead: call the shelters, the vets, put up flyers, talk to neighbours, call, search, ask people to open garages and cellars. Even if the place one is emotionally is facing the possibility the cat is dead.

I think loving a pet can teach us a lot about grief and loss, if we’re willing to listen.

So, next time you see somebody who seems to have abandoned hope – maybe they don’t need to be encouraged to hope more, but supported in their grief, so that they can free their actions from the weight of fear.

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Les jours passent sans Tounsi [fr]

[en] Days without Tounsi are going by. Less tears by the day. I learned a lot about grief when Bagha died, and I am reaping the benefits today. I think we should be able to wish each other "good grieving", when the time comes. Because knowing how to grieve is such an important skill.

Tounsi en hautUn jour il y aura un jour sans larmes. C’est bête, mais je le redoute. Chaque matin passe un peu plus de temps avant que je pleure mon chat. Je suis en train de me faire à son absence. Et alors que je sais bien que c’est nécessaire, me faire à son absence signifie l’accepter – et je ne suis pas encore prête. Alors je pleure encore.

Je vais bien, compte tenu des circonstances. Vous êtes nombreux, nombreux, à m’avoir fait part de votre sympathie, sur Facebook et ailleurs. Je l’apprécie infiniment. C’est con, hein, mais je vais m’en rappeler: en temps de deuil, ce ne sont pas vraiment les mots qui comptent, mais le fait qu’il y ait des mots. Même les formules convenues font du bien.

Mon appartement est plein de rappels de Tounsi. Je n’ai pas touché à grand chose. J’ai ôté l’élastique qui l’empêchait d’ouvrir le frigo. Petit à petit, je rangerai. Le carton au milieu du salon disparaîtra. Les perchoirs d’observation se rempliront de plantes. Les taches laissées par sa truffe sur la fenêtre seront nettoyées. Les derniers marquages aussi. Je trouverai quoi faire de ses croquettes, des médicaments qui restent, des jouets. Quintus et moi retrouverons un nouvel équilibre, pour le temps qu’il nous reste ensemble.

Avec la mort de Tounsi, je me prépare aussi à me retrouver “sans chat” quand ce sera au tour de Quintus. Le plus tard possible, j’espère. Mais il a quand même 16 ans.

Tounsi et Quintus

Quintus ne semble pas souffrir outre mesure de la disparition de Tounsi, si ce n’est que son absence change le déroulement de son quotidien. Je crois que la présence de Tounsi le stimulait à bouger – je dois donc prendre plus sur moi.

Je repense à Bagha, ces jours. Et je me retrouve parfois à vouloir dire Bagha pour Tounsi. Bagha était jusqu’ici mon chat mort. Maintenant j’en ai deux. Comme je l’avais fait pour Bagha, je veux raconter Tounsi. Mettre par écrit qui il était, ce qui le rendait si spécial pour moi. A la mort de Bagha j’avais un gros regret: ne pas avoir plus de vidéos de lui. C’était en 2010. Avec Tounsi, c’est presque le contraire. J’ai des milliers de photos et certainement des heures de vidéo. Le temps du deuil, pour moi, c’est aussi le temps de prendre le temps d’en faire quelque chose. On verra quelle forme ça prend.

J’avais prévu de monter au chalet lundi. Je vais retarder de quelques jours, histoire d’avoir retrouvé un peu de stabilité ici avant de partir. Ça va être dur à nouveau quand je serai là-haut sans Tounsi.

tounsi au chalet

Bien entendu, ces jours, je réfléchis beaucoup au deuil. Le grand cadeau de la mort de Bagha avait été de pouvoir vivre pleinement son deuil – si vous connaissez mon histoire personnelle vous saisirez l’importance que ça a pu avoir. Maintenant, le deuil me fait moins peur, et c’est peut-être aussi pour ça que j’ai l’impression que ça va “vite” pour Tounsi. C’est un peu déstabilisant.

Je regrette qu’on ne souhaite pas “bon deuil” aux gens. On devrait. Il faut arrêter de voir le deuil comme quelque chose à éviter, dont il faut sortir le plus vite possible, voire fuir en se perdant dans autre chose. Alors certes, c’est nécessaire parfois par moments pour continuer de fonctionner, mais mon expérience est que plus on accepte de s’y plonger, et de sentir les émotions que le deuil nous amène, plus on est justement capable de fonctionner en dehors de ces “montées de peine”, et plus celles-ci sont gérables.

On peut choisir ces moments pour se laisser sentir. J’ai dû le faire ce week-end, totalisant passé 8 heures de route en moins de 48 heures. On ne peut pas conduire quand on est pris par le chagrin. Mais on peut s’arrêter, le temps qu’il faut, s’abandonner au chagrin, et ensuite vient un moment de répit où l’on peut fonctionner. Si on accepte de pleurer, vient un moment où ça se calme.

A l’époque de la mort de Bagha, mon psy m’avait dit qu’une bonne crise de larmes, où l’on pleure sans retenue à grands sanglots, ça dure (physiologiquement) max 20 minutes. En cherchant une source pour ce chiffre, je suis tombée sur cette page “comment pleurer pour vous soulager” qui semble plutôt bien faite (ça me fait un peu mal de mettre en avant une page de WikiHow mais elle me paraît utile). J’avais trouvé rassurant de savoir que ça s’arrête, parce que quand on est au fond de notre peine, on a le sentiment que ça ne va jamais s’arrêter.

sleepy tounsi

Le deuil fait partie de la vie. C’est quelque chose qu’on traverse tous à un moment ou un autre. Lorsque j’ai lu “Apprendre à vivre”, de Luc Ferry, un livre qui m’a beaucoup aidée par rapport à ma quête de sens dans la vie à la lumière de l’inévitabilité de la mort, l’essentiel que j’en avais retiré était qu’apprivoiser le deuil, pouvoir accepter les “jamais plus” de la vie, petits ou grands, était le travail d’une vie. Le sens, c’est ça.

On devrait se souhaiter bon deuil. Car le deuil peut être bon, ou moins bon. Et on le souhaite bon pour ceux qu’on aime.

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Blogging, Morning Pages, Goals, Habits, and Accounting [en]

[fr] Petite réflexion sur ma difficulté à bloguer régulièrement, une prise de conscience sur le type d'activité que j'arrive à faire régulièrement (comparé aux projets long-terme devant lesquels je me décourage), et peut-être une clé pour exploiter l'un afin de me réconcilier avec l'autre. Ayant avec succès fait de bonnes avancées dans ma compta (en souffrance permanente) après avoir décidé de bloquer trois heures par semaine pour ça, je vais tenter de faire ça avec le blog. C'est trop de temps, me direz-vous, et vous avez raison: mais j'ai d'autres occupations "B" pour remplir la plage de temps si je n'en ai pas besoin en entier.

I am not blogging as much as I would like. This has been a constant over the last years and you’re probably tired of hearing me say it. Trust me, I’m even more tired of living it.

I have tons of things to write about. But I’m also stressed about “more important” things I feel I have to do before I blog (like work; or accounting). And then my post ideas turn into Big Ideas and I don’t dare start writing because I fear I’ll end up writing for hours. And then time passes, and I haven’t blogged, and the more time passes, the more I pressure myself to produce something, and the less I start writing — because blogging for me is about responding to an impulse to share.

So, this is an ongoing struggle.

Boats

Why bother? Blogging is important to me because it holds meaning. For my life, I mean. I guess it’s a bit tacky or commonplace in the era of social media (or are we post-social-media yet?) but writing in public is one of the main ways I try to contribute to the world.

Here are two ideas. I can directly link their existence to the fact I started doing Morning Pages.

The first is that I should give myself a rule. It would like something like this: “If I haven’t posted an article in the last 10 days, I will write an article about anything, just to get an article out.”

A few comments about this.

  • This is what I’m doing now. For weeks, “write blog post” has been scurrying around in my task lists. But I never get around to it. I have a list of things to write about, which means I can’t decide which one to start with, adding another reason not to write. Tonight, I just thought “OMG, I just need to write something to reset the clock and remove the pressure”.
  • I don’t like the idea of “filler” blogging. You see it on high-volume blogs, mainly: fluffy articles that are obviously there so that something could be published today. I’m making the bet that because my non-writing is not related to “not enough to say”, I will not fall into that trap. Another difference, I think, is that I’m “producing content” (ack) for me (to help myself blog) rather than to reach some kind of objective, or for others.
  • Morning Pages have shown me that I can write about anything for three pages. I don’t suffer from writer’s block much (though… maybe this thing I’m struggling with is blogger’s block), but even so, it gives me the confidence that if I open a new blog post I will have things to write about.

Vidy automne

The second idea is more something that I have understood about myself, while doing Morning Pages. You see, I’ve often wondered why although I see myself as somebody who has trouble working on things long-term (writing a book, fear) I am usually very good at sticking with something once I decide to do it. In that way, I am disciplined. I have been doing judo for over twenty years. Blogging for sixteen. On a smaller scale, when I start doing something I very often stick with it for quite some time. I’m not the person who signs up at the gym and goes twice.

Morning Pages is another example: I took up the exercise to see if it worked for me, but it was pretty clear I was going to be sticking with it for at least weeks (more like months) to try it out.

I realised that there is a common denominator to these activities that I stick with: they are repetitive. Small chunks of activity that I repeat again and again and again. Writing a book feels like one big activity that you need to slice up to get through it. Writing morning pages or blogging is a collection of little activities that end up coming together to become a big one.

This gave me a key: turn long-term activities or projects into a small-scale form that I can repeat regularly and stick to.

This probably sounds trivial to you. Of course the way to approach a big project is to slice it up into manageable chunks. I knew that too. But I think the missing piece is the idea to turn the objective into a habit, not just into a series of sub-objectives.

Earlier this year, Jean-Christophe Aubry gave a workshop on goal setting at eclau. I am not exaggerating by saying it was life-changing for me. I am still digesting some of the things I learned and will write about it in the future. (I actually followed the workshop a second time as Elisabeth and I invited Jean-Christophe to hold it during our career development workshop series for musicians.)

One of my first take-aways was the distinction between mastery and performance/results goals. Mastery goals are much more motivating and tend to be those that end up working. So the trick is to transform your initial goal (often performance or result) into a mastery goal. James Clear has written about similar stuff. A very rough summary would be to focus on building habits rather than setting goals.

Anyway, all this coalesced for me a few months ago. My ongoing yearly pain as a solopreneur is my accounting. Each year, I find myself with piles of unsorted receipts and expenses and a rather tight stressful deadline to get everything done for my accountant so I can avoid getting in trouble with our tax service. Each year, I vow to do things differently next year, and keep my accounting up-to-date. Each year, I fail.

I had a brainwave one morning whilst doing my Morning Pages: what if I firewalled time to work on my accounting, a little each week? I had too much stuff going on to drop everything and do my accounting for three days straight, but I could afford to set aside three hours a week to chip at the block.

But what would happen once I had caught up with the backlog? Three hours a week is way too much for accounting (even if you add on invoicing and paying bills). I’d wanted to build a habit around accounting previously, but weekly seemed too often and monthly… well, monthly is just too abstract. The rhythm in my life is weeks and seasons. Months only exist in the calendar.

I decided that I would use any leftover time in those three hours (once I was up-to-date) to work on a creative project – something I never feel like I can allow myself to do. I’m not there yet (2016 backlog now) but the idea is extremely motivating.

Grue vidy

After this digression, about Morning Pages, habits, sticking to stuff, accounting, let’s get back to blogging. My success with accounting is encouraging me to try to convert other things to a “weekly habit”. Things like blogging. I’d like to make it daily, of course, but let’s be real. If I were writing one or two posts a week regularly I’d be a very happy blogger. And I’m pretty sure that writing more often would encourage me to write shorter posts. (Sorry. And thanks if you’re still reading me.)

So that is my second idea. I don’t have the solution yet, but I’ve been tossing ideas around (during my Morning Pages mainly). Should I blog in the morning or at the end of the workday? End seems more logical, but by the end of the day I am generally spent. Plus I often have stuff in the evenings (judo, workshops, conferences, board meetings, you name it).

I have thought of stopping work at 5pm and blogging then on the days I don’t have to leave. But today, right now, writing this blog post, I think I should follow the lead of my accounting success and firewall a 9-12 for my blog. I have a backlog of things to do like import my old Open Ears posts, cross-post my newsletters, etc. – more than enough to keep me busy for whatever time is left once I’ve finished writing. It’ll also give me a slot to catch up with my week-end newsletters if I’m running late, as I often am.

See, this is one of the reasons I blog. Like so many other long-running bloggers, I do it because it helps me think. And if in the process it can help somebody else or simply be of interest, all the better!

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Is This Why I Stall? [en]

[fr] Peut-être j'ai besoin d'un dé pour être plus active quand j'ai trop de choix.

I am not very good at prioritising. Well, not always good at it. If there is an emergency, if we’re under pressure, if hard decisions need to be made, I can be decent to good at it, depending on the circumstances.

Ciel

I am not good at prioritising my wants and desires, actually. Here is the second edge to my sword of freedom. What do I want to do today? What should I start with? Nobody is tapping their foot waiting for something from me (except my accountant, that is), nobody is forcing me to do anything, I can choose.

And I want to do many things. Too many. It’s already noon, but here is what I’d like to do with my Sunday:

  • go for a walk
  • write blog posts
  • continue sorting/tidying clothes so I can get rid of my chest of drawers and move my third cupboard to its new place
  • cook so I have food ready for the week
  • do some accounting (!)
  • go to the cinema

I can’t do all that. And choosing one means I don’t get to do the others. Cake, having it, eating it. It sounds silly, but it’s an emotionally difficult place for me. So I put off the decision by flipping through Facebook, for example.

And if I’m not careful, it will soon be too late to do any of these things I wanted.

Feuilles 3

So today I did things differently. I figured I probably had time for two of these things. So I numbered them. And I rolled a die. Twice.

I went for a walk by the lake. I took photos there. The weather was splendid, windy and sunny and changing. I didn’t have time for accounting, but I wrote this blog post and roughly sorted my photos (FB) instead.

Octobre 2016 au bord du lac

I’ll do the accounting tomorrow.

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Isolation, Shame, and Guilt. And Grief. [en]

[fr] Réflexions sur la honte, la culpabilité, l'isolement et le deuil. La honte nous isole et nous laisse seuls avec nos peines et nos problèmes, nous privant de l'apport extérieur qui est souvent la clé pour avancer.

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about the professional turning-point I’m at. What allowed me to write it (and by doing that, become “unstuck” about it) was that in the course of my phone call with Deb, I realised that the situation I was in was not my fault. This freed me of the guilt and shame I was feeling, which allowed me to break my isolation. On a different scale, this is very similar to what I went through regarding childlessness.

So, a few words on how I see this relationship between guilt, shame, and isolation (and grief, too, actually).

Threatening storm and lonely tree

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before (but where, oh where): in today’s world, we are in charge of our lives. Overall, I think it is a good thing. What happens to us is our doing. We are not hapless puppets in the hands of God or Destiny.

But it is not the whole truth. There are forces in this world that are bigger than us, and to deny it is to give ourselves more power over the world, others, and ourselves than we actually have. Accidents happen, and there isn’t always somebody to blame. This is also where the difference between “things I can change, and things I can’t” comes in. The things we can’t change can be part of who we are, but they can also be bigger than us as individuals: social, political, economic contexts and the like.

Some people think they are more powerless than they are. Others feel responsible for things that are out of their reach. For the former, recognising that they are responsible for things and make choices they were blind to can be empowering. For the latter (I count myself among them), it is the opposite: feeling responsible for things you are powerless against is guilt-inducing.

Unhealthy guilt is something else again.  This occurs when we establish unreasonably high standards for ourselves with the result that we feel guilty at absolutely understandable failure to maintain these standard.  This kind of guilt is rooted in low self-esteem and can also involve a form of distorted self-importance where we assume that anything that happens is our responsibility; it may come down hard on anything perceived as a mistake in our lives and has the added anti-benefit of often applying to other people too, so that we expect too much from family and colleagues as well as ourselves.

Source (emphasis mine)

Failing at something you believe should be in your control to succeed at. This is what it’s about. Failing to find a partner. Failing to conceive a child. Failing to sustain your business.

Guilt and her sister shame step in, and with them, isolation. Shame shuts you up.

So, discovering that the dating field may very well be stacked against you, that being single doesn’t have to be your fault or a sign that you’re broken, that 1 in 4 women of your age group do not have children (not by choice for 90% of them), that other pioneering freelancers in your line of work are facing an increasingly competitive and specialised market requiring them to adjust their positioning and sales strategy, well, it kind of shifts the picture from “gosh, I’m failing everywhere” to “oh, maybe I’m not actually doing anything deeply wrong after all”.

Now, “not my fault” does not imply giving up all agency. We remain responsible of our lives — of what we do with what is given to us. I may not be able to make my ovaries any younger, but I could think about whether I want to adopt (I don’t). I can think about how involved I want to get in finding a partner (move? go through a matchmaking agency?) or if I’m actually happy enough on my own to take my chances with the opportunities life (and Tinder) might throw at me. I cannot change the market I work in, but I can work on my sales and marketing skills to make sure I communicate efficiently to my clients what value I can bring them (not my strong suit so far).

Solutions to challenging situations rarely appear spontaneously in the vacuum of isolation. They require interacting with other human beings. Often, the first step out of the isolation shame and guilt bring about is opening up to a friend. And another. And another.

Blogging and Facebook are optional 😉

A word about being “out”, however. When shame and guilt wrap themselves around something, there is often some kind of loss at stake. Even when it is something the do with our professional lives: it can be the loss of a job, of a career, or even of face, in a way, when something we believed in doesn’t work out the way we hoped.

We deal with loss through grief. Grieving requires company. And company doesn’t come knocking when you lock yourself up.

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The Danger of Backup Plans. And Choice. [en]

[fr] Avoir un plan B nous rassure, mais nous empêche aussi souvent de mettre autant d'énergie qu'il le faudrait dans notre plan A. Parfois, ne pas avoir le choix est une bonne chose.

Being rather pessimistic by nature and risk-averse, I love my backup plans. I really like knowing what I’ll do “if something goes wrong”.

The only way to go is forward.
No plan B here!
Photo by Anita Bora, taken on one of our hikes a couple of years ago.

These last ten years as a self-employed professional are no exception. In the back of my mind I’ve always “known” that, if things go awry:

  • I have savings I can dip into
  • I can borrow money
  • I can always “find a job”
  • maybe I’ll shack up with somebody who has a stable situation and there won’t be so much pressure on my income anymore.

I have always had the nagging feeling that these backup plans kept me from giving my fullest to the current one, the one I was actually living. Why struggle and work like crazy when it might not be necessary?

Like our modern western world, I like the idea that we are responsible, that the way we lead our life is through choices. We always have a choice. I’ve been brought up to believe that we always choose, even when we think we don’t. I don’t think it was drilled into me on purpose — it just reflects the ambient beliefs of our time. If you say you don’t have a choice, you’re in some ways painting yourself as a hapless victim with less agency than you actually have.

But reality is more complex than that, as all we women of the 60s and 70s who ended up not having children due to the circumstances of life rather than our desire not to have any very well know. (I hope.) Not everything that happens to you is a choice.

Looking at the future (and present) rather than the past, absence of choice can actually be a good thing. Absence of a plan B. A series of recent discussions brought that to light for me: professionally, there isn’t really a plan B for me. In the long run, I need to stay self-employed (more about this in another post at some point). And so I have to make my business more successful than in the past (not just by wishful thinking, there is a lot of work to be done, actually — more about that in another post).

Saying “I have to do this” is, again, something I’ve been taught to avoid. Because it makes one powerless to have to do something, rather than want, choose, decide. But an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain presents research that points to another phenomenon: if we have a fallback plan, our motivation or drive to make our main plan succeed diminishes.

Not having a choice can actually be an advantage!

This might be one reason I like action/thriller movies, in which characters very often have no choice but to do what they are doing. Trying to stay alive or save the world definitely gives one a sense of purpose, something I sometimes feel I am lacking in my life.

There could also be a link to my love of physical activities like skiing, sailing, judo, kitesurfing, and even cycling and driving: when you’re moving or in action, you have to do what you have to do, or you can hurt or even kill yourself. In that moment, there is no backup plan. Come to think of it, that is true of public speaking too, though there is of course no physical danger there.

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