January 05, 2009

Dumb Luck

One of the things I've struggled with as L and I have gone through what we've been going through is the idea of comparing my life with the lives of other people. It's something I try to avoid doing, even though it's not the easiest thing in the world. Living in New York -- or just about anywhere, but especially in New York -- it's not hard to find people who are richer, more successful, smarter, taller, or better looking. (Of course there's one exception: no one has a more beautiful wife than I have.)

Sometimes I look at people who were born into a wealthy family, people whose parents were able to buy them an apartment or give them everything the world has to offer, and a tinge of jealousy creeps over me. Imagine not having to worry about rent, a mortgage, health insurance premiums, or indeed, one's very future! (Money may not buy happiness, but it does buy piece of mind.) As a friend and I often say to each other when discussing such people, "Must be nice." But even then I soon snap out of it; in order for me to be them I'd have to not have been born me. And I wouldn't want that at all.

Despite the temptation to constantly grade myself against others, I'm usually able to explain away most comparisons through logic. Sure, I could be richer than I am, but it might have involved me having a job I hated for longer than my patience would allow. My freelance career has had its ups and downs, but would I have written for a network TV show, published a book, sat across from Al Roker on the Today show, or had a job that took me to Amsterdam, Moscow, London, and -- don't be jealous now -- Albany if I had made a different choice? Sitting at the same desk doing the same thing for years on end is my idea of a slow spiritual suicide.

It's not a feeling I arrived at easily, especially considering my high school yearbook quote was this bon mot from Woody Allen: "My one regret in life is that I am not someone else." (Don't ask why. Perhaps it seemed less morose than something from J.D. Salinger, Dylan Thomas or Morrissey.)

With the passing of years and the frequent submission of therapists' bills to my insurance company, I came to think about what it means to be me. Despite a lot of struggles, including the challenge of dealing with the disintegration of my parents marriage barely six months into my own, I came to the conclusion that I wouldn't change a thing. Underneath it all everyone has something they'd rather not have, some little piece that they wish wasn't part of them or their story, even though they know it has to be and do their best to explain it away. (Maybe it's just the survival instinct placed in all of us by years of evolutionary psychology.) I often say to L that at the end of it all I'd rather have my problems than someone else's. At least I know what to do with mine.

But this fertility stuff is killing me because it cuts right through the core of what I believe. This philosophy I have that comparisons to other people are little more than endless laundry lists that can never be completed -- that the grass is never greener especially if you look at the dirt -- has been thoroughly dashed to pieces by what is happening to us. Because now all I do is compare myself to other people. Other people's problems? Right now I'd take 'em.

If you have a child -- especially if you were able to have that child with relative ease -- you have something I can't seem to get and no amount of logic can explain why. Where I was born, where I went to school, the length of my resume, the size of my bank account, the choices I made; none of it factors in to why someone else got it and I haven't. This is just dumb luck.

And the worst part about it all, the part that rips my heart out and makes me cry even as I write this is that I now look at my wife, my beautiful wife, and think that as lucky as I am, as lucky as I was to find her, there is someone else out there who loves his wife no less than I love mine who was able to start a family with the woman he married. And then my one regret in life is that I'm not someone else.

Posted by Doug at January 5, 2009 11:44 PM