Art Imitates Life

Mr. Max and I have a lot of odd synchronicities in our childhoods. We are similar(ly odd) people, so I suppose it makes sense that this shared weirdness traces back to our formative years. Examples include a love of dinosaurs, whales and science fiction, recurrent ear infections, and – notable to this post – a conflicted relationship with the Cheers spinoff Frasier. When you’re a hyper empathetic kid (read: one who cries at an intrusive thought about the velveteen rabbit), you don’t respond well to humor based on shit repeatedly going wrong in humiliating ways.

Courtesy of COZI TV we’ve been rewatching old Frasier episodes over our 8pm dinner hour. And nowadays we love it. As an adult you get more accustomed to the everyday indignities of life, and seeing those reflected in art gives one a certain sense of satisfaction. To wit: Niles’ pathetic and ever-failing pursuit of Daphne seems funny instead of sad. Frasier bungling every promising date is like, shit – that’s life, man and you chuckle. In general, the whole theme of the show is no one gets what they want, even (and especially) if they try really hard. Like real life!

We know it well these days. Everything going wrong has happened in multiple domains of our life in the past year. Highlights include a couple of awful miscarriages followed by a hesitant entry into the terrifying world of fertility medicine. Right before that particular trauma, we had to leave our home suddenly to live as vagabonds in a seasonal cabin, with possessions spread across storage units on the other side of the county. Just as we were accepting that reality, our previously healthy cat grew an enormous cancerous tumor that  necessitated multiple frantic trips to the emergency vet in Albany (he survived, but the cancer will likely come back). So – not good. I’ve mentioned before that we’re attempting to buy land out here in rural NY, and that experience has taken on a particularly Frasier-ean sort of pathos. Some tidbits from the last few months:

  • Reach out to sellers of our dream home that’s not on the market (big stone house with 100 acres). We looked at it 4 years ago when they briefly listed it. Owner guy says, yes we’re finally ready to move down south but I want [slightly out of our budget amount of money]. We make the decision to stretch for it and scramble to borrow money from family for a down payment. Put the offer together, write them a heartfelt letter about wanting to raise kids there. Owner comes back with, we changed our mind we’re not selling, it’s too hard to look at real estate with Covid. Good luck.
  • Put offer in on nice plot with newer house on it. Google image photos reveal some funky looking algae in the pond near the house. I reach out to old friend in environmental engineering to ask about how to mitigate that, if it’s a problem. They point me to an EPA resource that reveals that the whole property was created with a 1950s era dam, that resides on the neighbors property, and therefore is federal wetlands so not good for farming. Bail.
  • Countless houses needing 75K of work being listed as horribly overpriced because all the downstaters are coming up here.
  • Reach out to the owner of several large (and vacant) land parcels near the cabin here. Write them friendly note complimenting them on their property, asking if they have ever considered selling some acreage. Mention I’ve been coming to this place since I was a little girl, we’re living over in the cabin nearby, would love to buy land to build a modest homestead in nature. Pepper in lots of apologies for bothering you, no pressure, etc. Receive one line email back, not interested don’t contact me again. (I replied, okay! See you around the neighborhood.)
  • Nice plot of land with an untitled and totally trashed mobile home on it, and piles of junk and trash throughout the yard. Get quotes for removing the junk as owner is selling as is. Incorporate cost into the offer while still overpaying. Owner refuses to consider our reasonable offer, thinks he can get 4X the assessed value of the land so we bail.

If this were a Frasier episode, I would laugh at it.

The buying land thing is obviously not the most “bad” thing in our lives at the moment, but it is one of the most stressful. Mr. Max and I are both home-bodied people and this is the first time in many years – possibly ever- that we have felt this unsettled. Our living situation now is entirely temporary, and that fact is felt viscerally every day: From the chickens escaping my temporary shitty fencing to the rubbermaid bins serving as our “dresser.” It’s tripping over dumb things constantly -even small things, like mangling every fried egg because who knows where the gd spatula is, probably packed in some box 20 miles from here. But mainly it’s psychologically difficult because it’s another thing where we’re trapped in the waiting room of all of life. It feels stuck.

Joking about our mixed up adventures in the real estate market kind of writes itself. The miscarriages – not so much. Mr. Max, who has grown from an overly empathetic kid to a wonderfully empathetic man, quietly and quickly changes the channel whenever child rearing plot lines appear on TV. Mostly it’s just a sad thing but when you’re down and out black humor tends to pop out in moments of frustration. I have made exactly three jokes about this majorly-fucked life experience and they are as follows:

1.

(After realizing I can’t watch 30 Rock anymore because Avery Jessup gets pregnant and there’s too much stuff about getting older and feeling your chance of having a kid slip away) 30 Rock? Having 30 Rock be ruined by a miscarriage is the worst thing to happen since having a miscarriage.

2.

Me: Do you know how I know we’re way too old to have a kid and that’s our problem?

Mr. Max: No.

Me: Because we know who French Stewart is. Women of childbearing age have no awareness of French Stewart.

3.

(Talking to Mr. Max over lunch)

Me: Eating runny eggs again is the consolation prize of miscarriage.

They are not the best jokes. Better jokes can be found on the Trolling for Baby reddit board, which has basically served as my therapy for the last few weeks.

I feel like innocent readers who have not gone through the valley of miscarriage or infertility may not understand any of these. But for those who are in the know:

This shit is hilarious.

I have, in fact, done this. With my last pregnancy I found myself obsessively testing every few days, and getting increasingly manic as the line became fainter over time. Then pulling it out of the trash a day later to see if I was imagining it. Then, after that, consoling myself that I was overreacting because it’s just an imprecise test and doesn’t mean anything. Since it actually *was* a miscarriage, this has basically sealed my fate of casual mental illness if/when I ever actually become pregnant again. Good times!

I’ve been sharing stuff like this with a friend of mine who is also on the fertility ‘journey’ – or ‘fertility gauntlet’ as we’ve been calling it. The truth about any real bad life experience is that in addition to going through something objectively terrible you’re also constantly confronted by other people’s naïve and wall-meant rudeness. In regular life you’d have patience for this but post trauma it’s a one way ticket to blind rage. No one knows what you’re going through, and very few take the time to try and understand it. When you find someone who does, you rant to each other for hours about the stupid things people have said to you. And it feels wonderful.

(Mother’s Day themed, obviously)

So, for better or worse, that’s where I am these days. One feels obligated to try and inject a bit of optimism at the end of something like this – some platitude about how better days are surely ahead. I don’t know. I hope they are. But in the meantime I’ll be here, laughing at stuff like this:

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