As a woman who would like to be a mom but who has not yet become one in spite of great efforts, I am given lots of opportunities to exercise something in the face of envy. Something, because I have not yet mastered being a contented me when others have what I want. Lately, there has been particular discomfort inside of me because one of my friends appears to have gotten a number of things that I want in life. A few of my key dreams are coming true for her, and she’s being very casual about it all, as though my dreams are but stepping stones for her. And the whole thing has made me feel, well, stepped on! I know that I am committing the error of being rather silly, by taking my lack of her blessings personally, as though she were doing it to me. That is the truth of how it has felt, even though I know it is wrong.
So, when I saw that Dr. Laura (love her or don’t, I think she’s a woman who is smart and wise and I listen to her regularly) would be commenting on jealousy and envy during one of her shows, I made sure to get that podcast. Ear buds in place, I braced myself for I knew what was coming: a huge lecture on how wrong it is to be envious. ‘How dare you be such a spoiled brat that you ignore all that you have been given and focus on what you don’t have? Don’t you know that millions of people in this world would be envious of you and your cushy lifestyle? What have you done for them lately, by the way? You selfish, self-centered envy-feeler. I loathe you. You are the ugly stepsisters, the wicked queen. Just stop it, and be grateful for what you have. And, by the way, only the lowest kind of person struggles at all when something good happens to someone they call a friend. That’s you- low. LOW. Have an attitude of gratitude and get over yourself. If you can’t do that, you’re weak and horrible.’ This was not at all what I heard from the Doc.
Bless her, she said nothing about gratitude. At times, I have forced gratitude down my throat to the point where my taste for it has dulled. Fortunately, her wisdom goes beyond my own brutal force-feeding techniques. Here’s what Dr. Laura had to say. Envy is an emotion. It is best dealt with on an intellectual level. There is malicious envy and benign/everyday envy. It is something experienced by the vast majority of people, and this has been true throughout the ages. Then the Doc offered a choice between misery and motivation.
pant pant pant that’s it? I’m not the lowest creature on earth? It was comforting to hear that envy happens, but that I have a tool to guide its impact in my life. Again, I was comforted because my envy is not malicious. It doesn’t feel fantastic, but I haven’t brewed any poison for apples or made other evil plans. On the contrary, I have fought my ugly feelings in defense of my friend! Oh my goodness, I just realized this! Look at the courage that it has taken me to not only watch some of my biggest dreams come true for someone else, but then to also look at a not-so-pleasant part of myself and desperately try to find a new direction for that part of myself. That is impressive.
So now, it’s down to a simple choice instead of messy, self-torturing thoughts. Misery or motivation? Does a woman who calls her blog enjoylifedarnit choose misery? Not unless she’s a total sham, which I am not! I just re-read the first paragraph of this, when I said that my friend’s not-excited-enough attitude about enjoying my dreams bothered me. Yes, I see the judgment there. And what is my friend supposed to do? Jump up and down with glee in front of my face? Call me and squeal? She knows me and my life, and she has probably been showing me sensitivity by keeping her reactions toned down. Funny how writing a few thoughtful paragraphs can take you on a journey that leaves you in a much different place than where you were before writing. I don’t feel stepped on any more. I will still have to consciously choose between misery and motivation, but that is okay! Apparently, I can do that quite well.
On an entirely different note (or is it?), this is the first day of my life that I have outlived my oldest sister, who died 12 years ago. This morning, if I had been destined to live as long as she did, I would have died. Now the tears come, along with a crazy appetite for gratitude. I am proud and glad that I haven’t forgotten the value of being grateful; that is the right thing. When it doesn’t come easily, I can be gentle in reminding myself of what makes me happy to be alive, from loved ones still here to strawberry jam to The Far Side to hot showers…I could go on and on…. My friend still has things that I want, but I feel pretty darned good being myself and having what I have right now.