“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”
― Harold G. Coffin
Recently I have been exploring the differences between envy and jealousy. I was always pretty clear on the latter, but have found more than one meaning of the former.
One says that envy consists of “a feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with desire for the possessions or qualities of another.” Okay. Got it. However, the second maintains that envy is “best defined as a resentful emotion that “occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it.”
Now, see, all this time, I’ve avoided using the word jealousy, because it alludes to a fear of personal loss. I used envy instead, because in most cases, I simply coveted some thing or quality possessed by someone else. That said, I don’t recall ever crossing the line and wishing the other person didn’t have it…just that I wanted it, too.
This is all blather until I put it in some kind of context. I should do that, now.
In this past year and a half, my self-esteem has taken a severe beating, for the most part self-inflicted. Due to a back injury, I was unable to work out and had to abandon a career path with a strong physical component. That was the one part I wasn’t responsible for. Then I got depressed. I mean, really depressed. The kind of depression that allows you to only be productive enough to piggle your toenails all day, drink too much and slop together a meagre meal for the fam. I stopped writing. My hair got stringy. Yoga pants became an essential part of the uniform. And thus began a vicious cycle.
In the meanwhile, though, life was toodling merrily along without my input or presence. Solipsistic Erin was first amazed, then quickly crestfallen. How can So-And-So still write so well? How can So-And-So be so clean all the time? How can So-And-So avoid drinking for a whole month? How can So-And-So be going on vacay? How can So-And-So go jogging, eat Paleo, talk professionally, meet cool people, get a job, be out in the world so confidently?
I really got envious of So-And-So, lemme tellya.
Thing is, I never wanted So-And-So to lose what she or he had to start with, I just found myself fantasizing about how lovely it would be to have those things/qualities, too. Lord knows I had intentions toward getting ’em, but I’ve been hearing bad things about intentions and now avoid them when at all possible…like corn oil or Nestlé products.
One of the only rays of sunshine in being a directionless, unemployable SAHM is that you’re available to yak to other like-situationed pals during they day, because hey, no job. One friend of mine in particular has been trying to find his groove for years. Our circumstances are quite different, however our mutual feelings about the whole mess bear a striking resemblance. Generally we commiserate and hate on the world for a bit, however this morning we really got into the guts of it. After indulging each others’ need to rant, he sent me this:
I for one have learned something about myself since 2002:
Number one: you must be honest with yourself. Life altering self-initiated changes don’t make a lot of sense when you know deep down that you’re denying yourself the opportunity be happy; it almost always ends in tears and regret.
Number two: position yourself to include all the things that you really enjoy. Denying yourself these opportunities will leave you unhappy and second-guessing your decisions. Surround yourself with what fills your soul.
Though I had come to these conclusions myself at one time or another, I think I must have thrown them in a drawer somewhere, or on top of a bookshelf, because when I went looking for them, I found them all dusty and giving off a kind of mildewy smell. Dusted them, sprayed them with Lysol, and now they’re looking – if not totally shiny and new – definitely passable.
So I’m back here, for better or worse, and have picked up an old W.P. Kinsella I haven’t read in a while. Not a bad start. In any case, today it fills my soul.