by Susanne Brent
Many years ago, I stopped speaking to a childhood friend because I was jealous. She had traveled across the country to visit me in Phoenix during a time when my husband and I were struggling financially, old car, low paying jobs, and barely any money for groceries much less exotic travel. My friend, on the other hand, bragged about recent trips she had taken to London and Hawaii with her husband and child, complaining to me about the stress of traveling with a baby.
By the time I dropped her off at the airport, my friend and I were no longer speaking. I don’t remember the specifics, but I’m sure our fight was fueled by her inability, or so I perceived, for her to grasp my dire financial straits. While this might be true, it was also true that I was in the clutches of that green-eyed monster jealousy. I felt no compassion for her struggles of being a new mom, because I was jealous, plain and simple, of her money. I felt like a major failure. Jealousy at its heart is self-centered, but it’s human.
Many years have passed, my friend and I reconciled, and today I can say I’ve grown emotionally enough to be truly happy for people’s well-being, financially or other-wise. Life is too short to compare myself to others. We all have our struggles.
So, I’ve grown up. Except in one area. Writing. Specifically, other people’s writing success. Then envy rears its nasty, warty head and any personal growth I’ve achieved is erased.
Okay not all the time. Truly. I don’t feel this ugly way for all my writer pals, just a few. To be specific, one. Even her name bugs me. Yes, I’m aware of how immature this sounds. Many people find her a lovely person and deserving of her success, but I hold a grudge against for a past offense and thus each time I stumble across some notification of her success, I cringe. Today I saw a photo of her at her book signing. I wanted to throw up. She doesn’t deserve success.
I know. I don’t want to be this way. Anne Lamott wrote about jealousy in her book Bird by Bird. She had a writer friend who kept chattering about her lucrative writing achievements while Anne struggled to stay afloat. Anne tried various ways to overcome envy, but eventually decided to give up that friend. I had hoped for different advice, but Anne wrote it was the best she could do. I get it.
Not wanting to feel this way, I’ve decided to look at the root of my envy of another writer’s success. I’m angry because I’m not working harder. I’m not writing enough. I’m not doing the work. So really it comes back to me. My envy springs from my own lack of effort and self-loathing. It all comes back to me. So, less envy and more fingers on the keyboard.
And if I spend more time writing, maybe I can post a photo of my own book signing and that woman writer I envy can envy me. Like I said. I’m still a work in progress.
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