Thursday, May 26, 2011

Envy is the Enemy of Contentment

There's an uncomfortable feeling I get from time to time.  It's often in carpool line, though it doesn't happen when I see the mom who is dropping off her kids and in a hurry to get to her minimum-wage shift at Sonic or to clean the house of a woman like me.  No, this feeling occurs most frequently when I'm in proximity to a particularly slender blonde who is wearing yoga pants and is driving a Range Rover or a Hummer (yes, in Texas people drive these without apology) and looks like she is in a hurry to get to Pilates. 

At this point in the day, I've awakened and looked at my Blackberry, answered a few of the messages that have arrived overnight from Asia and Europe, and am already worrying about what I haven't done.  Sometimes I've been on a 7 a.m. conference call already, occasionally juggling it with getting a child to school--the mute button may be the single greatest invention for working parents--and am looking at a commute and a day with multiple calls and a couple hundred emails. When there is a problem with the house, it's mine; there is no man to call when the garage door falls down. I do manage to squeeze in workouts, but like everything else in my life, they seem to be done at a sprint and, until I discovered the joy of the bike, without much fun involved. 

So yes, I am jealous of the blonde who appears to have landed in a cosseted life where all she needs to worry about is how her ass looks in yoga pants.  I know comparison is enemy of contentment and that I should work harder to compare myself to people who have less than me, and God knows I am way, way on the side of fortunate.  But this is not human nature.  People magazine is still in business for a reason. 

Then I ran across a message, not a new one but said in a way that resonated with me, on Communicatrix:

Here's what I've learned about envy and idle wishing: they come from a shallow place of not-knowing.They come from not knowing what the people you're envious of have gone through to get where they are, nor the full spectrum of what they live with to stay there: how many mountains of s*%t they've shoveled; how grueling the the maintenance of success can be...For some of us, envy and idle wishing also come from not knowing yourself, and what you're capable of, and even what the hell it is you want exactly. It's far easier to envy someone else their success than it is to figure out what yours might look like, much less go after it.

When I get to this place, it's because I'm buying into what looks like success, rather than my own version, which I've chosen quite freely. So then I start thinking about what I have. A great, if challenging and consuming, gig which affords me a chance to actually drop my kids off at school and make a living a far sight past minimum wage. My work sometimes makes me wonder if  I am sufficiently capable or intelligent to do it well, but this is where I actually like to be. Otherwise I get bored and more cranky than usual. 

I do find time to walk the dog and ride my bike and go out with The Boy on his training runs. Once I've unloaded the dishwasher and folded the laundry and gotten everyone fed, I sometimes enjoy my very comfortable house. I even do something properly social, once or twice a quarter.

I am making my own version of success, though sometimes I get sucked into the idea of being the blonde in the Range Rover.  It's just that when I'm reading my Blackberry during soccer games and arriving late for pick up at birthday parties and consistently telling my kids we've got to go because I've got to get back to whatever, I think I'd be a better mother if I'd just drawn the blonde's straw.  

Maybe, maybe not.  To hear it from my kids, I'm not much worse than any other mother, which I guess at adolescence is as good as it gets.  And I sure wouldn't be any happier if I lived like a real housewife of Rivercrest.  Because those women are only interesting once you learn about their past.  Sitting around the pool while waiting for my husband to finish the back nine would send me straight to a pitcher of martinis.  I am where I am because I've decided, consciously or not, to be here.  This is because I have opportunities to choose, unlike the mom who must work at Sonic or someplace more unpleasant or dangerous.  So I'll do my best to focus on that.  When I can't, I'll try to remember that the skinny blonde maybe has a big pile to shovel, every day.

1 comment:

  1. This post resonates with me and it's funny that I come across this today when I'm working on an essay about how I've always envied my sister (with a positive spin on envy). That bit from Communicatrix is so true though and I hope you won't mind if I share that one. I've read a couple of your posts so far and loving your site! Looking forward to reading more from you.