I envy you.
Why? Give me a minute; I’m sure I’ll think of something.
Maybe you don’t have to live with a mental health issue. Or you’re not an addict, so you can take painkillers when something hurts. Okay, I can understand envying that when things are hard. But it doesn’t stop there, oh no.
There’s so much material I can find. You’re younger than me, and have more time to do something with your life. Or you’re more attractive. You have more money. Or you made better decisions with the money you have. Or you live in a nicer place, or you keep wherever you do live nicer and don’t struggle with clutter and inertia. You have a job you like or at least gives you some self-respect. Or you’re published. Or you have more friends. Or you work out. Or your relationship looks better. Or your kids cause you less anxiety.
Trust me, this deeply sick part of my psyche will find a way.
And the real problem with envy for me is its accompanying baggage. Pure and clean envy would just be desire and possible regret: I want that thing someone else has, and I have to either want it badly enough to work for it (if it’s attainable) or accept that I can’t have it (if it’s not). I might have to go through a grief process for the latter: No, I’m not as young as this person, and the age I am can’t be changed, and I have feelings about this.
But, for me, envy comes flanked by shame and resentment: two well-known assassins of spiritual values. I want something you have, and I experience shame because I blame myself for not having it–or I experience resentment toward you because I resent you for having it. Usually both. Why do I resent you for having it? It links right back to shame: by having this thing, you have somehow contributed to me feeling bad about myself. If you are higher on the cosmic scale of good stuff, it’s making me hyperaware of the fact that I feel lower–and, deep in a part of me I don’t enjoy acknowledging, I blame you.
If your life actually is sucking badly enough on enough levels that I have a hard time envying you, I’m awkward and insecure because I think you must be envying and resenting me.
This isn’t always a conscious tape playing, of course. I was hardly even aware of it until I began doing the kind of deep digging needed for living in recovery. I always thought I was a basically nice, well-intentioned person whose biggest faults were the inability to stop my compulsive behaviors.
Insert hollow laugh here.
The thought that I could have died that blind; still thinking that about myself–without ever having an opportunity to see and try to balance the darkness in me–makes me shudder. Envy isn’t the only thing that I’ve discovered and now carry around like a parrot on my shoulder, constantly squawking “Be conscious of me!” but its voice is one of the loudest. Envy poisons my soul more than I can describe. Envy separates me from other people in a way that breaks my heart to look at.
Green-eyed monster isn’t a good enough term for me. In the books I’ve read. monsters vary widely in character and some turn out not to be so bad. No, envy is my most foul of hellbeasts. It’s my Balrog. It’s my Cthulhu, waiting deep under the sea to rise and devour.
It’s uncomfortable to be made aware of a wound and feel it twinge with every movement. I am not enjoying this stage between the consciousness and the healing, especially since I expect the healing to occur in very slow stages. The only thing that gives me the courage to write honestly about it is the knowledge that I’m not alone. I can’t be the only one who suffers from this terrible malady of the spirit (one that, not to make excuses, is fed pretty robustly by our culture.) Someone, somewhere, might read my words and be inspired to look at how envy shapes their thoughts, or to feel less shame about envy’s known place in their psyche.