on envy

I have amazing friends.

I have no idea what I did to get so lucky—to wind up surrounded by such kind, giving, talented, hard-working people. My friends are helpers and thinkers, artists and parents, doting pet owners and gifted givers of hugs. They write, laugh, listen, play music, and make gorgeous videos, lattes, albums, meals, and bread. They volunteer and teach and show up with grace and humor and love.

It all fills me up with wonder and gratitude.

But it also makes me sick.

I’m being both hyperbolic and not. I haven’t vomited at the sight of something they’ve done or made. But I do, on occasion, get a twist in my stomach so painful that I close browser windows and hit “mute” on Twitter, however temporarily.

I’ve felt it for years, but I couldn’t place the feeling—or maybe I couldn’t properly see it, so deep it was buried in shame. After all, why wouldn’t I just be proud of and happy for my friends—full stop? As a person who’s introspective to a fault (I’ve been told I live in my head, but like, where else would I live?), I should maybe be surprised it took a therapist friend to name the gut-twisting feeling.

Envy.

Ugh.

Even now, I feel gross admitting it. It’s not like I don’t have glimpses into the darker parts of my friends’ pasts and minds—or into the mountains of time and work and emotional turmoil they pour into what they do. My friends deserve all the success, happiness, and pride in the world.

Still, though, there’s an envy-monster raging inside me, telling me my own work will never amount to what my talented, hard-working, deserving friends have done—that I’ll never amount to who they are. I can never see the light at the end of my own tunnel, and, in those moments at least, I can’t see the darkness in theirs.

Eventually I snap out of it, my thoughts thick with shame. So I run. I close. I mute. I numb. I snap the laptop shut and clench my hair in my fists and distract myself to avoid facing my own momentary failure of empathy.

But of course, numbing is a temporary state—and a horribly inconvenient sign that there’s something we have to stare square in the face and size up. We have to gaze at our own mottled, scowling reflections to reshape them into who we’d rather be.

I guess that’s what I’m doing here. Looking envy in the face. Figuring out who I want to be. If we let it, envy can reveal what we want. But we have to get cozy with it first.

So hi! I’m Katie, and if you’re reading this, I am probably riddled with envy for you. I want to be calm and create and be proud of what I do and make. I want to show the strength of love you show and use my talents as fearlessly as you do (or at least get past the fear).

Which brings me back full circle: I have amazing friends. They show me what I can be—what I want to be—even if the process is ugly and shameful.

I guess, then, I’m grateful for the envy too.

 

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