This week on the Deb Ball, we’re talking about the green-eyed monster. I may not be a master of how to deal with envy, but I’m sadly a master of feeling it, by definition: the resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.
(Please tell me I’m not alone.)
I’m pretty sure it’s an emotion linked with some of my earliest memories, and many other memories speckled along the way to present day. And, now, also in present day, though I try to eliminate the word resentful from that definition.
Many of my childhood ones are associated with my older brother. He’s only got me by nineteen months, but every month seemed to matter while growing up. I’m talking beyond the normal “he’s older so he gets to do things first” sentiment that sparks jealousy. I remember vividly being upset with him during a family trip to Niagra Falls because he was twenty and I was eighteen. The legal age to drink and gamble was nineteen. So, while my dad took my brother out for a fun night of things we’d never otherwise be allowed to do, I wasn’t allowed to go. My mom offered to take me out for a special dinner and to go shopping, but nope, I chose to wallow in my own misfortune of being too young. And I chose to be pissed at my brother, as if he has any control over how old he was and how old I wasn’t, along with anger toward my parents, as if they set the drinking/gambling age themselves. I hoped for my brother to come back grumbling, saying he had a miserable night that went terribly wrong (he didn’t). And, ultimately instead of having an equally fun night as my brother (just in a different way), I sat in a hotel room with not-so-great room service and watched TV, sulking.
Looking back now, I shake my head at eighteen-year-old Jenni. I remember my mom saying, “you’re only punishing yourself.” I get that now. But even while recognizing that I was a brat, I still sometimes struggle with feeling envious of my friends, family, and peers. It doesn’t help that the publishing industry, with so much out of our control (and frankly, with so much happening because of timing and luck), provides ample opportunities for jealousy. Someone else got an agent faster, someone else sold a book faster (or at all), a friend’s book was well received, someone won an award, someone got a life-changing advance, someone’s book is actually going to be made into a film (like for real, not just thinking about doing it, but doing it), and on and on.
But where I think I’ve grown from eighteen-year-old Jenni is that I don’t hold resentment toward my peers. I’m not upset with them, like I unfairly was with my brother, cause that’s just harmful and, quite frankly, doesn’t make sense. I’m legitimately happy they’re smiling like goons and I want to smile with them. While I made that small discovery and stride, I feel like I’d be a fraud to provide any real advice on how to deal with our green-eyed nemesis. So I’m going to borrow the words of people far wiser than me.
“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” – Harold Coffin
I think that’s a good one. My publishing journey has been blessed many times. Maybe not in the same ways as my peers, but in my own way. So I’ll try to listen to Harry and focus on the good stuff that’s been thrown my way.
“Our envy of others devours us most of all.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
I’ve been candid in this post, so I’m going to keep going with it. I’ll admit there were dark days for me while watching others succeed and while I was struggling to get out of those slush piles. I allowed myself to be sucked into a dark hole, and started to feel really poorly toward myself. In the end, it’s myself I hurt the most. Kinda like how my mom said, “you’re only punishing yourself” all those years ago. So I think it’s good to remember…
“Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts.” – Jean Vanier
And maybe the understanding that our experiences aren’t meant to happen the same way as others. What’s that old adage about things tending to work out? I believe that, when you put some elbow grease behind it. Like so many other authors, my debut isn’t the first book I’ve written. I was on sub for a year with a former manuscript and a former agent. It never sold. And while that was a very painful year of watching others around me succeed, now I can’t imagine a book other than BECOMING BONNIE being my debut. I’m happy with how things worked out, even if it took much longer than I had hoped to get here.
Lastly, writer and editor Joseph Epstein once said, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.”
So there’s that, I suppose 🙂