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More than my hot temper, my moodiness, my competitiveness, my struggle with envy is something that causes the most unhappiness in my life. I wish I could remind myself of this quote each time I feel the green illness creeping inside me.
I don't envy people's possessions. I don't care that many people in my community drive fancier cars than I do. Car culture bores me. I don't care that many people my age and in my socioeconomic class have a bigger, cleaner house with matching furniture that hasn't been donated to them by pitying friends and relatives. I'm into frugal living and getting by with less "stuff", so I'm pleased with my rickety shit. I no longer envy other women's bodies. When you get to be my age, forty-two, and your body has guided your soul through as much muck as mine has, you learn to love the vessel and all its imperfections as much as you love a well-worn robe or a favorite pair of arms wrapping themselves around you in a warm embrace.
The two areas where I struggle the most with envy are 1) writing and 2) breeding. My creative output.
I'm an extremely critical reader. If a book I'm reading is not well-written, I simply can't finish it. So basically every book I've ever finished is a favorite of mine. The fact that I got through it is proof it's good. A poorly written work gets tossed aside in a fit of envy. A good piece of writing takes me outside of myself where I'm no longer paying attention to my own ego. I feel inspired by good writing, not envious of it. It's bad writing that taps my inner envy. If this crap found a publisher, what does that say about my unpublished manuscript sitting at the back of my desk drawer?
My most sickening envy comes from other women's fertility, or, more specifically, from other women's lack of appreciation of their fertility. I want more kids. When I was younger I had fantasies of having ten children when I grew up. Will once told me he wanted six kids. We married when I was almost thirty-four. After trying for over a year to get pregnant, I saw a fertility specialist who confirmed my suspicions that I'm subfertile. My mom had taken DES when she was pregnant with me, and that on top of my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) means I don't produce the right concoction of hormones to sustain a pregnancy naturally. After six months of taking the medications Clomid and Estrace and timing my ovulation via sonogram in the office, Will and I were able to conceive and my body functioned well enough to bring her into the world. After Katie, though, we've had no success.
I used to cry about it. I felt bad for Will especially. He's the poor schmuck who fell in love with a subfertile old lady. He's the one who wanted six kids and I can give him only one. He and Katie would be better off without me. He should marry someone younger and more fertile who could give him the big family he wants and the siblings Katie begs for.
Most days I don't think such things. Most days I feel blessed with our small family. The three of us get along wonderfully. We eat together and laugh together and play together and give each other just enough space that we can focus on our introverted pleasures. We have a beautiful family that's just right for us. I'm proud of us.
Yet that green monster stirs inside me some days. Why can't I have more children? Why is it so easy for other women who don't even plan it to get knocked up and yet my body won't budge no matter how hard we try? It's especially loud and obnoxious inside my head when other women, superfertile women, publicly complain about their children and their pregnancies. Come on! Seriously, sister? I'd trade places with you in a heart beat, me puking out my guts inside the toilet or waking up three times a night to tend to my child while you come over here and try to explain to your lonely six-year-old why she doesn't have a baby brother or sister.
Envy. It sickens me. It's not helpful. Here I am, complaining about other people complaining. There are women reading this now who are sick of me complaining I only got one kid. Their kids suffocated as their Oklahoma elementary school crushed them during a tornado. Their kids died during a drone attack by my government. Their kids got hit by a stray bullet during an inner-city gang fight or out in the sleepy suburbs during a day when some kid forgot to take his meds and felt like people-hunting. Or there are women reading this now, sick of me complaining that my fertility specialist could only help me have one baby when theirs couldn't help them have one. Or there are women reading this now, sick of me complaining that my life did not go as I planned it when theirs hasn't gone as they planned it either. Oh wait. Those might be the same mothers of unplanned pregnancies and children who won't sleep through the night whose complaints about what they got stuck with in life triggered this envy within me.
Envy is a ridiculous feeling. Envy is full of assumptions that other people's lives are better than yours, when in reality we're all struggling and laughing and living and loving in our own way. Pay attention to your own life, Becky. It doesn't have to be anything other than what it is. Love your life for what it is, not what you think it should be.