Sunday, June 29, 2008

envy

While a part of me would like to think that one day I could rise above my many petty thoughts, today is not one of them. Little things have been annoying me lately but now as I sit snuggled under the blankets, sandwiched between two beautiful cats (one comatose, the other purring) I’m starting to feel the tension of the last few weeks slowly leave my body.

I have no doubts that the back-to-back visits of, or to, families has thrown me off course a little. Both at that crucial phase at the beginning of a new project, when I’d like to firmly lock the door on the world and catch the thoughts before they slip away. Instead there was a lot of time spent cooking, eating and planning the next meal. I tend to find the more energy that is focused on my stomach, the less fuel my mind gets to remain inspired.

So now I have peace – the felines, a peaceful house and blissful aloneness. Strangely with all just right in my world, I’m finding it hard to pull focus. I’m not seeking distractions, it is more like when you sit and meditate after a long break (in my case that can be months or sometimes years between sessions) a backlog of thoughts and emotions pile on in having finally managed to get your attention. I tend to visualise ‘unattended business’, the stuff I haven’t given myself the space and time to deal with, as little creatures forming a patient queue behind a closed door. The minute we attempt to still our mind, the doorway opens, making us a captive audience.

My thoughts take me to the uncomfortable emotion of envy. I like my life, so I was caught with my defenses down when I had a knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s success. There was a moment recently when that happened. The incident has gone but I remember the postscript. I’d been somewhere and caught a sight of someone in print and found I reacted negatively – purely against their smiling publicity shot. I wanted to find a reason to not like their work based on no actual reason other than envy. I was shocked, so much so that the lesson remained with me. As quickly as the thought crept out, the reaction to it slapped my face in a “Where did that come from kind of way?”

A basic human fear is one of lack. On a primitive level the lack of food, shelter or even a community to collaborate with are very real ones, without them we may not survive. But our 21st century, first world “lack” triggers can wear many disguises. A belief that we lack love, in turn makes us unlovable. The irrational fear that we don’t know where our next mouthful is coming from may make us hoard or overeat. Believing in a lack of money can create stinginess rather than becoming merely thrifty. Even when we are surrounded by abundance a deeply buried irrational fear can manifest itself when we least expect it.

There are so many times when a relationship has ended that I have thought, “That’s it, I’ll never fall in love again”, as if there is some quota of love handed out at birth. Though at the time it is said in that fatalistic kind of way, suggesting my ability to love has become exhausted. No matter how many times I prove that one wrong, it creeps back when the intimacy chips are down. Really, it has nothing to do with love or the availability of suitable men, just the fear of feeling so utterly vulnerable again.

But back to that other funny fear that crept up on me. I had to ask myself, am I worried that success is a limited resource?

Success is a really odd concept, what I might truthfully believe about living a successful life on any given day may be due to my feelings of security or lack of, at the time. A chance meeting with a colleague who inadvertently plays the numbers game (“How many clients are you seeing at the moment?”) may shoot me up or down some imaginary scale of how I judge myself professionally. Or perhaps it is really about how I think they are assessing me.

Will I be successful if I get a book published, or will I feel that I’ve just fluked it unless there are two, no make it three? Or perhaps I want to start doing collage seriously and become the next best thing in Outsider Art. Or perhaps the inner actor who was put to rest when I turned 21 wants to come out and play. I mean, who hasn’t imagined making their first Oscar acceptance speech?

Now some of those examples are plainly ludicrous but the point is when I had that fleeting thought of ‘why is she famous?” what I knew I was thinking was “Oh no, if her book/career/idea is successful there will be no room for mine”.

But at least, once the shock receded I began to laugh (quietly, I was in public and I do have the not so irrational fear that what I might call quirky about some of my habits, others might find frankly disturbing). I caught the fear and countered the thought. There is always space in this world for newly packaged ideas, words, art, films or even brand new loves. Even if I fail to make a splash beyond how those in my immediate world value me, I am a big a fan of ‘the process’. The act of writing and what it unearths, putting images on paper and being amused by my subconscious, how talking and sharing ideas,rather than protectively holding them to my chest, makes them multiply – that is what I mean by the process.

Right now there is no actual lack. Sure I fear my parent’s death, my partner’s geographical relocation and the uneasiness of being a small business owner and mortgage holder as we head into an economic recession. All those insecurities take turns to unsettle me, if I let them. But right now, the family is hanging in there, I wake up beside a loving man each morning and I seem to find enough dollars to keep the bank off my back despite the marketplace doom and gloom.

For now I straddle the complacency that comes from having enough and the need to keep striving, in order to grow. In both business and in life. I’m just learning how to be still, in the moment – without ending up with bedsores!

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8 Comments:

Blogger Dysthymiac said...

10/10 for Composition Ms Rants.

re "blissful aloneness" -
I always think 'Sole Occupant' is a good blog title;

and those "unattended business" creatures lining up behind the door: they do it while we are reading The Guardian online (good today).

Re The Envy: do you think though, that none of us envies a like-able person who has done well, Dr.Karl for instance; but that when contemplating the zillion-dollar career of DaanniiMynogue, whose various cosmetic surgeries and multi-boyfriends just make one easily loathe her, then we envy her money, comfort and social life.

re Food and Shelter: being broke and ill, when my rich friend who supports half the third-world preaches about her generousity v. My Cynicism:
"Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs"!

Success is relative: your enquiring colleague is obviously male. so it's "How many", ie size.
For me, success is:
Not arrested yet + roof-over-head.

I do get a laugh from news reports that people wail about the price of petrol, because I am sure these wailers are watching the same reports on their giant TV screens.

Crosby Stills Nash and Young
Deja Vu album
Our house is a very very very nice house.
With 2 cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard.
Now everything is easy cause of you.


treasure your cats and your man.
and soup. make soup. it's winter.

4:21 pm  
Blogger Dysthymiac said...

Erratum repaired I hope -

re Food and Shelter:
being broke and ill,
when my rich friend who supports half the third-world preaches at me about
Her Generousity v. My Cynicism:
I chant back
"Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs"!

4:27 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

"Not arrested yet + roof-over-head" - love it :)

Re: Dr Karl - arguably the most intelligent people I know have unenviable lives. Intelligence vs knowledge can be a bit of a curse. Though I really am quite capable of envying nice people. Danii elicits pity.

Keep warm and well - hope all that ails you is passing through, not settling in for the long haul. Is Ms Pants still cooking for you?

4:31 pm  
Blogger lucy tartan said...

I am often prone to a little bit of envious resentment at other people's achievements. I know very well that it's not really about them, though, it's pure projection because I'm having trouble getting my own work done....always.

This is a beautiful post. I like Dys's CSNY qujote too.

5:44 pm  
Blogger Ed said...

I guess it's down to how you frame success. They may be envious of you, just like people who always think there's a better meal and conversation on another table. I envy people who really don't care (if they exist).

7:01 pm  
Blogger docwitch said...

I'm more given to bouts of neurotic self-pity and angst, (I'm very good at that actually. Pathetic really).

But if I was to envy anyone, it's most likely souls like yourself AOF. From where I'm sitting, you're someone living life with integrity and not buying into a lot of the fear-driven bullshit humans buy into, but really crafting your life and trying to achieve balance, soulfulness and creativity whilst making a genuine contribution to your community. I dig that. Lots.

Looks like you just need sufficient space and time to get at your own project. There's nothing like the angst generated from being unable to get at Things.

12:40 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Docwitch - thanks so much (and considering you actually know me it means even more!). And the writing project is captures a little of what you mentioned.

Laura -the other thing is envy makes us a victim. Of course the victim position means it is never your fault if you don't get on with your own work (so get off line and start researching and writing! :)

Ed - the envy of other diners is not one I've tried, I must give it a go next time I am eating out :) PS: Good luck with stopping smoking - you'll have half the blogosphere cheering you on.

12:48 pm  
Blogger Melba said...

interesting. for me too, the envy -if it is that - is about a writer and their success. for example, a huge advance for a first novel, won by a high-profile agent, recommended to young author by a big name writer. (this is an example from this last weekend's paper - you probably what i'm talking about?)

i don't envy people their big houses, fabulous clothes, fancy cars. those aren't things i am so interested in. but success of the writerly kind. that's different.

9:01 pm  

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