I’ve been stuck on the question from the scriptures, “Are you stripped of envy?” This, combined with my current e-audiobook by Wayne Dyer, has got me convinced that my life would be much more peaceful, creative and satisfying if I could permanently eliminate envy from my life. Just since I’ve started pondering this, I have been astounded at how much of my thinking is focused on what I don’t have. I want to commit myself to a zero-tolerance policy for envy. So this post is my farewell to all those old envies.
Things I will no longer envy:
People who are extremely healthy, and people who are very strong. People who can run like antelope instead of plodding along at a half jog like I do. People who can stay up late watching TV with their spouses (and by late, I mean after 10:00).
Women with thick hair. Women with skinny little girl bodies. Women who have the money and lack of guilt to make their faces look 25 when they are actually 55.
People who are out of debt.
Amazingly gifted writers. Writers with amazing work ethics who are determined to succeed. Writers who know how to trust their subconscious. Writers with great agents. Writers with great book deals. Famous writers. In fact, I envy anyone who can answer with ease the question I get too often, “So, what books have you published?”
People with really close best friends that they never feel insecure about.
People with beautiful solo voices.
People who can knit sweaters while holding conversations, and who know how to pick the pattern and the yarn just right. People who can spin.
Vegetarians. But not really. However, I do envy people who eat very well because they enjoy it.
Women who know how to shop, and women who know how to dress. Women who can wear hats or scarves and look great and confident in them. Women who, even when they’re a little heavy, know well enough how to dress that they look nice all the time. Women who know how to pluck and color eyebrows.
Women who come alive in the afternoon and evening hours, so that their kids get their very best.
People with the ability to memorize easily.
People who got to go on Study Abroad during college.
People with the desire to keep their houses really clean at all times and the enjoyment of such.
People with the ability to cook, and the enjoyment of such.
People who love being with other people’s kids and are easygoing with them. Also, parents who constantly have fun with their kids.
People with really great laughs.
Those women that people refer to in Relief Society when they say, “I have a friend who is always there for me, who never judges, who silently serves.” (I don’t think anyone would say this about me. I feel like I’m always eager to serve, but never know how. I’m constantly bungling around. I want to be one of those elegant servers who know when to show up and how.)
People who know how to meditate and do it well.
Ah, man, I could go on. As I look at this list, I realize a couple of things.
First, I’m most susceptible to envy when it involves something I want but which I’m simply not willing to commit to getting. The ability to memorize, for example. Or knit, or spin, or meditate well and often. All these things I could get if I wanted them badly enough. Obviously, I don’t. So why do I waste mental energy envying people who have them? In some cases, I’ve done pretty well at making peace with my decision not to invest. The clean house, for example. It only bothers me mildly when other people have cleaner houses than mine. (The fact that it does proves that it is envy at work, not simply admiration.) But for the most part I’m willing to let that one go. If I could get used to letting other things go, like wanting to be a passionate writer, I would have more peace.
Second, envy isn’t the recognition of good things that I lack. Envy is the slight resentment towards the people who do have them. Envy is more about how I feel towards the other person and less about how I feel about their gifts. Which is why I made myself write “People who . . .” on the list instead of “the ability to . . .” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with recognizing that something might be valuable to have. The evil of envy is when I let it separate me from others because I feel inferior to them.
My goal, then, is to make my peace about the things I’m dedicated to seeking in my life, and the things I’m not going to invest in or simply can’t have (thick hair, for example). I may not have a natural gift with children, for example, but I’ll waste no more energy on wishing I were someone who does. I can use my energy to try to teach myself to be more in the moment, more loving, when I am with them. But wishing I didn’t have to work at it just wears me down.
I think that in conjunction with my decision to renounce envy, I also should commit to noticing and enjoying the things/gifts I DO have. So maybe I’ll make another list to that effect in my next blog. (Bet you’re on the edge of your seat for that one.)