Green Eyed Isn’t Always Bad, but this…

The first time I encountered envy to know what it was was in 2020 when my friend went to my dream destination — Petra in Jordan. I had dreamed of going to that place since I was seven years old. I felt so weird, uncomfortable, a low level of anger. I didn’t exactly envy my friend, only the trip and her ability to take it. That there was no way in hell I could do it — not financially, not physically. I knew I wasn’t losing anything by her being there; the feeling of loss came from the recognition that it would never be in my range of possibilities. I had even suggested to her that — as she and her friend were in Egypt, they should go to Petra. Thankfully, she thought it was a great idea.

Her photos posted on Facebook were daggers to my heart. It wasn’t my friend I envied, exactly, but that I couldn’t and I WANTED to. It’s not much fun to come face-to-face with reality when it says, “You can forget THIS Sweet Cheeks. This is NEVER going to happen.” I even looked for tours I could afford that would take me there (ha ha).

Once I understood what was going on, I could see why Envy is one of the Seven Deadlies. It can lead to obsession and all kinds of nasty things. Not in my case, but I could see the tunnel. During the worst of this “bout” I was able to act like a grownup but I didn’t feel like one.

I’m sure that wasn’t my first experience with envy, but it was definitely the most recognizable. Now that I’ve had a kind of immersion into envy, I recognize it when it pops up. It’s very uncomfortable and so pointless.

Whatever someone else has or does that I (momentarily) envy comes (for them) with a price. Sometimes I can see what the price is; sometimes I can’t, but it’s always there. When I can see it, I can usually also see that the price is something I would never pay. I have an example of this from the OTHER side. An acquaintance envies me my education and, to my face, called me “privileged” implying that she wasn’t.

My education was personally very very very expensive. I went to undergraduate school the first two years on a scholarship that I earned through my performance in high school. That and money from the US government because my dad was a disabled veteran. The rest of my undergraduate education was paid for by the government ($128/month) and me working. My graduate education was paid for by a Teaching Assistantship and me working. There was no “privilege.” Maybe if my dad had been hale and hearty and, you know, alive, my parents would have put me through school. What if she THOUGHT about the price of my tuition? Would she envy my education then?

At this point, I think life is just a bunch of blind turns, dumb luck and acceptance mixed in with some choices we make based on these blind turns and random encounters. Once I resisted the idea of luck, but I don’t now. People in medieval times thought Dame Fortune determined life’s events by a spin of the Wheel of Fortune, and I think they were onto something. For them, the goal was Heaven and how a person met his/her fate throughout life would determine the direction of his/her immortal soul. It reminds me a lot of the game of Snakes and Ladders in which a roll of the dice moves us along a grid. On this grid we meet friends or enemies and what we do determines whether we ascend or slide backward.

I can’t speak to the impact of envy on our immortal soul — which worried medieval people a LOT — but I do think it affects our contentment in the life we have now.

16 thoughts on “Green Eyed Isn’t Always Bad, but this…

  1. Envy is human and so are we. Sigh. Rarely do we consider the have-not’s. And as you say, we don’t see what the “privileged one” had to do to get where they are. In one of his poems, Edgar Guest says he could have the lovely garden his neighbor has…IF he’d be willing for the work his neighbor does.

  2. Envy and jealousy – twins who try to work us into spiteful creatures. I resist envy I’m glad you recognized the trap and didn’t fall in so far you couldn’t climb out. I think you have had an amazing life and the wonderful keeps happening! I wouldn’t trade but then again I doubt you would be satisfied with my life… Contentment is a state that far too few have visited and very few have made a dwelling place!

  3. I’m really starting to dislike the word “privileged.” It is being thrown around for every kind of measurable difference and a few that aren’t. It has become a mere epithet of envy.

    • I hear it that way too, Fred. It’s nasty and more dishonest than “You’re lucky to have gotten an education.” Which is true. Privilege sounds like you did nothing to earn it. The woman who threw it at me, well, I’m unlikely to regale her with my conversation ever again. Shudder.

  4. I think it’s natural to envy what you think of as another person’s good fortune. I think the thing is not to get eaten up with jealousy. I envy people I know who have travelled to places I’d have liked to have seen but I also know that they worked to earn the money for those trips. The choices I made in life determined that I wouldn’t get to do everything I wanted to do but I did do some of it and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything different so I don’t lose any sleep regretting the past.

    • Yep, exactly. If someone said — “Here’s the deal. You get to run up and down hills with dogs for 20 years OR you can go to Petra later” I’d have chosen what I DID choose. I wore out my body on those hills but I had so much fun and it was almost every day, not just once. Nothing’s free and not all of the costs are $$

  5. 2020!! I share your feeling.

    We were locked down three days before we were supposed to leave for Petra. Jordan is still not issuing visas, and our airline wants us to use the tickets by March 2023.

    Of course Petra is much closer to us than it is to you.

    • Wow. that’s almost a year away so maybe you’ll get your chance! My friend got home JUST before they wouldn’t have been able to leave Jordan because of Covid. They were in Dubai when that happened. It was that close. Petra will remain a dream for me and that’s OK.

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