One of my central characteristics is jealousy. I am a jealous person. I can remember overwhelming, bitter jealousy over my 1st grade friend having another friend besides me. It spirals out from there. Don’t get me started about my attempt at polyamory! I likened myself to the original ‘little mermaid’, standing above the bed of her prince and his wife, holding a knife and about to stab them but she stabs herself instead. I never did THAT, but I felt like it. That’s the level of my internal jealousy drama. It affects my partnerships, my friendships, and oh lord once facebook came along! As the friends-having-babies and photos-of-happy-families wave of my late 30s came around, jealousy pretty much swallowed me whole. When I was out of work for several years, jealousy of so many people with good jobs ate me alive. I remember that I was a less covetous friend when I was a drunk, of course I have a very selective memory about those times. But once I quit drinking and realized what a shambles my life was, my jealousy of friends who kept their shit together the whole time was like a knife to my heart. It’s certainly eased up as I have got my own life together, built my own family, but I never let it go completely.
Recently I did Step 5, my second time doing the 12 steps, but my first time doing the 12 steps not stoned, so I’m definitely feeling it more. Immediately after, I got really sick for a couple weeks. The 12×12 and big book talk about how right after you do step 5 you’ll feel relief, lightness, an easing of your burdens…that didn’t happen for me, possibly due to my cold. Instead it felt like I was being ground under wheels of anger and shame. A few days ago, the sickness passed. I was doing some step 4 clean up work, spots I missed – basically a few things that weren’t resentments but were people or situations or concepts I fixated on unhealthily, nonetheless. I was grinding away, trying to figure out the origin of these obsessions. I finally hit on it, the origin was jealousy. I felt like I should have what someone else had. Someone else had something really wonderful, really amazing and miraculous, and I wanted it. And the fact I didn’t/couldn’t have it made me obsess in this abstract way, something that mutated over the years into an utterly useless dark feeling: how can I get it, what did I do wrong that I don’t have it, what did other people do wrong that I don’t have it.
The inkling of this heart-change happened on mother’s day, usually I get really upset on mother’s day that I had a tumultuous and sometimes-scary childhood, a tumultuous and sometimes-scary relationship with my mom, and yet social media is a parade of grateful children feeling so grateful and loving about their mother. Usually I feel angry and jealous to see that public outpouring of love and gratitude. This year, I felt a little bit like, “well what a miracle. Maybe I didn’t have that to my specifications but how wonderful that so many people have this incredible love in their lives. What a wonderful world that it can exist for so many.” – I may not have a past I would wish on someone, but I am living in the present which is full of blessings that unequivocally ARE for me to enjoy.
Then yesterday, post step 5, heart weary and praying for relief, I was thinking about a loved one who had something wonderful happen. Something I was initially a little jealous of, simultaneously happy for them, but certainly wrestled with a recurring feeling of ‘good for them, sniff, too bad about me’. As though there’s only enough blessings in the world for one, or even a finite number. I felt a flood of “oh so happy for them and WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD that this sort of blessing can happen for someone I love! That IS good for me. It’s WONDERFUL for everyone, for everyone it touches and the world at large. We are all so blessed by this wonderful thing.” and I realized, that can apply to all my old creaky jealousys and covets too. I LOVE my friends, so much, so instead of wishing I had what they do, I feel this: how wonderful that they’ve had such a wonderful life! How wonderful that they have these amazing blessings that show the incredible potential of this world for love, for community, for security, for happiness. Of course I always knew I SHOULD feel that way about things, but I didn’t. And knowing what a jealous bitch/bad friend/etc I was only made me feel worse about myself, less worthy, with less hope for some blessings of my own. Accepting my jealousy, examining it, forgiving myself and others, allowed me to then let it go.
Blessings are not about me vs. them. Recognizing blessings, no matter who they happen to directly, are about possibility and seeing the light in the world. When one person is blessed, we all share in that light. That is how I am thinking today, after the hard work of step 4 and 5.