Last fall, when a friend said, “I’m in love,” I was happy for her. Recently, another friend—let’s call her Ellen—told me that our friend and her new love have moved in together. The news made me happy.
I am glad for this joy in my friend’s life. She raised two boys, mostly on her own, and put them through college, completely on her own. She doesn’t complain, she does what needs to be done. I am glad for this new ease in her life.
Her new love is an attorney and a pilot. Her previous boyfriend, an on/off relationship that never made it to the live-in stage, I knew only by his diagnosis—Asperger’s. He was brilliant and enthralling and hard work.
As Ellen and I talked about this new situation for our friend, she said, “He flew her to Paris,” and added, “he fixed her dishwasher.”
It woke up.
The snake of jealousy, the serpent that lies at the bottom of my belly, asleep most of the time, was wide awake now, head up as high my heart, jaws open wide and snapping, fangs flashing.
The snake doesn’t want to bite. It wants to eat.
It wants to steal whatever the other person has and swallow it whole, so the shape of whatever it devoured can be seen beneath its stretched scales.
“She is in love,” didn’t wake it.
“They moved in together,” didn’t wake it.
“Flew her to Paris,” and “Fixed her dishwasher,” woke the snake.
I believe two things about jealousy and the first one is why we’re talking about it now, during this exploration of your true self.
Belief about jealousy 1: Jealousy holds important clues about what we want.
My reaction to the news of my friend tells me that I want adventure and travel (Paris) and I want to be taken care of (Paris and the dishwasher).
Someday there may be someone who will fly me to Paris and repair something for me. I’m not working at finding someone because, as you may have noted, the words “I’m in love,” and “They’ve moved in together,” brought zero pangs of jealousy.
However, I do need to make sure I’m giving myself adventures and taking care of myself because those are the things that woke the snake.
Soon, I’m going to Nashville for a workshop. Maybe I need to tack on an adventure and go to the Bluebird Café.
And when my hands say to my head, “I feel dry, maybe you could get some lotion,” I can get up and get some lotion, rather than batting myself down with an internal, “Later,” until bedtime when my hands are so dry they almost hurt.
Belief about jealousy 2: If I am going to be jealous of someone, I need to consider their whole life.
In the situation with my friend, I’m jealous of one aspect of her life, her love life. But what about the rest of her life? Would I trade my whole life for her whole life—her love and her health, her finances, her home, her skills?
Over the years that I’ve done this, I’ve found the ‘whole life trade’ is an excellent cure for jealousy. There has never been anyone whose life I’d trade for my own, even Cate Blanchett.
When we’re in Jealousy Fantasyland, we tend to pick the best from several sources to create an imaginary life that no one has—I’ll take her love life, and that one’s home, and that one’s career, and her family, and someone else’s whatever.
There is only one time when it’s helpful to go to Jealousy Fantasyland and that’s when you are exploring the core of You. You get to explore Fantasyland, and I’ll be waiting with an antidote on the other side.
For this exercise, get your notepad or tablet and make a mighty—and irrational—list of all the people who prompt jealousy in you. Include people you know and those you don’t, such as the MTV version or the Vegas version of Brittany Spears.
Next to each name, write whatever it is you’re jealous of—something they have, something they do, or something they are.
After you’ve completed your list, grab your detective cap and study your list. What does it say about what is important to you, about what you want? Write about what you noticed.
After you’ve done that, it’s time for the antidote. Review your list and think of something from each person’s life that you wouldn’t want, such as the haircut Brittany Spears gave herself and the mental health that prompted it.
If you can’t think of anything from their life that you wouldn’t want, think of something from your life that they don’t have. For example, Cate Blanchett doesn’t get to live with Leda. Cate Blanchett will never know what it was like to be loved by Trent Price.
I’m guessing your life looks better to you now, yes?
And more good news—you’ve discovered more about You. Are you starting to see themes? If not, no worries. We still have five more explorations, five more adventures to go!
Chewing the Cud of Good
I’m glad for things I’ve learned along the road of life, such as this one, from my time in Minneapolis: When it’s really cold outside (we used below zero in Minnesota but yesterday in Cincinnati, I used 14ºF), strip your bed and put your pillows outdoors for several hours. Then, when you make your bed, your pillows will smell nice and fresh.