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how do I envy? let me count the ways . . .

Dorthea Lange, 1937

Raindrops trace paths down my car window.  Robins, undaunted, dot the lawn. I count six – their red vests striking against the mossy green.

Now is when dull gray skies are hard. I want the sun to beat too hot on this hillside. I want to need water, and sunglasses, and shade.

I suppose that comes from living three quarters of my life in places where March meant something.

Here, March is just more of the same.

Interminable ashen dripping skies.

* * * * *

I wonder how much of my life I’ve wasted on jealousy.

Wishing I had, wishing I could, wishing I was . . . envious of people who had, did and were.

Even now I think I’m a little jealous of people who have backyard chickens . . . or a well-trained Jack Russell terrier, or a 4 wheel drive, or lovely, manageable hair . . . or people who can dance well, or have a faster metabolism than mine, or write whatever they want all day, or have a house with new bathrooms, or travel abroad, or live on a large sunny lot . . . or on a farm with a view of the water . . .

I have to dismiss jealous thoughts.

And sometimes, I have to fight them hard.

Jealous thoughts, unchecked, deepen into gnawing envy.

There’s always something.

Someone’s looks.

Someone’s talent.

Someone’s stuff.

Someone’s place in life.

Someone’s success.

Someone’s marriage.

Someone’s blessing.

Someone’s answered prayer.

* * * * *

Envy slips into loneliness and quietly plants daydreams: a different home, a different job, a different husband, a different life.

Envy stretches out evil roots to trip me as I walk. Envy distracts, divides, depresses.

Envy forces a wedge between and saws furiously at ties that bind hearts.

Envy is hardest when all is wrong. When all the world has spring and you have winter. Endless, endless winter.

* * * * * *

Ah, but this is the spring.

Beneath the gray, green unfurls greener. Beneath the mud, color pushes against soil.

Long before sun brings warmth and light, the growing begins.

Joy appears. Dotting landscapes. Filling fields.

Promises . . . under still dreary skies.

Signs of love, of hope, of new life. Signs I miss if I am constantly cursing the sky for what it is not.

Robins, daffodils, tulips, camellias — why should they care about the color of the sky?

* * * * *

I am thankful for robins.

I am thankful to breathe wet air instead of icy.

I am thankful for wild, waxy green evergreen bushes loaded with fat, pink-tinged assurances of beauty.

I am thankful for writers and books to help pass gray days and point me toward the smallest gifts of life — planting gratitude to choke out envy, cultivating thankfulness for what I have, for how God made me, for the life I live, for the gift of years, days, for house, for minivan, for naturally curly hair. Gratitude for children, for husband . . . all of us growing every day — all of us becoming.

This gratitude turns to contentment — the most powerful antidote I know for the rotting disease of envy.

* * * * *

The rain has had its say this morning. The sun is out now, demanding my attention. And I will love this day for the gift it is.

Love is . . . never jealous or envious . . .

– St. Paul

* * * * Spring 2
*

The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain . . . I look back at my mother’s life and I see suffering deepening and strengthening it. In some people, I have also seen it destroy. Pain is not always creative; received wrongly, it can lead to alcoholism and madness and suicide. Nevertheless, without it we do not grow.

– Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

* * * * *

How do I give up resentment for gratitude, gnawing anger for spilling joy? Self-focus for God-communion.
To fully live — to live full of grace and joy and all that is beauty eternal. It is possible, wildly.
I now see and testify.
So this story — my story.
A dare to an emptier, fuller life.

– Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: a dare to live fully right where you are

* * * * *

It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.

– Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

* * * * *

On rainy days Beatrix painted the everyday things around her: flowerpots, antique furniture, the interior halls and staircases. She once used the inclement weather as the backdrop for an unconventional view of Lingholm; with one side and the roof line of the grey stone house cast up dramatically against the opaque, rainy sky with the distant mountains shrouded in mist. She called it simply Rain.

– Linda Lear, Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature

* * * * *

Keep a gratitude notebook and write down what happens during the week. During this experiment, determine not to ask for anything, not to gripe, grumble, or complain about what you wish you had. While you’re experimenting, share with the people in your house why you’re thankful for them . . .

Remember, if you’re upset by what you don’t have, you waste what you do have.

–Linda Dillow, Calm My Anxious Heart

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Becky #

    So thankful Deb for your words that give a voice to what has been in my head the past few months. You have a real gift for showing both sides of how most of us feel at some point in our life. Thanks for the reminder to be & think positive :)

    Like

    03/05/2014
  2. You know what Deb? I started a gratitude journal this past September 1. To date I am up to 780+ things to be thankful for. I have made the effort to be thankful for and document at least 3 things each day. I found 3 things to be thankful for the day we discovered one of our children ran away and was gone for over 36 hours and it took the polices help to get her home again. I found at least 3 things to be thankful for when between a Thursday and the following Monday we had the police here for another child, twice, and the second time she left in handcuffs. I have found at least 3 things to be thankful for since I have been unemployed, and the only income for our family, for over 8 months now. I have been thankful for at least 3 things everyday since my unemployment benefits ran out some time ago and we’ve had NO income at.all. Some days it’s VERY hard to find anything at all to be thankful for, beyond chocolate chips but I sit and think and pretty soon I see His blessings everywhere. Everywhere. And I’ve realized that this exercise of gratitude is training my thinking and my outlook. It’s so easy to get bogged down with jealousy and envy, as you have so eloquently said. But I believe that turning my outlook UP and giving thanks has done marvelous things for my spiritual as well as mental health. I tell my kids regularly, “There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. Always”.

    Like

    03/05/2014
    • Oh, Sally. I had no idea. Makes the rain just nothing. Thank you for writing this here.
      I have been terrible about faithfully writing three things to be thankful for, but I do know embracing gratitude was the turning point for me because I started letting go of a massive amount of anger. You are right. There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for.

      Liked by 1 person

      03/05/2014
  3. Elizabeth Esther #

    Oh, woman. You are speaking truth. How often envy robs ME of enjoying what is right before me. Thank you for this reminder.

    Like

    03/08/2014
    • Thank you for reading and for your comment, Elizabeth. It’s the small things that remind me of my blessings. If I look beyond, I sink in the mud.

      Like

      03/08/2014
  4. I totally get this, in so many many ways. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    03/08/2014

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