The Self-Abandonment of Envy


I want to say I’m so over envy. It’s such an illusion, this envy business. It is also a kind of violence to myself, a way of abandoning my own life, my own body, my own choices, my own love, my own ideas, my own consequences, my own power. Every time I covet that one’s house or this one’s relationship, this one’s money or that one’s body, I am choosing something false over what’s solid and tangible and real.

The rabbit holes are endless and futile; early in the morning before we get up, or in the middle of the night sometimes I fall; I wake up tunneling like a small animal in the deep, unable to find my way out. It takes effort to end this indulgence, to return to the bed, the room, the belly, the breath, the life that is in every way mine.

I want to say I eschew envy. Doesn’t that sound so mature? More like self-righteous and suspicious. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I’ve heard enough stories to know that everyone has one and no one else’s life is perfect. But damn, that house! Damn, that togetherness! Damn, those shoulders! Damn, that vacation!

Once, when I asked a client what she imagined when she pictured her “ideal writing life,” she said, “Well, I really like yours.” I was so taken aback. I couldn’t decide in the moment how to respond. I was flustered. Part of me felt a surge of anger, like, no, you can’t have mine. It’s already taken. Part of me wanted to laugh. Here was a woman who had cashed out from her years in the private sector and basically had the freedom to do whatever she wanted; no partner, no kids…. oh, waitaminute, could she be lonely? Longing for family life? Was she envying me?!

No, no, no. Don’t envy me. When you envy me, you objectify me. You stop seeing my realness. So the flip side must be true, too. When I envy you, I no longer see you. And I am kind of a fan of us seeing each other.

That said, oh my god I am a total goner. I want everything in the Anthropologie store. I want a beautiful house. I want I want I want.

But this doesn’t last long. Especially when I stop and realize I’m in a trance of capitalistic, patriarchal, heteronormative bullshit designed to keep me disowning myself and falling into the lull that I will never have enough.

No more. I will practice every single day if I have to.

We don’t have to disavow wanting. Wanting can be a beautiful force, propelling us towards naming obstacles and deciding where to place our time, money, and energy. But envy? It will clobber you with lack every time if you let it.

Don’t let it.

2 thoughts on “The Self-Abandonment of Envy

  1. Oh, Jena, how I wanted needed these words this morning! I had no idea yet here they were. A zing right to the bullseye. How I cherish am grateful for them. Coming from your heart. Entering mine in an authentic breath of air, a pulse of goodness. Thank you thank you…

  2. Robin Dennis says:

    Funny. Touching. You give us a view into the human mind and how destructive our thoughts can be. “But envy? It will clobber you with lack every time if you let it. Don’t let it.” So good, Jena.

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