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Friday, November 29, 2013

Why I'm Thankful for Envy and Jealousy

The blogosphere and the sphere in general – the American part of it, anyway – are awash in proofs of thankfulness. This is all to the good, and very mind improving. Many of us are seriously cultivating gratitude in order to shape our brains to be more positive, and not just on Thanksgiving. As I said, this is all to the good. Every little degree positive anyone turns has got to be good for all of us. As long as there’s no deviation into smarminess. Smarminess is just aggressive do-gooding, and as Ma Burnside, Auntie Mame’s reluctant future mother-in-law might say, “That’s mighty bad form.”

Well, Readers, today, instead of the standard litany of gratitude I’m going to go where I more naturally tend. Towards the perverse and contrary. I was thinking of what I’m grateful for yesterday, as we made our rounds of thanks at the table. Here are a couple samples, by the way. From nephew: I am thankful I was reincarnated as a human. From niece: My teacher said we need to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. Oh, we already did.

So, for what am I thankful? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m thankful for jealousy and envy. That’s right. Those annoying, petty emotions. I’ve decided that rather than fight them, I’m going to listen to what they tell me. I think they’re useful, although I sure wish I’d evolved out of them. Or just aged out of them. That would be fine, too. But they’re unflagging companions, turning up at the most annoying times.

Take envy. I know I’m not the only one who feels it, but I’ve got my particular items to envy. They are all about writers. I don’t, for instance, envy Wall Street financiers or Acadamy Award winners. But writers who win awards or hit the bestseller list? Check. That’s professional envy and it’s instructive. I need to pay attention to my writing and treat it seriously.

Now jealousy is a much worse feeling. But I’ll admit to feeling it at times. Usually these times occur when I hear about some accomplished person’s accomplished child getting into an Ivy League. In this case, the emotion is useful in showing me that I’ve drifted too close to becoming a parent whose self-esteem depends on the accomplishments of her child and am definitely in the red zone for depending on arbitrary elitist markers of success. Step away.

So that’s why I’m thankful for them emotions, envy and jealousy. Now, please step away, E & J. 

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