This is a confession. I struggle with envy. Its grip took hold in late grade school, about the point where I really started to wonder who I was. This is not the kind of envy for material things (although I am currently
coveting really admiring my neighbor’s walls full of real artwork at the moment) but more an envy of identity. That other girl over there seems to be more of a serious writer, or this one is so unselfconscious, or that particular one is always so together. Yes, this oftentimes masquerades as a desire for material things, but the envy I feel is more about what a particular dress or clever story, or, in the last few years, a particular style of house represents. My imagination often sketches in the perceived actualization happening in another person.
Two years ago, God arranged a meeting with me and my envy. I thought at first that this meeting was about Angela, about how I could help lift this precious lady’s burden by listening, but in that listening, God was also lifting mine. The struggle to be constantly looking outside yourself and who you are with God for your identity is tiring. It’s living in the future. It’s missing what’s right before you. I imagine it like looking out of the window at the dinner party across the street, missing the beautiful people invited around your own table. It’s also unreal. Reality is not imagined perfection, it’s struggle, it’s journey, it’s joy that comes in seeing each person around you not as someone you-are-not, but someone you-are-with.
Envy at Children’s Theatre
Two hours in the theatre dark we sat,
Our daughters rehearsing roles together.
She was one of those moms, hip and earthy,
Blonde with early gray, swept in a pony,
yoga pants and white teeth.
The kind of mother
that makes me wish I was the kind of mother
that knitted woolen stockings for my girls.
My oldest daughter died four years ago. She was four.
The little voices saying lines dimmed.
And then the weight loss and the worry and the vomiting
and the nystagmus and hours searching google
and the ct scans and the diagnosis and the needle pokes
and the bags and bags of chemicals
and the hospitals and the bruising and the shunts
And the brief interval of peace
and then the headaches and the e.r.
and the steroids and the tachycardia and the fevers
and the blindness and the tumor resection
and the lethargy and the nine different medications
and the hospital stay and the dad who slept by the bed
and the coma and the labored breathing
And then another kind of peace.
Happy, dancing bodies interrupted us
and we dried our faces.
I’m Angela, by the way, and your name is?
Jill, so nice to meet you.
She gathered her bags and her little girl.
I gathered my thoughts and my girls and followed her,
wishing to be the kind of mother
who remembers every detail from four years ago
because it matters
more than white teeth and yoga pants and urban chic,
and knitted woolen stockings.