Carla: So many wonderful comments! I feel like we could spent a week of posts talking about each comment and still not exhaust the layers and layers of these topics–grief, guilt, expectations, relationships…. You are truly wise women and we are so glad you’re here!!!
As I’ve been reading your comments, I’ve starting thinking about another issue Caryn and I have talked about a lot: jealousy. Not that I see that in your comments, but I think it’s a big part of this expectation and loss issue. For me, at least, the pain of loss or unmet expectation is compounded by my belief that someone else has what I want. I want a Pottery Barn house and a Norman Rockwell Christmas because I think other people have them and that those people are therefore happier, calmer, richer, closer, thinner, and everything else I am not that I wish I were.
It was one thing when those “other people” were abstract homeowners in the decorating porn magazines and catalogs. Now, they are real people who remind me of their fine and happy lives via their Facebook updates. It can be anything from “Caryn has the house to herself for a week!” to “Caryn’s husband just surprised her with the best Valentine’s Day gift!” to “Caryn is sick and staying in bed all day.” (One day we’ll do a whole post on the bitterness that comes with illness).
I know it’s so petty. I know. But we’re being vulnerable here and the truth is that there are times when the goodness of someone else’s life hits the little places of disappointment in my own. I don’t begrudge others their goodness–not in the least. But I think the instant access we have to other people’s lives can, in many ways, play into the looming losses with which we all struggle.
Caryn: As much as I enjoy that you are jealous of me and my FB status updates, I DO want to point out that the ones you listed were made up (by Carla—just now). My Valentine’s Day gift this year consisted of being able to go grocery shopping alone at 7 o’clock at night after a full day of cleaning and birthday-party prep while my husband spent a morning at a board meeting and the afternoon with our older son at Monster Jam. Go ahead and be jealous of that, though.
But, oh yeah, THIS is a huge problem area for me. I know I have a problem because I was once jealous of a 55-year-old male colleague’s FB update that said he was “sitting on his back deck, with a glass of wine, eating roast duck.” Last week, I was jealous of a friend who was eating “steel-cut oatmeal.”
Mind you: I hate duck and I don’t even know what steel-cut oatmeal is—or why or if it’s any different than the regular Quaker. But I was JEALOUS of the fact that [note to writing teachers: I KNOW there’s no need for “the fact that.” I just like it better] these people were—at the time—seeming to enjoy a quiet meal and some simple peace. Both of which are “losses” of mine, as Carla wrote about.
I am, of course, also jealous of anyone who writes about going to their cabin (Carla!) or reading quietly next to a fire in Door County (Melinda!) or heading to some sunny, warm place (half the friends I have!). Again, this taps into something I deeply long for.
But truth be told: I’m also jealous of the most random things. Some make sense (the cabin). Some none at all (the duck). But whether or not they make sense, it’s all wrong to do and a total waste of time. Especially because I know better—that just because one person has one element of her life that I’m envious of, it doesn’t mean that all is rosy, or pefect.
And of course, were I to have access to that thing of which I were jealous, it would mean I would need to swap out something of mine. Which I really don’t want to do (though I HAVE batted around the idea of giving up one of my kids for lent. Just to see…..).
So why do we do it? What helps us get over this? Why is it so hard to simply acknowledge this jealousy as signaling a loss and deal with that?