Anne Lamott is my short-term personal savior. She would probably object to being called anyone's personal savior (saviour? saveur?) since she takes the term far more seriously than I do (I have been known to call Mark Kozelek, Rold Gold Honey Wheat pretzels, Alan Partridge and the narrator from Mating my personal saviors) but there it is. Late to the party, I just picked up last year's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith at the super-swell Books Inc. in Burlingame, California. Anne Lamott is from Marin, I was in the Bay Area, I felt karmically ebullient about my whole trip out West, it made sense. I feel that using terms like "karmically ebullient" this early on in my blogging endeavor, or ever, may be dangerous. I think I'll let the wisdom of my actions be determined by karma.
OK, so what I really want to say is I'm jealous. Not of Anne Lamott, although if I worked hard I could probably find a way to morph my admiration of her into jealousy. I've done some thinking (and writing, and oh let's face it therapy-izing) about benevolent versus malignant envy.
Benevolent="I'm jealous of him, I'm inspired to work hard to be successful, to accomplish, to get the good things I deserve and am capable of achieving."
Malignant="I'm jealous of him, why doesn't anything good ever happen to me, maybe I'll go to bed for the rest of the day, maybe I'll be petty and destructive and take other people's success as a personal affront and proof that I'm a failure and will die penniless and alone."
It is not a zero-sum game. One person's good news does not mean the world is running low on goodness (as it is on gas--if one more newscaster tells me there is going to be "pain at the pump" this summer, well, I guess I find it sort of funny whenever I hear that expression, but after a weekend in California, I may have to admit there's absolutely nothing hilarious about $3.50 a gallon. There is something hilarious about a rental car that is a Chevy Cobalt, however. I told the parking lot attendant I had been given the wrong car because my receipt said "cobalt" and the car I was driving was definitely white. Some remedial car model education ensued. Also driving a rented Chevy Cobalt down a street called "El Camino Real" is a teensy bit hilarious, right?). I have been taking Anne Lamott's advice (see title above) for dealing with crappy feelings. I think I'm mostly on the benevolent end of things, but I do think I've been delivered a pantload of Other People's Good News lately. Perhaps I'm being tested.
Secretly, I don't think smart people are ever satisfied. I don't think we ever lose our proclivity for envy, and I don't think we'd be ambitious if we just blithely happy every time someone else got what we wanted. I think, no matter how spiritually evolved I become, I will always feel a pang--an unproductive, self-defeating, slightly malicious pang--at others' successes, then I will hopefully transcend the grossness of that and be happy for the people I love, be excited for all the good things yet to happen to me.
In the meantime, I'm reading Anne Lamott when I feel jealous. It's working. It makes me want to go to church. It makes me want to be better. I highly recommend Plan B, I highly recommend AL's other books, especially Bird by Bird.
PS I am wondering if it is enlightened or especially useful to recognize when someone might be jealous of you. I think it is, but what do you do with that knowledge? And does anyone feel like they have a life that others should envy? If I had any readers, I'd ask them to comment.