“O beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”
-Shakespeare, Othello, 3:3
You go to a conference or reunion, and in the midst of all the catching up and showing off, someone says her magic is going phenomenally well. You’re thrilled. Really you are. The thoughts of crying in the bathroom might be there, lurking in the background, ready to catch you the moment you start to think about all she’s accomplished—perhaps it’s even your dream, too—while you’re still trying.
Has that happened to you? Or is it just from my diary of a neurotic kid?
Creative magic is subjective and its process fluid, which makes it easy for me to go on the Crazy-Self Carousel of Comparison. When Crazy-Self takes over, I feel like a failure if I’m not doing as well as someone else was at the same age. It’s a sign from the universe that I suck. I’m so busy looking at those beside me that I cannot focus on the work in front of me, so I get off the Crazy-Self Carousel of Comparison a little sick and no farther than where I started.
I’m far from an expert on coping with comparison and jealousy (not from a lack of trying), but I try these tricks to beat the green-eyed monster into submission, and I’d like to share in case the beast sneaks up on you in a dark alley or cocktail party (not that it would).
- I read Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird. She has a chapter about jealousy I swear she could have picked from my brain, except she offers great insight:
And I, who have been the Leona Helmsley of jealousy, have come to believe that the only things that help ease or transform it are (a) getting older, (b) talking about it until the fever breaks, and (c) using it as material. Also, someone somewhere along the line is going to be able to make you start laughing about it, and then you will be on your way home.
Anne mentions Clive James’s poem “The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered” made her laugh. Anne Lamont makes me laugh, so do my friends and the husband.
- I remember why I’m doing this in the first place. It isn’t for accolades or a check mark on the tally card of life. The magic is an addiction for me, a high brought on by creation. And I love it when other people share their magic. It feels like someone gave me a birthday cake. Someday I’d like to pass that gift along, even if the icing is too stiff and the layers are wonky on my offering.
- I thank the heavens that magic is being made. If someone else makes magic, we’re not lessened by it. The world is enriched. Jean Rhys said, “Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.” At the end of the day, it isn’t about me. It is about the art and those who receive it. I am a vehicle. I can serve faithfully and keep the channels open for the magic or I can jam them with contempt and jealousy.
How do you get off the Crazy-Self Carousel of Comparison? How do you deal with jealousy?