“We regret to inform you…”
Oof. Immediate punch to the gut.
Even 13 years later, I still remember that I barely finished feeling the elevator drop in my stomach when my phone buzzed.
TEXT: I GOT IN!!! I can’t believe it!
I would love to say that I immediately dropped the letter, picked up my coat and demanded that I take my friend out for a celebratory drink RIGHT NOW!
Instead, I took the no-brainer route of dropping the letter, picking up a bottle of bourbon and demanding that it get me incredibly drunk RIGHT NOW!
Friends with acceptance letters.
Friends with husbands.
Friends with no husbands.
Friends with kids.
Friends with no kids.
Friends with careers.
Friends with friends.
Friends with high metabolisms.
Friends with money.
Friends with anything that we feel that we don’t have. Friends who have what we want. Friends who shine a light on what we feel we should have, dammit! We are instantly taken over by our toddler self, pouting and stomping and whining, “No fair!”
When I get jealous? Emerald green as mint jelly? It always ends up having to do with me – even if I kick and scream about it. Actually, if I’m kicking and screaming it’s a sure-fire sign that it 100% has to do with me. I say kick and scream it out! But then move on.
Jealousy, at its best, can shine a light on our values, beliefs, and potential. It helps us find our way out of the dark. It can be straight up inspiring – if we let it. Ideally, after my temporary drunken escape from graduate school rejection, I would have learned from this bout of jealousy. I would have realized that this was so ego-driven and really figured out if going to graduate school for writing was what I ultimately wanted. Instead, I flew across the country to escape from my confused depression instead of sitting with the discomfort of it all. (Spoiler alert: The confused depression hitched a ride to L.A.)
In Friends With Money, we meet Jennifer Aniston’s character, Olivia, in the thick of her own confused depression. She quits her job with no plan, goes on a gloomy search of love and money, all the while surrounded by a tight group of financially set, married friends. Although this is not close to my favorite film from director, Nicole Holofcener, (which hands down is Enough Said), it does a really incredible job of showing that no one’s life is perfect. It’s easier to point fingers at others, feel bad for yourself and pass judgments. Instead of the more intimidating route of taking a look at your own life, being grateful for what you have and then being honest with yourself about taking, the often scary step, that is needed to make your life better. Being grateful can easily trick-door us into complacency. Well, I have A, B, and C so that’s good enough or so what I am bitching about or so this is as good as it gets. We can be grateful and still realize that we need to make some hard changes in our lives for the better. In the end of the film, true friendships prevail. And still, jealousy is tricky territory.
I see the jealousy spectrum like this: On the one extreme is the Stepford Wife – tight smile, mechanical nodding, minimal to zero blinking, slightly squeaky. Alllll the way at the other end is the Evil Queen – maniacal smile, all shaky and clenched-jawed with coincidentally, also, minimal to zero blinking. So, the goal here is not to become a sociopath. And while you’re at it, pay attention. Aim for the middle. The middle ground is the gold. It’s the Okay, so I’m feeling a little heat right now. I’m a little jealous. Why? It is so, so worth reflecting on the why. It will add years of depth and love to friendships or will save you from years of bitterness and liver damage. Your call.
Great friends have a tendency to make us feel like we are on top of the world. Like we are seen and heard and understood. And then, when there is a success? What happens? Of course, you’re happy for your friends. I don’t think you’re some narcissistic vengeful brat waiting to trip her on the ice. But let’s get real. You’re a little jealous. You are. And you know what? It’s freaking normal! It is SO normal to feel a ping of jealousy. Even a straight up flood. It is. We are wired to compare ourselves to each other and when someone else succeeds, in whatever your definition of success may be, we instantly fly through our life to see where we stand in comparison. It does not make you a bad person. It does not make you a bad friend (unless you do trip her on the ice). It makes you human. It makes you whole. It’s not as if you are mutating from a loyal and loving friend into a jar of mint jelly and then, worst case scenario, into a wild and rogue jellyfish who is out to sting anyone and anything that stands in her way. Mwahahahaha!
I don’t know you, but I’ll go out on a limb that this is far from who you are.
Anyone who says that they were never jealous of a friend, I now know is not just jealous of a friend but is a straight-up liar who is jealous of a friend. We all do it! The point is to acknowledge the jealousy and move on. Move. On. Let the jealousy fuel you into action and not be swallowed whole by the self-loathing serpent.
And let’s not use and abuse gratitude. She’s not a floozy. We can’t scramble to dust off and flip open a fresh page in our gratitude journal or make a mental note of all that we’re blessed with to quiet and satisfy our minty green gremlin. When we do that we are only guilting ourselves into not being grateful ENOUGH. I love myself some good, solid dance in your pants gratitude as much as the next person but using gratitude as a cover-up for jealousy is a slap in gratitude’s face. It’s insulting gratitude’s intelligence. After all, what will happen if we keep that up? Our gratitude will become shallow and our insides will start looking like a science experiment – all frothy and bubbly and oozing with mint green jelly. Talk about sexy!
After you acknowledge your jealousy? Gratitude it up! Go for it! Have gratitude be the fuel for your fire of inspiration. Just be honest with yourself first. It’s not easy. It’s brave.
If nothing else, you’ll at least rule out being a sociopath. So, there’s that.
Marty: I, um, I guess I have some issues.
Olivia: You do?
Marty: You know, people sort of, problems. I have them.