Ahhh, Christmas. Time for family and food, presents and celebrating. If you’re church-goin’ folk, like me, a time to reflect on the “true” meaning of Christmas, the reason we celebrate it at all.
I live in the same town as my sister, so I get to see my nieces fairly frequently. My parents were visiting for Christmas from Minnesota, so we spent a lot of time with my sister’s family. I noticed my six year old niece, Allie, was having a pretty hard time with some things. She would get upset very easily. I could tell she was trying so hard, but she was just having a rough go of it. At one point, after leaning too close to her sister’s marker-making kit and ending up with new blue freckles, she lost it and declared that she was not having a very good day.
“But, Allie,” I said. “You were so excited about all your presents! Show me your sticker maker again!”
Allie cheered up and worked on making some stickers. After a while, she looked at me. “I’m pretty jealous of Maddy’s marker-maker,” she admitted. “And her bungee chair.” Her lip trembled, and tears filled her beautiful blue eyes. Ahh. Now we were at the heart of the issue.
While she was very excited about her presents, Allie coveted what her sister had as well. Totally normal behavior for a six year old. “I want what I want and also what you have.” She used to be a lot worse, and I told her I was proud of her for being able to identify and admit why she was having such a rough day. We talked about all the cool things that Allie got, and today was a little better…of course, Maddy’s birthday is in a couple of weeks, and then we’ll start all over again 😉
I think it’s pretty normal for us to want what others have, whether we’re six years old, or twenty-six, or eighty-six! When we’re young we want the toys the other kids have, when we’re in our teens and twenties we want the cars/boyfriends/careers/children that our peers have. When we’re older…well, I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m sure there are always things that we covet.
And you know what? I think it’s okay to admit that. Sometimes, like with Allie, I think it’s necessary to admit that. I have had days when I have no idea why I’m feeling so gross or crabby or stabby. Once I figure out, oh, yeah, another friend got engaged last night, and while I’m super psyched for them, I’m also a bit jealous, I’m able to work through it and move on.
How do I work through it? The best way is by reminding myself of all the things I DO have. I’m incredibly blessed, you guys. My family is amazing, I have a great job, and some of the best friends in existence. And that’s all gravy. Down to the very basics, I have shelter, I have a car to drive, I have enough money to survive (even if it doesn’t always feel that way!), I have clean drinking water and a soft place to lay my head each night.
I think I still spend too much time being jealous. This year especially I have added writer’s jealousy to my list. This friend got a request. That friend wrote the most amazing manuscript. This person got a book deal! And while I celebrate with them and shoot off the confetti cannons and really am genuinely happy, there is always that twinge of jealousy that sneaks in if I’m not paying attention.
In the end, while being jealous is inevitable, it’s also counter-productive. And unpleasant. So when it gets out of hand, I take a step back. I go offline. I read a book. I call a friend. I take myself to a movie. Almost always, I feel better when I return, refreshed and ready to be truly excited for whatever someone else has accomplished.
And I keep going. Because anything worth being jealous over must be worth the work it takes to get there. And if they can do it, so can I.