I had an interesting experience and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I think I could call this experience jealousy, but I honestly don’t know if that’s right.
I overheard someone I’d just met talking about something that she has, which happens to be something I deeply want. My immediate thought was, Oh. You, too? As in, yet another person who has this thing that I cannot seem to have.
But then this person started to talk about working so hard to get it, and all of the obstacles in the way, and how the struggle is finally over! And my exclamation point is absolutely genuine because that is such a joyful thing. If I want something for myself that I find valuable, I want it for everyone. Well done. Enjoy. Live peacefully.
So there’s that.
But I also stepped outside of myself enough to notice how I was reacting in the moment, which was not with any particular warmth. I wasn’t involved in the conversation when this topic first came up so it was easy to take a moment to look at myself. I didn’t have to a) look like I was listening or b) pay attention, and I quickly realised I didn’t want to do either of those things. Here’s another one, I thought, who has succeeded where I have failed.
Note that many of these words are a product of looking back on my internal response; I don’t know that I would have described my emotions this way in the moment but this is what I have been left with.
A predictable progression from here, as the conversation unfolded, is to ask what’s wrong with me. Why can’t I have this thing, too? I know enough psychology that I laughed at myself when it happened and I practice enough meditation to swiftly walk that feeling back and away. It isn’t about me at all.
When my new acquaintance promised to tell more in the future, I caught myself rolling my eyes internally. Physical distance and some time has me wanting to hear the story. Good for you, new acquaintance. Be content. Be happy.
And then the conversation shifted and all moved on.
I am now left with a question. Was that jealousy? I honestly don’t know. If so, it’s not the green-eyed monster I read about and was so frightened by as a child. I decided very early on that I never wanted to feel such a thing.
Merriam-Webster says that jealous has four definitions:
- hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage
- a. intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness / b. disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness
- vigilant in guarding a possession
None of those seem right, either.
So if it’s not jealousy, what is it? What does it say about me? Where does it leave me? And what do I do about it?
I didn’t know so I wrote this blog post. I still don’t know. Language interests me and maybe there’s a word for this feeling in another language. Maybe I’ll look around for one. I think I’ll call it “the time I might have been jealous” and keep an eye out for it in the future. And maybe then I’ll know, or maybe we’ll never meet again.
And that thing? I hope you get it, too.