Copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association. All Rights Reserved
We All Are Winning
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world it is best to hold hands and stick together.
When I was young, there was basically only one thing of which I was ever jealous: beauty. I was jealous of the pretty ones - the ones for whom being in a body seemed to be a breeze, an effortless stroll through life and other people's admiration. I was jealous of those who seemed to meet The Criteria. I wanted to meet that criteria, know it, and live happily ever after because of it.
As I grew to adulthood and entered college, I got glimpses of being on the other side of envy, though it was hard for my personality to fathom. Occasionally I was faced with someone who claimed to be jealous of me, though I always interpreted it as a case of mistaken identity. They were thinking I was on the other team when really I was on their team - the team that wants what they think they can't have.
My college art professor once addressed the issue of jealousy of other artists' work by asking our class if we'd be willing to live someone else's life. To be able to create someone's work, we'd have to go through what they'd gone through and think the way they did. My teacher knew that qualities of body, art, career or achievement of any kind do not exist in a vacuum; they are expressions that reflect an integrated process of thought and being. One cannot extricate a body part, a successful career, or a marriage; those are outgrowths of a unique, creative system. And each of us has and is such a system, all equal in this way.
This is where the concept of jealousy doesn't just weaken; it ceases to be. Jealousy is founded in the judgment that one thing is better than the other. But in nature, no such distinction exists. As easily as we can judge something out there as "better," we can judge it as "worse" and unwanted. Jealousy is what we experience when we look outside ourselves to try and define us. Creativity, love, and peace are what we get when we look within and recognize our value.
You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.
~ Gary Allan
As creative people, it's easy to look at someone else's accomplishments, accolades, and wealth and pine for the same. There is no problem with identifying what we want. Striving for what we want does not have to include making any place better than where we are now. Where we are now in our lives provides the next step to where we're going, and there is nothing deficient about that. The agony lies in the mind's inclination to create two teams: the ones with and the ones without. For the jealous thinker, this stimulates a "having to get" (to be happy) dynamic and for the other, a "having to keep" dynamic. Neither is creative; both are fear-based and neither is true.
In the documentary A Touch of Greatness, we learn about Albert Cullum - an elementary school teacher who broke with convention and relied upon creativity and play to transform his classrooms in the 1950s and '60s. He speaks of students who were out in front - the achievers of the moment - and how it didn't matter that there were others moving at a slower pace. The students were going somewhere together. The classroom was a ship headed for a destination and every child was bound to arrive. They were on the same team, the only team, and so all would win.
Beauty, success, and wealth seem easily gauged objectively, but they are actually only ever self-determined - defined, felt, and acknowledged from within. Writer and life coach Martha Beck once pondered the conundrum of a Pulitzer Prize-winning client of hers who was worried she wasn't a good writer. Experience is always personal; good and bad are determined by our own judgment. Jealousy is a mental machination that kicks in when fearful thinking distracts us from creating what we want. Jealousy is not realization of truth of our own deficiency or that someone has something better.
When we see ourselves as one team, we are relieved of the burden of jealousy and we cheer each other on. The person "in front" lets us know where the bow is. And that's all. We're all in the same boat. We're all on the same team. And we are all winning.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at www.jenniferparos.com.