This is a post about grass and fences.
Yes. I live in Denver. I’ll let you get it out of your system now. Yes, yes, grass, ahahahahaha. We’ve sure never heard that one before. (Has anyone seen my eyes? I think they rolled under the sofa. Someone find them before Havey-cat does.) All I will say on that part of “grass” is that driving for two years after legalization was h*ll on Earth, with idiots not realizing that counted as impaired. Seems to be smoothing out to normal Denver rate of casual vehicular homicide now, so I think that dime has dropped.
Now to be serious a while, let’s talk of envy. It is almost St. Patrick’s day, and that particular form of green DOES pinch. It pinches mostly those who sport it. It can kill friendships (or in extreme cases prevent their ever forming.) And it can destroy those who hold onto it.
Years ago, in one of our most uncertain (financially, emotionally, etc) times, we dropped by to talk to a friend, whom, we thought, should know something of strategies to move us past the issues we had at the time. Or at least, we thought, he’d have some idea where to look for jobs, some clue where to look for loans or contract work so as to make mortgage payments. He is, after all, older than we are, and has always been more affluent.
What we found was something quite different. We couldn’t get this gentleman, who really does have our best interests at heart to UNDERSTAND we were in real trouble. What we got was chuckles at our “pretend” distress and reassurances that “you’ll come out all right. You always do. You’re the luckiest people I know.”
Now from the inside, having lived our lives together for the last 32 years or so, I don’t … see it. Lucky is not the way I describe it. Yes, by and large we are all right on the other side, but sometimes I think I should have “nothing is ever easy or simple” engraved in my forehead, mirror image, so I can read it every morning.
More times than I can say, Dan and I have found that our sure bets turned to dust in our hands. (In fact, if we make the prudent decision, it always seems to turn out very badly.) More times than I can even remember, our *sses were only saved from absolute ruin and losing everything we have managed to get by a wild throw, a last save, a chance in a million, and one that required us, incidentally, to work like mad people, or to sacrifice things we really loved or wanted.
At least once we went massively into debt and sold a house at cost, and moved across the country with nothing, because the culmination of something we had worked towards for 6 years — #1 son’s birth — went disastrously wrong, at the worst possible time, (we were on COBRA) and put us in debt for 1/3 of our mortgage at that time. (It also, incidentally, looking at the post-surgery images from 2015, rendered me unable to have more children. So we’re not sure where younger son came from, or how he managed to be carried to term. Count that as one genuine miracle, and a stunning stroke of luck.)
Even now, when we’re secure-ish, we’re gambling on at least four wild routes for my career (which require an amazing amount of work, yes) and my husband’s job as been fleeting in and out of some kind of limbo. (Though it should resolve soon, and positively. we hope.)
To look at our wild, careening race, with marginal help only (my parents. We couldn’t have survived without it, but we also can never count on it. Mostly it has been good to get the kids things we could never afford, like cars to drive themselves to college. It would have been interesting to share one car) to know every time we hung suspended by our bleeding fingernails above the precipice, and to hear it described as “you will come out all right. You’re the luckiest people I know” was a stunning shock. But, not for the first time, but the clearest time, it showed me something: no one knows how hard someone has it. NO ONE, except that person.
Apparently, from the outside, we’re the golden couple, moving in an eternal summer, effortlessly plucking up golden plums as we go.
I’m not even sure how we give that impression. It must be that not seeing all the scrabbling and the endless hours of work behind the scenes, people think things fall into our lap? Because we’re achieving more than they expect or anyone, it must be luck?
And then I looked at my acquaintance with new eyes: did I really know how well or badly those people who seemed incredibly fortunate were doing? Did I understand how hard they worked? Had I a clue?
The answer is most certainly “no.” The view we have of each other, from the outside, particularly if we aren’t close to that person, is a sort of “Christmas newsletter” view. “oh, look, achievement, achievement, fortunate event.” But you don’t see the stumbles, the falls, the years spent not sleeping as you worry how a chance might come out, the years of work till all hours, to make the chance come.
A study done a few years back identified the ONLY thing that men who got a lot of dates had in common: they asked out a lot of women. How many is a lot? A lot. Like ten times more than the ones that said yes. While men who didn’t date, or barely dated, might ask once a decade and get a yes every two times, the guys who asked constantly got hundreds upon hundreds of rejections… and a steady stream of acceptances.
I know back in pre-history, when the only form of publication was traditional, and when I and my writers’ group had decided that we must first break in to short stories markets, I probably sold more short stories than anyone in the group. I did it by writing more and sending out more and getting FAR MORE rejections than anyone else I knew. My first sold short story had garnered EIGHTY rejections in four years, by the time I sold it. I had gathered another 100 or so for other work. For years after that, I got 100 rejections by the end of March like clockwork. And kept going. My worst day was when all sixty some pieces of work I had out came back rejected THE SAME DAY. It would still have been survivable, if I hadn’t managed to have a bad cold and another infection at the same time. As it was, it took me to the doctor. On my birthday. BUT I survived, and I’m here. I now sell, not counting indie, about 90% of everything I write. Which seems very fortunate, but believe me, for a while there, I was the writer of NO future. And yep, as the acceptances (back then I averaged around 10 a year) started coming in, people said how “lucky” I was.
Now, I’m not bragging about how tough I have it. My acquaintance is now wide enough and deep enough, that I look at about 1/3 of my friends, and know what they’re going through, what they’ve gone through for years, and think “Wow. I don’t know how I’d even survive that, without coming unglued.”
We ARE lucky. Sure, we struggle, pretty much ALL the time. I worry for the boys every waking minute. Sometimes in my sleep too.
But we’re very happy too. I was lucky in one of the most important things one can be lucky in: I picked the right partner. No, it was not careful reasoning. No one can know each other well enough to know how the years will change them. We were lucky. We grew together. It could easily have gone the other way.
But other than that wild stroke of luck, and having two sons whose company we enjoy — and those strokes of luck are probably the biggest anyone can get — no, nothing is ever easy or simple. Often, particularly with my career, my saying goes that I have no more heart, and so I must forge my guts into a new heart. I must make my will power stand for the enthusiasm and love that has gotten worn away. And I do. Somehow.
The important thing here is that we appear as a golden couple FROM THE OUTSIDE. From the inside, it’s an endless slog, and other people appear TO US as golden, as having an easy path through life. But I bet they don’t.
Leftists intuit this, only they intuit it in their own grubby way which forever mistrusts individuals not supervised by government. Their fiction reflects this. It turns “no one is that lucky” into “no one is clean.” Unable to understand that there might be difficulties in every life, but that the people enduring them and struggling through them might very well still be capable and pure of heart and hard working, they instead turn everything behind the facade into dross and horror. Every minister is a child abuser or a womanizer. Every successful businessman is crooked. Every woman is unfaithful. Every child is a drug user and promiscuous.
It’s like they looked over the fence at the green grass and, unable to bear their own envy, decided to pretend/believe it was all poison ivy, as far as the eye can see.
Sigh. It’s a way to cope with envy. It’s not a good way.
You see, the danger of imagining everyone else has it easy and a wonderful life, and a charmed ride to the top, is that it blights YOU. You then, instead of trying, sit there and scream at the gods, at fate, at everything, because where IS your charmed ride? Where is your magic carpet? Why do you have to crawl along the rock-strewn road, while others glide effortlessly over it?
Imagining that someone else really doesn’t have it, or that he only got it through horrible means helps soothe the envy. But it’s still dysfunctional. You give yourself permission to act out, to be as horrible as possible, because after all EVERYONE is horrible, they’re just hypocrites who project this beautiful image. And then you write grey goo fiction and the only sin you’ll recognize is hypocrisy. Which fortunately you’re immune from, since you surrendered all your principles because “no one has any.” So you’re as nasty as you wanna be… and destroy yourself as surely as if you sit there raging at fate. More surely, maybe. There’s nothing left to love, dream of or hope for. You might as well have sold your soul, because you’re gonna lose it anyway.
We’re humans. Sure, none of us is perfect. The best people I know have flaws. They’re aware of them, they compensate for them. I do not know any — not even among people I despise — scoundrels as perfect as the “nobody is clean” people imagine.
I also do not know anyone who is flawlessly lucky and golden. Sure, some people are luckier than others. And some have connections and nepotism can never be eliminated. in any society.
But in the end — in the very end — most of us get what we work for, and persist through as much as we can endure.
It is important to remember that because envy is a disabling sin. It disables YOU. It colors all your relationships. It colors your view of the world. It can get you to stop even trying to get anywhere, and when you get somewhere, it can turn everything you’ve achieved into dust and dross, because someone has more.
Does someone have more? Guaranteed someone does. There are six billion of us. Some have a lot. Do some people have an easier ride than others? Assuredly. Some people are very fortunate. And yet, I bet if you were in their shoes, you’d find they pinch, too, and that they too have challenges and things they cannot reach. What about people who REALLY achieve? Are they all corrupt? Do they all “sell out” to achieve? No, they are not all corrupt. Some people hold on to very high principles, even while succeeding. As for “selling out” it depends on what you mean. You buy success with time and effort, and those come at a price. You might ruin your health, you might lose your kids early development, you might even ruin your marriage, to achieve something.
It all gets back to the price of magic. Success, like magic, has a price. What are you willing to pay?
And only you can answer that: what do you have? What do you bring? what are you willing to pay for what?
I discovered, for instance, that while I could make a lot of money flipping houses (seriously, it’s the only thing I have a talent for) I didn’t want to do it. Nothing about the work made my heart sing. And if I did it it would take ALL my time, at the expense of what I DID want which was to write books people read. That was my decision. So all those times we’re incredibly tight? The price I pay for a career in writing.
You pays your money, you places you bet.
EVERYONE does. Envy of someone who risked more to collect more is not only misplaced. it will eat you alive.
So send the green eyed monster to the right about. Yes, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. It’s an illusion of refraction and distance.
In fact, everyone’s grass is as green as the owner is willing to pay for: in time, in money, in effort, in the sweat of his brow.
Wasting time with envy only makes your life needlessly hard and blights your existence.
You want it? Great. No one is going to hand it to you. What are you willing to PAY?