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Green with Envy

by Mandy Osterhaus Ream about a year ago in coping
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Why I hate being a jealous person and feed my jealousy at the same time.

Green with Envy
Photo by Paola Chaaya on Unsplash

I’m a jealous person. It’s not pretty. And it is why social media is a tricky place for me. And by tricky, I mean like toxic fiery tar pits. I don’t have the constitution for it. I say that a lot, “I don’t have the constitution for it.” It’s a heady way of being self-deprecating without overtly putting myself down. I’m good like that.

But I actually don’t have the constitution for it. I haven’t built an inner world robust enough to contain my longings and disappointments in order to celebrate the experience of others on a large scale. By saying “on a large scale,” I mean, I don’t have the fortitude to log onto social media accounts and scroll and celebrate, scroll and celebrate. I can do it in smaller pieces. Like with one friend at a time, via text or in person.

It’s not that I can’t or don’t celebrate other people. I’m quite enthusiastic in that regard. But when the “green-eyed monster” of jealousy (see Shakespeare) rears its head, I interact with it. Address it. Release it on a balloon into the ether (and by release it like a balloon into the ether, I mean shove it back into its cave kicking and screaming then opening a bottle of wine, panting from the effort.)

Scrolling Instagram however creates a wide opening for said monster to have a heyday in my mind. Whereas, only parts of it might emerge on a regular, non-social-media day, it jumps free in all its monstrous glory and is very difficult to get away from when I click on the Instagram app.

But don’t get me wrong. I still scroll and post. I mean, not a ton. I’m not really on Facebook or Instagram that much, except for when I am. I love hearing that come out of my mouth because it is exactly how I shamefully declare my toxic relationship with the Gram. Or Insta. Or whatever the hell kids are calling it these days.

There is something exquisite about letting jealousy gnaw at my stomach, fueling a delicious whoa-is-me experience made even more intense if I’m alone at night after the boys are in bed.

Yes. I think what I’m declaring here is that I both hate this part of me…and actively feed it. It’s not pretty.

Jealousy, or it’s lighter more sophisticated cousin, envy, is so profoundly unattractive to me. Generally, my response is to hide until I have tucked it away. But I often wonder what I’m holding onto here? There’s a blind spot here. I can see it but I can’t see behind it because I am, well, blind to it. But jealousy must serve some internal purpose for me. It must have some function that psychologically helps me in some way.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the book “Your Erroneous Zones,” by Walter Dyer, first published in 1976 (and no. That isn’t a typo. It’s not erogenous.) in which Dyer examines negative thoughts and encourages the reader to ask, “what is this doing for me?” I hold on to jealousy for some psychic reason. Sadly, I’ve been chewing on this question for a few years now and I don’t have an answer. I’m pretty certain I must like it, even though that’s terribly embarrassing to admit.

I must like it because I keep scrolling. Of course, the scrolling isn’t entirely my fault as I learned from the jaw-dropping Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” in which many creators of different social media algorithms share how the sausage is made and how it is all designed to keep us scrolling and scrolling and scrolling.

I’m trying to not fully succumb, to not just let myself fall below the water’s surface and slowly drown.

My continued dedication to describing to myself my mental experience is in some ways to address these forces that are vying for the soul. There must be some reason that, although it is serving me, I continue to battle against jealousy; identifying its presence in my head, trying to move away from it. Or transcend it. God, I wish to transcend all of this. Or transform it.

So, I am putting some of this experience into the light or under a microscope or whatever imagery expresses the action of examining. I want to understand this crazy contradiction inside me: I hate being jealous. I feed my jealousy.

Writing this all out here explains why I am so tired. My face may look neutral as I sit on the couch. My tone might sound even. But under the surface, there is a constant war raging as I fight to dissect, understand and be free.

Oh, to be free.


About the author

Mandy Osterhaus Ream

Woman in middle age. Professor. Mom to one surfer and one kid with Down Syndrome. Fireman’s wife. Writing about all of it.

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