The other day I was scrolling through my Twitter feed, which was full of people congratulating a friend and peer on a big success with a recent project when I felt a twinge of jealousy. I know it was jealousy because while my mind truly believes this friend is very talented, and her project deserving of success, an inner voice started snarling and cursing, spewing venom and little flecks of spit everywhere.
This took me by surprise, because I'm NOT THAT KIND OF PERSON, the kind who thinks another woman's success somehow detracts from her own.
At least, I'm not anymore.
Close to the end of my drinking days, a couple of Pete and I's very best friends got married. There's a picture on our fridge from the wedding, in which my arms are around the groom, my head tipped back in a drunken laugh. I look miserable.
I remember being miserable, because we had been together for many years more than the marrying couple and were not engaged, because the wedding was beautiful and the vows were meaningful, because the bride's father spun her around for a first dance and mine never even calls me. I acted like an asshole at that wedding. I pouted and holed myself up in our hotel room while other people were having fun and at one point I dropped a late-night drink and started to cry and pout when Pete didn't have enough money on him to buy me another one.
Within a few months I was getting sober, and beginning the process of self-examination and heightened clarity that would naturally ease those feelings until one day I turned around and discovered I'd learned how to be happy for other people.
But for years before that I was jealous of everyone. I burned with resentment every time a colleague or friend achieved professional or personal success, as if happiness came from a zero-sum pool and their good fortune had decreased the potential for mine.
Trapped in a cycle of destructive drinking and drugging, I didn't understand what these people had done to deserve their triumphs. I was smart wasn't I, and talented? Nevermind the fact that I spent 95 percent of my time drunk or hungover, I deserved what that person had. It's a painful way to live.
There's a saying that resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die, and this is true of jealousy as well. It's toxic -- it'll corrode your insides and you'll sit there and rust while other people obliviously participate in life and its blessings.
Today I am relieved when something good happens to someone I love and my first organic response is a surge of happiness, not bitterness. I no longer have to choke out Congratulations. I can be happy for others because I'm happy with myself. I promise this is true, in all but this one small instance.
I can't control my moment of jealousy. I'm a human being, and sometimes I get full up of these big, unwieldy feelings and just have to hang on while they bounce me around for awhile. But what I can do is resist the feeling, meditate on it, poke at it and try to figure out what's underneath. Am I dissatisfied with something in my life, have I failed to give my all to a project, am I feeling not good enough for reasons real or imagined?
Because feelings of jealousy, like all strong feelings, say a lot more about me than the person they're directed at. Because when you come right down to it, someone else's success has no bearing on your own. Those nasty feelings aren't logical -- they're born out of insecurity, the fear that you won't get something you want or will lose something you already have. Remembering that sometimes is enough to ease the feeling.
Sometimes it's not. But more than anything, I can keep those feelings from affecting my actions. I can't help that I'm the kind of person who gets a little bit jealous sometimes, but I don't have to be the kind of person who takes that out on others.
How do you deal with jealousy when it pops up? Let's work on it together, because only we can help prevent girl-on-girl crime.