January 3, 2014

A Life Without Envy.

I was born jealous.

I came out green and bawling for justice.

I flip throughout the pages of Vogue magazine. I didn’t buy it—I haven’t allowed myself to look at this sort of thing for years—but here it is, on my coffee table, put there by I don’t know who.

Every image hurts me. They are designed to. I am supposed to look at the pictures and feel this; I am too old, how can I look younger? I am too fat, how can I look thinner? I am too poor, how can I look wealthier? I am too ordinary, how can I be special?

How young, thin, wealthy and special would I have to be to not feel this call to arms?

I will never know.

Trying to resign myself to myself has been a long, long process. To try and move beyond resignation into joy, an even longer one.

I used to deeply believe that I could transform into anyone I wanted to be—and I wanted to be anyone but me. That is the foundation of American ideology; if we wish for it hard enough, it can be ours. And there are plenty of people willing to capitalize on that belief, trying to realize the dream for themselves in the form of our dollars.

I imagine us all, running in circles around each other, never becoming anything, just wishing and running until we melt into a pool of disconsolate muddy water, our only legacy a rutted track that leads nowhere.

I want to stop running.

Why is it so hard to turn from the shiny promise of illusory perfection and reside in my uncomfortable reality? Because once I accept myself, there will be no more illusions.

I will be 43. (I love being 43. I feel strong and relatively wise.)

I will weigh 160 lbs. (I love my body. It made my son. It cooks, it writes, it walks, it touches, it sees and hears and speaks.)

I will be not-rich and not-famous. (I don’t want to be rich or famous. Riches and fame are limiting, they are prisons.)

I will be not-special. (Or will I?)

Perhaps more challenging than not accepting boundaries is knowing that within them, I am limitless.

Putting aside false ideals (worshipping false idols) and allowing myself to have real goals, based on my unique, inimitable self means that I have a responsibility and a chance to be more than I am right now. Instead of beating myself into submission and trying to fit my round peg into their square hole, (a hopeless cause and as such, if I fail, is no true reflection on me—an easy path, a path for the weak), I must become enamored of my roundness and see where that sphere will roll me.

I will never be in the glossy pages of a magazine. I will never stand on a red carpet with cameras flashing in my eyes. I will never be the thinnest, or the smartest or the prettiest girl.

I can’t be. No one can.

So what can I be?

I will be the friend who adores your beauty without begrudging you. I will be the writer who puts words together in a sentence that makes you pause. I will be the yogi in a disorganized crow pose, grateful that I can get two feet off the ground long enough to jump back and then rest in child’s. I will be a mother to my son, whose hand upon his fevered brow is iconic and irreplaceable. I will be an only sister to my sister, a prodigal daughter, a gentle petter of dogs, and an unlikely chef who can cook squash two dozen different ways.

I will be all these things in anonymity, or not, but either way I will not be envious of anyone. Because I know that envy—wishing I was something that I’m not, is the one sure way for me to become less than I was meant to be.

The well aimed Vogue-style darts will still pierce my flesh, but I can pluck them out. I can examine them and toss them back into the air, where they will float, like broken winged birds of prey, and fall harmlessly into a rambling prairie that has been seeded with natural self love.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Ktoine/Flickr

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