Friday, April 14, 2006

The Nature of Envy

Was thinking this morning (a dangerous thing to do, sans coffee) about how we admire someone who can do a thing well if it is a thing we think we can do, and how we envy those who do things that we believe to be beyond our abilities.

Case in point: I have a dear friend who had an amazing figure (and yes, liked to make sure the whole world knew it). And I envied her her twenty-two inch waist, and her six pack abs, and her long shapely legs.

And I envied her because I thought it all came naturally--like a gift from some benevolent figure beyond for being a perfect person. I never thought about what would be required to maintain that body. Well, I knew she taught aerobics classes, but still, I worked out, too. It just wasn't fair, and I envied her.

And then time and childbearing have done what they do--right now, we're either neck and neck or I may actually be a couple of inches thinner here and there. And I found out that not only did she teach aerobics, she taught two classes five days a week, and maintained a workout schedule of her own, and monitored her weight every single day. If she went up a pound, she'd diet it right off that day.

Then, as I said, she had kids, and dropped the classes, and now she's working to get back to where she was. And guess what? It's just as hard for her as it has been for me. We run the stairs together at work--down seven flights, around the block, up eight flights and back down one--three times a day. And while I could make it to the top from day one, she'd have to stop at three, then five when we first started.

Now I admire her perseverence as she eats her two lettuce leaves at lunch, as she gets up and gets me moving by putting on her walking shoes, as she hauls it up the stairs and glories in the process--"Look! My pants! I can fasten them now!!!"

And I think about how I used to envy people who wrote long flowing prose so effeortlessly. I'd sweat blood over each sentence, wringing prose out of my fingertips.

Then I started journalling. Three pages longhand, morning and evening. Now I find it hard to stop sometimes, when the words begin to roll. I'm doing a mail art project where I share a journal with a virtual friend (as opposed to a virtual stranger?) (Am I sharing secrets with a bunch of virtual stragers when I blog? Why, indeed I am!) Each of us takes turns writing for a few pages, then sends it off to the other for filling. And I notice that her entries are separated by wide expanses of nothing to say, while I'm jotting away on one page each night. I forced myself to stick to that one page, because otherwise I'd end up filling the whole book in short order.

And I find myself admiring people who write professionally, who are willing to step up and face that endless blank page every morning. To trust that there will be enough to fill this page, and the next page, and one hundred pages down the road because just as fast as you write, another page scrolls up, waiting to have little black marks put on it.

And I used to be furiously envious of those who create art. Who draw, or sculpt, who produce objects with interesting form and occasional function. That's part of why I write--language is more natural to me than visual. About ten-twelve, I decided that since I couldn't reproduce objects on paper with photographic realism, I obviously couldn't draw. So I focused my efforts on what I saw as a strength and a pleasure (and what was rewarded as an aptitude) and naturally I got better at it.

And then I discovered ATC's and decos and such, and I feel pretty good about my abilities in collage (if it floats, it needs wings or some means by which to float)and I've drawn a few bits and bobs here and there (and even had the courage to SWAP them,)and I think if I really settled down and focused my efforts on learning to draw, I could do that, too. (All the Flybabies say it in chorus, "You can do ANYTHING for fifteen minutes!!")

So--what do you envy? And is it possible, just possible, that the desire is indeed within your grasp?

But then I discovered ATC's


Elizabeth said...

I've tried journaling - I get just about a week's worth down and then I stop. I don't ever get past that hump that makes it a habit. Someday I will have tried enough times and it will stick. Envy - the green eyes come out every time I look at Alfred or Sara's silk weaving. I can admire weaving of any other kind, but I want to weave silk. And I'm sure I could, if I gave up knitting or spinning or embroidery, at least for a time. It will be in my future, but I'm not sure when. Then it won't be envy anymore, just admiration.

bRaEn said...

Mostly I envy those who stand at the juncture between " doing " and " talking about doing " ... and actually take the leap forward. I envy those with the courage to follow that " other voice " ... the one that says DO rather than WITNESS.
I'm certainly grateful for the beautiful art out in the world and for the words that are crafted in the voices of others ( glad you're back, Spike ! ) But I realize that the real difference between what THEY do and what I do,is just the ACTION part.

A good kick in the behind can be good for the soul ..." Just Do It " really DOES mean something ...