In therapy lately I am learning to identify my feelings. Maybe you’re thinking this is elementary, but did you know that envy is about wanting something you don’t have, but jealousy is the fear of losing something you already have?
I am thinking about those two things. I am almost never envious, but I am often jealous. Most of my emotions, in fact, are rooted in fear.
I am thinking a lot lately about where my joy comes from, and one thing I love is writing well. When I have a blog post that people love I am happy for weeks. And the excitement of doing good creative work gives me energy to do more.
So I have been thinking about how to get better at writing, and I’ve been trying to notice stuff that I wish I had written. The process teaches me a lot about identifying my own emotions.
1. A New Yorker article.
There is not much in the New Yorker I wish I had written. Most of it I think is too long and could use a stronger editor. (Like this article about Ikea.) But there is a piece in the Nov. 28 issue that is just one page, and so funny that I carry it with me and make people read it just so I can watch them laugh.
It is We are the One Percent, by John Kenney. Will you click to read it? Go read it now.
I am not funny. I mean, I am funny but in an unintentional way. When I try to make a joke it is usually a pun. I love puns but I have realized, late in life, that people do not think puns are funny.
When people read my writing and say that I am funny, I feel lonely, because I know better than to try to be funny on purpose. So honestly, I don’t feel that funny. It’s a lot like when people say that I write stuff just to get a lot of traffic. If I knew how to churn out a 300-comment post on demand, don’t you think I’d do it every day?
In fact, it’s like funny. I have no idea when it’s coming. Feeling: Lonely, because I’m always surprised.
2. An email from Melissa.
I wrote to Melissa that I messed up my PayPal account and I hit my limit on money I can transfer to my checking account and I wanted the money right then, while I was in Florida, with the kids. We were at the Waldorf in Boca, which I would have never chosen, but there was a wedding.
And actually, in the list of things I wish I had written should be the pricing plan for this resort. It reminds me of buying a printer. They seem so reasonably priced until you get killed on the ink. And that’s what happens here—when you have to pay five dollars for an apple juice, and $25 to get the hotel to remove the $5 juice from the fridge in the room so the kids don’t drink it.
Anyway, I asked Melissa if I could pay her through PayPal and use her credit card at the hotel. This is the sort of fucked up behavior that Melissa and I have done in the past, so it seemed like a reasonable request.
Melissa wrote back, “No. I’m not doing stuff like that anymore.”
And I thought, “She is really smart. Of course we should not do stuff like that anymore.” It is bad boundaries and I am working on having better boundaries with everyone, even Melissa.
I am hoping she will send me an email asking for something bad so I can write a response that blows her away with my ability to establish good boundaries. Feeling: Determination to change and excitement about what my life could be like with good boundaries.
3. The ad copy up there.
The girl. In the hot outfit, with all the guys around her. Do you see her? It’s an ad for work clothes, of course. But it’s an ad that gives women the freedom to use their sexuality to get everything they can get. I love that. Women are doing better than men are at work in their 20s. Women earn more and women are less likely to get hit in layoffs.
OK Cupid – one of my favorite blogs for the combination of amazing data and amazing analysis, and really, that should be on my list of stuff I’d like to write too, except that the guy who writes it – Chris Rudder – has his personality all over it which makes me just want to enjoy it and not be it. Like Joel Stein’s column in Time magazine. It’s too too too him for me to want it to be me. But I love reading it.
Anyway, OK Cupid concludes that women are in highest demand when they are in their late 20s. Which makes sense to me—they are high earning, stable, and still very hot. So women should leverage their sexuality to get promotions, make sales, get high-earning husbands—great legs help with all that stuff.
I want to write advice like the advice in this ad. Be great. Reach high. Inspire people around you by being inspired yourself. And when you don’t feel that way, at least look that way and eventually that good look will get you back on track.
Feeling: Hopeful. The ad reminds me of all the positive psychology research – that you can create hope in yourself by giving it to other people.
If I focus on what I wish I’d written, I realize that what I’m scared of has nothing to do with other writers. What I’m scared of is not growing. It’s freeing to recognize that, really. Because I can’t control what other people write. But I can control how much I push myself to grow. And I’m convinced that jealousy and envy — whichever is your sin of choice – have very little power over us when we are growing fast enough to surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish.