It will make you less. Stop you in your tracks. Keep you from reaching your potential. Make you sad and frustrated and unhappy, and keep you small. Diminish anything good that happens to you. Guaranteed.
You’ll have to bear with me here as I try to make my point. Read on through to the end, and you’ll see where I’m going.
I have always been a big traveller. I have been to all kinds of beautiful places – Paris, Rome, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Fiji, etc. etc. In the old days, I did the backpacking thing, sleeping in flea-infested guest houses for $10 a day or less. These days, thanks to my husband, it’s gone way upscale. You see, he’s Mr. Million Miles, and if you hang around him you’re treated like gold. Or diamond.
If you’re not married to Mr. Super Elite, you might not know that the more miles you have, the more perks get thrown at you. We have been escorted past mile-long security lineups. I’ve had people waiting for me at the end of a flight to walk me through the airport to make sure I make my connecting flight. And no matter what kind of great freebies we earn with points, they always add crazy upgrades. Rick has had my entire Italian family bumped into first class. Travelling with him is a bit like being a celebrity.
Now before you get all I-want-to-be-that-fancy-pants-blogger on me, I have to point out that all of this is earned by him being away. A lot. He’s away when the washing machine blows up, when the girls come home excited about something, when I’ve got a problem and I need a friend. It’s not easy on me, on him, or on the girls. These points are a perk earned with blood, sweat, and tears. And don’t forget the rest of my life is pretty plain Jane. But that’s not the point of this particular post, so let’s get back to the fun stuff.
The other week we pulled the youngest out of school and headed to Mexico for a family holiday during reading week. We booked a room at the Hilton on points. The General Manager was emailed ahead of our arrival, and we were upgraded to a massive suite. For free. Two giant balconies. Hot Tub. Semi-private elevator. Etc., etc. This was one of our balconies:
All given to us for free.
The view from my beach chair:
You get the picture.
The girls were happy, and we were all relaxed. We hung out together and played euchre. I spent most days on the beach and stared at the Pacific Ocean. Occasionally my husband would bring me a drink and tell me I was beautiful. This was my day.
And to top it off, while we were sitting on the beach one day, we booked a mother-daughter trip for the youngest and myself to go to London. The one in England. We are going this Friday. Free hotel, free flight. Again.
Pretty lucky, right?
Stay with me here, I am just about to make my point.
One day, I took out my phone and caught up on my blog reading. It so happened that a couple of my blog friends had something very cool happen to them that week, and as I read about these stories, it started to creep up on me.
That feeling. Just a sneaky whisper at first, but steadily becoming a dull roar.
Not jealousy, because I was very happy for them. It was more a feeling that I didn’t have enough. You could call this envy, I suppose, but that’s not quite the right word. It was more a feeling of LACK. Other people were getting more of whatever. Their lives were fabulous, successful, happy. I wanted what they had. All the amazingness I was surrounded by sort of took a back seat.
I SAT THERE AND FELT BAD.
On this breathtaking beach, with my happy family, beside my amazing girls – I felt bad.
How sad is that?
Generally I make an effort to be grateful for what I have. But show me some instagram pics of someone who’s gorgeous, or talented, or fun, or happy, or successful, and part of me wants to be THEM. Not me. Them.
The gratitude I’ve tried so carefully to cultivate fades away, and it’s like everything precious that I have been given just evaporates. I don’t even SEE what I have.
This feeling is like poison. The feeling of wanting what others have, because it’s much better than what you have. Of only seeing what’s missing, not what’s already there. That what you have is just not good enough. That there is more you need, and always something else to want.
Because, believe me, even though this trip was pretty magical, my life is not all sunshine and roses. I have issues, and challenges, and disappointments, just like in any life. But why do those things overshadow the precious things I do have?
WHY IS IT NEVER ENOUGH???
The opposite of this negative feeling is gratitude, and we’ve all heard in recent years about the power of this emotion. Even Oprah, who has reached the pinnacle of success and has just about everything you could ever want, writes in her gratitude journal because she needs to practice gratitude. It’s uplifting and empowering and makes you glow from the inside out. And ripples of this positive attitude reach out to brighten up whoever happens to be around you.
But even a little bit of envy stomps on it and keeps it down. It stomps on you and keeps you down.
I remember sitting on that beach, and thinking to myself, “Dani, what’s wrong with you? JUST LOOK AROUND.”
And I realized that about a million people would envy me, and here I am envying others. It’s just a horrible downward spiral.
I snapped myself out of it pretty quick this time. But it’s been on my mind a little since then. The joy-sucking power of wanting what other people have. The life-diminishing effect of feeling you want more. Even when you have too much.
Guranteed to erase all that’s precious, deflate your potential, and wipe out all the seeds of awesomeness that are waiting to blossom in your future.
I’ll be working on this, even though it can be a tricky thing. I’m not even sure how to change that feeling when it starts to show up. I do think that gratitude will have to play a big part. It seems to be the antidote to just about any kind of negative feeling. And sometimes, I have a cesspool of negativity happening inside.
I’ll be building my gratitude pile with a giant shovel. Wish me luck.