Sunday, September 09, 2007


Yesterday, I spent brief amount of time helping D. in her rental house. We polished the cabinets with some wonderful smelling stuff. I can't recall the name of it.

As we were polishing, she was talking about some of her experiences with the people she's known while renting out her houses.

It was marginally interesting to hear although I'll admit to not being overly enthralled, particularly since she ran everyone down, one way or another.

"They're jealous.....", she said. Yes, she meant "envious" but I wasn't going to correct her. I knew what she was saying.

"Maybe...", I replied, half-heartedly.

"Well, aren't you jealous?"

I stood there for a split second, wondering how this had become about me.

"No," I said. "Why would I be?"

"Well, don't you feel jealous when someone has a lot more than you do?"

"Um. No. It's not something that interests me." And the truth is that I do not. What other people own is so far outside my range of interest that it doesn't even cause a momentary blip on my radar screen.

She looked at me like I had three heads. She couldn't imagine it. She went on to tell me that she feels that way when she sees people who have so much and she doesn't.

"It's just not a part of me, I guess," I told her, continuing to wipe the cabinets and wishing with all I had that she'd get off the subject. It made me uncomfortable because I didn't want to tell her that I thought envy is not only the opposite of charity... it's petty. I didn't want to have to see her pettiness.

"I just don't think you're telling me the truth," she said... looking at me incredulously.

It was startling. I'm not accustomed to being accused of dishonesty. I have my character flaws but that's not one of them. I just looked at her and it must have been so sharp that she backed off immediately, saying that she "didn't want to get into it."

Wise choice. :)

Later last night, she brought me a chocolate cake, one of the small ones.. the ones she bakes for me occasionally. I accepted it as an olive branch, although she didn't need to offer one. I wasn't angry.

What is this envy stuff though? What would make someone want what someone else has to a point of feeling such an ugly emotion?

Really. I don't get it. And I'm being entirely honest. I don't know what that's like.



slouching mom said...

Envy comes from a place of insecurity, no? That you lack envy suggests to me that you're quite comfortable in your own skin. Something I already believed of you, in any event.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I know what it feels like because I have experienced it in the past, occasionally. It has been such a long time, though, that it is really not a part of me now.

I feel blessed to be me with my own talents and inadequacies, my own values and my own karma.

When I see a person who seems to have more material goods than I do, it doesn't affect who I am or how I relate to that person. And when I see someone who seems to be more contented, I see a lesson for myself there and try to determine how I can bring more of that into my own life.

I do not envy such people. I am grateful for them because they show me possibilities. Through their example, I learn to be a better person and that makes me happier.

jen said...

i envy some things. people who travel the world. folks who are dedicated to yoga and other disciplines. i envy that. i admire that. but i can feel envious, of course i can. but not about other people's stuff...not my thing.

meno said...

I envy you your lack of envy.

Ok, just being a smartass there.

I used to feel envy, when i was younger. But now i understand that having more things does not a happier or better life make. I know lots of people with more money, bigger houses, more expensive cars, and i do not envy them. I wouldn't trade places with them for anything.

D just doesn't believe you because she can't imagine not feeling envy for people with more.

Lex said...

I have experienced envy in the past. I would agree that it's rooted in insecurity. I like to think that I've evolved to the point of realizing that someone else's choices or possessions have no bearing whatsoever on me.

Reminds me of Friday night. A friend and I went to a bar to watch the football game. He ran into an ex-coworker and her friend. He mentioned that he was thinking of doing some erotic art. The friend of the coworker was aghast. I loved his response. "You don't know me. How can you in anyway be affected by my choice? Really, how can you possibly stand there and judge me. I have nothing to do with you."

That's not about envy, but I thought of it as an example of how people don't get that another person's life really is independent of one's own.

It's hard enough focusing on discovering me and what's important to me. I have no time left to worry about what someone else has.

And an uglier emotion than envy is whatever you call wanting someone else to be envious of you.

flutter said...

Don't try to understand it, Chani. We should all try to come from your mindset.

MsLittlePea said...

I've felt envy. My envy is usually not about material things-for example I'll envy someone's close relationship with her mom or my husband growing up in a large, loud, fun, close family. That's what I mean. I envy your connection with Thailand and the fact that you know your heart's home. But it's not a negative envy, it's a wish to have that too while being happy for the person who does. Does that make any sense?

I do know someone who has so much negativity that she envies anyone who has an easier life than she does and I agree with slouchingmom, this comes from insecurity. People who dwell on what they don't have rather than the blessings they do have, be it material or emotional, will always have negative envious feelings.

BTW how was the cake :O)

Snoskred said...

There was this blog where the author had gone to Antarctica and was posting some of the photographs they had taken. I envy that. I would love to go there and take pictures.

I heard the other day that the zoo we used to be tour guides at are getting Pandas on loan from China. I envy all my good zoo friends who will experience getting to know these animals. I wish I could be there to be a part of it all.

I think I envy experiences more than possessions. I envy people who can jump out of planes because I could never do that myself. I envy their bravery. But maybe it's not envy, maybe it's just that I wish I could do it?

I can understand her being unable to understand you. She's clearly not happy in her own life and she thinks possessions can cure that. They can't. They simply can't. Only each of us can cure that within ourselves.

Sorry I haven't been around, we've been offline since Saturday but I'm back now and this was one of the first places I went to, just so you know.


Christine said...

what jen said made a lot of sense. i guess sometimes it would be nice to travel more or run faster or be a little less stringent with the budget while buying food, but only mildy so. it certainly doesn't ruin my day or make me think anything negative about the other person. but i really don't feel envy in that gross sort of mean way. and this conversation says so much about D--she has to be so sad to have such harsh emotions over stuff like that. ick.

painted maypole said...

I do feel envy sometimes, although I try to remind myself of all the wonderful blessings I do have when I feel it.

Anvilcloud said...

I am comfortable with what I am and have, but I do get a might put out if wealthier people go on about it. I think it's their shallowness that irritates me. I am thinking, "Get on with your life, and don't try to lord it over me."

WRT some of the comments, I think there might be a fine line between envy and wistfulness. On one hand, I don't envy a friend's trip to Australia, but on the other hand I think that it would be really nice to experience that. I think that's more wistfulness than envy, but maybe I'm rationalizing.

mitzh said...

The envious feeling comes and goes for me. It is an ugly emotion and many ugly things comes out of it. So, I try to shut it out of my life and be thankful for everything that I have and besides we really can't have it all.

Hope you had a nice weekend, Chani.

Catherine said...

Hey there - I'm happy to report that your page loaded in a snap. Hooray! Also, I've been out of town and am catching up, but I just responded to your latest comment. I wanted to let you know specificially because I liked the comment so much...I'll post my response here as well...then I'll read some of your blog so I don't just talk about myself in your comment sections. :)

Chani, YES. I love that about the east. I'm excited to see a trend in the west towards more holistic perspectives, but of course, we remain so reductionist....

blooming desertpea said...

You're not missing out on envy, Chani. It's ugly and futile. If I feel envy once in a while and unfortunately I'm not completely immune to it, it's never about possesions - it's about happiness ...

Anonymous said...


I have a lot. Maybe that's why I don't envy. I also feel, rightly or not, that anything that I might really want is achievable. Perhaps I'll become more envious as I become older and less capable. Then I'll have to come back and read one of your recent posts about accepting your limitations. :)

Open Grove Claudia said...

I think it comes down to how people are motivated. Some people are really competitive. They compete against every one constantly comparing where they are with where someone else is.

I'm not motivated like that. I tend to be achievement motivated (very type A) meaning that I compete against myself.

Then in a moment, I can get caught in the idea that someone else has it "easy". Not always. Not even regularly - but out of the blue, there it is and I believe that every single good thing happens somewhere else.

I laugh and welcome my humanity

Emily said...

OK, imagine someone ELSE had all the chocolate cake. And you had no food. At all. You were famished, hadn't eaten in days. And someone was sitting there eating one of those little chocolate cakes.

That's what envy feels like. You don't have it for possessions, but that's what it feels like for those who do.

Hel said...

I agree with Jen and little pea.

The only thing I ever envy is people who have time to grow vegetables and have babies and do lots of yoga.

But it is a one day I too will enjoy that, thank you for reminding me it is possible envy rather than a I hate you for having what I don't have kind of feeling.

Melanie said...

I am not going to read all the comments. I have to say I completely agree with you on the "envy" situation. I do have my moments when I wish I had a home for my son, a yard he could play in, but its not in envy of what someone else has.

Interesting that some people don't really get that is a possibility. It amazes me when they talk about it too. sighs.

good entry. ;-)

Janet said...

I can feel envy, although it's usually not about material things. I don't tend to envy people's clothes or possessions, but I might envy traits like their endless patience or sense of humour. So, really, it's about things I feel are lacking in myself, when I feel envy.

I also think I envy you for not feeling envious. To me, it means that you are really comfortable with yourself.

Jennifer said...

I do envy, once in a while -- as others have said, not material "things", but, perhaps, a situation or a circumstance -- though it's something I strive not to experience. You're correct, it's an ugly emotion, and one that only hurts the person experiencing the envy. I envy that you've never felt envy! *wink*

Mary said...

Gee, you can't even be honest without being jumped on.

Sometimes I say, "I wish I could more like her, or him." I have never envied material things - oh, maybe as a child I was jealous of friends who had a toy I wanted...

We have very good friends who are worth millions of dollars with lots of beautiful real estate, a 1.5M yacht, $10,000 coffee tables. Heck, they are the same as me and my coffee tables were $200. I am in no way envious them or feel jealousy. Honestly! They have too much to care for.

They have a cleaning STAFF. I'd like that. Maybe I'm envious of her spare time to have fun when I'm scrubbing toilets all weekend.

Laurie said...

I don't understand it either, Chani. But I know plenty of people who do and it I find it rather sad.

QT said...

I agree with open grove claudia - it depends on how you are motivated. I am not a person who is very competitive with others - mostly with myself. Tho I do feel envious of people who truly have the freedom to travel a lot, etc. I get over it, tho. It is not an all encompassing thing.

Carla said...

I need to come back to finish reading this, but just wanted to let you know that I've just given you a "nice matters" award over on my blog.

Snoskred said...

Mary - I'd love to have a cleaning staff. At least I thought I would, for a second, before I remembered that I'd much rather do it myself. ;)

I remember reading a story on a blog I took out of my google reader recently, where the writer had left her *ahem* vibrator in her bed. The cleaner left her a note to say she'd put it back in the drawer with the other ones. This led the writer to freak out a bit but realistically when you allow someone into your home to work there when you're out, you're losing most of your privacy. Of course people are going to open drawers.

I prefer that only *I* and the other half know where everything in this house lives. ;)

And at the moment, it's all living in boxes instead of where it belongs. I can take it for maybe a couple of days but there's going to come a time when I freak out and have an unpacking spree.. :)


seventh sister said...

I think that envy is a manefestation of measuring yourself against other people. We have probably all done it one time or another, especially when we were younger.

Blog Antagonist said...

I do suffer from envy sometimes, but I try not to, because I know that it's a useless and destructive thing. I know deep down that I am enormously lucky to have what I do, and that my envy is a product of this screwed set of values and priorities that is being perpetuated by the lifestyles of those around us, as well as the glut of marketing and media that suggest we need all these material things to be happy.

Still. I would like some new furniture.

Envy is human. What we do with it makes determines what kind of human being we choose to be.

I believe that you weren't envious. It was rude of her to suggest otherwise.

Aliki2006 said...

I don't ever envy people's things--that's not what would occur to me to do at all. Sometimes, like Jen said, I envy footloose people, but I like to think (and I am working on this) I have grown wise to the fact that it is so futile and empty and pointless to envy--much better to work on fulfilling oneself.

Still, I do have my moments, I'll admit.

Tabba said...

I envy people who are organized, who are funny, who have time that belongs solely to themselves.

I do feel envious of those things.
But *stuff*. Nuh uh.
I don't really get that either.

Carla said...

Wow...what an interesting story. I would have to guess that D's envy comes from a dissatisfaction in her life, perhaps with herself, and that she tries to fill that void with things. I guess we all have our flaws.

women health zone said...

Absolutely right Carla...dissatisfaction which is something not good... cos if we won't satisfy then won't enjoy anything ...

Anonymous said...

When riding on my aunts boat in the long island sound, carefree with the salty water spaying about, I envy a leisurely lifestyle. Then I watch what my aunt deals with and I'm happy I don't have her life style. I see people who don't struggle with topics and getting amazing marks in school, I would envy how easy life seemed for them. I see new couples on the street and I envy the feeling of new love, I adore my old comfortable love, but there is something about new love that you can't get back. There are times I envy, I won't lie, and it is petty. Its a case of the grass is greener. But, I am happy with my life and I wouldn't trade it for the world. That is something to hold onto and treasure, not wish away.

As usual, your post is very thought provoking.

thailandchani said...

All, thanks to all of you for describing this to me. I'm not sure whether it is security or arrogance.. but, truly, for some reason, I don't seem to be able to conjure up that much concern about other people's belongings or status. I am comfortable in my own skin and don't need to envy others. As I told D., if I want something, I would simply figure out a way to create it. :)

Thank you. Really. Sometimes I just get baffled. :)



Molly said...

This was a thought provoking post....Maybe D needs to live and grow a little more. Then maybe she'll realise that things/stuff only weigh you down in life.....Look at Luke Wilson in your other post. Fame, fortune,all the things anyone could want, but he has to hire someone to do the job of a friend....

crazymumma said...

I think maybe she is jealous of your attitude to the material.

And that picture. I am in a need to know about it. Who?

Mommahbear. said...

I had the exact same conversation a few years ago. The friend who was convinced that everyone in the world suffered from envy (which she also called jealousy), thought I was being superior and dishonest. I wasn't. I could give a ratsarse about what others have. I am happy for them. Happy when they win the lotto, happy when they buy a huge house and can afford the SUV and the private school just as I am happy for them when they find the baker has made their favorite bread at the shop they frequent. Why not?

I don't get envy, either. Not one single little bit. My friend, as yours, just didn't get that. When she realized I wasn't lying, she accused me of having low expectations. That was the point where I realized that where I lacked envy, I made up for it in other reactive emotions.

Anonymous said...

While you may not feel envy for possessions or status, isn't it envy that has led you to want the Thai culture rather than the American one? The dfferent pace pf life over there? The different way of thinking, doing, being? To my way of thinking, if you didn't envy them that, then you wouldn't want it for yourself.