Jealousy is a powerful thing. It can run your life and ruin it or you can recognize it and try to tame it. I recognize my monster but overcompensate for her.
I was the firstborn. First child, first grandchild, first niece. I was happy with this position because it gave me great power. Or in my three-year-old mind, it did at least. And it made me jealous. And jealousy is never a good thing unless you tame it and shape it in a way that is helpful, not harmful.
So who or what was the object of my jealousy? My unexpected and unwanted younger sister. I remember vividly the day my mother stood me in front of her to tell me she was going to give me a younger brother or a sister. I demurred her offer and told her I did not want one. Of course, it was too late since she was nine months pregnant but it might have helped to gradually move me into the position of an older sister. As it usually is with firstborns, being usurped from that position suddenly can lead to all kinds of behavioral problems.
As an unwanted and unexpected pregnancy ten months into her marriage (something my mother used as a cudgel in my teen years) I was handed to my Great-Aunt Carrie the moment I arrived home from the hospital. She coddled and spoiled me beyond reason. My mother, on the other hand, spent my childhood trying to tame me. I remember too much time spent in absolute darkness in a basement room because she thought it would break me. It did, but not in the way she wanted. It only made me more obnoxious and (although I hid it well) frightened and jealous of the kid that was still running around upstairs.
My sister was the good one. She was obedient and pliable and if I had let myself love her, she might have been my best friend. But until I got married and moved away she and I were at odds most of the time. Mostly I was at odds because I hated that (in my eyes) she was the favored one. If she got a new toy, I wanted it. If she did well in school I wanted to do better. My mother and she bonded like glue to wallpaper and left me to stew in my own green-eyed soup. It took years but eventually, she and I bonded over children and shared interests. My mother and I sadly never had the bond of mother-daughter closeness. That bond was between my maiden aunt and me.
There is a multitude I could share about how jealousy shaped my life but let’s just skip ahead decades. Recognizing that I’m susceptible to jealousy I try and be extra kind to people who others may see as my rivals. I go out of my way to praise their accomplishments and support them in everything they do. It’s led to some friendships but it’s also led to people dismissing me out of hand as someone they can use, walk on and then walk away. It also keeps me from making the best of my talents because I’m almost always jealous of theirs.
The regrets I have about my own life are many but the one thing I am blessed by is the relationship I have with my Twincesses. My 4 yro granddaughters are like clean slates that have yet to be marred by life experiences. That observation comes with a caveat though. The older of the two, Cate is jealous of her younger sister Regan. She’s me as surely as if I were cloned. But this is my chance to help shape her to use that jealousy for growth. She should have been an only child as should I. But since she and I had no choice in the matter, I am hopeful that our relationship can help her cope with her own green-eyed monster.
In the meantime I continue to try and reign in that jealousy I feel creep up whenever someone does better than I. I’m always a work in progress but then again so are we all. The next time you are jealous of the new car, the new dress or that new shop that just opened up down the street stop and ask yourself why. Are you letting jealousy rule because they are better than you? Of course, they are not better, they are different. So embrace your authenticity and move ahead with your plans. They are unique, just like you.