Sunday, July 16, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Joyful Living -- Day 16

"And they lived happily ever after. . . ."
A storybook life only happens to fictional characters. In real life, the prince turned out to be a compulsive philanderer, gambler, drug abuser, or garden variety pest.  

Real-life women know the story behind the story. Real-life women discriminate between reality and myth in romance novels. But what about another kind of story--the kind on social media that feeds us the myth of a perfect room, if not the perfect lifestyle?
Day after day, we see immaculate, beautifully designed homes where people sleep in streamlined bedrooms and cook in dream kitchens. Here, the bed is always made, the pillows poofed, and the kitchen marble is never stained. The floors aren't covered with toys. Dogs never track in mud. Gardens never sprout weeds, and flowers never curl up and die.

The perfect setting carries a potent subliminal message--perfection, happiness, and bliss can be yours, too.We never see behind the scenes. And yet, social media stars may live in nightmarish situations. We aren't privy to their unhappy ever afters.

Anyone who has been on social media for a while knows this stuff. Even so, without meaning to, envy can spring up like a summer thunderstorm. A flash flood of envy can strike women whose talents are overlooked or seldom rewarded. 

 It's only human to notice when someone has something you desire. At some point, you might start keeping score--who got the freebie? Why weren't you invited to the tablescape hop or home tour?
Soon, envy leads to self-flagellation. You wonder if your tablescape, home, or homemade ice cream sucks. 

Sometimes we fall back on psychological defense mechanisms: projection, sublimation, etc. We tell ourselves that we didn't want the free ice cream.
Envy is a gateway to self-doubt, even self-hatred. And anger turned within leads to depression.

Truth is, envy stamps out creativity. It stamps out joy.
Another truth: we may or may not hear about another blogger's sweat and sprained muscles, the long hours and sacrifices. Sometimes we see bloggers explaining--they'll tell a funny-but-woeful story of how they were creating an al fresco setting in a forest, and they stepped on a rusty nail and had to get a Tetanus shot. Does the story put a dent in the fairy story? 
Maybe. Maybe not.
Explaining isn't the point. You don't have to explain.
Perfection isn't the point. You don't have to be perfect.
Envy isn't the point. You don't have to feel envious.
The point is how you choose to react.
Envy is a feeling that leads to a thought. And thoughts lead to action, good or destructive.

I hesitate to write about this topic. Even now, my finger is hovering over the "delete" button.
But part of this challenge is to stop coating everything with vanilla flavoring. I know that many people may be afraid to leave a comment, because it could be seen--and social media do-overs are difficult. I get it. 

Today, if I feel envious, I will acknowledge it, but I will not judge.
I will let the feeling pass through me like water
and disappear.


  1. Well said and very brave. There is a blogger that I have followed regularly who seems to be a very nice person. Her home is well appointed and perfectly organized. She shares lovely pictures of her various travels around the world. She is an incredible DIY-er. But the thing that pushes my envy button is her spending muscle. Every week she shares pictures of her new clothes or jewelry or latest household purchase. She is generous about letting us in on where she purchased her weekly expenditures and offers links to the various sites. I like her taste, too. It is not that I want ever single thing she has. It is her seemingly disposable income that gets to me. I'm not poor, but I can't spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a month on extras. My purchases have to be planned.

    I have to be careful. What she does is her business and she need not apologize for her way of life.
    But my envious response is a joy stealer. I really don't need more, more, more. In fact I'm at a place in life where Less is More. Contentment and gratitude for what I have in life is the place I want to be.

    Thanks for lancing the boil.

  2. BRILLANT !!! LOVE IT! Soooooo very true! You have a very special gift with words ! I'll buy your first book DO IT !!

  3. Envy is a total waste of time, at least to me. Pinterest is another medium that sparks envy...again at least to me. BUT, it also sparks creativity in me. For that I am grateful. You are the best. Thanks for this series.!!!!

  4. Envy steals happiness! When I was in my early 30s, I heard a very wise friend talking to her children. She told them, "You will always have friends who have more than you do, and you will always have friends who have less than you do. The key is to be happy with what you have." It struck me then as a very meaningful example for all. For me, it comes back to that word, gratitude! If one lives a life of gratitude, then almost everything else falls into place.
    Again, thank you for this series, Michael Lee. These are important topics to ponder.

  5. I really like your last paragraph. Judging our envy makes it worse.

  6. You hit the nail on the head, Michael Lee! So profound!
    I believe the whole blogging community needs to hear more on this subject.

  7. I think envy can be crushed with gratitude, if you feel grateful for the blessings you have, it robs envy of it's power. I have seen enough behind closed doors to realize that even the most perfect have dark secrets or troubles... I love your last thought about letting envy pass through you like water, definitely words to live by...

  8. Envy for me came with a stick shift and bucket seats. Hard to get in and out of. Boy was it fun for a day or two. And then the reality set in. Me behind the wheel of a little beauty was such a disappointment to high school boys and me trying to get in and out from behind that steering wheel was ridiculous. I sold envy. Lesson learned.haha

  9. So well said. Envy is a waste of time but I know everyone suffers a little bit of it every so often. I love the the thought "I will let the feelings pass through me like water and disappear". Perfect!

  10. Loved this post! So spot-on and beautifully said.

  11. I'm reading through the rest of this series, because I was on a break from visiting blogs this summer. Some of it had to do with what you're talking about in this post. I know that when I get like that I need to take a step back. Funny thing is, I know the damn truth... that no one is really living some fairytale, but sometimes even reading the make believe fairytale gets to be too much. I focused on MY life and created on my own without sharing. Some of it I will.... some of it I won't. We'll see. But I'm in a better place now.

    I love this series and you :)