Monday, January 10, 2011

Jealousy as a road map to living the life you want

What are you jealous of? I can answer that question easily.

I am jealous of people who travel to exotic, interesting destinations. I just came back from Los Cabos and am already jealous of two or three people I know who are traveling to amazing places in the coming months. I am jealous of people who had the guts to become artists for a living and have studios where they paint all day. I am jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert for writing her true story - and people feel connected to it - and inspired from it – and I couldn’t put it down. Plus, she travels around the world now with her husband buying art to sell in her cute little store in Frenchtown, New Jersey, and she still writes!!!!

And onto the diabetic, celiac side of me, I am jealous of people who can eat pastry and not get high blood sugar or the millions of other symptoms I get when I eat gluten.

I don’t have scientific evidence of this, but I think that some form of jealousy is common for a type 1 diabetic. It may not rear its head as jealousy. It may look like anger or frustration.

Jealousy is looking at someone else’s situation and wishing it was yours. Wanting something that you don’t have.

The Type 1 lifestyle can feel limiting at times – being told by doctors what you have to do, can’t do, or should do – and then tracking it all with machines and spreadsheets. It’s a lot to deal with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Diabetes never goes away and requires a lot of attention.

And because of all that stress and pressure, I think that diabetics can feel jealous of non-diabetics. Or, we might get angry, annoyed or frustrated at the non-diabetic world.

Like when I get annoyed watching non-diabetics eat a meal, especially dessert – a nice cake slathered in whipped cream and sugary sauces. Or when I see non-celiacs eating a regular slice of pizza, and I sit there talking myself into enjoying a pizza made out of rice or chick pea flour.

And that’s when it hits me – a chance to turn this jealousy, anger, annoyance, frustration – into something that will help me.

I read a book some years ago called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, playwright and former wife of Martin Scorsese, where she spends a good chapter on jealousy as a topic of exploration for the blocked artist. In it, she states: “Jealousy is always a mask for fear: fear that we aren’t able to get what we want; frustration that somebody else seems to be getting what is rightfully ours even if we are too frightened to reach for it. At its root, jealousy is a stingy emotion. It doesn’t allow for the abundance and multiplicity of the universe. Jealousy tells us there is room for only one – one poet, one painter, one whatever you dream of being.

The truth, revealed by action in the direction of our dreams, is that there is room for all of us. But jealousy produces tunnel vision. It narrows our ability to see other options. The biggest lie that jealousy tells us is that we have no choice but to be jealous. Perversely, jealousy strips us of our will to act when action holds the key to our freedom.” (p. 123-124.)

Jealousy is a map to what you really want. Getting to the root of why you are jealous provides you with a road map to living the life you want to live. And the only way out of it, to improve your life, is to take action.

Cameron suggests that we create a Jealousy Map. Here’s how: Create three columns. In the first, write the name of those whom you are jealous of. In the second, write why you are jealous of them. Be as specific as you can. In the third, list one action you can take to move toward creative risk and out of jealousy.

I am completely aware that being jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert is very different than being jealous of non-diabetics and non-celiacs for not having to deal with these diseases. I’m sure you would say that I should just write a book when I talk about being jealous of Elizabeth Gilbert. Just get to it already. Or go on a trip, go to an art exhibit. I can’t just stop taking insulin or start eating pastries and cakes to counter the jealousy of a non-diabetic or non-celiac.

So I will add another step to Cameron’s Jealousy Map. I delved into the inquiry of Byron Katie’s “The Work", specifically the "Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet" and "Four Questions”. This book, whose resources can be found on-line, provides a series of questions that you can ask yourself to get to the root of issues. Deeper into the "Why" part of Column #2.

Here’s what I came up with by mixing the two:

Column 1: I am jealous of non-diabetics who eat lustrous desserts in front of me.

Column 2: Why? Non-diabetics don’t have to deal with the 24/7 of living with diabetes. They are free to eat, exercise, and do what they want, when they want.

Here’s where I added the inquiry part using Byron Katie’s question #1 and 2. I asked myself: Is this true? Well, not really. We all have something in our lives that we face, some lesson, challenge or obstacle. The person sitting across from me eating a lustrous dessert may be going through a rough time and turning to the dessert for comfort. They may have suffered a heart break, just found out they have cancer, or lost their job.

And even if they aren’t, we all have lessons to learn. We are all on our own unique journey.

Byron Katie’s Question #3: How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Well, it makes me feel bad about myself. It makes me feel like I’m missing out on life. Like I’m not living life to the fullest.

Byron Katie’s Question #4, “Who would you be without that thought?” and Column #3 of Julia Cameron’s Jealousy Map really complement each other well. That’s when I came up with…

Column 3: Accept my diabetes and learn how to live life as fully as I can within the parameters of good health. Allow myself to cheat occasionally without feeling guilty – or else it’s not worth it. And most importantly, allow myself to be me.

All jealousy requires soul searching, in other words self-inquiry, and a lot of self-acceptance. It requires getting to the bottom of who you are what’s right for you. And then accepting that you have your own unique journey.


  1. Ophir,
    I absolutely love the "Artist Way" and read it a few years ago. It's the reaason why I do morning papers. Althought I type my morning papers now, I still do the exercise of writing something each morning.

    As far as jealousy goes, it's normal human emotion. It's only a problem when it's unchecked. I would admit I am jealous of people who LOVE what they do because I don't. I am a single woman and had to take a job with good paycheck, security and a pension to be responsible. I would rather be a struggling writer or artists. Or, go back to working in the non-profit arena.

    PS: Los Cobos looks gorgeous! I may have to take a trip there:-)

  2. That's wonderful. I am so impressed at the productive way you handled this. I was all set to say, "yeah - me too. watching ppl eat without a concern or hesitation seems like a freedom Caleb will never know". And it's true, but there's a different way to look at it as you point out. I like your point about letting yourself cheat - it's really not even cheating.

    Thanks for the great perspective!