Jealousy is a beast. So is pity.
It’s tough to walk next to someone who seems to have zero problems and plenty of fortune. It’s tough to walk next to someone who has an abundance of problems and lots of needs, too.
Seems like we want to just walk next to those who make us feel comfortable in our existence and circumstance.
I have felt jealousy and envy plenty in my life, and it’s never been a pleasant feeling. I have compared myself to my perception of someone else’s life experience and told myself all sorts of stories. Again, it never led to pleasant feelings.
Until I walked away from most of society for a while, I didn’t realize how much I’d been comparing my life to just about everyone in my view.
I remember when Marq had his traumatic brain injury and all of those long years of recovery, nearly a decade at its worst. There was a solid 5 years, maybe more, when I wouldn’t go to weddings or any other events where couples were celebrated or invited. It was just too painful.
I remember not wanting to go much of anywhere at all after I’d gained 50+ pounds and I just looked like grief and sorrow embodied, because I was. I couldn’t bear the way I felt when I saw happy and healthy people walking around without a care in the world.
I remember watching people on social media going on vacations, buying new cars and decorating their homes and actually “snoozing” the worst offenders because I couldn’t bear seeing their fortune when mine was out back in a burn barrel.
And I remember stalking Britney Spears when she melted down, trying to find every article I could find to prove that she was even worse off than I was. And then searching “movies about mental breakdowns” just so that I could see someone else who made my breakdown look like a hangnail.
Things changed for me massively on this road once I was alone for months at a time and had to sit with myself. What I learned so permanently is how desperately I wanted people to see me beyond my outside layer. There were questions I desperately wanted to answer that no one ever asked, and there were questions I was sick of answering that were so irrelevant to who I am. I wanted to people to see past the clothes and the success or failure and the neighborhood and the job and the relationships.
I wanted people to see WHO I ACTUALLY AM.
And then when I started to emerge back into society, back with people in our human family, it was one of the first stark realizations I made as I stood eyeball to eyeball with other souls.
They all just wanted to be seen AS WHO THEY ACTUALLY ARE.
Here’s something I’ve noticed a lot over the years — people’s eyes light up in a way that cannot be faked when they talk about things that matter to them. And often, the things that matter to them are hiding so covertly in the plain sight of ordinary life that we never even talk about it.
But when you find that vein of gold in someone, and you can get them to start really talking about it, their whole inner solar system aligns so perfectly that the sunshine in their eyes will light up the darkest place.
It is so beautiful. AND — it is the antidote for comparison, envy and jealousy.
The best thing we can do for each other is bring out the sparkle in each other’s eyes without assuming we know what will bring it. Without making judgments about what SHOULD put the sparkle in each other’s eyes. I’ve found that the best way to do this is to first realize that every human we meet is an opportunity to feel extraordinary AWE. If we just ask the right questions, and then we listen, and then we feel what that kind of listening feels like. If you ask the right questions with the right intentions, and you wait in a way that helps another to feel safe — you will be met with a feeling of extraordinary awe at what happens next.
What do you wish for when you’re blowing out your birthday candles?
What still hurts after all these years?
What costume would you have made for you if an epic tailor wanted to craft the most epic costume of all time for you?
What do you wish you knew for sure?
Ask. And then listen. And then feel.
Listening without interrupting is stoking the fire, igniting the light, making it bigger, repeating it back…letting them really talk through what they’re excited about. Feeling their words bounce into your heart and ricochet back to them with your undivided attention. Holding eye contact is like billows on that beautiful soul fire.
Tell me more about that.
What’s your favorite part?
What’s the hardest part?
What do you wish you knew more about?
What would you love to turn this into?
Do you know how incredible you are?
Let them talk until the light is coaxed back into their eyes. That bright light melts away every chocolate-covered layer of narrative that you were jealous of, envious of or felt pity for. All of that comparing is a pile of fondue on the floor.
And now you’re just soul to soul. And it’s AWE.
Ask. Listen. Be genuinely interested. Let every answer weave into the next question. Let every question open the room-darkening shades that have covered their life and yours. Ask and listen until the window of their soul is so clear and open that both of you can see for miles. You’ll see it in their eyes.
And by the time we are done with the conversation, the sparkle will be back in your eyes too.
When I remember to do this, my heart swells and all I want is to keep stoking that fire. Any hint of jealousy is suddenly gone. We are both just lit up. We are stoking the same fire at that point, rather than comparing fires or looking at each other’s fire longingly. The fire is inside my heart and their heart and in all the spaces between us.
That is awe.
Doesn’t that sound so much better than silent comparing, silent jealousy, silent pity and very loud inner dialogue that leads nowhere good?
Bringing out the light in another’s eyes will burn away those stories that made you feel divided. Their light will merge with your light and — wow. AWE.
Awe, from my perspective, is a mixed state of gratitude, curiosity, wonder and humility. What if we made it a habit to approach others in that mixed state? What if each road sparkling next to our own was an opportunity to experience awe, and to make sure we do all that we can to make it a shared experience?
Of course, we can’t MAKE someone else feel awe, but there is a whole lot we can do to help someone to feel seen, heard and valued. And the magic of it is that those are shared experiences by their very virtue. We are the ones who get to SEE and HEAR and APPRECIATE. What is the downside? I fail to see one.
When I felt my life consumed by the addictive habit of comparing, I knew I had to make some changes.
I decided to start by seeing, hearing and valuing my own experience. But not spending much time there — because too much time spent thinking about our own experience is almost always the first culprit that leads to comparison. And that leads to the addictive inner-drug of either feeling envy or feeling pity. Both of these feelings create chemical reactions in our body that can be very addictive. And both of these feelings cause us to feel “other than.” Othering causes separation. Separation causes horrific loneliness. And loneliness leads to despair. And despair leads to a kind of soul death that tricks us into thinking it’s too hard recover from. And it all started with spending too much time thinking about our own experience — rather than seeking out the AWE in the shared experience of finding AWE in both others and in ourselves.
It’s simple to fix. But not always easy. Just like with you, there are things that people wish others knew about them; rather than the way they get pigeon-holed. Be the one who finds out what those things are.
I bet other people wish someone would ask them what book section they’d go to first if they were at the library right now rather than some empty question about their outside layer. People long to be truly known.
They want to be seen as who they are behind the things that society teaches us all to hide behind. When we keep trying to put up facades to protect ourselves by impressing others or scaring others, we miss out on each other. We miss out on AWE.
I wish we could stop comparing and start truly seeing each other.
It will never be a fair comparison, no matter which 2 or more people you’re lining up in a row. There is so much we can’t know. There is so much behind everything. There is so much that cannot be seen. There is so much that cannot be heard. There is so much to learn about each other and that is a far better goal than trying to pick each other apart in order to feel better or worse. We use each other to numb our own feelings. No one wants to be used, only to be known and valued for what and who they actually are.
Find the rare things, the unique things, the things that are not obvious. Find them in others and then find them in yourself, and you’ll have no need to compare, because it’s useless and it’s throwing away a magnificent opportunity to feel WHAT IS REAL in each other’s presence.
We can focus on bringing out the light in each other’s eyes by finding little starlight glimpses of what’s REALLY inside of a person. And suddenly, the darkness of this world becomes a starlit sky.
It works. Try it.
I have learned on ALL OF The Roads Sparkling Next to Mine that when we walk next to each other in all of our glory and all of our pain, each of us feels profound gratitude, purpose and determination to not just stay on our own roads, but to MAKE THE VERY MOST of every step we take.
And never again want to be on the road of another, only our own.
So, gorgeous soul . . .
When have YOU longed to be on the road sparkling next to yours, rather than your own?
What questions can you ask to coax the light back into the eyes of someone you’ve been comparing yourself to?
I love you, fellow soul. Thank you for walking this road with me and putting the light back into MY EYES. I hope for the opportunity to do the same for you.
Tomorrow, we will carefully step over to The Road I Walked With Monsters
Just be you. Let them be them.
It’s all perfect.