An enemy of envy

An enemy of envy

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

This past Saturday we drove to Louisville for Matt’s last regular season home game. It's a two hour straight shot down 65 and on the way I listened to Jerry Saltz on the Longform Podcast. He was funny and honest and earnest. It was probably one of my favorite episodes to date. He talked about how, in the morning, he has to get to his desk pretty quickly before the demons start making their presence known. I know the feeling. If I allow myself to sit here too long, idly, they will surely show up and attempt to dissuade me from writing, from making or doing anything really. It happened just this morning. I woke up early, stood up, took notice of my headache, sat down at my desk, started at my screen for 10 minutes, and then went to lay on the couch until I had to get the kids up for school because what is the point, anyways? The demons won that battle.

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Saltz’s story is really interesting. He was a long distance truck driver and didn’t become a writer—an art critic—until he was 40 years old, though he was making art and putting on shows as a young man. But the demons got the better of him. He listened, and he decided it was easier to not make art than it was to make it, which is true for awhile. But the serenity doesn’t last. He realized that he was very, very unhappy while driving that truck. So he decided to start writing about art, and he found himself come alive again.

He talked about “making an enemy of envy.” I love that, because it means choosing struggle over serenity. Envy eats me alive many days. It can consume my thoughts and steal my energy.

It’s an old bag of tricks at this point, but it seems I still don’t know how to be on social media without two major casualties: losing focus and feeling jealous. Something inevitably sets me off. A beautiful yellow skirt I don’t have. A piece of writing I didn’t do. An idea I didn’t think of. A place I don’t live. It’s irritating that I am this feeble. So I retreat, and don’t look, and don’t post. And it helps. But then I miss out on sharing my art and seeing your art.

I know that art and social media are not the same thing. I can still do the making of the art without the social media. But it’s hard to be seen if you don’t put yourself or your work out into the world, and the biggest way in which we do that these days is through social media. There’s really no getting around it. I didn’t make the formula but I think I have to live by it to some degree.

What I’m coming to realize is that there is no magic formula, a silver bullet doesn’t exist. Like many things in motherhood, I’ve got to find what works for me in this arena, while conceding that to live and make art and share it and consume others’ art is to exist in a sort of tension. And yet, tension is where the story lives.

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I was searching for a friend’s email the other day and inadvertently came across a message from a different friend from 2015. She had sent me this, a letter Leo Tolstoy wrote to Countess Alexandra Tolstaya in 1857 at the age of 29:

"Constant worry, work, struggle, privations--these are all necessary conditions, from which, even for a few seconds, no one should dare think of escaping. Only honest work, worry, and struggle--based on love--make for true happiness [...]. Dishonest worry, based on love to oneself, is a misfortune [...]. It seems strange that I thought, and you still, I believe, think, that one can create a happy and honest world in which one can live quietly, without making mistakes, without regrets, without complications, and in which one can serenely, neatly, deliberately do only good things. It's ridiculous! It's impossible! It's just as impossible as remaining healthy without moving, without exercising [...]. To live honestly it is necessary to yearn, to get entangled, to fight, to make mistakes, to begin things and to drop them, then begin and drop them again, and constantly to struggle and deprive oneself. Serenity is nothing more than cowardice of the soul. That is why the bad side of our soul seeks peace, without realizing that its achievement means the loss of everything beautiful within us--loss of that which is not of human creation and comes from above.”

Serenity is nothing more than cowardice of the soul.

Serenity is nothing more than cowardice of the soul.

Serenity is nothing more than cowardice of the soul.

To take up space

To take up space

Theodore and Pollyanna

Theodore and Pollyanna