In a writing slump the other day, I ended up going through artist portfolios at a well-known MFA program in NYC. It helps clear my head and find inspiration on occasion. I landed on one artist, whose mixed media art was fascinating. A true talent.
This discovery was good and bad. Good because her art is inspirational. But bad because (aside from the obvious procrastination) so much of her life and upbringing were revealed in explanations of her work. And can I just say, this life of hers…made me envious. One of the perils of social media, I’m sure.
When you are even moderately insecure or are working through serious issues, a low information Internet diet is in order! Because people’s personal information is out there, they put it out there, and you can’t fault someone for being honest and sharing their happiness, can you?
Anyway, I couldn’t help but focus on her family life, which has clearly helped her to be a successful artist (and person?) in every sense. So in an unwelcome progression, my fascination turned into envy. Obviously, it was rooted in her loving and supportive parents (who voiced their unwavering support for her and even helped with her installation).
Every time I see a relationship like it or read about it in real life (ex: memoirs, reality television, friends)—it physically pains me, hurts me. I ache in a way that makes me want. And I realized, I have never wanted anything the way I want unconditional love, free from manipulation, greed, and resentment.
Much of my young life was plagued with a counterfeit form of love, full of conditions, betrayals, and blackmail.
Seeing loving parents with no agenda, no withholding, and no jealousy is normal for most people.
For me, it’s like seeing a unicorn. But it’s also a reminder of loss. Of death. Of support I might never have. Stability I might never know.
It’s a knife in the heart, a punch in the face. The security you missed out on and even more frightening—the mental health work that awaits, that you must do in order for you to simply be okay.
When I was initially examining that sharpness I felt, that pain, I thought I was jealous of her parents generosity. I thought I was feeling material jealousy. Not an uncommon consequence in the Instagram/social media era. But that wasn’t it.
It was the love.
The genuine, unconditional, lifts-you-up, makes-you-better-in-every-way, kind of love.
There lied the true envy.
The amount of work myself and others (suffering from a turbulent/abusive pasts) must do in order to reach the stage of just being okay, makes my head spin.
When I think of all the therapy, money, time, depression, fear, and physical and emotional pain I’ve dealt with—I think, how am I even here? Still standing?
And the obvious answer is because I’m putting in the work: the talking, the analysis, not running away from the heavy stuff…the downright painful stuff—that’s how I’m still here.
So eventually (in the most bizarre workday ever), I went from envy to relief.
The fleeting envy passed. I felt no resentment towards this artist with creative and loving parents only… understanding.
Witnessing real life healthy support systems can be good. It doesn’t have to lead to insecure envy. Genuinely good people in the world are role models of how to live (and how to parent)! When seen without bias, I can’t think of anything better than seeing healthy love in action.
It’s what I crave.
My path towards reaching that, toward finding that is just longer. A different route.
My mental health journey is part of the larger conversation, of the various paths we take to finding our own state of okay-ness, positivity…love.