I have a problem with jealousy. It’s not a small problem. It’s not an idiosyncrasy or a cute quirk. It’s a looming, strangling flaw that has suffocated more relationships than I’d like to admit. Most of them, to be honest. Okay. All of them. And the ones it hasn’t killed, it’s prevented. No one wants to be new friends with an asshole.
My therapist (yes, I’m that girl. I’m starting a paragraph with “my therapist”, but come on. Look around you. Maybe more people should be doing this.) gave me a metaphor. He’s big on them and they tickle me.
This one involved brunch foods.
He really gets me.
First, we talked about coffee. The gist was that I’m an empty coffee cup. It’s my job to see that there is coffee in my cup. Not the cook’s. Not the waitress’. Mine. Others cannot be my coffee. They can be my Splenda. They can be my half and half. They can be my light soy foam. They can enhance, delight, make more aromatic and delicious. But other people cannot be the coffee. I have to be the coffee.
Next, we talked about eggs. My therapist described me as being a beautiful painted egg, artistic and engaging. But most painted eggs are hollow, the innards blown out through a tiny hole in the bottom. This makes them veneer thin and fragile. The slightest tap can shatter them. They are gorgeous. And the slightest wind will eradicate them.
That’s what happens to me. I want someone else to fill my mug. If I encounter the slightest contrary force, I’m a mess of splinters. I’m a failed breakfast.
To get through life, I need coffee and eggs without the shell. And I need to be the one to order and make them. I can’t let other people be my happy. I have to find or if I can’t find it, manufacture my own happy. If I can do that, fill the space with substance that sustains me, maybe I won’t be so easily broken.
Here’s the bug in that particular batter: when you are a parent, you rarely get to chase after your own fulfillment.
Now, I know that sounds awful. It sounds callous and selfish. As a parent, aren’t we told we should be filled with indescribable, ever-mounting daily joy, all the time, just because we have a child?
What if you’re not?
Don’t get me wrong. I love my son. With my entire soul. I love being with him. His laugh lights up my universe. When he’s not with me, it feels like my heart is bopping around the world without me. It’s crushing to go to sleep knowing he’s not in the next room.
But, the contrary is equally as strong and true. Because I am a mother and I am committed to that job, and to raising a strong, capable, happy kid, I am usually unable to pursue my own happy.
Because simply being a mom isn’t enough to make me happy.
That’s horrible. It sounds horrible in my head and it’s horrible to see in print. But that’s what it is.
It hurt when I had to give up acting to be a mom. I resent that I can’t buy a decent camera to work on the photography I love because I have to pay for braces. And I am as bitter as that coffee I expect someone else to pour me every time I miss an opportunity to make a piece of art because I have to be at a school meeting or sit at an unending baseball practice.
And I’m not even good. It’s not as if the world is minus a master because I don’t have the time to put out another poem. But I feel it. And every time I see a friend or even my wonderful, generous partner succeed at their crafts, my own envy over takes me. I become as dark and toxic as yesterday’s espresso. It’s insufferable. I hear the words I say and I want to tear out my own tongue in disgust. That’s not me and I hate that woman. But she appears almost every day. I’m want to kill her.
The bleak reality is that there’s no good fix. I won’t spend less time and effort on my son. And I can’t put any more time into me. Therefore, I will continue to fall into deep caverns of rage, sadness and fuming jealousy.
And I know these are uptown problems. I can’t begin to even pretend I know what actual struggle is. If I was faced with the horrors people across this world are dealing with, I’d crumble. I’m not brave. I’m silly and vain and weak. I’m the woman Ruth Bader Ginsburg orders for brunch and spits out into her perfect napkin because goddesses like her don’t have time for slimy, fatty omelets like me.
So, here with the computer and the silly words it is. Putting something out. Trying not to fall apart. Egg in the pan. Shells in the compost. Coffee in the cup. Trying to add some light to the darkest brew. I have to make my own coffee. Somehow find a way. I have to fill my egg with something. Because I don’t want to be a shell. I want to hold a life. Mine.
Alyssa Herron is a mom and author. The caliber of either is up for debate. Her new novel is available at Amazon.