Leaning on a pew after church, she says, “All my friends are getting married.”
All of my friends are getting married too. Sara got engaged two weeks ago, Natalie a month ago, Penny in March. My brother has asked me to reserve April, just in case. Before anyone was engaged I bought a plane ticket to Germany for my friend Sean’s wedding. Next year will be a parade of nuptials: March, April, May, July, November, 12 months of planning, of venues and dresses and bridesmaids and grooms cakes.
She says, “I didn’t use to be a jealous person. The night before my best friend’s wedding, another friend and I were talking and she told me my best friends fiance had just bought her a mint green prius because mint green is her favorite color. And I said, ‘She’s the luckiest girl in the world,’ and my other friend looked at me judgmentally and said, ‘Don’t say that.’”
I want to tell her I have always been a jealous person. That the entirety of my life has been a plague of beliefs that the amount of happiness in the world is limited, the amount of desires met, of gifts given finite. Thus every time a car is purchased, a promotion is obtained, or a love built I know the chances of it happening to me diminish. Sometimes I feel as though if I have to be happy for one more person for any amount of time, I will explode, and instead of saying, “That’s so nice!” I will yell, “FUUUUUUCKKKK YOOOOOOUUUUUU.”
Shouldn’t I abound with grace and knowledge? She is 8 years younger than I am. Perhaps she doesn’t yet know that jealousy begets jealousy. That it will make you a stranger to yourself. How many times have I written in all caps in an email, in a chat box, in my journal (on a blog)? Angry and hateful towards those I love most. Hours later, I write again, attempting to pry my heart open while keeping out the bitterness. Stay open. Keep out.
“What?” I am shocked by the unkindness of that other friend. As though that woman has never had a jealous thought in her life. “That’s terrible.”
“It is! Because isn’t it true? Some people get things and others don’t.”
My friends’ lives seem to weave themselves together in these beautiful ways. My friend who struggles with money, who comes from parents who struggle with money, she falls in love with a man who comes from it, a man who is good and generous. Another friend has railed against God for years for her singleness, then falls in love with a man who is gentleness itself, a man who is so tender, a man who makes her tender. Yes, some people get things and others don’t. Gifts being passed out until the bag is empty.
And you will think, they do not deserve what they get. I have tried harder, I have worked longer, the first son lingering in the field, hearing the party from the main house, fuming. “What about me?” he mumbles, as he drags the hoe across the earth. But that is not her. That is me.
I say honestly, “I often wonder how great marriage can be if everyone is doing it, before realizing that it sounds pretty lovely. I usually go back and forth between those two ideas”
Isn’t it easier to just try your hardest not to want what they have? To avoid jealousy by simply expunging want? Except it sneaks in. I see a lean of the head, a look across the room, a hand on a leg. I myself lean briefly towards bitterness, but there is no solace there. I argue with myself, “God’s care for me is perfect. It looks different for everyone. We have different paths. They will get married but they won’t forget about you. They will have children, but you will still matter. You will be the only one with this life, this life that God has crafted, but you will not be alone.”
“I wouldn’t say luck,” I say. “God cares for us perfectly. Meaning me not being in a relationship is for my greater good, and others being in them is for theirs.”
I see her face fall. Oh, she must be thinking. Perhaps we are not as same as I thought.
I wonder if we are the same. Will she be single 8 years from now? Or will she, like all the rest of them, after cursing God or luck, after feeling owed this thing no one is owed, find someone, settle in, soften, leaning, touching the skin of a knee?
While I will still leave church, arriving home and wondering, When will I be left alone for good? Will I always be the only one? Why is happiness something I ever thought I could have, when the bag of gifts is so small?
Tonight, I will arrive home, sit at my desk, and write this. Perhaps, I will even think on this life and curse myself for wanting more. How could a person want more than a plethora of beloveds, blood or otherwise? Beloveds who, if I lost my ability to cleave to them, would strap me on their backs and carry me through the world? Isn’t this also a gift?
“It sucks about 90% of the time.” I tell her. I mean what I say, and yet it feels so oversimplified, silencing. “But that’s what I tell myself when I am sad.”
It would be easier to just be jealous, a relief even to lean towards bitterness. We say, “You aren’t giving me what I want.” What we mean is, “How painful it is to want at all. I suffer, Lord, and I do not want to suffer.”
Lord, I suffer. You have given me so much, and yet still I suffer. I long for your return. But until then turn my eyes to the jealous and to my own jealousy, turn my eyes to the bitter and to my own bitterness, and then turn my eyes to your grace, your justice, your wholeness, your abundance, an Autumn tree, brimming with red.
She chases a child down the center aisle, and the conversation is over.