Jealousy is the gut-twisting indigestion of emotion, and I’ve felt plenty of it lately. I’m hoping it’s just a step in grieving recent losses, like treading the waves of chronic pain or seeing how my daughter is struggling more to find her place among her neurotypical peers.
I confide my jealous thoughts to my husband, and he gently warns me that I’d alienate the people involved if I revealed such feelings. I then feel a bit jealous that he can squelch his more toxic thoughts before those who might be wounded or angered by them. I’m not the kind of person who can vent before an ideal audience whenever the need arises. This is why I have a blog and he does not.
I’m not jealous of things I see and read online. My Facebook friends can post as many shots of new campers, bigger houses, and graduations as they wish. I do not begrudge them their pride. It’s enduring the sight and sound of people close to me bragging about their good fortune in matters that they know trouble me.
I could turn this around and focus on their callousness. If I had a friend who struggled with infertility, I would not brag about my unplanned pregnancy. Why in the world must I hear chapter and verse about how their children who are close to mine in age are fielding suitors and learning to drive cars? My daughter is a smart, autistic sixteen-year-old who’s gotten bullied by males and can’t tie her shoes. She resists any suggestion of her learning to drive. I love my daughter to pieces. I wouldn’t trade her in for another child, but it is hard to witness the widening distance between her and her peers.
It is hard to capture the feeling I get when I hear that the child of one of my friends has achieved something that stands at some hazy distance in the future for my own. It’s a confrontation with two things: the reality that autism is a developmental disability and a reminder that I ultimately have not surpassed the jealousies of my youth. When I was sixteen, I envied my classmates who were dating or could drive cars without failing their driving test twice. Nevermind that my daughter has told me she doesn’t want to date or drive a car yet. It burns me up that she is missing out on the same things I did, even if she claims to be indifferent about it.
When I hear my friends brag about their teenagers, I silently judge them for living through their children, but isn’t my dread about my daughter’s present and future just a photo negative of their bragging? Why should I mourn that my daughter has none of my teenage goals when my achievements of those years translated into naught in my adulthood? I was a bulimic National Merit Finalist who squandered two attempts at a college education, who half-ass stalked my unrequited crushes. It’s a good thing she’s not my clone. I’d have been tempted to send her to a convent with adjoining ECT clinic.
Last semester, my daughter had health class, and she confessed that she laughed out loud when her teacher mentioned the evils of LSD because she remembered my anecdote whose tagline was, “LSD cured my bulimia.”
Yes, that is exactly how I earned a three-day stay in a mental ward at age 19, my insistence to student health that a hit of acid had cured my bulimia. I should relish having a daughter who can enjoy those stories without the least temptation to recreate them.
She will do what’s she feels is worth her time on her own stubborn schedule. Feeling as if I’ve been wounded when I hear that a friend’s teenager has already passed points a, b, and c is an emotion I wish I could exorcise from my heart’s repertoire.