Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I mentioned in an earlier entry that I started running this summer. This entry really isn't about running, but about Envy. I had a comment yelled at me out a car window while I was on the homeward stretch yesterday that got the old motor running, and I have not been able to stop thinking about envy since.

What I will say about the running is it is going well, but it is very hard work. You have to be devoted, committed and willing/able to ignore some discomfort. I have researched and practiced and now I am up to a fairly strong (at least for me) run for half an hour at least four times a week. I am sure that will change as the kids and Hubz go back to school and I am at home with three boys and only a double jogging stroller and the weather starts getting cold. I guess if I am determined to keep up the running through the winter, I will have to devise a new system, if I want to do it bad enough. I haven't really lost any weight, but I have melted off some inches in the hips/butt area. But I have discovered that it is something I enjoy. I am committed to it. I will repeat that this has all been accomplished through Hard Work and tenacity to stick to it no matter what.

Back to yesterday: I was crossing the intersection of the one major street before the last three blocks of my run. A car pulled up to the intersection opposite me waiting at the light to cross. Because the street is not too terribly busy when I run (after morning rush hour) I ignore the lights and just cross when there is no traffic. So yesterday, when the road was clear, I crossed the street towards this car. I usually just ignore cars and trucks and other pedestrians because I am focused on my job and by the homeward stretch (and because some people are a little weird and give me the willies, so to be fair I ignore everyone--an equal opportunity running snob if you will) I need to focus harder because I am usually wearing out a little. As I put my foot down on the opposite sidewalk, (left foot, exhale, holding the side ache at bay, concentrate, focus, almost home...) a woman yelled out to me, startling me out of my stride, tripping me up a little.

The woman yelled, "I envy you, what your doing. I wish I had the motivation to do what your doing. I envy you!"

I just chuckled nervously, waved at her and wiped sweat from my eyes.

Envy? Me?

I have never considered myself worthy of envy. Especially since what I was doing was something anyone could do, right? I just did it, nothing special about that.

Those were my initial thoughts.

If I am being honest though, I have to admit I do work hard to achieve fitness. I have set it as a priority, I put in the time, I suffer the consequences (the pains and the discomfort), and I reap the rewards (fewer inches, toned legs, runners high--a blessed stress reliever).

As I was thinking about it I remembered an essay, Who Are You Calling Lucky? that I read recently on the Mothersmovement.org about a SAHM who struggles with people's envy, "You are so lucky to be doing what you are, staying at home with your kids. You are lucky to have a husband who makes enough that you can do that." I have encountered that envy, too, as a SAHM. As she explained so much better than I can express, the experience of SAHM for her is one born of sacrifice. She and her husband do without and she stays at home because they don't want the kids growing up in daycare and they felt it is what is best for their family. So they do without: without cable, without Netflix, without dinners out, without many other luxuries. Sacrifice. I guess what I am saying, too, is that the reason she doesn't feel enviable is because what she has comes at a high cost to her and her husband. It was a decision that requires continuous commitment and fortitude and sacrifice. That essay really struck a cord with me because, while I am happy to stay at home and grow up my own kids, it is done with a cost.It was decision my husband and I made because it is what is best for us, but the costs are great. We do not live in luxury, and my husband works two (or more) jobs often to just barely make ends meet. We have no fancy furniture. Our kids wear hand-me-down (not the teens, but the designer stuff they have to buy themselves). So it does not often seem like a blessing to me as I take my threadworn 5-year-old bras out of the wash and mend up the holes where the underwires are poking out.

After reading that essay and my encounter with the woman in the car, I have been thinking a lot about envy. What do I envy? Why? Is the object (state of being) obtainable? If so, what is the cost? Is it a price I am willing and able to pay?

Are envialble objects always won through pain? If there is no pain, is the object worth the envy? Is the old cliche No Pain No Gain always true?

And what do I have that is worth envy?

The answer is surprising: Much more than I would ever have thought...

***Edited to add:

Sometimes we work so hard or sacrifice so much that we forget that we have set out to accomplish a goal and that goal, once accomplished, is indeed something envialble.


Anonymous wolfbaby said...

Envy.. can be a good motivator if you let it;)...

im surprised people envy stay at home moms.. it's work like any other job.. you never get a day of..not even sick days... and no one lest of all the children, appreciate it..

now that sounds like i'm not happy about being a stay at home mom *shakes head* i am.. i just am surprised that some people envy us LOL...

22 August, 2006 13:41  
Blogger Overwhelmed! said...

What a great post! Envy sometimes motivates me too and I'm just as surprised when I learn that others envy me for one thing or another. Good for you for being disciplined enough to run! I envy you for that. :)

Thanks so much for your comment on my Older Parent (revealing my age) post!

I really enjoyed your perspective as a woman who started her family at a young age. Thanks so much for sharing!

22 August, 2006 17:30  
Anonymous - not an SAHM said...

Nice essay. Sometimes envy results from the syndrome known as "the grass is always greener on the other side." The woman in the car may not be as fit as you, but I'm sure there is something enviable in her life that you may not enjoy - be it more money, or more freedom than an SAHM, etc. Deciding to be an SAHM versus a working mom is trading one set of advantages and disadvantages for another set of advantages and disadvantages. For example, an SAHM may feel trapped inside a house of nothing but little kids, with limited contact with adults in the outside world. That routine may get old with the SAHM, and she may envy the woman working as a manager in an office. On the other hand, the office manager may envy the SAHM, wishing nothing more than to escape to her home and kids because she is tired of dealing with adults at work who often act like immature children.

Take any two occupational situations in which a person might exist, and you will find both situations have different "enviables" and "unenviables." I am sure your life in the house is loaded with enviables that you take for granted, and with uneviables that no one else could possibly appreciate. I am not an SAHM, but there are times at work when I would raise my hand and volunteer to stay at home, when I am trapped in the middle of occupational misery, trying to do my job properly, while defending my existence to both superiors, clients and bean-counters who can be just as unreasonable as my child who wants to play with a toy that the other child was playing with first. That's when I envy the SAHM.

In fairness, I am sure the SAHM who is stuck in meadering conversations about ABC's and primary colors with her preschoolers is just about to go crazy at the lack of intellectual stimulation in her day. That's when she envies the working woman, who at least can comment on President Bush, the war in Iraq, the economy, and other stimulating issues when she is on break or at lunch, with adults who have hopefully (but not always, believe it or not) mastered and surpassed the ABC's and primary colors.

23 August, 2006 00:24  
Blogger gingajoy said...

oh, great post! (and I envy people who can run too--mainly because it's got to be the most convenient form of exercise. my huz is training for a marathon right now--onto mile 15! i can;t even fathom!)

I can easily find myself envying or coveting, but i do need to step back and really wonder if that need is real. Or if I am in a space where it seems like I need it, because there's something else lacking.

23 August, 2006 15:22  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Fantastic. And how totally amazing that she took the time to say anything at all. That wasn't random. You were meant to hear it.

23 August, 2006 18:02  
Blogger Sheri said...

I envy anyone who runs and is committed to it. Good for you and I'm glad the lady had a good thing to hollar out at you. I can not handle people who scream out rude things to people on the street.

24 August, 2006 08:47  

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