Jealousy is a peculiar emotion. It strikes at the most inopportune times, and often, it makes you feel like a total jerk, or at the very least, kind of pathetic.
As a kid, I was jealous of children with better toys, nicer houses and less embarrassing parents. Through my teen years, my envy centered on girls I deemed thinner or prettier than me, and those who somehow managed to land boyfriends. Often, those girls were my own friends, and it left me with a weird hollowness in my gut to constantly compare myself to them.
We all feel jealousy–it’s one of those utterly human experiences. And with social media allowing everyone to project their best possible selves/lives to the masses, it’s even easier to fall into the trap of envy.
Since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve found myself envious of people for weird things. Once in a restaurant, a very elderly man sitting near me exclaimed, “it’s terrible getting old!” as his family literally placed him into his seat. Instead of seeing his struggle, all I could think was, “but how lucky you are to have lived this long!”
The other week, my boss non-chalantly told me about some back pain she’d been having. She was going to do some yoga stretches to work it out. There was no cloud of fear on her face, no panic in her eyes. Oh, I thought, what I wouldn’t give to brush off an ache in such a carefree way.
I’ve been having recurring back pain for several months now. I put off getting it checked out because it’s pretty mild, and honestly, I had to mentally prepare myself in case it led to bad news. I finally made an appointment to see someone last week.
I ended up seeing the same PA I visited several times last fall with my Taxol fever/headache. Though kind, she also seemed ever-so-slightly exasperated (I imagine her days are filled with paranoid people afraid their cancer has returned/spread) because my pain is so mild. But thankfully, she decided to send me for x-rays just to be sure everything was OK (at least, cancer-wise).
So, I scurried over to radiology, donned a hospital gown and climbed onto the table. X-rays are so different nowadays. I remember huge, clanking machines and heavy lead aprons, but there’s little pomp to the procedure now–just hold still for a few seconds, and poof! You’re done.
Of course, the hell is in the waiting, so I spent the rest of the day nervously checking my phone every five seconds to make sure I hadn’t missed the results call. Finally near the end of the day, I got the call–everything looked good. No sign of tumors or fractures. Giant sigh of relief. Sure, it could be arthritis or whatever, but that I can deal with.
It’s at this point that I feel like an even bigger jerk. Sure, I’ve been dealt a shitty hand. But I’ve somehow managed to make the cards work for me. There are so many people who aren’t that lucky, whose scans aren’t so positive, whose bodies continue to turn against them.
I know that I should be thankful (and I am). I know I should just chill the fuck out (I’m trying). I also know that I should stop being jealous.
Everyone has their own struggles, their own crosses to bear. Just as I look perfectly normal and fine now to the casual observer, I’m covered with scars–both physical and emotional–that few see. The same goes for everyone else. Very few people live truly charmed lives free of worry and pain, so the next time I’m envying that seemingly carefree person, I need to remember things might not be so rosy below the surface. Just as jealousy is an all-too-common human affliction, so is pain.