Prompt#10:

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is burning deep inside of you? If you could spread your personal message RIGHT NOW to 1 million people, what would you say?

(Prompt Author: Eric Handler)

 My Response:

Happiness is an infinite resource, one that expands by being cultivated, created, gathered, and shared. The presence of envy or jealousy has nothing to do with happiness—either feeling envy toward another person or desiring someone to feel it toward us. We can celebrate each others’ triumphs and joys without diminishing our own. We can celebrate each others’ unique and authentic spirits without coveting. I believe in a world where this is possible. I believe in the strength of saying, with mirth, “So–and–so does this so much better than I do. Let me revel in the way she does it. Let me bask in the glow of her gift.”

I often think of my friend Marguerite, one of my friends who is brilliant and vivacious at all she does and has sparkiness. And she has had so many unique (I love unique, so this is my best compliment) experiences in her life, experiences she has quested for and earned. She is one of those people who, when I was in high school, sometimes I wished I was. But you know what turns out to be even better than being a 17-year-old who wanted now and then to be Marguerite? Being a 31-year-old who has Marguerite as a lifelong friend. Being a 31-year-old who can watch and marvel at Marguerite with the same sort of feeling I have being in awe at my children or my husband. It is a difficult feeling to explain. Her joys (I guess I’ll try explaining it this way) add to the sense of pleasure in my world. I do not think there is room for envy when you love someone for whom they really are.  How could there be? And that’s the thing: no one can be Marguerite except Marguerite. Her spirit is just her own, just as mine is mine. It is fruitless to wish for anything else. Part of loving my friends and family is realizing their essences are distinct. Envy is not possible when we realize this.

I didn’t always understand this. Then I grew up. I learned quickly in college (true story) that out of a room full  of people slogging through The Aeneid for the first time as stars-in-the-eyes frosh, there was the guy in our history section who had not only read it before, but had read it in the original Latin. Moreover, not only did he not need to review any of it to discuss it thoroughly in section, but he could party all night the night before without worrying about preparing. At that point you laugh, because the epiphany is so clear. Celebrate. Mirth. It doesn’t add or take away from you, what other people experience or can do.

Mirth is the very final death blow to envy. If we approach life with a sparkle in the eye, then other people’s success or talent or gift can bring us joy. Similarly, we can just be…without requiring someone else to want to be us/have what we have/etc. That is contentment. You see, if we are who we are, but we still require something externally (i.e. wanting someone to envy us), then we really aren’t content. Imagine what a pleasant world we would have if we simply could focus on making ourselves contented. Mirth and contentment…we have choices about those. We have the choice not to turn the quest for happiness into a tussle with someone else. The possibility for happiness is infinite, after all.

Finally, let’s put aside negativity. We don’t need to bring down the happiness of our loved ones or friends or acquaintances or people from afar with streams of negativity about their tastes/lives/jobs/homes/personal decisions/etc. I am truly one of those (very annoying to some temperaments, I am sure) people who insist on looking at the good side of things (for the most part, though I have my shadowy moments)—or at least trying to see the good side first. I am not naive, but I think we can set aside the negative influences in our lives, or neutralize them. As some of my high school students used to say, “Haters gonna hate.” 😉 So we let it be, and make a decision that we are going to offer up goodness to the world by encouraging happiness in others (as my friend Sana does at Friend to Yourself) and dancing with them.

So my great conviction is this: We can truly become happier people ourselves by celebrating accomplishment, joy, and vitality in other people. Look for what others are doing well, look for their authentic, unique, sparkling selves. Be a mirror that shows it to them and illuminates the night with them. We lose nothing by that, and sometimes, we find out more about where and how our light within shines, too. Happiness is the one thing we can make more of simply by celebrating it.

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