Friday Fodder – Jealousy

Once upon a time…

A flurry of snow from the quiet winter storm reminded Pamela Montgomery that nothing screams like silence. She stood at attention before a tall window in the conference room at the law offices of Slaughter & Wallop. Outside the falling snow settled in white cones beneath the arcs of parking lot lights. She smiled softly to herself.

The whole car park was covered in a layer of snow, and almost every vehicle looked the same, with their dull panels and similar shapes. Meanwhile, her bug stood out like a little light in itself, freshly coated and buffed in canary yellow. However, all that sunshiny brightness belied the deep darkness resting in its owner’s heart. One simple idea kept Pamela afloat: in an office full of worker drones, she was unique. Singular. Alone and not lonely.

Pam couldn’t remember how long she’d be standing there watching the snowfall. Her legs were still fresh, but her mind was tired. With some effort, she came out of her mind and back into her body. Silence fell away like a sheet of butcher’s paper being torn from a flip chart, revealing a shrill, meaningless jumble of loud, discordant voices. She turned to look upon her pudgy, Christmas-sweatered co-workers. All but one had arrived. 

A man with sweat-stained armpits and an uneven moustache met her eye. “Shall we?” He gestured to the conference table, around which eight Tupperware containers were meticulously arranged.

Pam smiled, but her words were barbed. “I think we can wait for Janet, don’t you Gregory.” The jingling of the bells fastened her shoulder undercut Pam’s authority only slightly.

“She’s probably stuck in the storm,” mused Lisa, who had slick black hair like a Cockatoo’s crest and probably thought it gave her a youthful edge.

Trapped in the storm? No. No, no, no, that simply won’t do.

It wasn’t that Pam cared for Janet’s safety; it’s not that she cared much for Janet at all. In truth, they were closer to mortal enemies than friends – which is precisely why it was critical that Janet showed up for the office Christmas bake off and cookie exchange. After all, thought Pam, it had all been for her. If Janet didn’t show, then the whole night would be a waste of time, and wasting time is what ordinary people do.

“Where is she?” someone asked.

Lisa answered. “She’ll be coming straight from her son’s game. You know, the Harvard one, Justin.”

“On a basketball scholarship,” Pam snapped politely, effectively undercutting the young man’s achievement. The group drifted off into their own little sub-conversations.

And that left Pam with Lisa.

“Still,” said Lisa. “Harvard is pretty impressive. And have you seen how tall he is? I’d say he’s at least about six-eight, maybe even six-nine now. Such a polite young man. Intelligent and handsome… I bet all the girls just swoon!”

A cold anger set Pam’s jaw. “One compliment was sufficient, Lisa, there’s no need to gush.”

This wasn’t ideal, but at least Janet would hear the stories on Monday morning. In any case, Pam couldn’t hold the room forever, nor bear another second listening to praise for the woman’s family. She cleared her throat to gather attention. “Alright. I suppose we should begin.”

The co-workers – an attorney, two paralegals, a secretary, and a couple of clerks – spread out around the table, standing by their Tupperware creations. They each looked to Pam slightly nervously, uncertain of how to proceed.

“Let’s go clockwise. We’ll start with Greg.” She looked pointedly at the bald man to her left. She would go last, of course. The grand finale. The piece de resistance, the chef-d’oeuvre, she thought. She wasn’t like other women; she knew a little French.

Greg looked embarrassed before he had even opened the container, which was unnecessary because nobody really expected much from him anyway. He passed his container around, and everyone added a sample to their tasting plate. 

Greg had gone for a simple chocolate chip but managed to bake a paradox instead: Biscuit burnt to a crisp on the bottom, yet apparently uncooked in the middle.

The man next to him, with the craggy moustache and sweat-stained pits, achieved something similarly avant-garde with the snickerdoodle. Pam waited until they were chuckling at themselves to laugh in their faces, loud and hard.

Dan the Man surprised everyone with a delicious homemade cream cheese icing, but the crumbly sugar biscuit beneath lacked imagination. It may have even been store-bought, which Pam decided should cost him a few points. Not that this was a competition. Not to anyone else. Not really. She noted it mentally.

Lisa, Liza, and Stephanie all attempted a lemon bar made by Martha Stewart earlier in the week on the Cooking Channel. They all came up with the idea independently, but perhaps in hindsight, should have worked together. Lisa’s topping was tart, bordering on sour, Liza’s way too sweet. And Stephanie’s crust could best be described as edible particleboard.

Penultimate was the appropriately named Bertha. Pam thought if anyone was going to give her a run for her money, it was Bertha. But all the broad woman revealed was a good macaroon. Not a great macaroon. Not even a mouth-watering one. Just… good. Pam hid a self-satisfied smile knowing she had this in the bag.

It was Pam’s turn. Giddy with excitement, she caressed the smooth corners of her Tupperware lid. Her wide-eyed co-workers had no idea what a treat they were in for.

Until Janet walked in and spoiled everything.

Everyone else was perfectly happy to see her. Janet was tall, jovial, bright-eyed, and red-cheeked from the cold – the picture of a mother from any good Christmas movie. Her tacky sweater was wrapped in a string of multi-colored lights that twinkled as she moved to the table and set down a Tupperware container identical to Pam’s.

Pam’s knuckles turned white. She caught herself shaking and flushing red just before anyone else could. “Janet! Nice of you to finally join us.” She said through her teeth.

“Merry Christmas Pam! Wow, these will be hard to beat. They look like some sweet eats!”

Don’t rhyme at me, you bitch, thought Pam in daggers. “Uh-huh. Let’s see what you’ve got for us then shall we?” she raised an eyebrow, reminding herself of how confident she had been a moment ago. Unfortunately, that did little to calm her now as her forehead beaded with sweat.

“Merry Christmas Everyone!” chimed Janet “I hope you like them, I’ve had heaps on this week so I had to throw this together last minute.” Janet opened her container and tilted it, pointing it around the room for all to see.

Her creation was an absolute marvel. A sweet buttery base. Indulgent white chocolate chunks. Playful cranberry accents. They were tasteful. Refined. A cookie that didn’t look down on its audience, nor clamber for their respect. The thinking woman’s chocolate chip. Pam held one in her hand, inspecting it incredulously.

It was the very same cookie she had chosen, only better executed.

At that moment, the Earth exploded with such force that the solar system was propelled into a black hole which, by some unlikely chain of events, caused the universe to collapse. And then, a burst of dust suddenly appeared in the void and spun around itself until there was a planet very much like ours. Volcanoes erupted, fish climbed out of water, and monkeys out of trees. The All Blacks won the Bledisloe Cup and billionaires shot rockets into space. And then, there was a woman named Pam who worked at a law firm called Slaughter & Wallop who glared at a cookie because she hated a woman named Janet almost as much as she hated herself.

Something in Pam’s mind slipped and crashed, like a stack of stones blown over by a gust of wind. Pam crushed the cookie in her hand. Crumbs fell between her fingers. “Last… minute….?”

“Yeah,” said Janet. “No good?”

“Yeah… no… good….” Pam repeated in a monotone because she no longer had a grasp on the proper shape of words. In this new universe, there was no longer any such person as Pamela Montgomery; only an ordinary woman, screaming in silence, from the darkness of her heart.

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”

― Shannon Alder

Moral of the Story:

Jealousy is best summed up as, “I want what you have.” It is a feeling of discontent or covetousness regarding someone else’s advantages, possessions, or traits, such as beauty, success, status, or talent. It’s also a common defence mechanism to shame when we feel less than someone else. When the defence mechanism is working, and we are ruled by the ego-mind, we’re not aware of feeling inadequate and may even feel superior so as to disparage the person we envy. A narcissist might go so far as to sabotage, misappropriate, or defame the envied person, all the while unconscious of feeling inferior. Arrogance and aggression serve as defences along with jealousy.

Generally, the degree of our devaluation or aggression is equal to the level of underlying shame. Whether we’re in the position of have or have-not, essentially, jealousy involves comparisons that reflect a feeling of insufficiency. Feeling “not enough” is the common thread. Comparisons are a red flag for underlying shame. The greater is the intensity of these feelings, the greater shame. Overcoming jealousy is like changing any emotional reaction or behaviour. It begins with self-awareness. Awareness allows you to see that the projected stories in your mind are not true. When you have this clarity you no longer react to the scenarios that your mind imagines. The best insurance against jealousy is to resolve and heal your toxic shame and increase your self-worth.

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.”

― François Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Affirmation: I love and accept myself exactly as I am.

I accept my strengths as well as my weaknesses because they make me who I am. I recognise that I have unique skills and talents. I put my best foot forward in everything I do, and my contribution matters. I am enough and I celebrate even the smallest of my accomplishments. All the good that happens in my life is a reward for my good deeds and kindness. I have so much to contribute to this world. I choose love, starting with self-love, and I treat myself with kindness. I recognise the compassion, strength, and wisdom within me. I prefer to focus on the loving, supportive people around me, instead of negative influences. I recognise my need to take a break and take care of myself. I trust and respect myself enough not to care what others think of me. I compete with my own self to grow and progress. My future is bright, and I am destined for greatness.

“Jealousy, that dragon which slays love under the pretence of keeping it alive. ”

― Havelock Ellis

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