on being envied

My Dearest Maria,

First of all, thank you for keeping the people searching for naughty pictures of Eeyore satiated. Thank you for considering my dad’s moral sensibilities (even though he may be the last person you should worry about offending). And thank you for being the kind of friend who is, at the same time, honest and kind. That is a difficult balance to strike, I think, but you always seem to hit it.

I have another dear friend who has been on my heart lately who has been trying to get pregnant for something like four years. She and her husband have tried all sorts of things, and it just isn’t happening. Cosmically, they are the type of people who SHOULD have a baby. Lots of babies. The more babies they have, the better off the world will be in the future. And I think about the two times I called her after discovering I was pregnant. Both of those times, she was genuinely happy for me. And both of those times, I think she probably felt the feeling you described, too.

I knew she was grappling with those conflicting feelings, just like I knew you would be after hearing my good news.

It is a strange thing to be on this end of those feelings because I feel an irrational need to apologize–even though I know I’ve not done anything wrong. Both of these stories remind me of something Frederick Buechner wrote in his early memoir, The Sacred Journey. (He is one of my favorite writers of spiritual things, by the way.) He tells the story of signing his own first book contract. While he’s there at the publisher’s office, he sees an old friend from high school, who happens to have the job of messenger or something. Anyway, he feels what he describes as “a great and unheralded rush of something like sadness, almost like shame.” He doesn’t know how to handle the situation, and so ends up saying nothing at all about his book. Now, you’re far from being a messenger boy, but I can relate to this feeling. I have not shared each step of the process with you because I don’t want you to feel bad, and I don’t know how to not make you feel bad.

I also really want to be stoked about my book. Every phone conversation with my editor is a small high, even when she’s assigning me more work. And, so you know, you’re one of the first people I want to share the news with. Because you know writing. Because you know my book. Because you celebrated my good titles and closing sentences. Because you’re my friend. Because you are you.

What I suppose I want to say is that I don’t blame you for feeling jealous. I felt jealous the first time your excellent essay was published in Brain, Child and when you post beautiful blog entries like “The Well Dressed Samaratin.” I feel that feeling when I think of you hanging out on the beach with Luke and Taj and Sola while I’m trying to find Miles’s other winter glove that he doesn’t want to wear when we’re just walking a minute and a half to the car.

What Buechner eventually came to is the conclusion that “there can be no real joy for anybody until there is joy finally for us all.” He meant this on a very deep spiritual level, too, I’m sure, but I relate to it on its more superficial level right now. I will be even happier when you find your wonderful agent and get your awesome book deal. I know this will happen– or at least some version of it– just as I know that my other friend will be a mother someday.




8 thoughts on “on being envied

  1. I have been a messenger boy all my life and I don’t mind telling you….I am jealous of you BOTH..Your friendship and your consideration….

  2. I second that… You both have an incredible gift when it comes to writing. Honesty is a huge part of the appeal… Congrats on the book! (btw, I’m Maria’s cousin)

  3. Pingback: FAQs, first quarter | [writing] between friends

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