In 1996, Troy and I were in the midst of the worst chapter of our lives. Our home had burned down in an electrical fire, my business partner had embezzled all the profits from our company, we were in the middle of bankruptcy, and to top it off had lost our best friends through a horrible betrayal. I can’t even put into words what an awful, sad time that was. It put a tremendous strain on our marriage.
During this difficult time, as we worked, coached little league, schlepped our kids back and forth to school, and tried to live a normal life, there was a woman whose life I watched from afar. We were casual acquaintances. Our kids went to the same school, were in Little League together, and both our husbands were musicians. While my life was a catastrophe, hers was, by all accounts, blissful. The disparities between us were glaring.
I was bankrupt.
Her husband had a successful album out and was touring.
My kids and I were still wearing ill-fitting donated clothing given to us after the fire.
Her kids were always decked out in the finest boutique clothing, the kind I used to make before my business burned down.
I longed for a third baby, but was approaching thirty-five, the do-or-die age (at that time). We were so broken, financially, emotionally, physically. There was no way.
I watched her progress through her third pregnancy, gorgeous and stylish the whole nine months. She had a perfect, stunning baby girl. My heart ached with longing.
I worked at a corporate job I hated, dog-paddling to keep our heads above water.
She stayed home with her third child. Of course I imagined she spent the majority of her time getting massages and pedicures and eating bon bons.
Now get this - her name was Bane. No, I swear I did not make that up.
God I envied Bane. It wasn’t my nature to feel this way. Normally I’m happy to see someone thrive. My philosophy is there’s enough room in this world for us all to be successful and happy. But this time, I couldn’t help but feel envious, even jealous of her life. Everything seemed to fall so effortlessly into place for her, when my life was a fucking disaster on the grandest scale. (Shamefully, I even wrote a song about this, and recorded it on my second album.)
Thank God I was in the middle of reading Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. There’s a chapter that discusses how Jealousy is a map for your life. She suggests you use your jealousy to discover unlocked parts of yourself. By writing down everything you’re jealous of, you’ll find out what you really want in life. You take that negative emotion and let it fuel a positive action.
So I did, and I found out that although I was trying to be top salesperson at work and attempting to “make it” as a singer/songwriter, what I really wanted was what she seemed to have in spades: security, home, peace and family.
So I let go of the jealousy, the “Bane of my existence”, and instead focused on what I wanted, writing about it, dreaming about it, holding tight to my own vision.
Four years later, in 1999, we bought our dream house. We moved out of the old neighborhood. Memories of Bane drifted away from me, as I began living the life I had dreamed of.
In 2003, I got the shock of my life when I found out I was pregnant at 41. I had long given up on that dream. We were responsible and conscientious about birth control, and I just assumed it couldn’t happen anyway. Nevertheless, it looked like life was going to bless me with that third child I had hoped for.
In my fourth month of pregnancy I went to a friend’s birthday party, was mingling with friends, chatting, when I turned around to see none other than Bane. I walked up and said hello, and as fate would have it, she too was four months pregnant. Gorgeous, thin, glowing and pregnant. (I too was glowing, but most definitely not thin.) I gave her a huge hug, and this time I was truly happy for her, without a tinge of jealousy. What an amazing moment, to be able to embrace Bane with an open and free heart. How happy I was that we both got what we wanted in life.
Two years later, on Halloween I took my precious “third child” Evan back to the old neighborhood to trick or treat with friends. Walking down the street in the dark, I saw Bane from a distance. She was looking back at me as her older kids ran ahead of her. It was strange because she didn’t wave, just stared at Evan for what seemed like a long time.
I asked my friend what she ended up having, a girl or boy?
“Oh, you didn’t know? She miscarried.”
I was stunned, the wind knocked out of me. I clutched Evan tight against my chest. In that moment, my heart absolutely broke for her as I said a silent prayer in my head that she didn’t feel any jealousy toward me.
I made a vow to myself that night to never waste an ounce of energy on that misplaced emotion Jealousy, because we never know what burdens another bears.
I never saw Bane again, but wherever she is, I wish her all the happiness her heart can hold.