Jealous Joy – My Messy Beautiful

messy beautiful

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Lately I have been working on the Buddhist practice of mudita — cultivating joy in the joy of others. It sounds nice. It sounds very beautiful and I-am-one-with-the-univese-y. And it is beautiful . . . when you are cultivating joy in the joy of someone you love. Or even like. However, it can get  can get slightly messy when practicing mudita with a total stranger.

For example, I love running. L-O-V-E love. I can’t run anymore because of fibromyalgia and plantar fasciitis in both feet (what my doctor calls a “medical unlikelihood”). Sometimes I have trouble walking. And occasionally, it’s agonizing to even touch my feet to the floor. When I used to see a runner lithely prancing by, my mind would go through the whole life-isn’t-fair and I-have-been-struck-down-by-a-chronic-illness thing. It made me feel dark and muddy inside. Like something had clogged up my heart.

Then I started trying mudita. At first it was a “fake it ’till you make it” kind of thing. “Look at that runner! Look how the sun is shining on her shoulders and her body is strong! Joy to you, runner-I-have-never-seen-before-and-never-will-again, joy to you! Have a good run!” Translation: I’m jealous of you and your running and I sort of wish you would get a leg cramp and have to sit on that bench so I didn’t have you watch you doing something I miss so terribly much. Also, I wish you didn’t look quite so good in your sports bra. 

But I practiced and practiced. The things, the good things, I was saying began to be true. I found joy in watching someone else run. I re-experienced my own joy of running. I remembered running strong, running beautiful, and, um,  running slow. (Just keepin’ it real.) My heart began to unclog. Mudita as Drano.

I hubristically (is that a word?) dusted off my hands, threw back my head — my hair streaming out behind me like beautiful, non-gray, ribbons, (obvs.) — and said to the universe, “I CAN cultivate joy in the joy of others! Bring. It. On.”

And then the universe did. Because practicing mudita with a stranger is hard, but practicing it with someone you dislike severely and who has hurt you deeply, is, well, VERY messy. One might even refer to it as a “shit show.”

The other day I was on Amazon, trying to decide if I should buy “Frozen” or “It’s Not the Stork: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends” for my five year old. I got distracted by the Best Sellers List. And there, in the top 20, was a book by FFWHM, Former Friend Who Hurt Me. A YA bestselling book. The exact kind of book I am currently writing and trying to sell. A book by someone who I helped start his writing career, who then hurt me, and then acted like I no longer existed.

Tears pricked at my eyes. I thought about how it REALLY isn’t fair. And how he REALLY doesn’t deserve it. I mean, FFWHM is not kind to small, furry animals or children. He once ran over a squirrel on purpose. He tips poorly. Also, he wears sandals with socks. Black socks. He doesn’t hold the door open for people behind him. He doesn’t share his fries. And he doesn’t like ice cream. COME ON. Who doesn’t like ice cream?!

As I saw his book (it even had a cool cover), I wished him a lot of things. Bodily harm. Baldness. Plantar fasciitis. None of them were joy. I took a breath. Then I took many more. I shut my laptop and walked away. I meditated for 25 minutes. I focused on my breathing, on the sun glinting through the window, the new chutes of green in our yard promising flowers.

But really, I thought about him. I thought about how FFWHM was successful where I was not. I thought about how FFWHM was making me feel small and unimportant and not enough of anything. HOW COULD HE DO THIS TO ME? AGAIN?

When I was done meditating, I stalked around the house slamming drawers and doors saying, “I (slam) wish (slam)  you (slam) JOY (slam slam).” I tried again, “Your ****** joy is my ******* joy.” But, of course, none of it was joy. I was slinging fear and hate and jealously. And the thing I really didn’t want to admit was this: I had brought it all upon myself. I was deep in the messiness of life, the messiness of mudita, and I knew it.

I meditated again on self compassion. I ate several chocolates. I went for a walk. I ate several chocolates. I went to the gym. I ate a brownie. I kept trying for joy. I kept trying when I picked my daughter up from school. I kept trying as I chopped vegtables for dinner. Joy joy joy. I kept trying as I curled up under the covers to cry. But all I kept getting and giving was jealous jealous jealous. Meanness meanness meanness. The messy, muddy cloginess getting wider and deeper inside me. I kept trying for two days. When I walked the dog. As I caught up on email. As I bought fresh baked bread from the store. But it was a no go: jealous jealous jealous. Mean mean mean.

But then, when I wasn’t even trying, I felt a tiny bit of joy echo in the clogged up chamber of my heart. I felt joy for FFWHM resonate inside of me. For that second (or maybe half a second) I cultivated my joy through his joy. And just like that, DRANO. My heart was clear and beautiful.

Full confession: I didn’t buy his book. I have other things to read, to look at. Besides, I like to keep my head held high when I travel that well-worn path between the messy and the beautiful. I like to see all the good stuff that’s coming.


When is the last time you got joy from someone else?

"My Blossoming Heart" by Christina Chambers

                      “My Blossoming Heart”                                by Cristin Chambers 



14 thoughts on “Jealous Joy – My Messy Beautiful

  1. Sandee Decker

    Bravo for you, but personally I think it is OK to be mad mad mad at him and it is OK to feel mean things about him You are human and if you don’t I will!!!

    1. joslyne Post author

      Thanks for sticking up for me! And I know what you mean. But it’s been a long time, and in the immortal words of Princess Elsa, it’s time to “LET IT GO, LET IT GOOOOOOO!” 🙂

  2. Lisa McKay

    Love this piece. So beautiful (in construction AND intention). As for the last time I got joy from someone? This morning, seeing my two year old throw sticks into the blueblueblue ocean for a friendly golden retriever. I’m not sure that counts though, as mama joy seems to bypass most of those ugly jealousy filters that can influence us when it comes to our peers.

    1. joslyne Post author

      True, it easy to soak up joy from our kids. Especially when they are being cute. It’s also possible to soak up, um, not-joy. Especially when they are crying for 13 minutes over the fact that super transparent tights are not pants and thus must be worn with BUTT COVERAGE (aka PANTS). *sigh*

  3. Lisa Solar

    Oh boy. I’m psyched you found joy through his joy. Because I can still wish him the fascitis 😉 He can’t have it all. That bonehead.

    Very well written. I was in it the whole way.


    1. joslyne Post author

      Ha ha! Thanks Lisa! Nope, he can’t have it all. He’s missing fashion sense and compassion. So, TAKE THAT, FFWHM. 🙂

  4. Tyffany

    One of my favorite posts. I have felt joy for people I love or like or have mentored, but I don’t think I’ve felt joy for a FFWHM or even just for a person mildly annoying people. I’m going to think about that challenge the next time I feel my hair catching fire. Terrific post.

    1. joslyne Post author

      Yup. Hair catching fire is never good – it leaves unseemly scalded, bald patches. You know, metaphorically. 😉 Thanks for your kind comments. xo

  5. Karen Lanser

    Loved this brutifully sharing … so well written! He’s got nothing on you in terms of being gifted! Bravo to you for holding such beautiful loving intentions!

    1. joslyne Post author

      Thanks Karen! Brutifully — such a great word! Thanks for reading . . . and commenting! 🙂

  6. kristinnormandin

    Loved this read! Jealousy can be so powerful. I wrote about this in my Messy Beautiful submission in terms of motherhood. I was overwhelmed with jealousy and am still practicing learning to feel the joy others feel because I, too, deserve that joy and have helped produce it! I may not be in as similar a place but that makes me no less a contributor to the joy that belongs in my home. A great and validating read. thank you!

    1. joslyne Post author

      Thanks for reading! I have a feeling I am going to relate a lot to your piece as well — I’m off to look for it now!


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