I don’t think of myself as an envious person, but over the last few years I have been increasingly visited by envy. It probably started a few years ago, when Hevria was launched and I felt strongly that I wanted to write for it, but wasn’t asked. After about six months I volunteered, only to be turned down; I’m still not entirely sure why. I got very upset and my writing never really recovered. I’ve written odd bits and pieces since then, including a couple of guest posts for Hevria and one piece for Den of Geek that I got paid for, but almost no poetry and it took a long time before I turned back to writing regularly when I started this blog and started editing various Doctor Who blog posts into a book. (In the end I was sort of offered the chance to write regularly for Hevria, but I no longer have the time and I still feel blocked from that kind of writing, although I’m not sure how serious the offer was anyway. But it felt good to be offered anyway.)
Then last year I managed, somehow, to go out for a Shabbat tisch (community Sabbath party thing) hosted by someone from the shul I’m trying to move to. He is my age or even younger and as I walked into his house and saw his lovely home and cute children and beautiful wife (I didn’t actually see his wife. I once saw him talking to a woman who I assumed was his wife, given that he’s very frum and probably doesn’t talk to other women if he can avoid it, but I could be wrong) and felt that he had all the things that I wanted. I had to force myself not to feel envy and it was hard. I felt a similar thing when I went to my ex-date for lunch this last Shabbat: her flat is so much larger and more comfortable and attractive than my tiny converted garage. I told myself more space means more housework, but I’m not sure how convinced I was.
I envy a lot of my peers their lives, their friendships, their relationships and their children, all the things I want and lack, but I also envy their Torah learning and mitzvot (commandments). I want to be a better Jew and I assume my peers are all doing better at that than I am. I know we are told that what matters is the effort, not the achievement, and I have to put in a lot of effort just to stay in the same place, let alone to grow and I have no idea how much effort they put in. But it is hard not to feel inadequate, to feel that I could be better if I was more like them. I feel I lack the joy and passion others can find in religion; I feel as if I’m doing things out of obligation and saying prayers by rote rather than really connecting with God and Torah. I still believe, I just don’t feel, I suspect my depression stops me feeling. It is difficult.
I suppose what it all boils down to is a feeling that life has passed me by, that I will never have the joy or pleasure or love or simple satisfaction in my achievements that other people get to experience. Funnily enough, it has been suggested to me that other children were envious of me at school and that this was why they bullied me. I find this hard to believe, but also vaguely unfair, given that I think my academic achievement was the product of hard work rather than natural cleverness; I was intelligent at school, but I had to work hard for my grades.
I try to feel gratitude as the antidote to envy. I try to thank God for at least five things every day (even if it’s “Thank you that I didn’t hurt myself when I felt so depressed”). I get on better with my family than I used to do, certainly better than a lot of other people do. I have a job (two-thirds of a full-time job now), which is worth something in this economy and also given that a few years ago it seemed completely impossible that I would ever be working. I live by myself without trouble and I have some friends, even if they do largely live inside my computer. But I feel I need something more. I have no joy, no romantic/sexual love, no passion, no purpose and it is hard not to envy those who do have these things.
I suspect I need something else in my life. Sherlock Holmes turned to drugs to stimulate his brain when work dried up; I suspect I too need something to fill my non-work hours, but hopefully something healthier and more socially acceptable. My work on my book precludes other hobbies, but it offers one possible outlet, but it is going slowly thanks to my having to watch so many old episodes of Doctor Who for research. I’m not sure my religion can offer me anything more than more frustration at the moment. I can’t stand any party enough to get involved in politics. That leaves dating and volunteering. The former is tempting, but maybe the latter is more sensible (in the sense that I don’t know if I’m ready for dating, but also that I doubt anyone would want me anyway and maybe it’s just easier not to bother looking). But I haven’t the time or energy for either at the moment; I’ll just have to hope things get easier if and when I have settled into a new work routine.