I use envy as radar. When I feel a twinge of envy toward someone, I try to locate the source of the envy, and then I say to myself, "Hmm. This points me toward something I want to have in my own life."
Over the years I've kept track of the people I envy and why. I don't think I've ever envied people for having money or any of the things that money can buy. I don't need to envy people for good health, because I have enviable health myself. I admit I'd like to have more recognition from the universe for my work as a writer, but I can't say that I envy fellow authors who win the Newbery or the National Book Award. Maybe that's because I don't think of those things as genuine possibilities for me. And maybe I already know that those things don't bring lasting happiness.
Instead, the people I envy are those who fill their lives with a certain kind of creative joy. They don't wait until they win a major award to give themselves permission to pursue lives that radiate creative energy. They prioritize creativity in their lives every single day.
Case in point: my friend Cat. She is a writer married to a writer; together they are parents of a three-and-half year old little boy, Max. Their house is suffused with creativity, as well as with love and laughter.
When I had dinner with them the other night, they took me right away to admire the display of peep-o-rama dioramas that they had made with the Easter candy Peeps. The one they made for me is pictured below. Titled "Just me and my peeps," it represents the fun of my subdivision pool in summertime. Another of the dioramas was captioned "The artist formerly known as Peep." The Peeps in that one were staged as a rock band, complete with vests and electric guitars. "Power to the Peeple" staged a Peep protest with the small marshmallow chicks waving appropriately indignant signs. Max had made his own peep-o-rama, theme uncertain, but creative joy in fashioning it unmistakable.
Now, I don't particularly want to make my own Peep dioramas. But I want to throw myself into my writing, as Cat and Doug do, and offer creative opportunities to the larger community, as they also do, in Cat's case by teaching writing classes on topics such as journaling during pregnancy and crafting creative monologues for performance. And I want more creative play - more "just-because" projects that have no point other than the fun of savoring that creative moment, bringing something new and strange and wonderful into being.
So maybe I DO want to make my own Peep dioramas. Until this week, that never existed for me as a creative option. Now, thanks to Cat and Doug and Max, it does.