T h e   J e a l o u s   H e a r t

I have a jealous heart.

Ever since I was a young girl, I felt that I was overshadowed by certain people in my life. It was just one of those things that one put up with, that one realised about one's self. It wasn't about wallowing in self-pity. It was more about being aware of what one didn't have, what one didn't possess, what one seemed to lack, or what one obviously was not.

It is not something one readily admits to nor wants to admit to. But when the feeling of jealousy is aroused, one can't help but acknowledge it in the privacy of one's own heart. It is not spoken of. And it hasn't been spoken of all these years.

Another is musically gifted and works hard at his craft. Another went all the way to University when she was supposed to and did well in her careers (I always thought that we just took different paths in life and over the years she's always been generous towards me and encouraged me). The envy was always below the surface and as time went by, as I grew into my own skin, so to speak, I have learned to overcome it more and more. There has also been some envy towards a younger cousin, a statuesque beauty who lives elsewhere, a sweet young woman with a pretty smile, someone that I hardly know and only see once in a very long while, if at all, and the photos that sometimes come my way are a reminder. I should be shot for the girl has done nothing; it is just me and my feelings of inadequacy.

One must think that I'm shallow. And perhaps I am. Or I was (or so she says, still trying to run away). And the truth is, I still am, for I can't deny the tiny pin prick I still feel inside at times when my mother talks about his musical pursuits and projects. No doubt it wasn't always easy for him, for he had his own hardships and challenges, but he seemed popular and sought after, doing what he loved doing best, pursuing his dream and making it a reality. Even before I left home, his friends would call and my mother would mention to me that he was "counselling" them. And I found myself wishing that I could counsel a friend over the phone so that my mother could perhaps say the same about me. Now that I think about it, my phone calls were always personal, anyway, whether any advising took place or it was just a pleasant exchange between friends. So my mother wouldn't even know. And yet there was obviously something that I wished her to know.

I can't deny that while I was on the phone with her the other week and hearing her talk about his latest activities, I was enthusiastic with my questions -- for I truly was and have always been his champion -- but my heart was dying a little. And I remembered that he always seemed to do better than me ever since we were children; he was the centre of attention, outgoing. Yes, I suppose popular would be the word. Did she ever talk that way about me to other people, I wondered. Perhaps my mother would speak well of another's accomplishments whether it was academic or a life-long dream or a career but would never really mention it to the person who had actually accomplished it. I found myself on the verge of tears as I listened to my mother over the phone and I found myself wanting her approval, wanting her to speak well of me, wanting her acceptance of me. Perhaps I was just homesick, wishing that I could spend more time with her. Or even to spend any time with her. Perhaps it was close to that time of the month when I seemed especially sensitive. Perhaps ... Perhaps ... Who knows ...

Later I wondered what my mother would have to say about me. I was a rolling stone during my late teens and early twenties, hopping from one job to another, and obviously not a candidate for University. She knew I wanted to write but unless I had actually enrolled in a journalism course like I had planned to or actually worked for a magazine or newspaper, writing as a career didn't seem very realistic, did it. Oh yes, then there was the time I thought I wanted to be a ballet dancer even though my first ballet class didn't begin until I was seventeen. There was also the time I thought I would pursue a career in nursing and even that only lasted two months. Nursing school was an interesting experience but I had allowed some kind of fear to grip me. So even though that was a more realistic goal, I had to let it go. Or I felt I had to. And, unfortunately, I did. I had all these dreams, all these visions in my head. But it took me a long time to turn even some of those dreams into a reality. Reality. Making it real. Something you can see with your own eyes. Something that is actually happening, not happening in one's head but happening in front of you. Something that you can see, hear or touch. I was a dreamer and my mother knew it. Maybe she was afraid for me, that I seemed to be this rolling stone who kept rolling away. I should have been more of a moss gatherer.

But I am not my mother and I do not know everything that goes on inside her head. I just know how she makes me feel at times, even when we are so far away from one another. She doesn't do it deliberately; she is not out to hurt me. She loves me. Having shared a piece of wonderful news with her recently -- the acceptance of one of my books by a publisher -- I wondered why she didn't mention it. Perhaps she had forgotten. Or perhaps she didn't see it the way that I saw it: a childhood dream of mine would soon become a reality. It will become real, Mum. But not yet, perhaps, not until the book is actually in one's hands. Or perhaps I just ask too much of her, realising at the same time that she has her own heartaches and issues to deal with.

So I try to be understanding. And I am understanding. And I wish I were a much bigger person without a jealous bone in my body, especially when it concerns people I love and care about. I hate feeling that familiar pin prick. I wish it to be gone but I can't -- and I won't -- deny that I feel it. And I sincerely hope that I haven't been wallowing in anything. Have I grown stronger after all these years? It appears that I haven't. I wish to be strong. I am a mature woman who knows better these days. And yet I know that deep down, where the truth cannot hide, I still am not that strong after all -- not yet -- for the jealous heart is still alive.

May God forgive me for my jealous heart.



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