Jealousy, envy and lockdown

I’ve written about jealousy before on this blog. Quite a lot in fact, as being polyamorous (or embracing any other type of ethical non-monogamy) leads you to explore this emotion quite often. It’s usually either when speaking to someone for the first time about how you structure your relationships, and they inevitably say “I couldn’t do that, I’d be too jealous”, or it crops up because you or a partner are entering into a relationship with someone new. But, of course, that experience is not universal and I’ve also written about jealousy in more general terms which is what I’m going to do more of today, because being stuck at home with an even smaller view of what others are doing with their lives is the perfect time for the green eyed monster to appear.

Jealousy and envy have been popping up a lot in the context of lockdown, especially for those of us living in parts of the UK who are currently struggling through our third lockdown since the pandemic hit and at the worst possible time of year for being indoors with no chance of seeing loved ones for months. Lockdown jealousy is a weird beast… more intense and unforgiving. More exhausting and unrelenting. It can appear suddenly from out of nowhere and then disappear again just as fast, but it is good to think more deeply about it even once you’re feeling fine again as this is a useful signpost to help you understand some interesting things that your brain is processing.

I’ve found myself feeling jealous of people who are (or at least appear to be, via social media): more productive; more successful; have good jobs and amazing hobbies; have made/learnt new things; have used their time more wisely; have got fitter and healthier; are undertaking impressive DIY projects; regularly explore their local area; constantly read more books; or who just have the good fortune of living in countries where their government hasn’t completely fucked things up so they’re able to actually go places and see people. However, I guess what I’m really talking about here is envy as I don’t for a second wish that these people didn’t have these things, I just sometimes wish I had them too. I’ve found myself feeling envious of people who have a balcony or garden to sit in, who have a fluffy pet to cuddle, or who have a car so they can go somewhere with a different view once in a while. To be quite honest, right now I’m envious of anyone with a view outside their window that offers something more than just another building.

But, as with any time we encounter jealousy or envy, sitting with these feelings and analysing them allows us to interrogate our own wants and needs in a way that helps us make any appropriate changes to our lives. When I looked closely at all of those feelings listed above, I realised that I’m not at all sad about how I’ve spent my time over the last year, but I am a little sad about where I’ve spent it. I’m actually perfectly happy with my job, my lack of hobbies, the small number of books I read, and the nonsense I post on social media. I don’t really want to bake sourdough, make my own clothes, go viral on TikTok, take up running/cycling, or amass over 10k followers on Instagram because I’m inherently quite lazy and those things all sound like far too much effort, quite frankly! But I’d like to live somewhere with more space, and a garden for a dog whose photos will inevitably get more love online than mine ever could. It’s a peculiar thought but perhaps the lifestyle changes that have been imposed upon us all by a need to stop the spread of a deadly virus could, if we are open to it, help us plan for a happier future.

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