Through chance, not planning, I have the great fortune right now of being able to escape an eight-to-five job. With this flexibility, I’ve turned to writing fiction, which always has been my goal. But the strangest thing happened. The freer my time and more open my schedule, the less motivated and more depressed I became. It got to the point I couldn’t answer the simple question “how are you?” and I avoided talking to friends and family. No project seemed important enough to complete. I dreamed up excuses to slump in a chair reading or click through television stations searching for something, anything, to fill my time.
What was wrong? Was my iron low? Supplements didn’t help. Did I have an undiagnosed mental malady? I still cracked jokes left and right when I found myself in a group. Was I just getting old and experiencing a decline? I knew plenty of people my age and older who were still going strong.
The answer, or at least an answer finally came to me at a meeting. Every woman who spoke seemed to be traveling or working on an exciting project or changing the world for the better. I was envious of every single person there. This didn’t make sense, I thought. I’d never felt this way before.
That’s because I’d previously always been super-busy. Held down a full-time job, wrote in my spare time, volunteered with several groups, went places with my husband, saw friends regularly. But since my self-imposed isolation, I mostly had contact just with myself.
No one, not even an independently wealthy super-introvert (which I’m not), can survive with no external stimulation. We’re human beings, and we need interaction with others. We require the give-and-take, the ebb-and-flow of life around us, or else we stagnate. That’s what was happening. I was stagnating. As Bob Dylan wrote years ago, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”
With that realization, I’ve begun reconnecting with old acquaintances, attending an occasional event I usually avoid, becoming involved with a group whose work I support. I no longer forget what day it is because my calendar has a variety of engagements for me to keep. And they’re not all dental or doctor appointments.
Jealousy is supposed to be a green-eyed monster. But in my case, envy sparked a major improvement in my life I might not have achieved otherwise.