Friday, November 18, 2011

Deadly Sins

Pin It The other day I was reading an article someone linked to, an article about a bunch of big time bloggers and how much money they are making, and about all of the perks and trips they get, and about how hard it is to deal with the weird sort of fame that bloggers sometimes get.

I found myself thinking "This is a problem?" and "I wonder how neglected their children are" (mind you I was reading this at home, WHILE I was neglecting my OWN children in favor of Facebook (they were playing in the other room, but still, HYPOCRISY, thy name is Sue)).  And then I started wondering how they got their Big Break, because obviously it must have been luck and not talent or hard work that sent them plunging over the bloggy tipping point.

Basically I was trying to make myself feel better (about not being blog famous, when HELLO, NEWS FLASH, YOU REGULARLY WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BLOG FOR MONTHS AT A TIME you goon) and was indulging in a bunch of envious and ickily catty thoughts.

(My gosh, aren't you just dying to be my best friend right now?  I mean - I'm such a nice person!  What with the out of control and nonsensical envy of the people who live in my computer!) 

(But it's not just them.  I have plenty of envy to spread around.)

(Yes, its a post about envy.  It's sort of the opposite of a gratitude post. Why be grateful when you can choke on your own envy, that's what I always say!)

(HAPPY THANKSGIVING!)
 
I don't mean the harmless kind of "oooooh, I wish I had those pants" kind of envy.  I don't wish for people's clothing, or houses, or stuff. I don't wish for their talents or skills.  I wish for their good fortune.
  • I envy the perceived easiness of their lives and the pleasant solidness of their marriages - even though I know nothing is ever really what it looks like on the surface.
  • I envy women who can just - go to Target and buy a bunch of holiday decorations because they feel like it. 
  • I envy people who go on cruises (and especially women who get SENT on cruises - you know, for work and/or blogging purposes) 
  • I envy women who have throw pillows, because let's face it, if you have the money to buy throw pillows that pretty much means all of your basic needs have been met. 
  • I envy stay at home moms, even though I wonder if I would be able to handle being at home full time.
  • I envy women who have (what seem to me) only superficial stresses in their lives - like worrying about planning the fall PTA carnival. 
  • Mostly I envy the wisdom they had to make smarter choices when they were younger.
I do this EVEN THOUGH I KNOW that not all is as it seems, that you never really know what is going on in someone else's life - what secret burdens they have.

I'm not drowning in it. It isn't constant.  I just think it would be nice if, when I hear about someone's good fortune in an area where I am not personally excelling, if my first response was not a jealous "harumph". That is what I would like. I like to think of myself as a nice person and nice people do not have this as a default emotion, am I right?

When I realize I'm doing it, I try to just - KNOCK IT OFF. But so much of it is unconsciously done.  Sometimes I start off feeling just a little wistful, then suddenly I'm feeling the kind of envy where I'm so resentful about someone else's good fortune that I wish somebody would take them down a peg. The kind of envy where I look at someone's perfect life on their blog and feel the urge to leave a snarky comment. (I don't do that. But sometimes I feel the urge.)

(I took most of those kinds of sunshiney lifestyle blogs out of my reader because they were making me crazy. What is the point of comparing yourself to false perfection? Or even real perfection? Nobody's life is a storybook all the time. It's guess it's bloggy escapism and some people enjoy that kind of thing. I've had to realize that I don't. Not at this point in my life anyway. I have no patience for it, and I'm happier when I don't subject myself to it. I feel less envious when I'm not regularly peeking into the lives of women who seem incredibly fortunate.)

And yes, I know what you are supposed to do to get over feeling envious - be more grateful, concentrate on the good in your life, help those who are less fortunate, etcetera etcetera ETCETERA. I know it.

But it's something I still struggle with. (I like that word, struggle, because it means I'm fighting against it.)  I'm happy for those of you who have already conquered it. Good for you. Please don't tell me all about how you are perfect in this regard or I will be forced, just on principle, to hunt you down and kill you.

(And my gosh, it is so easy to identify it in other people, isn't it? Talk to a few other women who are being catty and jealous for a while and you end up feeling like you need to go home and take a shower because the envy is so obvious and blatant. But I think it's harder when it is just you, inside your head, being a jerk to the other people inside of your head.) 

I probably shouldn't be confessing this. Nobody wants to be friends with someone who is petty and envious.  (Although, looking on the bright side, in real life I would never actually ADMIT that I was petty and/or envious.  In real life I would rather die than admit to feeling anything remotely like that.  In real life, around my friends - not necessarily my sisters, they know more of my true nature - I try not to ever indulge in comments about other people that convey anything other than sunshine and good will, because, HELLO, it is something I'm ASHAMED OF.)

But it's also true. 

(I feel like putting something really dramatic here like, AND IT STOPS RIGHT NOW, but who am I kidding.  It might stop. Sort of.  For a day or two. Maybe. Ish.)

(But you know, work in progress.)

47 comments:

  1. yes, i have experienced this, too. And I'm a DEDICATED blogger. I post AT LEAST 6 times a year!!!;0)

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  2. I envy people who have more followers than me. True story.

    Except you, I mean, I love you.

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  3. I don't post, or at least post anything of substance, when I'm not happy. Because I feel like an idiot writing about things that are not the reality of my life.

    The problem is then I assume the same about everyone else. If they are posting happy things, they must be completely happy! Surely they're not HIDING things from the Internet! (And then, when people don't post for a long time, I assume they are miserable and/or dead and/or divorced.)

    I envy your brains, and also I have to say, a lot of times people's good fortune IS dumb luck. Probably not always, but often.

    And I'm dying to be your friend. Truly.

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  4. Sue, I love being friends with petty and catty people. Not if they are like that constantly, but if they are a little bit, some of the time, it reminds me that maybe I'm not the only work in progress when it comes to envy/gossip/internal nastiness.

    I always say I just enjoy the foibles of humanity, but you know what? Sometimes I REVEL in other people's misery, especially when I feel, you know, that they had it coming. Because they were lucky before. I think you get what I'm saying here, if anyone does.

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  5. OMG I totally love your honesty. I was laughing out loud at every step of the way. I can relate, I used to feel awash in envy often when I was younger. I did not become perfect as I aged, I just stopped caring. Like, so you can shop at Nordstrom whenever you want? You can buy a new car every year? Whatever! I really stopped giving a damn. Most of the time. I still totally hate women who don't have to suck in their bellies for a photograph! And whose hair is always perfect. ;o)

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  6. Briahna11:43 AM

    So, I never comment but I just wanted to tell you that I agree with everything you said. Envy is one of the hardest things for me.

    This post just makes me like you more.

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  7. You're real...and you're true to yourself. That's what I like about you.

    I also envy people who are "better" than me. I hate people who have more than I do and have cheated and stolen to get there. I hate them because their life is "better" than mine. My husband always has to pull me back into reality. He says, "Yeah, but their going to hell for it." And sometimes I still think..."So...at least they still have nice things."

    yeah...we're all human.

    i especially hate you because you have 700+ more followers than i do. :) He he...just kidding.

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  8. Does anybody NOT feel this way? I mean really. That's what blogging has created: a network of envious mothers. I lost all pride when I moved to Gallup and I doubt I'll ever get it back, so the envious feelings stay just that: I envy what others are, and what they have, but as a realistic woman I know I will never have that, and so I choose to be envious on the computer and as content as possible when I'm off. Because really, my life will not be better if I have throw pillows.

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  9. I used to be envious of you. You're so funny and sarcastic and had tons of followers and wrote that one blog that everyone loved......

    Then I met you in real life and found our you're awesome and kind and totally approachable. Envy gone, admiration in its place. (It's? I never know on that one.)

    I get envious. But like you, I realize that people's lives aren't all sunshine and rainbows. Maybe they have secret blogs, like mine, where they share all the stuff they don't want their moms reading.

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  10. i still wanna be besties. because you're honest... not because you're "shiny happy people holding hands".

    i like people who are NOT that. :)

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  11. I completely understand. I also don't blog more than cute pics of the kids when I'm feeling crummy/low/why-is-my-life-not-perfect-ish. I read a few of those 'lifestyle' blogs... I think I found their links from an article about mommy-bloggers that are now famous. I don't really like them. I am annoyed that they always seem 'stylish' by the worlds standards, but I personally think most of the clothes are ridiculous. AND the eating out all the time is annoying- who can afford to eat out 12 meals each week?! Maybe I'm jealous/ envious, but maybe not.

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  12. I think you're underestimating the stress of the PTO carnivals. Those women are terrifying.

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  13. For what it's worth, yours is the only blog in my feed that is not either a personal friend or relative or some sort of instructional blog (craft, gardening, nerd stuff, etc). I purged it a while back because I didn't really have at much time to spend reading about other peoples' perfect lives.

    I, however, don't have near your courage (or wit, or engaging writing voice) so I indulge myself in a few posts a month, mostly how-to's friends ask for, or just random thoughts I deem harmless enough to share :). And so, yeah, I guess it'd look like my life is pretty perfect, which in fact, I really can't complain about. The marriage I lucked into is a good one (and it was luck, because I was clueless, just CLUELESS about relationships), finances are stable and comfortable even if the house is under water. Envy is not usually something I struggle with... Except when something I see or compare myself to suddenly and entirely bowls me over with jealousy and I feel physically ill until I work through it :).

    So, thanks for writing, warts and all. Your writing sounds so familiar, because it's so much like my inner voice, that I like to read you expressing my thoughts better than I can.

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  14. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Sue, it is timely that you would write this today. They are discussing mormon mommy bloggers / lifestyle bloggers over at FMH. I don't know what article you are referring to, but there is an article they linked to today and I have conflicted feelings about it. Would love to hear your thoughts.

    I do like some of the lifestyle bloggers like Nat and CJane. (I'm sure you were not talking about them, I'm under the impression you are all friends?) They are good writers and I feel like I have known them along the journey, watched them struggle to get to the good places they are in now, so I feel happy about the happy places they are in now. Just like I will feel happy for you when you are rich and famous if you ever develop the self-discipline to finish one of your many manuscripts. j/k

    You do have so many blessings. Beautiful children, so many talents, a family who loves you, a good job. Who needs throw pillows when you've got all that, right?

    Good for you for trying to get over this. I have the same envy issue but it involves women who are in good marriages. Like you, I've been trying to train myself to stop it, and to focus on what I can improve, what I can change, how I can grow. Some days I am successful and sometimes I'm not. All I can do is keep trying.

    Miss your face,

    Jess

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  15. You have been through a lot. There is no question and I think it is totally normal to feel envy. I know you don't like those voices in your head.

    I think there is a lot of "Sunday dress" on blogs. I've wondered about that myself. I realized I don't blog about the sad, horrible or overwhelming things in my life, simply because there's so much I try and forget and I don't want it "out there". It's my own private battle. That being said, I certainly don't put myself out there as a "ooh ahh look at me" either.
    I have warts and crap too.
    I print my blog into a book once a year, it's sorta my way of scrapbooking.
    I think that makes me think twice about what I post. There is stuff I don't want in a book.
    Another thing that is different for me. I'm old. I don't have young kids at home. I am not too concerned about what others think of me either.
    If there had been blogs....heck, even the internet around when I was a young mom, I would have found incredible ideas and people out there, but I know (because I know me) that I would have felt the exact same way. I felt that way just interacting with women my age at the time. We were financially in a mess, my kids didn't wear the "in" clothes, we didn't even live in a home, we were apartment dwellers.

    Don't be hard on yourself. I think you are wonderful. You are honest and you make us all think.
    Thank you. That is a gift.

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  16. Oh yes, I am the exact same way. For me, jealousy and insecurity walk around hand-in-hand and throw rocks at my head while prancing through the golden fields of despair. Whether it's some internet celebrity artist or some super popular blogger, the jealousy is consuming and drives me up the wall. So, yeah. You aren't the only one, and I like you so much more for admitting something that I hate myself for. SHAMEFUL ONES UNITE!

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  17. I do get jealous of other bloggers who I feel are bad writers and lame but everyone thinks they're great because they know how to spraypaint stuff from Goodwill. Meanwhile I blog completely regularly and I'm much more interesting (to myself!) and who cares?

    I can't read those my-life-is-so-lovely blogs. I get violently angry when I do.

    Whenever I feel that angry jealousy I think to myself "I have bigger boobs/am better looking/don't have any alcoholic children, etc."

    That seems really petty now that I say it.

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  18. I'm not a jealous person, but I have ple-he-he-henty of other (worse)faults.

    And I'm sure this is bad, but I'm a tiny bit glad that you struggle with this issue because it caused you to write this post, which I found to be quite hilarious and also somewhat thought provoking.

    Great upside-down Thanksgiving post.

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  19. Anonymous4:25 PM

    Why do we do this to ourselves I wonder? Read blogs that make us feel bad? Sometimes when I read a blog that makes me feel jealous I'll unsubscribe, but then I end up going back to peek and see what is going on. Can you say mental health issues?

    After the couple of years you've had I'm sure you're justified in longing for stability.

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  21. I found your blog through a friend, and I love your writing. Especially the parentheses...I write in parentheses all the time! :-) I have experienced the envy of 5 of the 7 of your bullet list, and felt a good deal better that I was not alone after reading that. Not that it makes it all right, but it's good to know. Thanks for sharing.

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  22. Oh good god, woman, shut up! You've got 755 followers here! I'm going to leave this comment and then go hate you while I gorge on Dove dark chocolates and watch Modern Family.

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  23. Throw pillows? You want throw pillows? You realize kids THROW throw pillows, which is probably why we never had any decent lamps. Envy no more, my dear. My pillows seem to be reproducing of their own accord, and I will gladly bring you a pile. If it's any consolation, Nordstrums in the University Mall is closing down for lack of business; so you aren't the only one not shopping there.

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  24. It was only a week and a half ago that I admitted something to my sister, something that happened about fifty years ago: we'd been at church. After church, one of the nice, fluffy old ladies had caught sight of my little sister in her cute fluffy dress, with her cute fluffy hair and her perfect, elfin face. And when the lady had gone fluffy over all of this, Kev just spontaneously dropped into this adorable curtsy. The lady, overcome, fished in her purse and came up with a lovely little piece of hard candy, all wrapped in shiny paper. And gave it to Kev. Who ran to show it to my parents. All while I was standing there.

    And all I could think was, "What am I? Chopped liver? Can I not curtsy? Do I not have a fluffy dress on, too?" And my parents yelled at me all the way home because I was crying and complaining and finally pouting because nobody had told me I was adorable, and nobody had given ME candy. Which helped. The yelling.

    And now, as a writer, I'm a has been, while women half my age (or less) are churning out really deeply terrible novels (the same novel over and over again, actually- with pretty much the same cover, and the same dimming power on the female mind) and growing unbearably rich, while I am worrying about how we're going to afford to stay alive until we die.

    I fight the same fight you do.

    But I wonder if, at the center of things, it's really just that we're afraid of just sort of disappearing - that we're not worthy of happiness. That God himself will look at the fluffy girl next to us at the Golden Gate and pick her for the team, never even noticing us - or maybe we're afraid there's nothing in us worth noticing. There's not enough applause in the universe to fill that black hole.

    But it's not really a black hole. I'm thinking this through now, lecturing myself as I write. And I'm thinking that it's somehow training myself to love somebody else - that disgustingly virtuous knee-jerk reaction that says, "I'm so happy for her." But no, not that. I think filling it is just a matter of going over to my daughter-in-law's house and giving her a half an hour's peace, playing with her children. That kind of Oxytocin fix tends to fix the universe a little closer to home, to reality.

    Maybe someday, I'll kick this, too -

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  25. Do you really have 755 followers? Ha. What have I got? maybe two?

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  26. I do this.

    I love your posts, whenever you happen to get around to them, because you say things that I think. And you say them well, and you can spell worth a damn, unlike Some Bloggers I Could Mention.

    (Wait, was that me being catty? I did say right up front that I do it too, didn't it?)

    You have a brain in your head, and you are funny, and honest, so I will read your blog. That is all.

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  27. You envy them, and I assume they're lying. Wonder which one of us will make it to hell first?

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  28. Cara in Canada10:37 PM

    I wish there were a "like" button for the comments on here - they're awesome.

    I just found your blog through Kristen's and I just spent a few hours here the other night. I love your writing, and your humor, and your honesty. I am a fan. I will keep reading you. I hate "perfect" people and this is because I know they don't really exist... so I know I'm being lied to and I don't need to read a bunch of lies.

    So, yah, all of that. I like you and in real life, I'd be happy to have coffee with you. That is all.

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  29. Ha! Wendy, I do the same thing.

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  30. Yes to the assuming they are lying sort of thing. I did a cleanse on these blogs a while ago an haven't looked back except occasionally. Even certain blogs of people I actually KNOW have made me feel a certain type of sick, so, UNSUBSCRIBE. In the mean time I continue on my merry way and try not to care too much about the deep dark secrets these people have to be harboring in their closets. Teeny weenie at birth? Extra nipple? Marital discord? Secret affinity for donkey bondage? THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING.

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  31. I get this. Good for you for talking about it. (And it doesn't make me like you any less. Quite the contrary.)

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  32. Kalli- A secret affinity for donkey bondage, for sure. That is my first-choice skeleton in the closet for everyone who's too perfect from now on.

    P.S. I don't know you, but I'm pretty sure I love you.

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  33. Amanda - That was so nice of you. I don't even know what to say. What a surprise - made my week. Thank you so much!

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  34. Jess - I'm not talking about Nat and Courtney. I wouldn't say we're besties, haven't had that opportunity, but I really like and admire them both, and I do appreciate that they both have shared their foibles with us. I think they both come across as very human, and I agree - I'm happy that they are happy.

    I love these comments and want to respond to more of them, but Josh just woke up from a nap and I already spent way too much time noodling around on Facebook, so - hopefully later. Thanks guys.

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  35. Since you asked, I know a weakness I have is envy. It isn't about material possessions, for me, it's about fertility, care-free living, and, like you said, those who can spend money at Target whenever they want. We definitely don't have that life, a reason I went back to work. Oh but if people knew how much I am making they would balk at me considering it "work" but, hello, it is work for us. Anything that brings in income is work, it's better than the student loans we were living in (which, btw, are up to $30000) and, you know.

    But when I see these ladies pop out kids one after another with seeming ease? I get jealous. Like really jealous. The kind where I throw things, metaphorically, because I am so frustrated by what life has thrown me.

    And there you have it. The big, bad, evil Amber. (I think you have seen this part of me, though, through e-mail correspondence, so I imagine you don't put me in the perfect category. Haha.)

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  36. i thought most people felt this way. i wonder if 'those women' (who we all envy) feel this way about certain bloggers. guaranteed they envy people who are REAL on their blogs because they don't have the guts.

    i quit reading those sunshine & unicorns pooping rainbows blogs when i became a stay-at-home mom. my mind can't handle that crap anymore.

    :P

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  37. ps - i have throw pillows and we be po'. :D

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  38. Mmmm! I loved that about blogging, back in the day when I was still posting! I do a thing, post a pic, give it a write-up... and nobody would ever guess that my house was trashed everywhere except for the angle they see of the thing that I did and then snapped a shot of. Or, I screamed at my kids for eating a bite of the cake that I neglected them for three solid hours to decorate. Never guess at the insane and obscene monolog that runs in my brain, pretty much always. My blog was a like a filter for my life that I could occasionally go to and think, "look at that lady right there, she's not such a loser!"

    Hm. Perhaps I should start blogging again!

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  39. I never started reading the sunshiny blogs. Because there's no way I could relate. I prefer people grounded in reality. Sure, there's something to be said for finding the positive but I think people who do it in a different way feel more "real" to me. I try to make that the extent of my judginess and let it go. All I know is that I've bounced onto a sunshiny blog or two and I saw nothing of myself in them and they made me feel stressed so I bounced right off again.

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  40. I heard that the internet makes people unhappy, because we read people's filtered self-portrayals, and even if on some logical level we know it's not real, we still feel that we suffer in comparison. I've usually felt lucky to have sites to read that are honest and interesting, that don't make me feel bad about myself--but I did get in a bad mood after reading a home-dec blog the other night. (Having a house that looks good has disappointingly not turned out to be one of my talents.) (Oh, and I have exactly two throw pillows that I made back when I only had one child--but I have a whole bunch of unused supplies to make more throw pillows, because why buy when you can make your own, but I never get around to actually making them, because home-dec sewing is boring.)

    I used to think I wouldn't have a shiny-happy blog, but it turns out that most of the dirty linen in my life isn't mine to air, or it also turns out (surprise!) that I'm more motivated to brag than to reveal what I don't do well. Or to put a more positive spin on it, I'm more motivated to share the things that make me happy. But I don't really expect my small, steady readership to grow if I don't talk about more exciting topics (like the things that I hate or that are horrible). At the same time, having a blog is still therapeutic to me, because I have a space where I *could* say whatever I wanted--even if so far, I don't.

    (I just realized I'm most open about my shameful stuff--like how I stay up way too late and waste too much time online--on Twitter, where fewer people know me in real life. Hmm.)

    There are some shiny-happy blogs I like. There's a Mormon mom of five in Switzerland who takes tons and tons of gorgeous photos of her gorgeous kids in gorgeous settings, and although she makes me feel guilty that my kids' beauty mostly only gets captured with my lousy point-and-shoot skills--and I'm also a little jealous of how adventurous she is (she likes rappelling and that sort of thing)--I also actually like and admire her as a person, which, as others have mentioned, helps convert envy into something nicer. Also, even though she has gorgeous kids and is adventurous and takes great photos, she's also down-to-earth and frank about her foibles, so it's a little easier to like her than if she seemed pretentious.

    I think the particular type of blog that bothers me most is when they use a tone of authority about everything--especially when they don't know what they're talking about. :) There are some sewing blogs that are the blind leading the blind, and it drives me nuts that their readers don't even know they're getting bad directions. (But maybe they wouldn't care if they did know, and I shouldn't worry about the happy blind people. ) I'm also bugged when bloggers have incredibly limiting opinions about fashion and styles, such that 90% or more of the ordinary population must be chopped liver to them. Anyway, it's hard to pin down all the things that bug me about certain blogs, but I know them when I see them.

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  41. I have to say that I DON'T envy all the effort of promotion and networking, etc., that goes into creating a certain type of popular blog; to be honest, a lot of it seems like much ado about nothing. And that's also how I feel about blogging conferences; why pay to go somewhere to talk in person about what we can talk about for free on the internet? And along with that, I don't envy free trips to blogging conferences--because unless you can also find me someone to stay with my kids who knows how to deal with Rose's night terrors, or how to talk Henry back into believing he can walk after he hurt his leg (but it's not broken, it's not worth it to me to go anywhere. (Those are true examples from the last time I left my kids. The trip was great, but the aftermath was wretched.) I'll probably forget my anti-blog-conference snobbery in a few years when my kids are easier to leave, though.

    Anyway, I like to think that envy's not my biggest weakness, but probably I just envy different things than you do. I could probably make a pretty long list of things I do envy. But this comment's already much too long. (I envy people whose comments don't get rejected by Blogger for being more than 4,096 characters long.)

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  42. So, several hours later I just started trying to think of who and what I do envy, and it turns out that, while my list is different from yours, my list is also long. And now I'm in a bad mood. :)

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  43. We're all a work in progress aren't we? I easily find myself struggling with the same things that you do. Luckily we don't have to be perfect all at once! :) Keep up the good work. You are doing great!

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  44. Isn't ENVY one of the seven deadly sins? Does this make you a sinner, then?
    I know I am!
    Great post... love your honesty, btw.

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  45. I envy women that can have children without being completely petrified. Maybe you could write a blog about when you decided to have kids and how you emotionally prepared yourself for it and such. I'm 33 and considering having my first child. I've been married for almost 7 years. I've never been so scared in my life. Help!

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  46. Well, my blog is called "Almost Famous" for several reasons, and I regularly walk away from my blog for months at a time. I have plenty to say about this subject, just not online. (are you pulled in by the mystery of my brief statements yet?) I would like to go to lunch with you sometime. We have a lot of friends in common who should come, too. It would be fun.

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