Thought that you was trying to hide
I was swallowing my pain--
I was swallowing my pain.
I didn't mean to hurt you.
I'm sorry that I made you cry.
I didn't mean to hurt you.
I'm just a jealous guy"--old John Lennon song
I love Roxy Music's cover of John Lennon's song "Jealous Guy", which, because it was recorded after Mark David Chapman stalked and murdered Mr. Lennon, acquires a lyrical irony that I find devastating and so very appealing.
A post I read this morning about long-distance relationships reminded me of the slow burn of jealousy. I read that the latter day saints in Utah pulled off their miracle of creating a sustainable life in forbidding desert through irrigation and seagulls. That story functions as metaphor for me this morning.
The seagulls saga is cool. You see, the so-called Mormon cricket began to ravage the first major wheat crop, which can be a pretty concerning matter when one has just wandered a thousand miles after everyone began slaughtering one's friends for their religious beliefs and one is trying to avoid starvation. The Mormon cricket, by all accounts was
an unpleasant customer. A fellow named Thomas Kane suggested that they were "wingless, dumpy, black swollen-headed, with bulging eyes in cases like goggles, mounted upon legs of steel wire and clock spring, and with a general appearance that justified the Mormons in comparing them to a cross of the spider and the buffalo." In that, I am tempted to say that they remind me of a persecutor or two when I was in junior high school, but I'll pass over that.
The Great Salt Lake is a very happening place. It could be called The Great Sea Monkey Civilization, because its main denizen is the brine shrimp, better known as the sea monkey.
When one flies over the Great Salt Lake, it stretches out in the distance as a kind of jovial reminder that no matter how many Mars Explorers bounce their way to a landing, the universe is much larger and much odder than people imagine.
The Great Salt Lake is no good for fishing or drinking water (barring terraforming). But it did save the Mormons in 1848.
Hordes of seagulls ascended from the Great Salt Lake and feasted on Mormon crickets in droves. The wheat crop was saved. The latter day saints considered it a miracle from God. The sea gulls, apparently, considered it something of a good set of meals.
Not all Mormons, by the way, considered Utah a swinging place. Harriet Young said "Weak and weary as I am, I would rather go a thousand miles farther than remain in such a forsaken place as this!" This leads me back to my theme, though, which is jealousy.
I've known that feeling that Mormon crickets were ravaging my wheat crop. I've felt the burn when someone has given me a series of promises, and then chosen someone else in circumstances I found disappointing and humiliating. In the instance of which I'm thinking I do not recall any seagulls arriving. The crop was lost. No tabernacles were built--no choirs sell Christmas CDs.
I have hazel eyes. They're fun to have. Sometimes they are deep, rich brown. Sometimes they are an exotic green. Most ofen, of course,they are a dull "did you get that cheap crayon at the dollar store?" green or a kind of malted milk ball brown. I do not remember if my eyes were particularly green-eyed when I experienced the monster of jealousy.
In romantic relationships, there's that sense of want and of need. Any way one slices it, the sheer wanting, be it chemical, fluttery/romantic, or in the deep-seated animal need category, is the blessing and the bane of infatuation and perhaps of love. One's own self-image ties up into these feelings so directly. One's own longings which go beyond neuroses and social etiquettes come starkly into play. For people like me who can become a bit distanced from their feelings, there's sometimes the sense of a great salt mackerel, fresh caught from the salt lake in a new discovery equivalent to the coelanth. What is that great salt mackerel doing, all newly discovered? Why, that mackerel is being slapped across one's face. I've never been slapped with a long, oily ocean-going (or, in my figure of speech, desert lake going) fish, but the image certainly resonates with me. I have felt the mackerel slap of jealousy, telling me that I care about something viscerally far more than I ever imagined possible.
The pains of infatuation used to afflict me like little acupuncture needles, a giddiness I found delicious and yet physically affecting. I remember the lack of appetite, caused by the surge of appetite. But I also recall the caustic burn of jealousy, though. In the laboratory which is the heart, there is not only the potential for great discovery, but also the strong possibility that a single bunsen burner, left untended (or worse yet, over-tended), will burn the whole darn lab down.
I feel a twinge of sadness, by the way, as I sit here and realize that for some people, this fire scorches not only the heart, but the civil order. In north Texas, we have a fairly high crime rate. Folks do not tend so much towards
gangland or "organized" crime, though. When they are not knocking over convenience stores out of misdirected greed,criminals here tend to be the proverbial "jealous ex gone ballistic". Although Texan culture is no longer particularly macho (and a strong argument could always be made that a cross-vein in the pioneering spirit of very strong anti-macho folks meant it was never very macho), a small vein of "you left me, I'll kill you" over the top nuttiness makes our evening news every week.
Jealousy can cause such despair. In one's mind, one has assembled a picture of how it could be. If only she would marry me, I thought, we could build such an incredible life together. But that's the whole problem--it's a cinema show. She'll marry someone else, because she has sense to see that she will never be committed enough to me to make something work. Being jealous about those someone(s), as they gradually replace one, is like being jealous of the wind for taking the temperature away.
At the same time, I'm not willing to adopt the modern notion that all jealousy is unhealthy. A mild jealousy is one aspect of a relationship, I believe, and not necessarily a caustic one. But my purpose is not to get to the root of jealousy, in some measure because I know that task is entirely beyond me. I write instead of the way jealousy feels.
Do you know who the most roguishly charming men I've ever met proved to be? Why, they were all men who were more attractive to someone in whom I was deeply interested than I was. I've been trumped, over my single years, by the most impressive assortment of beat poets, lost souls, disoriented geniuses, and all around faux-Depp-esque figures one could imagine. I suppose that I could have taken the lesson that the shiny glitter more than the dull. I just remember the frustration and the pain.
I'm one of life's "can do" people. I like relationships that work, careers that prosper, and families whose dysfunctions charm rather than repel. Pay no attention that the man behind the curtain is rather a humble, imperfect soul. To my mind, people can (and should) have meaningful lives and even happy lives.
For me, therefore, jealousy had a component of false pride.
I always imagined that I could make someone far happier than the inappropriate choices they made instead of me. I know, deep down, the reality is that nobody "makes" anyone happy.
Happiness in relationships is a hard-worked collaboration.
But a very deep part of me still "feels" that if I had been chosen in at least one instance, the woman involved would have been far happier than had she made the choices she did make. The fact that I "know" this is wishful thinking doesn't change the feeling. The fact that I know that in the instance I'm thinking, we would probably only share, say, visitation in long run, doesn't change the feeling. Knowledge doesn't always change feelings. I still feel, somehow, she would have been happier with me. I will observe, in passing, that I think that stability is an under-rated attribute. I think that stability matters an awful lot.
Of course, romantic jealousy is not the only kind. When a co-worker many years ago was unfairly and for what even moreso now now seem to me to be non-work-related reasons was given far more perquisites than I was, I burned with indignation, irritation and jealousy. But it's a curious thing--I stayed in that job, rather than do the sensible thing, and find a fairer employer. There's something about this self-esteem and jealousy thing I do not fully understand.
I've been blessed with the kind of success which is real but not stark. Nobody accuses me of being Clarence Darrow. I admit that I've felt a twinge when I see that some folks have nicer homes and cars than I have, even though I love my home and our cars. I also feel a twinge when someone is charming in ways I am not. Yet, I have a good life. These feelings go to such defensive, deep inner place. I remember burning with irritation when we first moved to Los Angeles, when I felt I'd had as much career success as I could possibly expect, and yet still could not afford anything but a tiny home. So I have never "outgrown" jealousy.
But I'm glad I'm in a place now in which neither romantic jealousy nor work jealousy are a very material part of my picture. Marriage and owning one's own firm help a good bit in this regard. I'm not saying I'm immune, at all, but those overwhelming feelings of needles inside no longer much arise.
The Great Salt Lake is much saltier than the ocean. It is the residue of a departed prehistoric lake called Lake Bonneville. I must admit that, like some leftover salt marsh, I still remember the exquisite pain of those times of the most hyper-jealousy. Sea monkeys--emotions are all sea monkeys. They swim in the brine, we feed them to fish. They're all that lives, sometimes, in the devastation. I have known jealousy like an intimate friend. I am glad jealousy and I no longer sleep together.