My phone dings and I look to see a dozen pictures of the sweetest little black kitten.
This darling new addition to my friend’s family, which they are calling Faun, causes me to start ahhhing loudly.
The kids come running.
“What is it?” they ask.
I flip the phone around and show them.
My girl immediately starts crying.
Not just little tears either.
Big, fat ugly tears which quickly turn to sobs.
As much as I’m aware of her wish for a kitten, this possibility didn’t occur to me.
I feel mean, as if I’d done something to hurt her on purpose.
The jealousy and anger pulse from her. She tries to calm herself, but the feelings are beyond containment. I let her cry and rage until the intensity ceases a bit.
“You are jealous because you want a kitten,” I say.
She nods and cries a bit more.
“I feel like a bad friend,” she says through her tears. “Have you ever felt jealous?”
Have I ever. I tell her about growing up and being incredibly jealous all the time. My friends got more presents at Christmas, had prettier hair, more boyfriends and took elaborate vacations my family would never be able to afford. I didn’t even fly in an airplane until I was in college.
I know a little about jealousy.
“Did you grow out of it?” she asks.
No. I have to admit that I have moments as an adult where I feel the pang and sting still. More moments that I care to acknowledge.
I want a kitten too. I want a new laptop. I want a real summer vacation. I want to be smarter, more successful and drive a nicer car. I want to be skinny.
Longing for things you don’t have is as human as it gets.
“What do you do about it?” she asks and hugs me tight.
I can feel the desperation in her voice and I know I have to get this moment right.
I pull back a little and look in her eyes.
There are different kinds of emotions, each balancing the other out, I explain. Like in the movie, “Inside Out,” where Joy can’t exist without Sadness.
“When I think about jealousy, I picture purple,” she says. “Like grape jelly. So I picture her being purple with a pale green dress on.”
“Sounds good,” I reply. “Who balances jealousy?”
I ask this question and realize I don’t have an answer. My emotional growth is about the same as her in this department. Well, maybe a bit better. I don’t cry all the time. Not all the time.
“I don’t know,” she says.
We both sit there for a few minutes thinking about it. Jealousy makes you want things other people have. What is a word for being happy with what you got?
“Contentment,” I finally say. “I picture her as wearing all pink and having a sweet voice. She says things like, ‘my room is so beautiful’ and ‘I love my family so much!”
“Yes,” she says. “Contentment tells me ‘I’m lucky to have a mom that rubs my back and talks to me’ and ‘I have awesome red hair.’”
We list off more and more things which make us feel content.
It feels good and the ugliness of the longing for what others have starts to fade for us both.
We cuddle up closer. She points to the picture on her wall of us nursing when she was a baby. She tells me she looks at it every night as she is falling asleep.
“I just pretend you are laying next to me,” she says. “Then I fall right asleep because I know you love me.”
My heart does complicated leaps of joy and sadness.
I tell her jealousy won’t go away and will be with her the rest of her life.
“Just be sure to let contentment have a voice too,” I say.
We agree to keep this conversation going.
“Maybe when I’m in college I can Face Time you,” she says. “Might even have holograms by then and I’ll project you laying right next to me.”
“Absolutely,” I say.