The feeling crept up on me so gradually that I didn’t see it coming, but I’ve realized lately that I’m envious of my friend’s happy family.
It’s not a negative thing. I don’t resent what he has. In fact, I get a warm feeling of happiness about what they are. I’m just ready to have the same sort of happy family, too.
My friend mentioned to me this week that they’re all — parents and two children — about to go on vacation together for a couple of weeks. In an email this afternoon, I told him what I’d been thinking.
“I’m envious that you guys are going on a nice vacation together, but I’m even more envious of you having a great family to spend the time with,” I wrote. “At this point in my life, I’m painfully aware of how much I dislike not having a family. It’s funny how so many of our regrets in life are based on specific decisions we wish we had made differently.”
And then I told him about a dream I had a couple of weeks ago.
I dreamed I was in their home for a social visit, but I wasn’t alone. I had brought my wife. In the dream, I was married to someone from my past, someone who would have been a good wife for me. I think I dreamed it because they are people she would have liked, and I think they would have liked her.
In the dream, I was happy and I was proud to be with her. I felt a sense of satisfaction which I haven’t felt in real life for a very long time. It was like a Charles Dickensesque scene of “what might have been” if my life had been just a little bit different.
My would-be wife is smart and educated and charming and likable. My friend and his wife are remarkably like her in these respects. All three of them are very impressive people. Spending time with them together in the dream made my heart ache for “what might have been.”
I wouldn’t really want to be someone else, of course. Even though I’m envious of my friend’s marriage and family, I wouldn’t swap places with him. I don’t want to be him. I want to be me. I just want to finally have what I’ve come close to having before.
Nobody’s life is perfect. If you knew him well enough, my friend could share with you all the ways in which he would like his life to improve. He could tell you about the problems he’s been through and the struggles he’s had to deal with. So it’s not that I think he has a perfect life.
I’m closer right now to having my life where I need it to be than I was a year ago, certainly closer than I was five years ago. But I’m still not there. I have professional and creative mountains still to climb. I have financial mountains I’m starting to climb. Progress is frustratingly slow.
But I can deal with all of that. I’m confident that I’ll get to where I need to be in those ways. The real question — and the one which haunts me — is about the family I want.
If I achieve all of those things I’m working toward and have no wife who loves me and needs me, well, it will have been worthless to me, no matter how well I do. But with love — and especially with a family — the struggle would be worth it.
I know what I want when I see it. I don’t often see it, but I feel some envy when I do.
I’m envious of a family going on vacation to a nice place together, but it’s not the vacation I’m envious about. It’s not their nice destination I care about.
If I had a wife who loved me and children who felt loved and nurtured, it wouldn’t matter where we vacationed. It wouldn’t even matter if we didn’t vacation at all. It would only matter to be with them — as a loving and happy family.