THE SIN OF ENVY. (2)
“And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbour. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind”
– Ecclesiastes 4 vs. 4 (NIV)
It wasn’t always like this. I had no idea having you as a daughter would change me into this driven, beastly monster I have become. I feel I should apologize to you but something in my mind strikes back that you are somehow to blame for this.
You were always your mother’s project. Dressed you in her fancy pigtails and pinafores and all pink everything. I think she gave up on trying to control your looks when you kept crying at the hair salon and wore your face in a sad frown whenever your hair and shoes looked so pretty. Still, I didn’t feel that invested in you until she passed away while giving birth to your little brother.
The events of that day still make me cringe. It all happened so fast. I was speechless in the corridor outside the labour room with the obstetrician when he asked me whose life I would decide to save, your mother’s or your unborn brother’s. I was still thinking of an answer when he was called back into the theatre for an emergency procedure. I heard later that if he had not intervened when he did, it would have been just you and me in this family. Well, for your sake I’m glad he did.
I didn’t know how much I loved your mother until she passed away. This is nothing near missing the water when the well runs dry. More like having all the water you ever drank being taken back from you. Every memory was a doorway to grief. The sweeter the memory, the deeper the grief and at some point I almost ungratefully asked God to take away my memories so I might not have to suffer grief in that way. But he didn’t, or else you also might have ceased to exist by now.
As you grew up, you became more and more her strongest memory trigger even though you never met her in your conscious mind. It scared me how you had her mannerisms – her pretending not to care when losing something, her one-strike rule against people who gave her heartache, her love for colours and bright lights, and worst of all, her physical appearance. I was alarmed as I watched you grow up because I had no idea character traits and appearances could be passed on so accurately from parents to children.
At first I was sad to have you, then I was glad to be part of your life. You became my project. I had to shield you and protect you. I had to satisfy you and keep you from looking outside for love and affection. I became jealous over you. I know we are inclined to value the scarce and chase the unavailable, but I could never understand why you would want to spend more time with the guys who shared their time and attention with other girls and interests than with your faithful loving father. I watched you wear their gifts proudly like a badge while my superior quality and well thought out gifts lay unused in your wardrobe for months. Did you know what you were doing to me and my ego? Did you know how much thought I put into besting the competition?
I know it sounds weird but looking back I have to admit you were the love of my life as you grew up under my roof. I couldn’t admit it then but why else did I have no desire to find emotional closure with any other female? Why didn’t I miss female companionship? Did I unconsciously substitute you for your mother in my mind? I shudder to think so but that’s the only answer my mind can come up with for now.
Then one day I had to walk you down the aisle. That day was bittersweet for me. I don’t think I even know this guy you’re getting married to. I don’t know if it was part of my coping mechanism to deny his existence totally but the only thing I know about him is his last name and the fact that he makes you happy in a way that I can’t. Why couldn’t I make you even sit up and acknowledge that I loved you? I didn’t ask to be the number one in your life, just to be in your life in any way, just to have you sit up and say hey Daddy, I love you too. But you never did. And I fear when you finally get into your marital home you never will.
You rolled your eyes whenever I asked about your studies. You cut me short whenever your love life came up in our phone calls. You threw tantrums when I protested having to come pick you up in the middle of the night because you were stranded. You waved off my compliments of your hair. You went off to school and forgot about how my meals would be sorted. I guess that was when the scales fell from my eyes and I realised I had been leaning on a shaky emotional crutch.
I am not writing this to win your favour or pity or love. In fact, you probably won’t read this till you’re reading my will. I’m writing this so you know my actions for you were as much motivated by love as they were by envy of the other men in your life. Yes, when I did or did not call, when I bought you stuff or refused to, when I screamed at you or withdrew in silence, those were all borne of envy.
I am not apologizing either. Who says that love is anything better than envy as a motivator of action? How did my actions harm you in any way? OK maybe I was dishonest in making you believe my actions were altruistic instead of self-serving but I didn’t realize that until recently so at the time I was being as honest as I could. This is just me putting the missing piece in the puzzle of your life that you may or may not even care about. I don’t even know why I bothered.
Never settle for anything less than the attention and affection of your father. That would be an insult to my memory.