“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

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What Jealousy Drove Me To Do…

“Monday Sins: What Jealousy Drove Me To Do…”

(I’ve started a Blog Project. Every Monday I report on my hand-to-hand combat with 5 Deadly Sins: 1. Overeating 2. Frivolous Shopping 3. Sneaky Gossiping 4. Jealousy 5. Hubris, “excessive pride or arrogance.” My goal: To vanquish these sins by Jan 1, 2013)  Today’s post is about Jealousy:

Jealousy’s a bitch hound from hell. A bitter pill. An acrid taste in your mouth. And inescapable. Don’t even bother trying. She’ll track you to every safe house/witness protection program/Saddam spider hole and she’ll bite you in the ass again.

Bridget as the little devil on my shoulder.

Here is who I am jealous of right now:

Elizabeth Jayne Liu of Flourish In Progress – she started her website the exact same time I started mine and she’s exploding. She’s one of Babble’s Top 100 most powerful mom bloggers. She’s hilarious. She uses curse words copiously and effectively. She’s wise. She’s beautiful. She’s thin. And she’s young enough to be my daughter! I’m only slightly more jealous of Gwyneth Paltrow here. And Gwyneth Paltrow here.

I read Elizabeth trying to find a weakness. A way in which I might be funnier than her. Smarter than her. More deserving of success than her. I can’t find a one. She’s the real deal. The other night she had a reading at Chevalier’s book store on Larchmont. Her essay, Liner Notes, has been published in The Moment; “wild, poignant, life-changing stories from 125 writers and artists famous & obscure.”

She’s in there with Dave Eggers, Melissa freakin’ Etheridge and Jennifer Egan who just won the Pulitzer for A Visit From the Goon Squad. How did Elizabeth do this? I want in that club.

I decide to go to the reading. I’ve been trying to meet Elizabeth for some time now. Stalking her the way Salieri stalked Mozart. Able to recognize genius while incapable of wielding it. I arrive at Chevalier’s a little early, it’s practically vacant. It’s small. A bit run-down. No big deal. Huh. Wonder if anyone’s even going to show up? I decide to come back closer to the reading time. I wander Larchmont feeling a little sorry for Elizabeth. Such a down-at-the-heels little tucked away bookstore. With no one in it.

When I return it’s packed. Standing room only. There’s a guy there who looks like Johnny Depp in drag. There’re a lot of rock-n-roll-ish types. It’s a really cool, eclectic crowd. And there’s Elizabeth with her husband, Norm. I walk up to say hello. She’s more delicate and beautiful in person. I can’t believe the word “motherfucker” could ever come out of that cupid’s bow mouth. She is shy. And tense. The anti-thesis of her print alter ego. I bluster and flatter and think about how old I must look under the flourescent lights compared to she and Norm who are collectively my age. I want something from her, but I don’t know what it is. Some of her success to rub off on me?

The reading begins. The work is wonderful. I’m moved to tears by  a woman who reads about the night she decided to give up her 10-year stripper career in Honolulu. I’m blown away by the hilarity and grief of a story read by a man who witnessed a dog killed in front of the kids who love it. Then comes Elizabeth. She reads about the moment she decided to run away from home because her parents wanted her to terminate her teen pregnancy.

I can tell she’s nervous, but she gives the words their due. Projecting her voice from that slender body into the densely-packed space with just the right amount of attitude and irony. I think “Now there’s a steel magnolia” even though she’s not remotely from the south.

Afterwards I buy the book. I want to say good-bye to Elizabeth, but she’s surrounded by well-wishers and I don’t want to intrude. I take myelf to dinner at Prado and begin to read the book. Right away ideas for stories and posts of my own pour forth.

A post about the Menopausal Vagina: “It’s quiet in there…too quiet.”

A book called “22” about my sex life. (The age I lost my virginity? Or the number of men? You’ll have to read to find out).

The story of getting a girl home too late for her surprise birthday party. My one greatest regret.

As I’m typing ideas, some good, some bad, into my phone I realize I’m not jealous anymore.

In supporting Elizabeth by attending her book reading I’ve been inspired again to pursue my own work. I’m bursting to get back to it. I remind myself to keep my friends close and my jealousy closer. Give it its due, then dive right into the heart of it. Embrace and accept it, then see what gifts it has to offer. In my case my jealousy sent me to a book reading where the object of my jealousy became a real person who inspired me to get back to what I love, which is my own work and my own life.

If you haven’t read Flourish In Progress you really ought to. It has all the adjectives you’d expect from a mom blog. Irreverent, hilarious, warts and all. But what it has that sets it apart is the story of a lady who, with true grit, picked herself up by the boot straps and carved out a wonderful life. xo Elizabeth.

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23 comments

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  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer 6 February, 2012, 09:24

    Wish I’d known about this reading, I love Jennifer Egan and Good Squad was one of my favorite books last year. But even more importantly how great that you can turn your jealousy (which yes, we all have) into a positive for your own writing! 🙂

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 February, 2012, 11:31

      hi Jennifer — I was blown away by “Goon Squad.” How did she do that? Please tell me she was on Ritalin! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply this comment
  2. Alexandra
    Alexandra 6 February, 2012, 10:38

    Thanks for the intro to that little stick o’dynamite. So much profanity in such a cute little package. Love her.

    For the record, real jealousy between friends is, in my personal experience, a dealbreaker that can’t be overcome. What you have for Ms Flourish is admiration with a hint of green, nothing worse 😉

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 February, 2012, 11:31

      you are right about the admiration. I love how you give me benefit of the doubt. xo

      Reply this comment
  3. Alexandra
    Alexandra 6 February, 2012, 10:39

    Oh, and the devil pic is priceless

    Reply this comment
  4. Aracely W
    Aracely W 6 February, 2012, 10:44

    First time visiting here and going through your posts. Love it. I think i’m hooked 🙂

    Reply this comment
  5. Megan
    Megan 6 February, 2012, 14:58

    There’s several I’m jealous of – we started blogs wthin months of each other and they’re are on lists and have SO MANY Twitter followers and I’m lucky to get any comments still.
    But it also makes me try a little harder.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 February, 2012, 17:47

      Twitter is my nemesis. I just don’t really get it. Now I’m off to read you. And follow you on Twitter.

      Reply this comment
  6. Shelby Barone
    Shelby Barone 6 February, 2012, 19:35

    What an adorable picture. I always enjoy reading your articles.

    Reply this comment
  7. Debbie Goldberg
    Debbie Goldberg 6 February, 2012, 20:30

    It’s so easy to compare yourself to someone else. But when you do, you lose focus on yourself. You are a wonderful funny woman… amazing things will happen for you. XO

    Reply this comment
  8. natalie
    natalie 6 February, 2012, 20:51

    I am jealous of how in tune you are with everything! but Jealous in a good way:) Simply Amazing

    Reply this comment
  9. laura filipowicz
    laura filipowicz 6 February, 2012, 20:52

    I have seen a lot of people fly by me as well, but I try and keep what is dear to my heart near me and that makes me stronger,,, that is my friends.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 6 February, 2012, 23:43

      Hi Laura — the other day I was kvetching to a friend about not being where I want to be and she pointed out that I have everything, because I’m married to a lovely man and have thriving children. She wanted children and it didn’t happen for her. It was like someone threw cold water in my face. I’m always focused on where I think I should be rather than appreciating where I am. I know that’s just human nature, but I want to be more aware, on a daily basis, of the places I’m fulfilled.

      Reply this comment
  10. Caryn B
    Caryn B 7 February, 2012, 06:37

    Shannon….you so have nothing to be jealous of. I honestly think you are one of the most amazing writers I’ve read in quite awhile (perhaps I don’t get “out” much) LOL I honestly think your time is now. XOXO

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 7 February, 2012, 11:32

      Caryn — was I fishing again? I’ve gotten so good at it I don’t even know when I’m doing it. Thanks for the encouragement and back at ya.

      Reply this comment
  11. Alexandra
    Alexandra 16 February, 2012, 09:04

    I LOVE ELizabeth: she is so humble and so real.

    Steel magnolia..perfect words.

    And, yes…people that inspire are those we must surround ourselves with.

    How else can we push ourselves to go beyond the limitations we imagine??

    Reply this comment
  12. Stephanie
    Stephanie 26 January, 2013, 04:57

    If it makes you feel any better, I was led to Elizabeth’s blog the same way I was led to yours, and I started reading a few entries of both. I didn’t get too far with hers, but I’m subscribed to yours now, and I’m obsessively reading through the archives. You make me laugh out loud, and I’m glad to know I’m not the only 40-something mom who cares (maybe a little too much) about the way she looks.

    Reply this comment

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