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A somewhat charged topic, perhaps?

"Why is doing the dishes at your home always more fun than at my own?" my mom asked one day as we were clearing the table after having lunch together. She said it more as a statement than a question that demanded an answer, but it still made me pause what I was doing and think. For sure, the grass can sometimes seem greener on the other side, but it seemed far-fetched that my plates and cutlery would somehow be more exciting to clean than hers.

A few years ago, when I was at an informational meeting at a preschool, there was one sentence in particular that stood out for me: Children often want the toy that is playing. This means that there may be a whole array of fun things to choose from, but the most appealing one is the very item that someone else has taken. “But of course!” my friend said to me when we talked about this afterwards. "It is charged with playful energy."

I don't really think there is much difference for us adults. My guess is that most of us can relate to every once in a while glancing wistfully at something we see that someone else has. But I also guess that this is often about something completely different than what we might think. Is the neighbor's green grass that which we really, truly want? An equally fast car, the same hairstyle, a similar job? Or is it perhaps what we experience and believe that these things are charged with? Joy. Fun. Excitement. Satisfaction. Meaning. Confidence. Togetherness.

The dishes at my house – at least if someone other than myself is here – are charged with a chat. And if I know my l mom correctly, for her it is also charged with a feeling of being able to contribute, of being able to help. If I'm alone, I usually charge it with my favorite music at high volume. Although, to be honest, I, too, think it's more fun to wash dishes at other people's homes and it's not in any way because I long to broaden my views regarding plates and pans.

I have had times in my life when it was easy for me to fall into the idea that other people's grass was greener, often regarding personal qualities and character traits. I wanted to be just as smart, as creative, as spontaneous, responsive and honest as I found that other people around me were. Things I was inspired by and admired in others became a reminder of what I myself thought I lacked, and towards the end of the day I could often find it difficult to be satisfied with who I was. I remember a conversation I had many years ago with another good friend. We sat on her couch with a cup of tea and I complained about all the shortcomings and flaws I saw in myself. She listened attentively and let me talk. Then finally she looked at me with eyes that held both seriousness, humor and compassion and said: "If you just stop being you, Karolina, you'll see that everything will work out!" Envy is a word that I think has a slightly bitter taste for many people and that over the centuries has been seen and described as something negative. But like so many other emotions, envy can also carry valuable information to ourselves about unfulfilled or unspoken needs, about longings and dreams. One definition of envy that I have come across and think is good is that it makes us pay attention to what we want, what we want to achieve and how we want to be. If we don't confuse it with begrudgement, envy becomes a compass for what we long for in life and can give us both direction and goals. The qualities that I appreciated in other people (but had difficulty seeing in myself and therefore felt envious of) were charged with a sense of inner peace and a positive self-image. In hindsight, it was never about being wiser, kinder or more genuine. It was about a longing to be more at ease with who I am. And although today I can still think it's more fun to do the dishes at other people's houses, it's no longer about the grass being greener there. It's about their dishes being charged with togetherness and a good time. Warmly,


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