We were about a month into quarantine when the trouble started.
Almost overnight, our beloved tuxedo cat Ham (normally such a good-natured floof that he’s earned himself the nickname “The Big Sweet Boi”) started doing his business… outside of the litter box.
More specifically: he started peeing all over my stuff.
One of my favorite hoodies (which I had to throw away).
And even all over the comforter on my side of the bed — WHILE I WAS LYING IN IT.
And we couldn’t figure out why.
Now, in the throes of a “my cat is peeing on all my things!!” scenario, it’s easy to assume one is under attack by a vindictive, once-cuddly foe.
“He’s doing this because he’s mad we had to lock him in the bedroom while we were both on calls.” my husband speculated.
“He’s acting out because everyone is home and no one can play with him because we’re working.” I continued.
“This is a REVENGE PEE!” crowed Z at the height of the escalation.
However, as any responsible pet owner will tell you: you can’t assign human logic to animal action.
NOT the Kind of Crystals I Usually Go For
And so the next morning, my fuzzy frenemy was loaded into his carrier and taken to the vet, who gave us the real answer:
Ham, the Big Sweet Boi, was presently Ham the Very Stressed.
His big sister Eva had just developed a lump on her neck (which would unfortunately take her from us 8 short months later) and was in and out of the vet, and the house, almost daily.
Suddenly Z was home all the time, which delighted Ham (Z is his favorite person, after all), but the lack of attention offered in the throes of the work day compared to the usual love-fest we had on the weekends was doubtlessly puzzling to him.
The rise of Miss Rona and lockdowns, and the anxious energy floating out of my and Z’s pores certainly weren’t helping the situation, either.
His little routine had changed in every way, and he didn’t know why.
As the resulting stress of those changes, his smol bladder had been irritated, and we discovered he is one of those unfortunate male cats prone to crystal build up.
That was the diagnosis:
With all the goings-on, our sweet Mr. Ham had literally worried himself sick.
Envy is a Peeing Cat
His little free-pee sessions were his way of expressing that stress… and (intentionally or otherwise) alerting us that there was a health problem in the mix.
Thus, we were sent home with a prescription for medication and a specific fancy cat food.
And to our relief, Mr. Ham hasn’t had a squat outside his litter box since.
You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with envy.
I’ll tell you, friend:
Sometimes, seemingly unprovoked, our brain goes into “pee on everything” mode.
We feel the swift, hot kick of something.
Frustration, jealousy, rage, self-loathing, and comparison all wrapped up into a foxy little package that activates the voice in our head that begins to spit:
“Ugh, there she is, posting again… she’s so annoying.”
“DAMN!! His new offer is almost exactly like the one I was thinking about. Whatever, bet it sucks. Back to the drawing board for me though, ugh.”
“I can’t stand them. I get why other people like them, I just don’t.”
“Oh there they go talking about how much money they make/how much free time they have again. Shut uppppp already.”
Sometimes it can feel self-righteous — especially if we vent to our friends, and they start adding their own thoughts to our little fury puddle.
What’s Your Lizard Brain Trying to Tell You?
But nine times out of ten, the truth is: those feelings aren’t exactly based in the purest, most ethical-est versions of ourselves.
They’re an alert from our lizard brain that something just might be wrong.
And we can’t assign human logic to animal actions.
I get asked a lot on podcasts “What’s a thing that really annoys you about the industry?”, and I always try and tell them the truth:
“Oh tons of stuff! But more often than not – that annoyance is usually a signal that an insecurity of mine is being poked at.”
Granted, there are things about the industry that annoy and enrage me period. Outright lying, cults of personality, wildly high price points for shoddy work, people in glass houses throwing stones, etc.
Envy, however, feels different.
Much like cat pee, it doesn’t feel good, smells awful, and unless you treat it properly, it doesn’t go away.
Explore it, Don’t Ignore It (Envy, That Is)
It makes a mess of everything, and can have you interpreting ALL The wrong signs from it (for example, that you’re just mad because you’re correct, Better Somehow, and morally superior to the stuff at the other end of our annoyance).
Indeed: the more envious and stressed I feel, the more my smol bladder of self-worth becomes irritated — and unfortunately it is ALSO prone to crystal build up.
(Fine, gross, I know, but I COMMITTED TO THE METAPHOR AND I’M SEEING IT THROUGH OK???)
And so, when I pause to interrogate the hot flash of anger that swipes through my chest, the the quiet voice that follows up from the shadows sounds much more like the truth of the matter:
“She’s so annoying posting so much.”
→ Man, I love the way she writes. She says so many things I think, better than I can, OFTEN. I wish I could do that.
“Back to the drawing board for me since that dude basically brain-swiped my offer.”
→ This guy is SO good at putting himself out there, and I waited too long to release something because of my perfectionism AGAIN. Damn. I wish I was better at that.
“I can’t stand them.”
→ This person is existing in some way I wish I could. They feel more fearless, free, and present to their authentic self than I am.
“Shut uppppp about how much money/free time you have.”
→ I feel like the industry goal post keeps moving about what “success” is. Even if I’m making millions, if I work more than 2 hours a day? I’m a prisoner to capitalism. I wish I just… didn’t care.
Envy isn’t righteous, or necessarily a useful teacher.
Envy is just a signal — though an unpleasant one.
Envy Can Teach You a Thing or Two
Much like Mr. Ham peeing all over my things, envy is a trigger reaction that means there’s a bigger story going on for you.
It’s just a human response to existence in a world that increasingly insists on showing us what eeeeveryone else is doing, so we keep scrolling, engaging, and subscribing.
Envy doesn’t have to kick you into vengeful action, nor immediate shame.
And when you give yourself grace and permission to examine it… it can shine a light on things that need to be tended to, acknowledged, or even embraced.
Take a minute with it to sit with envy, let it teach you, and see what comes through.
Because it’s the only way to clean it up for good.
If you wanna move out of the “envy phase” and into “getting the big ish DONE”, quick-like — I’ve got a handful of VIP days and 90-minute sessions available this quarter.
You can learn more about them both here, or drop me an email at email@example.com to put your hand up.
Photo by Raquel Pedrotti on Unsplash