My husband’s and my families are spread all across the U.S., so we don’t really get to see our brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews on these holidays all the time. This year was no different, and it was slim pickings for us since only my mother and stepfather came (as they do every year). The exception was, my mom brought my cousin whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I was pretty glad to see her, but I’ll be honest, our visit turned to frustration for me after about an hour.
My cousin has had a difficult life, partly because of her neglected child. When she was little, she didn’t receive the kind of attention from her parents that she needed. I don’t know all the details, but from what I understand, she was rewarded with food rather than quality one-on-one time with mom and dad. So, she ended up gaining weight as an adolescent which opened the door to her feeling less confident in herself. She needed love, that was obvious, and when she got old enough to understand how to get attention from boys, she welcomed it.
Her parents ended up divorcing and her mother began to spend more time with her. They became best friends, I believe, and would go on trips to the beach on a whim or follow a popular band that they both loved, kind of like groupies. As I look at it now, I can see how that really wasn’t healthy either, but they were both so desperate for love that they clung to each other in all the chaos. This didn’t last, though, because neither one were happy underneath. They both had battled depression, my cousin underwent Lithium treatment and hospitalization, while my aunt was on many types of different medications for manic/depression.
Apparently, bipolar disorder has been on my side of the family for generations, including my mother. Anyway, my cousin ran off one day and never came back. From what I understand, she had met a boy, gotten involved in some serious drug activity, lost a lot of weight and started to get into trouble. My aunt would work during the week and go to the beach on weekends to look for her. She became depressed but tried to hold on as best she could. She and my mother began to support each other by hanging out a lot. This went on for a few years. When I had my first child and was living in Ohio with my husband, she and my mother came to visit me one weekend while my husband was doing an internship. We had a wonderful night, enjoying each other’s company, joking, having a little too much to drink and just laughing a lot.
That was the last time I saw my aunt. My husband and I had moved back to NC with our daughter so he could start his practice. I had decided to try my hand at real estate and was in class when the call came. My aunt was found dead from overdose that day. She had told everyone she was going to the beach so no one would look for her, then she took some pills and went to bed.
My cousin came home about 5 years later, looking gaunt and old. Her life at the beach with the drugs and abuse had taken its toll. It’s all tragic, I know. I can’t imagine losing my mother to suicide. My cousin was nowhere to be found when we buried her mother, though. I can’t imaging becoming so dependent on drugs to lose direction in life. That is the tragedy. But, she was finally going to try to turn it all around. That was 16 years ago.
So after all of this history, here is what frustrates me. She is sitting in my kitchen with my mother and me and she turns to me and says,” I’m envious of your life”. That just made me a little mad. Why? What am I going to say to that? We have both had very different lives, made different choices, and different levels of faith. Besides that, if she were look back at her life and see how much God has been there for her through everything, she would see how great He really is. She’s alive, she has her health, she has a love in her life, she has a home that’s paid for, she’s able to help my mother with everything she’s dealing with, and she’s got a future. She has overcome so much in the last 16 years. If she would stop looking at my life and see how much she truly has, she would realize that she has enough because God will always take care of her as He always has in the past, even when she was making bad choices.
She could be such a tremendous witness to so many people, but she only sees the world and what she perceives as what she doesn’t have but what she wants. If she focused on being satisfied with everything God has provided and being truly thankful for his many blessings, then she doesn’t have the eyes to see what others may have because it doesn’t affect her life in the least. She would be happy just as Paul instructs us. “Give thanks in all things for this is God’s will for you”. My prayer is that God will give her the wisdom so she’ll have no time for envy instead of thanksgiving.