By Maria Padhila
I’m going to start things out with this, because I think we could all use something that could make us laugh about now. I know I could.
Sometimes, when I organize poetry readings, I give out cookies — because otherwise, there wouldn’t be much of an audience. I like to invite people who aren’t so well known to read, and on top of that, poetry can never count on having much of an audience. It’s one of the reasons I get discouraged creatively, and start wondering why I should bother.
I’ve had times when I could write a poem or more a day, but lately it’s taken more than a week to even begin something. It’s a combination of lack of time and that encroaching sense of “why bother?” I’m having a lot of 12th house/Neptune/Pisces/Chiron action, and Saturn in the 5th, and it weighs one down. But in my soupy way I’ve been stirring around over a poem, and it’s made me think hard about jealousy — a certain kind of jealousy, because that quality has so many masks. The phrase “dog in the manger” was the original — I won’t say inspiration — but the germ, that might be a good word, for the poem.
This phrase comes from the fable about the dog who, though he himself couldn’t eat the horse’s food, didn’t want the horse to get it, either. He lay in the manger and barked to keep any of the other animals away.
In a way, we’re having a nationwide dog-in-the-manger moment, and jealousy and simmering resentment is at the heart of it. If you won’t play the game we want, fine! We won’t play at all, you can practically hear Congress snipping as its members kick the dirt and walk away.
So all around Washington this week, there are people either knowing they could lose their jobs, get a sudden pay cut, or be doing two jobs for the price of one (which many were doing already, so now it’s three or four for the price of one). All because some people decided that they wanted what someone else has, even if they can’t do anything with it.
This kind of jealous acting-out is often a cause for strife in poly relationships — and it’s usually unconscious, of course:
Oh, I have to go visit my parents, but I need you at home to take care of the children or the dog or let the plumber in — so sorry, you’ll have to miss your date. I know you like to go out to fetish night, but I’m not into that kind of thing — but you go along and have a good time. Just remember that on our date tomorrow I want to leave at 6 a.m. and go mountain climbing. You know, when you and your girlfriend stay up talking that way, it really interferes with my watching this movie. Why don’t you just watch with me instead?
I find it the worst kind of jealousy, because it’s such a waste. Compersion turns this on its head — even if I can’t enjoy it, I enjoy that you enjoy it.
What’s behind the poem was feeling like the people around me — not my lovers or friends, but the whole work/career/social/national scene — was stealing away my energy, my creativity, my ideals and ideas, my hopes; most especially my illusions. And it’s not like they wanted to use it, or were even profiting from it in any way! They were just grabbing it and throwing it away.
Here’s what I wrote to Chris:
They don’t realize all anyone has to do is whine a little and I could be fired. I have no power and no control. It’s exhausting, just knowing the hammer will come down and no one will defend me, or can defend me. I’m just constantly under threat for most parts of my life. One mistake, and I’m out. No exceptions, no excuses, no defense. It makes me want to give up just to avoid having to fight each day, because I will lose. They rigged it that way — because someone has to lose and it won’t be them.
But my aim in life is to find a way that everyone wins something, and not something cheap, either. Something that matters to them and makes things better for them. It won’t be everything, but it will be something. But no one wants to play with me. They have to win it all. Or they can’t see how much they’re winning. They can’t see how there’s always more, how nobody wins it all. Or they can’t be happy if someone else is winning even a little bit. Or they are only happy if others are losing.
Not long after, as part of the subscriber horoscope, I got this:
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — There are two approaches to available to you: competitive or inclusive. Said this way, the choice seems obvious, though every influence in our society is about turning relationships into a zero-sum game. That means a game with many losers and just one winner. The game you want is one where everyone wins. One thing to remember is that there is plenty of you to go around: plenty of love, empathy and appreciation of diversity. You don’t have to ‘commit’ yourself to anyone or anything the way that you were told you had to in the past. The person you need to be committed to is yourself and your own cause, meaning: know your wants and needs. Know what values are guiding you. What I suggest is that you let your imagination guide you, and see who harmonizes with you. Remind yourself how much you have to offer, and you will also remember why it makes sense that others would have so much to offer you. If you bump up against some limit on your self-esteem, climb over it, walk around it or keep going.
Oh, my goodness — how bizarrely prescient and perfect.
So I’ll work on that. And here’s the poem:
Dog in the Manger
The owner’s hand strokes you,
His indulgent smile shines upon you.
What far fields have you been rolling in, you silly thing,
To catch such weeds in your fur?
He doesn’t know his dog doesn’t run so far.
Just to my stall, where he’ll maul
The door and whine until it opens to him
And with a leap, there he is, settled
His tail moist in my feed, his legs crushing the hay,
His hair invisible in the grain — until it makes me choke.
It will always be me, who, day after day
Will come when I’m called, will stand and obey.
To crush that sweetness between my loosening teeth
Fades from desire, to dream, to memory.