Happy people make me happy. I do not covet your happy-thing, whatever it may be - house, home decor, job, talent, vacation, kids, family. I probably don't even understand why your happy-thing makes you happy. You smile, I smile - but I'm smiling at you, not your thing.
Perhaps there is a little covetousness for your homemade jams and jellies. I suppose I could learn to make jams and jellies but it's not my thing, I'd rather have some of yours.
In my wildest imagination I cannot see me canning fruit. Or decorating my house with symbols of the season, or having 27 pillows on my bed, or collecting toast points. Or having children. Or having a bunch of people at my home for dinner.
I don't think my enjoyment of your enjoyment could be called vicarious - I'm not enjoying something through you, I am enjoying you, being you, being happy. Unless it is those homemade jams and jellies - then my pleasure may just be vicarious especially if you describe them in such a way that I start to drool.
I can admire something without wanting it, or for that matter, even liking it. Creativity, skill, workmanship - I can look at those aspects with admiration and appreciation but not care at all for the final product.
What got me started thinking about this was a blog post about a newly refreshed kitchen. Nothing in that kitchen appealed to me but it is a very well done kitchen. The writer of that post was clearly happy as a clam at high tide and I smiled at her happy but certainly not at the kitchen itself.
Or our dear friend Lin, parent extraordinaire. She loves being a parent and she and her husband seem to have done a superb job with their children. She has written often about her family and their activities, and while I do not for one moment, wish any of that for me, I've have to smile at her pleasure and the happiness her family brings her. I can honestly say I don't even understand her happy but it always makes me smile.
This is all very commonplace, right? A smile will engender another smile, right? Happiness is infectious even if we don't know why the other person is happy. Even if we don't understand why that person is happy.
I do not expect anyone to like what I like. I also do not expect people to feel criticized if I don't like what they like, and they ascertain that by my adamant DIS- liking.
So if you like mayo and provolone on a sandwich, I say 'None for me thanks, but you go ahead and enjoy"