Let me start by telling you how mad I am that I can’t have a pair of limited edition Converse sneakers with little lions on them.
I wish I’d never seen these fucking shoes but unfortunately for me, I subscribe to a couple of fashion sites for cutting edge men’s street-wear. If you recall, I am a gay man in a woman’s body.
A few months ago, one of these sites showed me an overpriced Japanese jacket meant to look like a souvenir jacket from Korea or Vietnam, the kind with embroidered tigers and maps on them. When the jacket sold out, I was mad that I’d passed it up.
So the Converse shoes reminded me of the jacket and even better, they were affordable. But they were sold out everywhere by the time I clicked on the email. The more unattainable they are, the more they promise the key to perfect happiness.
But just a few days earlier, I was horrified to learn that the Rihanna Puma Creepers I already have in black were released in pink. How could this happen without me being notified?? I found out from a girl in the mall who was showing me some cheap make-up, and she must have been amazed that a 62 year old woman wanted those fucking shoes as much as she did, if not more. We bonded in our sense of thwarted desire.
After a tense search of the entire internet, I found a pair on eBay. Problem solved.
But not really. Not at all.
This obsession and longing for material goods is the foundation of our economy but it serves a deeper purpose, for me, anyway.
It’s the ultimate First World Problem, in that it masks other First World Problems that I simply can’t handle.
Those problems are grief and loss. They are persistent like a toothache. I can’t bear the reality of them, and when I can’t distract myself with more superficial problems, I have to take myself to bed. When I take myself to bed, I know I would give anything to not wake up, but just blotting out a few hours usually gets me through the worst of it.
Last year, I became Facebook friends with a guru from Tibet. I liked his wisdom and his sense of humor. So I asked him how to cope with grief. When I told him that I’d lost a son, he replied that mortality was high in Tibet; families are used to losing children.
I felt he was chastising me but perhaps he was merely being factual.
Why was I making a big deal over my loss? Families in Tibet lose a child but still have to worry about typhoons and lack of plumbing and hunger and disease. They expect life to be hard and it is.
The guru directed me to a philosophy than might help to redirect me but like everything else I have tried, it was a hurdle beyond my capacity. Mindfulness, Dialectic Behavior Therapy, Tonglen, support groups, grief studies, Radical Acceptance, nothing matches the force of this unspeakable grief and loss.
I have spent most of my life saving baby teeth, book reports, handmade crafts, mother’s day cards, school photos, birthday party photos, baseball cards, rock collections, and I have lovingly organized them or displayed them.
I have boxes of Christmas ornaments, many hand made by my sons, but no sons to hang them on a tree or to open presents with.
Christmas will pass, so the sense of deprivation will be less acute but it will take a lot of limited edition sneakers to pull me away from the fucking abyss.
In Chennai, India, there is historic flooding, the worst in 100 years. Three million people are without basic services and 269 people have died in this epic disaster. I can’t imagine how desperate these people must feel because I only know First World Problems.
Feeling ambivalent about living is a First World Problem, and I guess I’ll have to wrestle with it in my White Privileged manner, wearing my pink Pumas if they ever show up.