My hands are cold this morning. It’s a bit distracting, to be honest. I know how to warm them up – several ways, actually, ranging from taking a brisk walk to washing the dishes. For some reason, though, cold hands keep me from writing easily. I don’t have problems with my joints, it’s just… cold and stiff. My morning routine today was sedentary, and I know this is my fault. That, and having let the furnace fire die out. it’s been warm enough we don’t really have it, and if I do build it up, and then bake and run the dryer, like last night, the house gets up to 80 and I’m unhappy with the heat. I’m so spoiled.
Really, this is about being spoiled. I have the ability to get my hands warm. There are people who don’t. Who don’t have the option to go build up a fire when they get chilled. Who don’t have the leisure time to take a walk, even though I can justify it as plotting time, and exercise to boot. Who can’t afford to complain that when they put their teabag in to steep, the side of it split open (I’ll still drink it. But we won’t buy Lloyd’s tea again, the girls report this is a frequent occurrence). These are, as the saying goes, First World problems.
It doesn’t make me feel better to try and guilt myself into not being uncomfortable just because someone else out there has it worse. I’m reminded, when I see that patronizing and dismissive sneer “first world problems” with it’s implied ‘shut up and stop whining,’ of the very old-fashioned guilt trip: ‘Eat your porridge. Remember, children in China are starving.’
Did that work for anyone other than in self-righteous children’s books? You know what I’m talking about… the ones where there was a moral and only the Good little boy or girl was rewarded. I was a tomboy. ERB spoke to me. Anne of the island spoke to me, she who was never quite able to fit in… It’s not that I lacked compassion. Had that starving child been plunked down in the chair next to me (and I should clarify here that my mother never used this odious reasoning on me. Her statement was much clearer, ‘when you’re hungry, you’ll eat.’) I’d have shoved the bowl over gladly and gotten them seconds.
It doesn’t help to have the guilt trip set up right there, in front of you, while the layer of the trap stands with ill-concealed glee waiting for you to fall. I’ve got cold hands. I can make them warm again. Doing so does not harm some vague concept of a far-off unfortunate. Mind you, my own mental argument of ‘I can endure this, my ancestresses used to milk twice a day in the cold and damp and…” that does help me suck it up, remove the tremble from my lip, and go wash the damn dishes. Because sitting here fretting over the cold does nothing productive toward the day. Not any more than trying to dismiss my woes as ‘First World’ would.
I guess it’s because I see the most absurd statements and arguments on social media. Ones that make me cock my head to one side, baroo? and wonder if these people ever look up and observe the world. Much less look back at the rich panoply of history that formed and shaped that world. It annoys me when those who are willfully ignorant do their best to shame and demean those who don’t align with their side. Guilt trips don’t elevate anyone. i try to always encourage, lift up, just a little. It’s not a lot, just me and a kind word. But I find that when I do this, I feel better too. The cold hands aren’t a symptom of a cold heart, or too rich a lifestyle in my First World home with hot and cold running water and all the internet my heart desires. They are just cold.
I think I’ll go find someone sad out there, and give them a cyber hug. Because I can. Because that’s a First World privilege I proudly possess.