Holding the Paradox (Again)

Super-ego to my ego, “You have to keep solidarity.”

Ego, in response, “But it doesn’t go with my outfit today.”

LEFT: From Paraguay. Made of cocoa shell. Cost to me: $1, paid (via one intermediary) directly to the artist who carved it.

RIGHT: From Macy’s. Made of white gold, sapphires and diamonds. Cost to me: $395 (“on sale!”?). Cost to the miners of the natural resources … oh, God, I am afraid to imagine.

For a long time I didn’t wear the sapphire ring because of my diamond guilt. Lately, I’ve brought it out because …. well, it’s a long story. Too long to be written today. Here’s something different but equally true.

I bought the sapphire ring as a birthday gift for myself when I turned 30. Let this go on record: I thought of buying myself jewels BEFORE it became the trendy single women’s thing to do. (It was that long ago.)

Within years, though, I had trouble wearing the ring. I couldn’t even bring myself to wear my CZ earrings because why, I rationalized, propagate the look of diamonds when our whole culture needs to be more conscientious about the ways we live and spend? I told Mom (with her sparkly lovely gems from Dad) that she need not feel judged, that it’s a personal choice. And, yet, I continued drooling over the solitaires and stacking bands my girlfriends racked up every romantic holiday.

I bought the coco ring at an alternative gift market around 8 years ago. I treasure it. Once, when a magician wanted to use it as a party prop, I declined. On the two occasions when I temporarily misplaced it, my sense of loss was physical. I have received compliments on this ring only three times (and one of those was from a woman who has a matching ring from the same artist).

When I see the black ring on my finger, I say to myself, “I am holding solidarity with the suffering.” Or, “I must always remember the suffering.” I use the word suffering instead of poor because this isn’t a socio-economic “us-them” thing. It’s about the suffering no living creature escapes.

Plus, I like the ring. I mean, if it were some god-awful-puke-green color, I wouldn’t be sacrificing the look of my hand to it. My fashion standards are cluelessly lax, but I do have preferences.

If I’m wearing any jewelry, the coco ring comes first and always. Except the other day … the other day, for the first time ever, my impulse was to feel a band of black on my finger didn’t quite match. The feeling bothered me and I quickly corrected myself, “Ruth, denying pain isn’t the way to go.”

The thing is, I live in a gemstone world. I’m up to my forehead in luxury and pleasure and comfort. This is Los Angeles – the weather is so good. (So good!) The joke we tell in our profession is, “What? [free] Sushi? Again?” But nothing is for free.

The least I can do is wear a token to remind me. Most of the world is going without (clean water, medicine, climate control, food). People I love are going without (Sam subsisting on a feeding tube, Dad’s diminishing eyesight, Great-Aunt Ruth moving from her home to the senior center). Any day now, any circumstance could change for me too, probably will (definitely will).

The black ring is my attempt to remember all of that. Remembering can lead to action.

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A free community writing project: Holidailies participants vow to update their personal web sites daily from Dec. 6-Jan. 5.

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