Saturday, January 15, 2011

The mental health benefits of shoe shopping

One thing I was saving for last year was a much needed, super fast computer. Then I got one, a 3G iMac, almost brand new as well as free of charge, from my dad (Thanks dad, wherever you are.) So here was a nice chunk of change that I could have used towards rent, towards my house fund or towards a holiday trip. But instead I decided to help the American economy by going shopping. But first I have to say I don’t usually enjoy shopping. Loud, overcrowded malls and hours spent trying on things that don’t fit just exhaust me. And, like a guy, I have no problem wearing the same thing day after day (with a good wash and a change of underwear of course). I can go entire seasons without buying anything but food and art supplies. But this season, as they say, was different...

Anyway, I didn’t want to spend all my former computer money, and definitely not all at once. So I started the day after Christmas, braving the Union Square crowds, and came home with just one item, a jacket at sixty percent off that cost me a mere two twenties. On another day, I went to the boutiques on Haight Street where I found the shoes of my chic, bohemian artist’s dreams (Fluevog) but resisisted the immediate temptation to buy. Instead I spent days internet comparing, only to go back to Fluevogs where I bought two pairs, both on sale (but still costing more than I have ever paid for two pairs of shoes at once). Other day’s hauls were a three dollar cupcake, a twelve dollar scarf, a fifteen dollar pair of jeans, thirty dollars worth of hole free socks, and so on.
Like lots of sleep and homemade soup helped me recover from one heck of a cold, this prolonged shopping spree has helped me, in a way, through a rather blue period. With no crappy non art work to do (for now and forever more, please God), no kids to babysit and feeling disheartened about my art career (which I know is by no means unique to me, some unbelievably talented friends of mine, people who have worked for Lucas and so on, are in the same boat), on top of some unanswerable questions about life, death, family, forgiveness and the meaning of it all, it’s a simple pleasure, like a hot bath or a my favorite song on the radio, to have some vague object in mind that day, maybe a cute top in this particular shade of blue, or a dress in that style, for as little denaro as possible, and then to go out and actually find it.
It’s not just a distraction, something to do. I think, at certain times, it’s a way of making oneself feel safe. This other thing is still a puzzle and a problem but look! I have successfully hunted down this very practical item which will prevent hookworm or keep me warm. Something I and others will (hopefully) take pleasure in looking at. So I have not only ensured my physical survival, but perhaps my social survival as well. And it’s too bad a quick trip to the grocery store doesn’t do the trick but I think the change of routine, the sense of discovery, the hope that if I don’t find the exact item I want here I’ll find it somewhere else eventually—and having that hope validated time and again—are key here. It forces my brain to wake up, to feel excited for several hours, and then the triumphant moment of purchase followed by the primal sense that all is well (temporarily) in the world. It’s shopping sex. The closet of survival has been restocked.
(She shall Seychelle by the seachore.)

A few days ago, I was feeling unsettled about a possible upcoming job. I wanted it for the money but dreaded having to do this kind of promo work yet again. I found myself in an unfriendly mood and wishing things I am ashamed to admit to, like why couldn’t my father have left me a huge honking fortune so I could buy a true home of my own in some charming but reasonably priced place (unlike the bay area) instead of this unexpected little nest egg (which I really am grateful for). So, with my former computer money still not entirely spent, I went to this shoe boutique I’d stumbled upon the other day. And somewhere between first getting in my car and coming back home, cute new shoes in hand, it occured to me that I have to stop feeling bad about my work situation. What’s upsetting me is not the fact that I can’t afford a three bedroom, mortgage free house with a gorgeous view (for now, at least)—something I wasn’t even thinking about a year ago—but the fact that I’m a highly trained, highly capable artist who, at the moment, isn’t making a living doing what I love best. This hurts deeply. It’s like I’m being insulted by every art studio in the world (except Dragon Pencil but have they given me any assignments yet?!!!) But there it is. Reality. Suck it up.

But maybe, or at least I can pretend, the universe has conspired to give me this time to create whatever I want. Not only that but it’s like, in a weird way, my father has hired me, and paid me in advance, to finish that collection of illustrated short stories I began last year and put on hold during my sister’s visit. And he even gave me a nearly computer to work on. Now, I have no choice but to finish it.

Okay! Back to work...


  1. Buying shoes... One of my favourite things to do... The ones you picked there? Dreamy!!

    Having the time and the means to create what you want is a blessing... It's so sad that most of us artsy types can't live on what we love most, huh?

    My new dream job? Picking and buying furniture for others... I love the hunting... And hopefully it will allow me to be pickier when it comes to singing projects...

    lots of love! XXX

  2. New shoes, symbolically, are about trying on a new stance. It sounds like this shopping journey and gorgeous shoes brought you to some insights. I am so happy that your inheritance will allow you to finish that series of stories. That is a real gift. And who knows where doing that work will take you...perhaps it will take you to you having even a bigger career and/or house than you can imagine.
    Much love!xoxo

  3. Again the right spirit! I will survey that you continue the work with your illustrated short stories! I will ask now and then about the progress! :-)

  4. Hi Lena,
    My shoes, yes! I really love them.

    And yeah, not working at Pixar yet...but can't complain about free time!

    Your new gig does sound like a dream job! I'd much rather do that than promo work...

    Hi Tracey, I never thought of that!!! That must be why I've gone shoe crazy all of a sudden. I usually hate shopping for shoes, even more for clothes.

    Yes, it does feel 'meant to be.' Started writing this morning, or rewriting, the story I was working on last year, with a new beginning. Over 800 words! Hope I can keep that pace up...And you're right! Who knows where working on a project I love will lead me.

    Hi Peter, thanks, it's not easy. talking with friends also helps enormously in keeping the right perspective.

    Okay, okay...that'll force me to keep on my toes. If you read my reply above---over 800 words!!!


  5. Shopping - it's like a new beginning of sorts - I feel the same way when I shop which is not often. I'm so glad you will get a new computer that ultimately feeds your passion! Can't wait to see your work - go Cheryl!

  6. Hi Shannon, yeah, I've been going through everything I own, getting rid of stuff I never or hardly ever use, and getting only things I really love. It feels good. And working on something I'm passionate about - even better!!!

  7. Hi, am just back to check the progress! :-)

  8. Gorgeous shoes! Good choices. And hope your year is off to a good start!

  9. Shopping can be so therapeutic, can't it? I like to shop with my 13-yo daughter because it's such a bonding experience. lol.

    btw, I have an award for you at my blog, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

  10. Normally guys don't get to read these kind of posts, but I'm glad I showed up and did!

  11. Hi Peter, the short story work is going well :) Starting to think of story number two...

    Hi Tara, Thanks! It was off to a rocky start but it's (knock on wood) getting much better.

    Hi Mara, wow, thanks! I do love awards :)

    Hi Rick, glad you enjoyed my post about shopping! Next time a woman asks you to go shopping with her, remember---it just may be crucial for her health and happiness!!!

  12. Hi i follow you...if you want visit my blog

  13. I love what LBR said about stance. And I love your art. If I had any wall space I'd buy that one with the red truck. Maybe I'll just have to find some wall space.

    I am glad to hear you've got a little time for writing those stories.

  14. So where can we read and see the first story? :-)

  15. Hi Peter, probably when I have at least one page of illustrations done. And then I'm not sure if I'll show the whole story or just part of it. Sorry the best due date I can give you right now is...soon...

  16. Hi Cdp91, I'll check out your link...

    Hi Susan, That would be great! But whether you do or not thank you so much for your encouragement and support!!!!


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