These are snippets from my personal journal. I’ve neglected this site for a few months now. In these months we’ve moved from Louisiana to Tennessee and I still have not settled into a routine.
September 14, 2020 just before lunch
I’ve always struggled with editing while I write, as if the act of saving an unedited piece will somehow haunt me. So in this document, I’m just trying to flex and work out my writing , something I haven’t done habitually for a while now. Social media takes more than hours away from me in attention. It also gives me the chance to write blurbs here and there, like letting out a bit of steam from a pot about to boil over, but this is detrimental to me actually writing, to NEED to write. And I’m doing it again. I’m already in my head thinking about what I’ve just written and how I could distill it, make it shorter, better.
October 8, 2020 10:36pm
So much for daily writing. Is there anything I WILL stick with? If only I could chase “it” as I chased that high in my drinking days. I don’t even like calling it my drinking days because it was so much more and so much worse. “Drinking days” sounds so Oxford 1940s fraternity: Cardigans and argyle socks and pints at a pub. It wasn’t that.
It was knowing I was too drunk for the subway. If I come down in that 2 hour wait and ride, I might come to at the end of the line. Six am and an impossible way to go. It was letting him feel you up, shove his filthy fingers into you in the back of the cab for exactly that, a cab back to Brooklyn.
Oct 12, 2020 12:40am
My son is teaching me to love myself in a way I could never have imagined. Or perhaps, I could have imagined but never could have known until the experience. I’m struggling for the words to describe this, because much of it sounds trite or over worked into self help and best friend platitudes already.
It truly is simple: he is showing me what may have served as self protection to child Valerie, is now debilitating and standing in my way.
I’ve internalized being “other” for so long: undesirable, unwanted, in the way, a burden. No place for me. My sister’s voice still rings in my ear about how “needy you are Valerie”. How ”you can come across as love me love me”.
Those things hurt at the time because I thought them true. Her word was gospel. Now she was also a child when I was, but she made these statements as an adult and to adult me. Today though I can say, if I was a “needy” child, it’s because I did NEED something I wasn’t getting. An adult blaming a child for needing attention speaks more to that adult’s self awareness, not the child’s. This is another thing I‘ve learned from being a mother.
Oct 15, 2020 9:46pm
A friend pointed out that I will name and vocalize the “unspokens” or energy I feel in a particular moment or interaction. Yes. Yes the subtext, the gestures. Pointing out the things people are saying but are not saying, is dangerous.
I think I just realized why disability , being a disabled person, may sit easier with me than others. I‘ve been practicing for this most of my life. I already feel a burden, a monster an other. This is a familiar place to be.
Do you hold against yourself
what things? It’s past time,
those little moth’s wings
Even from all the way
over here, the night lies.
My tongue settles inside
tracing circles, pressing
into the squishy tissue,
pink and hurt
what was left
There are dishes in the sink.
The dryer is burning steam.
And I am lying here,
looking for a screen,
my earphones, a device
to plug in and plug up
I do not like being manipulated. Who does really? I realize we all do it though, in some form or another. My modus operandi is retreating into victimhood when under severe emotional distress. It is a loathesome flaw I am also compelled to point out in others. For me, it stems from being an actual victim, first in childhood. When my “fight or flight” is triggered, I fight by trying to make my “attacker” feel sorry for me.
It did take therapy to own this behavior. Kudos to those of you who ferried across on a different vessel. I trust it was still excruciating.
I disgust myself sometimes. Disgust, shame, contempt. It’s hard to admit these things to myself, and here I am telling you. (Is this harbor safe?) Fuck it. Let these sentences serve both as my confession and promise to the world at large: I’m not a child anymore dammit!
Why am I telling you this? A recent messenger exchange. But I recognized the manipulation immediately, thanks to years spent curled and rocking behind my eye sockets.
Message I received:
“I’m fine. I had company over in the yard for dinner. My post was about RBG.”
Too busy for you
I know, seems innocuous right? Except, it isn’t.
“Too busy for you” (moniker by me) and I have actual conversations. We talk of dreams and desires, grievances and slights, pain and sentience. It has been a minute since we’ve had a late night exchange though. Instead, I’ve taken up letter writing again.
Who was this woman clipping these sentences with distinct periods? I wanted to scream:
“I wrote you a fucking letter- with pen and actual paper! Then I braved the fucking post office for extra stamps for the stupid oversized envelope, and this is how you respond?!”
And there it is; did you catch it?
Now, I am not saying there was no manipulation on her part, because it’s definitely there. But my visceral reaction: Child-victim, stamping my feet, begging for reciprocity I feel I deserve. What’s interesting though, it took my knee jerking to recognize her manipulation.
This is a pattern replicated in nanoseconds, netting all social media, (yes YouTube too). If I am overcome with some emotional response to internet content, (the goal is almost always outrage), there is a high probability this is manipulation by design. And “Too Busy for You’s” second line was designer.
You see, she had 3 days to respond to my first question and nearly 2 to my second, asking if she was “okay”. It wasn’t until I mentioned she could just tell me to “fuck off” if she didn’t want to talk to me anymore, she finally answered.
She had company “in the yard for dinner” for three days?
I refuse to feel embarrassed or ashamed for trying to connect with people. That line was aimed and sharp, its subtext being, “you sound desperate and have no life”.
You carve time for people you care about and you answer messages without persistent prodding, even if that message is to say, fuck off.
At least, that is what I do. I fight. I rarely flee.
It is risky to be alive. The impacts of climate change are observed at every level in our biosphere, from nutrient cycling to air circulation. Whether we acknowledge our hand in transforming our earth or not, the climate is changing and at a rate never seen (Solomon, Qin and Manning Sec 3.9). We now buy, sell, trade and accept ever increasing levels of risk; the degree and extent of which depends on our individual and socio-economic means, but even this is changing. Locations once considered relatively safe from natural disasters are growing scarce.
The existing scholarship on the human-environment interaction is largely linear, giving only a partial view of the relational dynamics. But “…human societies are complex socio-economic adaptive systems, which in turn are embedded in more complex adaptive ecosystems” (Imran et al. 138). We are intimately intertwined with the natural world and as such, a better understanding of the reciprocity between us and the environment is needed.
We all use indicators. I look forward to holding a yardstick next to my squirming toddler because his growth conveys his health and speaks to my ability to care for him. Often indicators help us gauge quantifiable features, (such as height or weight), but not always. How do we measure the subjective components of human existence like: love, happiness, even grief?
The need for a better understanding of hazard mitigation, compelled researchers to look at the indicators or variables we use to measure what we consider important. These signals are powerful because they also instruct what we value. (Meadows 2). But when choosing them, we must keep in mind they are not the ends, but rather, the means. For example: if we value health, height can be an indicator of such in a growing child, but alone, it is not health. The median household income in a census block might be one indicator of the population’s well-being, but alone, it is not well-being.
On the surface, the concept of human well-being is fairly straight-forward. It refers to how people and populations fair in the current world, and is most often measured through the Human Development Index (HDI) and reductively, through Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In application, however, most researchers rarely use a sufficient amount of indicators for inequality and mental health, choosing instead the GDP as an aggregate. These omissions, coupled often with no country or site specific data, means the well-being reported is a global average and may mask significant regional problems (e.g. marginalized people and their proximity to degraded ecosystems).
“If human wellbeing is perceived in economic terms, as utility or as satisfaction derived from consuming goods, economic growth can be seen as a necessary precondition for human progress. However, in countries with a high standard of living, increase in wealth is not synonymous with increase in wellbeing. Consumption growth, on the contrary, detracts from people’s subjective wellbeing…” (Helne and Hirvilammi 169).
The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) were the first to officially define sustainable development as activity “…that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. (Though sustainable development does not always mean “growth”, it is important to note the two terms are often interchanged, especially when modeling probabilities). Scholars argue the WCED’s definition is vague by design, its ambiguity largely a political maneuver.
…if sustainable development is measured only through indicators of financial gains or losses at the expense of ecosystems, then money becomes the goal and consequently, what we value.
Even studies intended to increase sustainable building and planning practices, erroneously make use of cost/benefit analyses of ecosystem services. They refer to benefits as the goods humans extract from the environment (air, water, timber ect.), while the costs refer to what humans lose when ecosystems are disrupted or destroyed (water filtration, collapses resulting in a reduced level of human benefit) (see Kuch). This approach may be quite helpful in the arduous process of passing environmental protection legislation. But if policy is best influenced through evidence of the economic benefits at the sacrifice of others, then we have chosen poor indicators, or what is worse, our chosen indicators have also become the ends. If our system is positioned to measure poorly chosen variables, then these metrics will produce the means, not the intended end (Meadows 66). In other words, if sustainable development is measured only through indicators of financial gains or losses at the expense of ecosystems, then money becomes the goal and consequently, what we value.
The confusion over what constitutes sustainable development and what positively affects well-being , is evidenced by their respective applications and measures. Too often growth is emphasized over improvement. Sociologists Tuula Helne and Tuuli Hirvilammi observe how the new normal is to separate studies of sustainable development into three blocks of measurement: ecological, social, and economic (169). They warn that, “although the dimensions of sustainable development are presented as equally signiﬁcant, their equal treatment is illusory, the economic dimension overshadowing the other two dimensions” (169). The result of such treatment is the marginalization and commodification of nature (Imran et. al. 11).
We cannot divorce ourselves from the natural world no more than a plant can remove itself from polluted soil.
We cannot fully understand how over expansion affects well-being until we stop prioritizing the costs and benefits in terms of economics. Moreover, by focusing on what is easily quantifiable, we effectively ignore the interconnectedness of the human-nature relationship. We cannot divorce ourselves from the natural world no more than a plant can remove itself from polluted soil.
Newton’s third law of thermodynamics is generally interpreted as: for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. He elucidates by writing “If you press a stone with your finger, the finger is also pressed by the stone” (Newton 20). This implies that Newton did not mean the actors must be in motion, (as his law is often illustrated), but rather the action of one produces an equal but complimentary response in the other. I am not suggesting Newton’s third law be literally applied to the study of well-being and sustainable development, but if used metaphorically, we see the basic principle is a pattern repeated throughout socio-ecological systems. Sometimes an action’s compliment comes rapidly, sometimes it takes time.
Because humans have so drastically altered the biosphere “…another global-scale state shift is highly plausible within decades to centuries” (Barnosky et. al. 57). We are besieged by overwhelming levels of environmental degradation and as such, a holistic understanding of the human-nature relationship is crucial for our survival. For development to truly be sustainable, we must consider all facets of well-being. To achieve high well-being, we must also practice true sustainability. Future work should therefore focus on creating a system of measurement that not only combines indicators of sustainable development and well-being, but also considers social and ecological measures as much (if not more than) economics.
Barnosky, Anthony D., et al. “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere.” Nature 486 (2012): 52-58.
Helne, Tuula and Tuuli Hirvilammi. “Wellbeing and Sustainability: A Relational Approach.” Sustainable Development (2015): 167-175.
Imran, S, K. Alam and N Beaumont. “Reinterpreting the Definition of Sustainable Development for a More Ecocentric Reorientation.” Sustainable Development 22.2 (2014): 134-144.
Kuch, Benjamin. “The relations between ecological sustainability and geographical proximity: a review of the literature.” International Journal of Technology Management & Sustainable Development (2017): 97-114.
Meadows, Donella. Indicators and Information Systems for Sustainable Development: A Report to the Balaton Group. Workshop Report. Hartland Four Corners, VT: The Sustainability Institute, 1998. Document.
Newton, Isaac. The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, Volume 1. RareBooksClub, 2012.
Solomon, S., et al. Technical Summary. In: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge and New York City: Cambridge University Press, 2007. <https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ts.html>.
I subscribe to a weekly newsletter of twitter pitch calls. Most opportunities listed are beyond my experience, but every so often, I find a gem. This happened last week, though technically not a pitch call as it required a 1,000 word personal essay-think community blog. To qualify, I had to be a parent (check) and a person with one or more disabilities (check check check check..). I clicked the links, found the blogs, and began to read.
There is no nice way to put this so here it is: boring.
They. Were. So. Boring. If I need a running commentary on what a person does during their day while managing kids and/or disabilities, I will actually read my friends’ actual facebook posts. I want to know how it feels doing all the things they each so dryly describe. I want to forget I am reading a blog post, but each was predictable. Surely, I could write a better essay than “Listacle Larry” and the Pollyanna of Grandmothers?
You only have to read one more; well, you only have to start it anyways
Sigh. And so I clicked the next title. My eyes kept darting ahead, anticipating the inevitable, no, the unintended drop, but it never came. It was, in fact, the most intentioned piece I’ve read lately and I read every single word.
I emailed my submission with mere seconds left on the clock. It’s absurd and stupid to do this because it is basically telegraphing, “my work is so precious, I cannot let it go”. In my defense, I found the opportunity late, have a five year old, and duh, disabled. I’m not sure I would have worked and reworked and made my submission though, without reading David Peydre’s piece (start here).
I miss writing. I miss late night spelunking inside myself, looking for the exact phrasing and rhythm, refusing the trope of rhetoric Anaphora (more on this later). I want my readers to feel, and I want to take them there.
“Now, when you’re disabled, you are taught repeatedly that you’re a burden. You’re made ashamed of needing things, of needing help. My wife and I call it ‘the shame of existing’.” David Peydre