Skip to main content

$Monday: The Value of Living Close to Your Care Network

Right in the nick of time, before Covid lockdowns, my family shared our best-ever Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 9th birthday party, all at my parents' new house down the road from my house. Looking back at that time feels like a dream now. Those memories are going to be priceless in getting us through a very different kind of holiday season this year.

My parents and my immediate family are holding the line and not visiting with any other households indoors, and my parents' proximity to my house has made it easy for us to visit with them frequently, in each other's backyards. They come up with fun things for us to do together from a safe physical distance, like watch my daughter play in the sprinkler or an inflatable pool, or put up a badminton net.

It has been good for our mental health and family relationships to have that access to safe ways of socializing without having to go through all the complicated logistics of traveling in a pandemic.

My grandmother and several extended family members also live in town, a short drive away, so we can all look out for each other, do favors, and check in face-to-face--perhaps through a window or fiberglass barrier. It's better than having to choose between a frustrating phone call or a perilous journey.

This year, living near jobs and schools has become less important, and being geographically close to family (or very significant friends) has skyrocketed in obvious value. As a result, inter-generational households are a normal thing again, and grandparents are more inclined to settle near their grandchildren and personal support networks than to fly away to Florida or some other heavenly waiting room, relying upon commercial services and convenient air travel to keep them living independently and connected to family and old friends.

After the pandemic ends, unfortunately, I do not expect the childcare industry to bounce back. Many facilities have shut down permanently, and many childcare providers have been forced to look for other kinds of work. If we take good care of our precious grandparents, however, most of them will be around the moment it's safe for them to care for their grandchildren again. Having family members who can share or provide childcare can save parents many thousands of dollars a year, and it can benefit older relatives cognitively and emotionally to enjoy a strong bond with younger generations.

Of course, all of the above joys and benefits only apply to relationships that are healthy. No human relationships are perfect or without their challenges, but there is a difference between annoying and abusive. There is no overall benefit to living with or near abusive or toxic relatives. Healthy people get into arguments with their romantic partners, children, parents, other relatives, and friends over many things--different preferences and philosophies, different standards of behavior, different personalities. 

Good conflicts challenge the people having them to grow or become stronger in some way, even if the growth merely consists of learning tolerance for someone else's quirks. 

Bad conflicts, however, consist of one person tearing down, manipulating, or restricting another person for selfish reasons of control. The pandemic is a fine time to socially distance, not just physically but emotionally, from abusers or codependent takers who don't hold you in mutual respect and care. Sadly, the pandemic has exacerbated domestic violence, substance abuse, and gun fanaticism, which has made the home a serious health hazard for anyone living with an abuser.

Leaving an abusive domestic relationship is itself an extremely dangerous process, and having a strong social support network (which abusers tend to try to deny their victims access to) is critical to a survivor's ability to make a safe, clean break and successfully restart life in a better place.

For those not blessed with any healthy family relationships, framilies of deeply committed people who are not blood-related can serve many of the same purposes. It takes more work to build and nurture those connections that feel like kinship without a biological tie, but it is both possible and beautiful.

As we are learning this year, people matter more than money or career opportunities, and strong interpersonal relationships weave a much more reliable support network than anything an employer or set of private businesses can provide.

While I have absolutely loved traveling internationally, and I have witnessed plenty of success stories of people who have sailed on the wind to put down roots in a faraway land, the value of living in close proximity to your own human resources is incalculable. If you can't gather your family and best friends into one location on the map, put time and effort into nurturing new relationships close to home. Having a local tribe of people who you don't pay for their services to you, who expect good things from you and generously provide them in a fluidly mutual partnership, not only saves you money but could actually save your life. And they have no excuse not to come to your parties.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

Pocket of Joy: Laughing Off Your Bogus Ego

We deserve nothing in this world. Let go of the whole idea that you "deserve" or "don't deserve" the fulfillment of your dreams. Whether you get it or not depends upon luck and what you do, not what you deserve. There is no cosmic Santa Claus doling out blessings and curses to the passive Nice and Naughty lists. You can be as nice and naughty as you like while you decide each day whether to keep working toward your goals or give up. And remember, changing your strategy isn't quitting; staying the course when it isn't working is a sneaky form of giving up on yourself under the guise of hustling. To win at life, as far as I can tell, you must be both humble in your identity and confident in your abilities to learn and adapt. You must love yourself so deeply from the inside out that you can laugh off your bogus ego, release your baggage, strip down to your truth, and get light and free. What a joy it is to finally accomplish that, no matter what achievement

$Monday: We Can Rise Above Death Cult Capitalism

Mmm, doesn't the smell of a bonfire make you feel punkin' spicy? Growing up, I internalized the United States cultural values of hard work as its own reward, high scores, and monetizing everything. From the age of 13, I scrounged for paltry wages (childcare, tutoring, arts and crafts sales, retail and food service and office temp jobs) while earning high grades at expensive private schools. I learned to feel guilty about "wasting" time relaxing without multi-tasking or enjoying a hobby with no intention of turning it into a hustle . I didn't have enough time to eat or sleep properly, and it made me sick and tired all the time. I was curious and drawn to new experiences, but I always felt ashamed of spending any time or resources pursuing an interest that offered no clear path to a paycheck or an award that would reflect a flattering glow upon my forebears. I had a healthy rebellious streak, but I learned to justify my transgressions with proofs of respectability a

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

Feast Your Eyes on This Cozy Cabincore Kitchen

My dream kitchen has become a reality at long last! Just in time for fall, I am falling in love with this new hearth of my home. Feast your eyes on this pure Michigan, cozy, crazy, cabincore kitchen! It's too bold and particular a style to be everyone's cup of tea, and that is exactly the point. This isn't a generic, beige box of a house to be flipped into the impersonal sales market, and it's not a rental unit, and it's not an entertainment space designed to be minimally offensive to the maximally judgmental hypothetical guest, it's my family's home , where we personalize our own cups of tea using supplies organized within our giant alien ceramic shelf pod and its smaller companion weird ceramic pod that holds our precious baggie of holy basil given to my husband as a tip at the bike shop he manages. Most of the ceramics in this room were created by a personal friend, artist Lisa Truax, who used local Michigan earth as one of the components in the piece tha

Rustic Open Shelves for a Bogcore Kitchen

Open shelving isn't for everyone, but it is essential to the 2020s bogcore kitchen. My family's DIY kitchen elegantly blends cultural influences from our ancestors which include Depression survivors, Viking-descended woodbillies, theater people/carnies, art fags, and Slavic sluts. My husband and I have crafted a wall of shelving and a pantry that combine rugged practicality with queenly flamboyance. Minimalist jars of raw ingredients line up alongside a vase of old peacock feathers. A ceramic sculpture displays our collection of grocery store spatulas. In the pantry, a large, cheap microwave nests snugly among rustic baskets, oiled wood carpentry, and our collection of well-loved, antique cast iron cookware. Bogcore is a welcoming, inviting, embracing aesthetic that can truly absorb and accept just about anything, with style. For example, I can hang up a dish towel from a wide range of colors and patterns that will work within the look of the kitchen. I don't have to be pic

TBT: The Harmonious Homes of Dr. Merle Kindred

Near the beginning of this millennium, I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Dr. Merle Kindred, a woman of the world who has dedicated her long, beautiful life to building a cozy future for all the people and other living beings that inhabit our planet. Although Merle no longer owns a house in the Keweenaw, she has left a legacy of wonderful human habitats for others there and in many other locations around the globe. She continues to educate and inspire developers and home builders with the warm care, wisdom, and complex technical knowledge she has gathered over many decades of thoughtful work, building not just structures but relationships and sustainable ways of life. Below is the post I wrote when I was a young, traveling activist in the 2000s. Merle offered me and my supervisor hospitality on a journey to organize rural Michigan for health care reform, and she also gifted us with a tour of her showpiece Northern Michigan home as well as a photographic tour of her house in Kerala, Ind

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

Pocket of Joy: Coming Out

Happy Pride Month! Has it ever been a better time to come out? Lil Nax X has died for our shame, descended into hell on a stripper pole, and slain the devil with his lap dance. Tig Notaro has conquered the undead and possibly usurped Kate McKinnon as most badass comedic lesbian paranormal action hero, which is now A Thing. "Schitt's Creek" has normalized pansexuality and revived America's faith in all kinds of enduring romantic love. Elliot Page has freed the trans man nips in joyful thirst traps on Instagram. After a year in quarantine, drag queens Trixie and Katya have become everyone's imaginary best friends. And my Instagram feed is sprinkled with videos of happily married, openly HIV-positive Jonathan Van Ness doing the happiest gorgeous little back flips. Kids today have all of these pop culture examples of people of every gender identity and sexual orientation living their best lives, creating joy and sharing it with others. Sadly, the danger in coming out

TBT: Medical Marijuana

Raise your hand if CBD oil is saving your life in 2020! Yeah, me too. I am using a small dose of a product by CBDistillery for a few days each month, starting just before my period. That's when I tend to have my worst anxiety episodes, typically occurring in the evening, resulting in acute cramps, nausea, flare-ups of fear that I am seriously ill, uncontrollable shaking, and hours of insomnia. I don't think these episodes are quite the same as panic attacks, though I have had those as well, about a half dozen times since my teens (at random times, not according to a hormone-related pattern). I started taking CBD oil earlier this spring, and since then I have had only one evening anxiety episode, which lasted only about one hour instead of the usual three or four. I have also completely, 100% avoided the symptoms of summer Seasonal Affective Disorder , which is rare but real and horrible. In past years, I have lost my appetite over the summer and become underweight and severe