what happens when we can’t live interdependency all the time?

i’ll be honest and say that sometimes -OK, often- i don’t think i can live up to interdependency. But i don’t think that’s the point.

As someone who’s lived most of my life as a multiply disabled person, in a poor family as a kid and on government benefits as an adult (and likely for the rest of my life), i’ve had to do a lot for myself while depending on others for a lot too. It’s independence and dependence smushed together out of necessity, not desire or liberation; but maybe that’s interdependence too? It’s not theoretical, it’s tangible; it’s keeping me alive, so why do i so often feel like i have to but can’t live up to someone else’s idea of interdependence?

Interdependency isn’t a new idea. It’s just that most have had it beaten out, ripped away through centuries of colonization and other forms of violence. But people across the globe have been living interdependently for millennia. My family lived interdependently in Glasgow. I was very young, but i remember that in those tenements there was a lot of harsh shit that went down, there was deep generational poverty and abuse; and also there was interdependence. We looked after one another, we shared resources, we asked where so and so was and if she needed anything, and brought meals to her door one way or another because we knew she wouldn’t ask, we hung the washing together, cleaned (and played in!) the midden together, fought intensely in the street against one another and defending one another, we beat back cops together, knit cardigans mittens and hats for the new babies we didn’t even know yet to survive brutal Scottish winters in those barely heated (and sometimes un-heated) stone buildings, we took our shit out on each other, we tried our best to heal together, and mourned together when we just couldn’t manage it and yet another died to a knife or the bottle or a fist.

i know from interdependency. It’s in my DNA, my heart, my gut. i believe in interdependency with everything, i feel it intensely, i believe it’s the only way humans can be together, i believe it’s the only way to liberation… and as someone who doesn’t believe in one-way-or-the-highway answers, that’s saying a lot.

And yet, despite my understanding of the ebb and flow of interdependency, when i go through times when i can’t calm my swirling brain down enough to offer more of a helping hand, when my disabled body is shutting down because i’ve been pushing it too hard too fast too nonstop, i berate myself for not being able to give the kinds of support i want to give, the kinds of support others are sometimes offering me while they go through their own process, the kinds of support plenty of folks say must exist to make interdependency what it is; i believe i’m not living interdependently, that i’m not strong enough, not resilient enough, not selfless enough. not good enough.

And isn’t that just a mindfuck?

If interdependency is in our DNA, what does it mean when we fall out of whack with it? How do we handle the realities of our bodies and minds that need what they need when they need it? What does it mean when i can’t support you in the ways you’re supporting me? Does interdependency mean we do the same for one another at all times, as though there’s even such a thing as “the same” when it comes to this stuff? Is it a gentle ebb and flow? What if my ebb will never match your flow? What if it’s sometimes a torrential downpour and one of us is drowning? What do we do then? Can i live interdependently now while still struggling with the damages done and happening still by so much pushing of dependence/ independence?

And don’t misunderstand me, i don’t think any of this is a problem with interdependency. It’s a problem of acknowledging the intense impacts that notions of dependence, independence, worth and so on have on us, and trying to shift it while still living in a culture that continues to shove that down our throats and punish us whether we fall in line with it or not. That is not easy to do; and sometimes it’s impossible. Maybe interdependency is about acknowledging the super hard shit, being accountable, doing the best we can by one another?

To me, interdependency definitely doesn’t look only one specific way, and it also isn’t theory, it’s practice; and practice can be painful, embarrassing, confusing, alienating, frustrating. But if even just a few of us can be in that kind of mess together and still be good to one another? i think we’re doing pretty well; and i’d take the feelings of inadequacy that sometimes come with it over the alternative any day.


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