Of Value

Value (noun): the monetary worth of something. Something intrinsically valuable or desirable: human values.

(verb): to consider or rate highly. I value your opinion.

We made it through another week without school: a couple of days with mini-camp, for which I’m grateful; a few days with little or no help, piecing together activities. Most days were warm enough for a long walk, which is convenient in the short-term but frightening in the long-term: 2020 has a good chance of being the warmest year ever according to scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The one day that feels like February we get our exercise going up and down aisles of Costco, much less crowded than our usual weekend excursions there.

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Winter breaks always feel loooong but I know what to expect by now. There’s acceptance that there will be too many unstructured hours and home therapists will call out and by the time I light Shabbat candles I feel relief and appreciation that we got through the week relatively intact.

In two years this will be life everyday: time to fill with a day program and work opportunities and leisure activities and community outings, ultimately a residential setting. There will be lots of paperwork for funding and long waiting lists for services and other places to consider moving to. A whole new unpaid job. Yay! Hopefully I can balance that with writing or related work where I am compensated and visible.

To that end I’ve been updating my LinkedIn profile, which I see as a necessary evil among the social media tools I choose to avoid right now. I’m trying to see it as a way to tell my story rather than to evade it, to acknowledge the jobs and great efforts that don’t make it onto a resume. Like many women I know, much of what we do is not valued financially or professionally.

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I add this photo as my new background, from words on rocks at the Bartlett Arboretum in CT, a beautiful place we’ve met my sister and brother-in-law that’s midway between us. While the rest of us engaged in a fun activity of finding words and putting them together, V kept cramming stones in his shoes until he couldn’t walk. So we took turns wandering the lovely grounds while one of us sat on a bench with him and his homemade foot massager. Life requires great resilience, adaptability, and a sense of humor.

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When there aren’t obstacles it’s a wonderful surprise. The photo I use for my profile was from the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, the only formal gardens in Manhattan and another favorite outdoor space. We’d just left the Museum of the City of NY, where V actually walked through a few exhibits calmly looking at items on display, and then into the gardens where he sat quietly on a bench. At the moment I was elated at what felt like major triumphs, and my smile is authentic, not the one I often wear as a sort of armor to protect me from judgement, the ‘we’re doing the best that we can, so please smile back’ expression I’ve given thousands of times with rare reciprocation.

I’m hoping it can help me find ways to be compensated or to monetize my content or anything else that is the opposite of unpaid labor. I update and include work I’ve done over the past few years related to disability policy and accommodations and anti-poverty programs, along with decades of work on racial and educational equity: disparate periods of my life that are interconnected through a longtime focus on increasing resources for underserved and underrepresented groups. As a caregiver, a woman over fifty, a barely middle class person, a parent of someone with disabilities, I’ve had my own experience with those categories.

Value. I check google news, curious for where and how it turns up:

Lots of headlines about the value and growth in stocks

A traffic stop leads to a huge drug bust in Florida, uncovering illicit drugs with a street value of $600,000.

Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park exonerated, giving a talk on values.

Apple’s Coronavirus warning just shaved $34 billion off its stock market value.

Lots of headlines about athletes who are valued, all men who play football or basketball.

Being undervalued falls far more on women, on people of color, on people who we hire to care for our loved ones. These are jobs of caring, tasks that can’t be performed by robots or cheap labor in other countries. V has had lots of home therapists and babysitters over the years who are juggling multiple jobs trying to pay off student debt. I’ve taken many Uber and Lyft rides with young people doing the same along with older drivers needing to supplement retirement savings and those of all ages needing to augment incomes that don’t stretch far enough. Every time an Amazon delivery comes I think of the billions in profits yet how overworked and underpaid most of their employees are.

The Democratic Presidential race is riveting, infuriating, and terrifying all at once with candidates attacking each other rather than the megalomaniac who needs to be defeated. But at least there’s been talk about income inequality and the fear of folks with pre-existing conditions that could wipe out their meager savings if they lose insurance coverage. Economic insecurity isn’t on the radar of most people who are comfortable in their lives. Like serious illness and disability, who wants to think there might come a time when they won’t be valued?  If you’re lucky it won’t happen to you.  For the rest of us, we simply want to be seen as individuals with unique talents, whatever our age, background, or challenges.  All of us of value.

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