Posted by: scintillatingspeck | November 11, 2014


I attended a workshop on Sunday night with a small group of people.  Among them was a woman I had met once before; we recognized each other, a little hesitantly, and she said, “How do I know you?  Were you involved in something to do with sustainability?”

I replied, “Yes, previously.  I’m completely unsustainable now.”

The more I sit with this reply of mine, the more it seems appropriate.  I’m completely unsustainable now.  Was I ever sustainable?  Was anything, ever?  What delusions did I hold?  Why do we think we can make anything last?  I’m not saying this while wringing my hands at all, simply noting that we, in this culture, seem mighty perturbed by impermanence.  I don’t put myself above anyone in this regard; how many times have I been horrified and panicked at death, destruction, things falling apart?  I think I’m a little less so, now.

Once I was involved with something to do with sustainability (a dodgy term I can’t quite swallow now).  I was an activist.  I helped to create a community farm and a non-profit with the mission of advancing food security through local, sustainable agriculture.  I don’t know what “activist” means anymore.  I used to live in cohousing, too, in intentional community, which, for me was wrapped up in the idea of sustainability.  I don’t know what “intentional” or “community” mean anymore, either.  I used to think it mattered what I called myself, whether it was activist, communitarian, environmentalist, librarian, radical, anarchist, mom, unschooler, writer— and before those, how many other hats have I worn?  how many will I wear hence?  I can’t muster up the urge to care about these terms anymore.  Call me anything you want.  It doesn’t mean I don’t care about Real Stuff, the planet, people, my kid, etc. but I think I’m slowly moving past the attachment to how I’m perceived.  I don’t want to sustain an image.  I’m completely unsustainable.

It helps me to remember this unsustainability of mine.  I have an expiration date, even if I don’t know what it is.  I’ll start projects, finish some, and muck up others.  I’ll parent my daughter, imperfectly, with no guarantees of what kind of life she’ll have in the future, or knowing whether any of us have much future at all.  I’ll stumble around trying to make decisions and hoping some of them are good ones.  I’ll do what I can with what I’ve got.  I’ll keep shedding my illusions of making things last.  I’ll do my best to show up and love fervently and well.




  1. we’re all just making it up as we go!

  2. I think that to be “sustainable” one needs to find a way to make money. It’s always good if you have a trade of some kind which will put you a step above working at Burger King or the likes thereof. Sometimes, you just have to eat shit and take some slave job in hopes of doing better later. But it’s true, we are all making it up as we go. It’s true too that we have to eat, put a roof over our children’s heads and buy shoes once in a while. Good luck!

  3. Powerful words, Jen. Thanks for takings along on you adventure. It is an adventure, you know, even the difficult parts. Much love to you and Lily. Patty

  4. I hear you

  5. Ahhhh, Jen! Excellent and provocative – for those who can hear. For myself, I find it fascinating that you, too, have gone into that space where words, ABSTRACT words, lose their “meaning.” Where we, those of us who have come to that place, just sit scratching our heads in the realization that we no longer grasp any true meaning from those marks on paper or sounds in the air to which others still blithely attach all sorts of depth.

    I, too, find myself this newer place – the place where “understanding” has flown away, only to be replaced by a fresh Unknowing – this place I find refreshing and a huge leap forward.

  6. Delightful and insightful post. Thank you, Jen.

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