photo of peonies in a vase on a table with a window behind

June 2024 Favorites

I’m about to offer some thoughts on content I’ve appreciated lately (and I would love to hear the same from you—the Mia Birdsong episode mentioned below came from a reader—I really do pay attention when you offer suggestions!), but first I’ll also say I’m loving June right now. Here in Connecticut we’ve got the end of spring flowers and the beginning of summer blooms, 73 degree days with no humidity, and clouds that shimmer with purple late into the evening as the sun sinks into the treeline. I hope you are also able to sink into the beauty of your surroundings and take delight in it right now.

And also, here are a few podcasts and essays that have stuck with me:

The Success Narratives of Liberal Life Leave Little Room for Having Children

While I should note that not all of us have decisions about “whether to have children,” for those of us who do face that choice I appreciated this reminder:

“In deciding whether to have children, we confront a philosophical challenge: Is life, however imperfect and however challenging — however fraught with political disagreement and disaster — worth living?

“To be sure, having children is not the only way to address this question. But having children remains the most basic and accessible way for most of us to affirm the value of our lives and that of others. This is in part because becoming a parent represents one of the greatest responsibilities one human being can assume for another. And it is also because the perpetuation of human life is the condition of possibility for every other thing we care about.”


My favorite part of this conversation came when they talked about how, in the natural world, beauty points us towards goodness. Flowers point us towards fruit. True beauty should nourish us and sustain us. I recommend the whole episode as a prompt for what we can learn from the natural world all around us about how to be human.

“Matrescence,” and the Transformations of Motherhood

People in the disability space talk a lot about interdependence vs. hyperindividualism. I’ve come to see the benefits of relying on one another rather than striving for isolated achievement. But I was still astonished to learn that, biologically speaking, we exist within one another. In this New Yorker review, I learned:

“…how, during pregnancy, cells are exchanged between the mother and fetus via the placenta, in a process called microchimerism. Years after birth, fetal cells can linger in the mother’s body, migrating to her liver, heart, lungs and brain. They sometimes show up at sites of damage or disease, and have been found in C-section scars and breast tumors. The mother’s cells remain in the child, too, and sometimes a younger sibling carries the cells of an older child. We are all chimeras…”

My children’s cells live within me, and within each other.

We don’t just need each other. We don’t just identify with each other. We, in some unfathomable sense, are ourselves and each other at the same time.

Rethinking Success | Mia Birdsong

There was so much in this podcast with Mia Birdsong that resonated, and our experience with disability has only helped us to see the truth behind her words. We’ve become more vulnerable, which has led to greater trust, greater interdependence, deeper friendships, and greater freedom. Here are three of my takeaways:

  1. Modern Western culture primarily operates through transactions rather than mutual giving and receiving. Because we don’t have deep interdependent relationships, we don’t trust anyone else to provide for us, so instead we rely on hyperindividualism to get what we need for ourselves
  2. “It is a kind of self-hatred to not ask for help, to be independent.”
  3. Friendship and freedom come from the same root, a Sanskrit word for beloved

Longevity Secrets (And Controversies) From The Blue Zones | Dan Buettner

Again, there’s so much rich information in this conversation, but the big takeaway is that when it comes to health and longevity, don’t try to change your behavior, but do try to change your environment. In keeping with some of the other items I’ve already noted, this podcast underscores the significance of both spirituality and community. It was a great way to enter the summer, with more opportunities to enjoy the people I love most in the world. I hope that’s true for you too!

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Favorites and AJB Recommends

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