How we think about concepts determines how they are shaped in our experience. With that in mind, how do we think about care? What is care? This article is one of three in a collaboration detailing ideas of care from Regina Gee, Sayr Motz, & Shivangi Tiwari. Continue reading to learn how Shivangi Tiwari thinks of care and what it looks like in her life.

Shivangi is an Indian-American from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry from the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently pursuing a degree in Information Science at the same university. Shivangi’s aspirations are to engage in mutual aid ethically from a technological standpoint, as well as to create art through collage, written, and ceramic mediums. She is interested in understanding how people interact with technology, how technology affects people’s lives, or what could be done to make a network or system safer in order to benefit communities without the main focus being capitalistic incentive.

What is care?

I see care noticing and honoring the needs of yourself and others. Care looks like allowing others to be in community with you, hold you accountable and establish lasting routines of kindness and safety. Folks can demonstrate care in any situation, with any group of people, at any time. Taking care of one another is one of the beautiful aspects of community and of one’s own humanity. 

This all being said, care looks different in every context. The only folks who truly understand what they need are themselves! While some neighborhoods may want to start a local garden, others may have a need for child care or families who want to start a tradition of celebration of a holiday or event. In the context of a single person or smaller group of persons, care may look like maintaining a healthy workplace or finding time in a hectic schedule to play a sport or create art. 

We all have performed and received care in our lives. The next step is accepting the power we all have to embody care in our relationships with ourselves, our friends and family and our many communities! It’s normal to engage in fluctuating amounts of care throughout your life. There will be weeks, months or sometimes even years when you might not be able to give a community, group or even yourself everything you need. Taking the time to get to the place you want to be, and trying to live life happily and comfortably can be just as well. Finding your niche to engage with yourself and others is a long, complex process, but reaching out to others can help you learn what steps to take and where to look for inspiration.

What does care look like in your life?

In regards to my personal life, care looks like my hobbies, my journaling and religious practices, the time I spend talking to and being with my family and friends, and the things I (sometimes reluctantly) schedule in my day to day routine – like exercise and getting my work done. The breadth of activity I give myself week to week sustains my curiosity and insight and illuminates the “hows” and “whys” of my life. With this duly noted, it seems that some days none of this rigor and attention to detail is necessary; in my moments of anxiety and tiredness I find watching tv and ordering take out to be much more effective.

Every year of my life I’ve had the realization that “I’m getting really good at taking care of myself!” and it’s true. I’m always searching for ways to give myself the love and respect I deserve and attempting to push myself further in the direction of my ambition. It doesn’t always feel like I’m taking care of myself in the moment, especially when I’m agonizing about completing a task where the outcome is unknown, but the consistency and dedication to my purpose propels me. Taking good care of myself allows me to have the space to take care of my friends and family, which I can extend towards neighbors and strangers as well.

Care can also look like mutual aid. Being in community with those around me has changed the foundation of how I see society and the way the general population leads our lives. Engaging with the community allows me to honor the needs of the folks who live around me in the ways I can, or gives me the opportunity to reach out into my greater personal network to help meet needs. In turn, my needs or the needs of those in my personal network are also looked after and sustained. This flourishing in a community can allow for moments of communal joy, communal dignity and communal peace.

How might ideas of care help to build a better world?

Focusing on how care can move from an inward perspective to an outward wave of positivity and strength is crucial. We must take moments every day to give ourselves a break, to motivate ourselves and to allow ourselves to feel all the emotions affecting us. Giving ourselves a bit of grace can lead to a healthy relationship with work, relaxation and the changing landscapes of our lives. In most cases, only after taking care of ourselves may we move on to those around us! 

Care builds robust and self-sustaining communities. When we choose to look after each other, we quell the uncertainty that arises when the unexpected or unfortunate times roll in. In today’s society, we are not conditioned to be keen on lending strangers our time, skills or money. The imposition that people must make it by themselves or are failures who are undeserving of happiness, luxury, and comfort has contorted the collective ability to heal after hard times. Why not rake a neighbors yard and allow them to cook you a meal if those are your respective skill sets? We can use the act of collective care to build our trust and safety back. The formation of cooperative groups and spaces that advocate for local activity are essential to this process. Joining local mutual aid groups, wellness collectives, food security pantries and more increase the communities ability to reach more folks and lay the groundwork for future balance.

Neighborhoods benefit from collective care in the forms of mutual aid and communal living. When a community gets the opportunity to look after each other and share moments, traditions and culture, the positive influence of care can form inter-generational knowledge on how to look after one another. 

Where do you turn to learn more about care?

Learning more about care is a long process that I engage in quite excitedly. I find that the knowledge comes from every direction, unexpected and expected. I learn from my friends and family what it means to see and hear them, to love them, to be with them through happiness, rage and more. I learn from my accomplices in communal care what it means to extend love, stability, sweat and fruit. Here are some of the folks I learn from as they did foundational work: the caretakers in small communities across the world, the freedom fighters like The Black Panthers or resiliency operations of Latin America, and the numerous indigenous cultivators and protectors of the lands we occupy now. 

It is possible too, to learn about care from those who don’t seem to engage in it. The United States is faced with its inability to abolish prisons, give disabled folks basic rights, and its inhumane treatment of most human beings – it’s easy to see where it’s possible to go right instead of wrong. Challenging existing narratives using sources that are credible gives incredible insight and direction to where energy can be spent. 

I am currently beginning “Water: Asia’s New Battleground” by Brahma Chellaney to learn more about how climate change will affect Asia’s demand and access to water, and the political struggle that ensues there. I would recommend other works I have read as well, such as Lectures on Liberation and Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Davis, The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk, and The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels.

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