By Abbe Simon, M.A. CCC-SLP
I love James Taylor and the songs he writes. Lucky for me, he sang one of my favorites at his recent concert in North Carolina. While I may have been the “only one” standing and swaying in my section, I’m quite sure most of the audience found meaning in the lyrics.
Whether your “only one” is a furry friend, child, spouse, or other special being in your life, isn’t it easy to regard them in the highest way? Doesn’t it feel good to tell people how grateful you are to have them? James Taylor describes that even though he has a lot going on and many choices to make, it’s all about his “only one” and the memories that will never leave him. And you know what? Another lyric in the song says, “taken for granted and pushed aside” which reminds me how easily it is for important people in our lives to be under appreciated.
Now let me tell you why I am writing about James Taylor and this particular song. Yes, it gave me an excuse to play it a few more times and sing along. More importantly though, it makes me think of care partners and the role they acquired when someone in their life, often suddenly and shockingly, began to depend on them as their “only one”.
Being a care partner is not something you can typically prepare for nor something that comes with a rule book or policy manual. When someone you love is diagnosed with a condition that robs them of a level of independence, you step into new shoes. The shoes may not feel right at first but you don’t want to return them. They may need to be broken in so that they are more comfortable. This may not happen with just one or two “wearings”. Here’s the thing…. while you are adjusting to the new shoes, it is important that people know you are trying them out. You may not be able to wear the new shoes for long periods of time. You may have to wear a different pair of shoes or walk barefoot to give your feet a rest. You’ll be sure to put the new shoes on again and when you do, they will hopefully feel more comfortable.
BUT.. don’t you have other shoes in your closet (or wherever you keep them) that need to be worn too? Might you want to preserve some of your shoes so they don’t get worn out too quickly? Regardless of how many other pairs you have, they each serve a purpose. Most people don’t have “only one” pair of shoes.
So now I’ve written about James Taylor and shoes. What a strange combination that, how you might ask, has anything to do with your role as a care partner. I will say it bluntly because it’s the motto I remind my clients: Care PARTner is only PART of who you are. You have other roles and responsibilities in your life. Just like you don’t wear “only one” pair of shoes, you don’t need to be the “only one” who cares for the person in your life who needs someone.
Stay tuned for my next blog about ways to make this possible.