Sometimes I Feel Invisble

Recently I came across some papers from our pre-marital counseling.  On the bottom of the page I had practiced writing my soon to be new name, Joan Borton, several different ways.  Most young girls engage in this practice with a first crush, a serious boyfriend, and writing-1912945_1920certainly when about to be married.  Not every bride wants to change her name.  I was happy to be known as Mrs Borton.

But here is my true confession, sometimes I feel invisible.

Is it just me, or does this happen to other spouses married to someone with a disability?  Jerry is very recognizable.  He is fun and captures people’s hearts with his wit.  He is pretty memorable.  But me – that’s another story. I guess I should be grateful that they remember Jerry by name rather than referring to him as “that guy in the wheelchair.”

We have lived in this community 19 years, and have attended the same church for 15 years. Still though, if Jerry is not with me and I talk to someone we know casually I will get a funny look or even be asked, “I’m sorry. Who are you?”  It does not happen every day or even every week, but often enough to bug me.  woman-565104_1920

I am not the smallest or quietest woman in the world, yet you missed that I hang out with that guy who uses a wheelchair? You have no idea who I am if my husband is not with me?  Wow!  As soon as I say my name and connect it to being married to Jerry the recall comes.

Why does this bother me so much?  The bottom line is pride, I want to be known as me for who I am.  I think the other factor is that spouses can be perceived by the public as an attendant rather than a family member.  Sadly, that indicts our culture on two fronts – 1) underestimating that a person with a disability is or could be married, and 2) not giving paid attendants the value they are due for the hard and often thankless work they perform.

Anymore, I try to just start out conversations by reintroducing myself.  I find it less painful to assume they may not remember me or my name than it is to find out for sure.

question-2309042_1920I get that this is not the biggest problem we face, but we all know it is the “little irritants” that get under the skin and provoke annoyance. Is this a problem unique to me?  Do other spouses find themselves on the losing end of identity? How do you deal with it? If this isn’t your marital pet peeve – what is?

To Be Known by Name

November is National Caregivers Month.  Peter Rosenberger, a ministry colleague at Caregivers With Hope created a video to honor caregivers.   We showed this video at our recent Caregivers Day of Pampering to 120 women who provide care for a family member affected by disability or special needs.  There were few dry eyes in the auditorium as the video played.

What is so striking in this video is the names.  We are so often acknowledged as “Jerry’s wife” or “Matthew’s mother” or “Kim’s sister.”  Yes that role is a very big part of who we are, and a role we (usually) cherish.  But every once in a while it is needful and appreciated to take a few minutes (or even hours) to be known as Joan, Sharon or Beth.

12238058_10153208770271778_5381036211214562344_oI think that is why at our Pampering Days one of the first “spa stops” for many of the ladies is the paraffin hand dip.  It affords a few minutes to sit down and be face to face with another person who calls us by name.  Conversations can quickly go deep as the “pamperer” looks the Caregiver in the eye and massages their hands.

This month (and beyond) one of the best things you can do to honor and respect a caregiver is to learn their name, call them that, and spend a few minutes looking in their eyes and getting to know them as Marie, Stacy, Janice, Amy, Maria, Trish, Marilyn, Carin, Pam, Colleen, Kelly, Janine, Candy, Savine, Cindy, Marty, Helen, Gwen, Shirley, Jennifer, Michelle, Rose, Kim, Nina, Debbie, Jenn, Theresa, Joy, Lisa, Gwen, Anne, Leann, Katy, Eleanor, Brittany, Jill, Rachel, Maggie, Leanne, Willa, Betty,   . . .

Isaiah 43:1-4 ESV  (italics added)

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,