Jolie Kanat: Becoming Real

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Jolie Kanat, like many other caregivers, has learned that service to others is how she becomes real.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse, in the Velveteen Rabbit. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with but really loves you, then you become real.”

My realness has been sculpted not only by the love from my 36-year-old disabled daughter, but by my ability to care for her as well. Masking up and helping her bathe, clipping her nails, calming her demons, directing her walk so that she doesn’t lose her way.

Holocaust survivor Dr. Edith Eger writes, “Love is not just something you feel, it is something you do.”

My daughter, Sophie, has taught me that care is woven through, and rises above, love. Because in it, is motion and change, and a certain kind of forever. Without my daughter I would never have known that care is formative, not just for the person who needs it but for the person who gives it. Sometimes I have found her needs startling or heartbreaking, but in running towards care when it’s uncomfortable or scary, something changed in me. I feel more valuable, more grounded, more capable, more certain of what I am doing here. Just more real.


These past months have made the sometimes lowly regarded work of care rise in value and necessity. This is a remarkable outcome from a terrible circumstance. The frontline help, the masking, the distance, the vaccinations are not just for ourselves.

Maybe in caring for one another, whether we wanted it or not, we have all been given an opportunity to become more real.

With a Perspective, I’m Jolie Kanat.

Jolie Kanat is executive director of a supported living services agency in Marin.