I am aware that I have caretaking tendencies. In fact, I make my living helping people all day, every day. I am a father who will do anything for my family. I am a front-line advocate for friends who need an open ear or soft shoulder to lean on. I care out of choice, within my power, because I am available to give. I am not codependent.
At least that is what I thought.
For years I had categorized codependency as a diagnostic issue. A bad thing. Something people struggle with who aren’t fully content with the self. What I have discovered is that codependency is to caretaking like fat is to bacon. You almost can’t have one without the other, and who doesn’t love bacon even though we know it can kill us?
As I practiced my guitar one evening, I realized all the songs I was learning had a similar feel. They were hollow, soulful, gut wrenching anthems. They held the minor key sadness often heard in a cathedral. Think Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, Simon and Garfunkel’s’ Bookends, Dylan’s Forever Young, and the longing folk tale of the Wayfaring Stranger.
Let's acknowledge that LOVE is the most common theme for a songwriter. Any writer wants to create a good story. They have filled your playlists with tales that either celebrate love or grieve it. More complex, songs often shift between the light and dark side of love. Lyrics move into codependent territory when they paint an image of love's obsession and the sacrifice of oneself to someone else's needs.
Codependency sits on a continuum. We all have levels of how and why we care for others. The grey area that divides caretakers from codependents rests on how well we attend to ourselves throughout the care process. A codependent often unknowingly obsesses in an effort to help another person while neglecting their own needs. This is a complex process and one that author Melody Beattie spent three chapters to define in her bestselling book, Codependent No More.
So, as I sat strumming my guitar to work on a Willie tune, it hit me like the melancholy of a hard summer rain, caretaking and codependency run through my blood. It is hidden in the messages of the music I listen to and play.
After exploring the catalog of songs I have been working on, I wanted to share the top five that carry the codependent theme. Included are the relatable lines to highlight the connections.
1) All Of Me | Willie Nelson
"...All of me, why not take all of me
Can't you see that I'm no good without you
Take my arms I want to lose them
Take my lips I'll never use them
Your goodbye left me with eyes that cry
And I know that I'm no good without you
You took the part that once was my heart
So why not take all of me..."
2) Creep | Radiohead (performed by Amanda Palmer)
"...I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice
When I'm not around
You're so very special
I wish I was special..."
3) Lean On Me | Bill Withers
"...Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on
Please swallow your pride
If I have faith you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won't let show
You just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'll understand
We all need somebody to lean on..."
4) Cold Cold Heart | Hank Williams
"...You'll never know how much it hurts to see you sit and cry
You know you need and want my love, yet you're afraid to try
Why do you run and hide from life, to try it just ain't smart
Why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart...?"
5) I’m Sticking With You | The Velvet Underground
"...I'm sticking with you
Cause I'm made out of glue
Anything that you might do
I'm gonna do too
I'll do anything for you
Anything you want me too
I'll do anything for you
Oh I'm sticking with you..."
5) Crazy | Willie Nelson (performed by Pasty Cline)
"...Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I'm crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I'm crazy for loving you..."