Chasing Inspiration

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

It's All About The Spoons


  1. Laundry is done! For this week. Trust me, this is a major milestone as I didn't need Hubs' help with any of it. Even if it took two days to accomplish.
  2. Mator, our mutant cherry tomato plant, continues to thrive. He lives in the garage at night and comes out to drink in the sun and water during the day. We may get up to 50 more cherry tomatoes off him before he gives in to the inevitable. 
  3. I was up and doing things at 7:30 am. This may not sound like much, but the look Hubs gave me indicated he was witnessing a minor miracle.
Let's keep up with the sharing, shall we. Apparently, I'm full of the shares this week. And it's only Wednesday. 

courtesy of Liz West via Flickr  CC License 2.0
Have you heard of spoon theory? No? Well, aren't you in for a treat. Pull up a chair, sit back, relax, and let me, as the kids say, drop some knowledge. 

Spoon theory was developed by Christine Miserandino during a conversation with a friend in which she used spoons as an object lesson on what it's like to live with a chronic health issue. She grabbed spoons from near by tables, handed them to her friend, and told her friend she now had a chronic health condition, in this case Lupus. 

I liken spoons to units of energy, be it mental, emotional or physical. When a person is healthy, they have an seeming endless supply of spoons. A healthy person doesn't have to decide just how they are going to spend spoons on any given day. Little juggling is required. And the next day, poof, new spoons, so yay! 

A person with a chronic health condition gets a finite number of spoons on any given day. The number of spoons one has may also vary daily. Today I may have twenty spoons but tomorrow I may only have five. I can start to predict how many spoons I'll have to spend, but I could easily be wrong. Since I only have a finite number of spoons, I have to be honest with myself and make hard choices. My spoons yesterday looked like this: 

Yesterday was a 14 spoon day. This is the average of late. 
  • Task: shower and shave; Spoons: 1
    • doing my hair and makeup would have been an additional spoon. Thankfully, my hair looked fine and as much as I wanted to look polished, I forwent the make as well
  • Task: breakfast; Spoons: 1
    • it's amazing how difficult a healthy paleo/GF breakfast can be to make when the pain is high. I eat this way because food is medicine and when I eat 'regular' food I feel even crappier.
  • Task: take dog to vet; Spoons: 2
    • Velcro Dog is skittish and it takes a lot of energy to play games with him at the vet in order to keep his calm. 
    • Driving can take spoons. Yes, the simple act of driving can exhaust me some days.
  • Task: lunch; Spoons: 1
    • Soup, 1/2 sandwich, tea, and some snuggles with Velcro Dog.
  • Task: dog walk; Spoons: 2
    • Half my spoons were spent by noon, and there were more things on my list yet to attempt to accomplish. Beyond just living, that is.
  • Task: laundry; Spoons: 2
    • Climbing up and down the stairs three or four times to change loads along with folding and putting clothes away can be too much. These two spoons were just getting two loads washed and dried and in the basket. I skipped folding and putting away, knowing I could do that today. This is part of the negotiations I have with myself.
  • Task: Dinner; Spoons: 2
    • I was in charge of barbequed brats, homemade roasted potato wedges, and salad. It almost broke me. If I'm really honest, this was closer to three spoons but I don't count the resting I did during the actual eating of dinner. Yes, the act of eating can be a spoon unto itself. 
  • Task: Clean up/load dishwasher; Spoons: 0
    • I had only a few spoons left so asked Hubs if he could take care of the clean up. It was that or leave everything for today. No one enjoys scrubbing day old pots. No one. 
  • Task: Mental breakdown; Spoons: 2
    • It had been a stressful day and I was at the end of my reserves. I felt guilty and inadequate and useless. It is this type of thinking, along with the constant pain, that can have me sink low into a depressive episode, unless I am able to take the time to deal with the self talk. Which, ironically, also takes spoons. I tend to hold some spoons back just in case. Can you blame me? 
  • Task: Bedtime routine; Spoons: 1
    • Last night my routine was letting the dog out, turning the dishwasher on, brushing my teeth and falling into bed. I read a bit because my brain wouldn't turn off. If I don't fall asleep within 45 minutes of climbing into bed I use an extra spoon or two trying different means of dealing with insomnia
  • End of day tally: 14 Spoons Used
I used all of my spoons and I had many things I didn't accomplish. Things like paying bills, cleaning the office, dry mopping the wood floors, folding and putting laundry away, going to the library to return/pick up books, write, clean off the dining table, vacuum screens/windows in preparation for winter. My house feels like a complete pit. There is dust everywhere. Piles of papers adorn my office. Books are piled rather than put away on shelves where they should go because I haven't had the energy to go through the shelves to make room by doing my annual purge/organize. 

Some days I have more spoons, or fewer tasks that require a lot of spoons. Some days the weather sucks and my body pays the price. Some days all the stars align and I feel healthy and whole. Those days I may actually put on makeup and feel pretty. Or I may spend an hour going through one of the ominous piles of shit paper that needs to be organized or tossed. I may actually get bills paid and the cheque book balanced. Or I may say to hell with it and go out for lunch with a friend. Or go see a movie in the evening with Hubs. 

I have to learn to not feel guilty when I go to bed and the kitchen hasn't been cleaned. Or when the laundry has to wait for Hubs to help. Or when I need to ask Hubs to vacuum because I just don't have it in me. It's a lot of give and take. This is why I'm not currently working. Why I question when I'll ever be a functioning member of society. And why I kick myself in the ass for that last thought because even though I'm not working and I can't keep up with my life, I am still a living, breathing member of society. I have to have different standards. Different expectations. So does my husband. We both forget this. It's amazing how often we both forget this. 

To thrive I need to learn to slow down. And not in the begrudging manner I've done so thus far. Life for me is going to always be full of choices and give and take. I hate having a house that feels like a pit, but I can only do so much. And it's not really a pit. It just feels like it to me because I have specific standards of how I want my home to be. I hate feeling left out when I have to say no to friends, when I can't go to church because I really need rest more. I hate not working. I hate that some days I don't have the energy to even be online and feel like I'm part of a community that doesn't require me to get dressed and leave my house. I hate that there are days I feel like a hermit because I haven't left my house. 

What this has taught me is that living with a chronic health condition is like having to become a master strategist. Every day I have to measure my pain levels, my energy levels, the weather, and I need to look at the tasks that I want or need to accomplish. Then I need to be planful and mindful as I map out my day. I also need to be flexible. A flare can start in the middle of the day. Weather can change in an instant. A task can take longer or be more difficult than initially estimated. Because of this I need to determine what is critical and what isn't. And I need to be able to let go of the non-critical items because they may never make it to the top of my list. Which means attempting to be objective about my very subjective life.

I also have to think about my state of mind in any given moment. State of mind can impact my spoons drastically. Some days I just need to stay in my pyjamas, turn on some Marvel movies, and snuggle Velcro Dog while I wait for the gloom to part. It isn't about having a mental health day. It's about survival. 

Thanks for listening to me ramble. It was good to get this out. I miss a life where I don't have to measure out spoons. This is the life I have right now. I'm trying to live it the best way I can. 

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