The Spoon Theory

I need service for 18-20

I need service for 18-20

If you have not read Christine Miserandino’s story, The Spoon Theory, you’re missing out on a wonderful analogy about what it’s like to live with sickness or disability.  Take a minute and click on the link above to read.  I guarantee that even if you don’t personally relate to this story, you probably know someone who does.  It’s worth passing on.

As the story goes, a young woman with lupus has lunch with a good friend who asks what it feels like, not physically, but to live with lupus?   To answer as best she can, the author grabs 12 spoons to illustrate how the limitations of her illness force her to make difficult and challenging choices every day.  You see, healthy people don’t necessarily need to consciously make decisions about daily minutiae.  However, sick people do. The friend with lupus uses the spoons as tangible examples of the daily limit of choices she’s stuck with.

Now for the reality check.

If I use 12 spoons a day  as the author does, I’m totally screwed.  I tried to break down my own personal spoon usage and this is what I came up with for a typical day in the life of Me – Little Miss LupusRanting.  Each number represents one spoon, except for work (work gets 2 spoons).


1.     Get up out of bed, (assuming I had the recommended 8-10 hours sleep which should be mandatory for anyone that has lupus) and take medicine on the nightstand.  (If I get less than 8 hours sleep, deduct 1 spoon.)

2.     Take a shower.

3.     Get dressed (including shoes).

4.     Dry hair and put on makeup.

5.     Breakfast.

6.     Feed the cats.

7.     Drive to work.

8.     Work an 8 hour day (at least).

9.      Drive home.

10.   Fix dinner.

11.    Feed cats (again).

12.    Clean up dinner mess.

13.    Kitty Litter cleanup.

14.    Take trash (including kitty litter) to dumpster outside.

Notice that I’m not even close to accomplishing the stuff listed below and I’m already over the 12-spoon limit.  I’m in deep doo-doo with Spoon-Theory Noncompliance.

What do you mean, I've run out of Spoons???

What??? No more Spoons???

15.     Gather one basket of laundry (clothes, sheets, towels, whites, darks, etc) and schlep downstairs to wash.

16.     Relax (read a book, watch tv, play on computer).  One spoon each.

17.     Go downstairs and move laundry load to dryer.

woman carrying clothes

18.     Unload laundry, take upstairs, sort and put away.

19.     Get ready for bed (wash face, brush teeth).

20.     Before bedtime, make a grocery list and “to do” list for the week.


This list barely covers the basics.  There’s much more to be done, perhaps not in a single day, but necessary, such as:

21.     Grocery shopping.

22.     Bi-monthly pilgrimages to the pharmacy.

23.     Doctor appointments.

24.     Writing (blogging).

Ya'll think 3-4 spoons for this one?

Ya'll think 3-4 spoons for this one?

25.     Facebook(ing)

26.      Exercising (including just walking)

27.     Vacuuming.

28.      Shopping, like at Target or Lowes.

29.      Gardening, weather permitting.

30.      Singing (2 spoons if playing guitar).

31.       Painting (acrylics).

Dude ... Where's my spoons??

Dude ... Where's my spoons??

32.      Paying bills.

33.      Manicure/pedicure.

34.      Hair appointment.


Okay, the 12 Spoon A Day Analogy doesn’t necessarily mean a person can have only 12 a day.  How about increasing the magic number to 18?

I got a fever.  And the only prescription is MORE SPOONS!

I got a fever. And the only prescription is MORE SPOONS!

I need more.   Yeah,  I’m so totally screwed.  But I can adapt.  Actually, anybody that lives with a chronic illness gets pretty good at adjusting and adapting.

If you’ve been kind enough to read my posts, you’ll notice a range of topics.  Sometimes silly, sometimes scary, I enjoy writing about whatever is uppermost on my mind.  Of course, lupus is at the center of it all.  And living with a limited number of spoons is my daily challenge.

Sometimes I think that if I can just hang in there until the weekend … until Saturday morning and Sunday morning, I’ll have time to gather the strength for the next week.  I can sleep in, reclaim those mornings at my leisure and indulge in something, anything, that isn’t taxing or difficult.  Now, more than ever, it’s important to  relax not only my body but my mind.   If I take on household chores on Saturday, followed by a trip to the grocery store and dinner with a friend followed by a movie, I know with absolute certainty that I’ll have a devil of a time trying to get out of bed on Sunday morning.  I’ll not be able to walk without pain.  I’ll not have access to spoons until later in the afternoon.  If I work on Monday from 7:30 am until 6:00 pm, there will be no spoons left to go to the grocery store on my way home.  I can safely enjoy one or two nights a week with friends or family (even better if they come to my house), but inevitably, the laundry won’t get done or the floors will not get cleaned.  Newton’s third law of motion said it best.  “To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  Aside from being brilliant, I wonder if he too had lupus?  🙂  Nah.  Probably not.

In the Spoon Theory story, the author always sets one spoon aside.  I try to hold on to one or two, just in case.  So if you get one of mine, consider yourself very, very lucky.  And if you feel guilty about getting my last spoon of the day, help yourself to the bath towels that need to be folded and put away.  Take out the trash.  It’s all good!     🙂

14 responses »

  1. The spoons were a great example to illustrate a chronic illness. That was very well-written and so was your post. The sad thing is not every day in life is predictable. There are also special projects that are over and above your everyday list as written here. Like painting a room or shopping for so-and-so’s daughter’s birthday, etc. There is always something. So those extra spoons really are important. I like how you make it easy for people to see how they can help you rather than just having them say, “Oh, if I can do anything to help, just let me know.” This was a great post!

    Aw shucks Teeni! You’re so right … the special projects can sometimes be a logistical nightmare. I’m blessed that I can push through many lupus obstacles to get those projects done sometimes. I never take it for granted!

  2. Thanks for letting us be one of your spoons!

    I’ll always have a spoon set aside for you. And an extra one if you need help texting. 🙂

  3. OMG… that goes for me, too. I never looked at it that way because as you say, we adapt. But dang it, adapting isn’t the same as not worrying about it. Like I’ve said before, I don’t have Lupus which is way worse than Diabetes, but even so, I have limitations which really irk me. I get so dadgum mad sometimes…. I just want to lash out and hit something.

    Hey now, all limitations have equal billing! I guess if we can adapt, we can also not worry … need to work on that 🙂

  4. I’m having a flare and could use about a dozen spoons since I’m functioning on about 4 a day….My problem is that I never want to save any for later…but for that matter I don’t save money for a rainy day either…serves me right…

    Actually, I think we need service for 2 dozen. Our days can be very very busy!

  5. I read the article you mentioned about spoons and also your blog. Very interesting. A whole new way to look at a disability. I’m not sure how many spoons I have or need but I do have a disability. The thing is I don’t consider myself disabled. Sure, sometimes I can’t do things I would like to but I still manage to do a lot. I am in pain 24/7 but I have learned to not pay any attention to it. I do find it hard to ask for help though, but I am learning. I always seem to get around any limitations I have.

    I’m glad you’re doing well. Guess I need to toughen up! In the meantime, I’m just trying to keep it real … and for now, I juggle working full-time, and lupus. I manage to do what needs to be done. But hell, I gotta rant about it now and then. Keeps me honest. 🙂

  6. This is the best example of using the spoon theory. If I lived near you, I would spend one of my spoons folding and putting away your laundry.

    That’s the nicest thing to say! Since I stopped by your blog and read about your battles with Lyme Disease, knowing that you would give me a spoon is really cool!

  7. I just read the spoon theory. I have Lupus, and yesterday I woke up with 0 spoons. I felt awful, and I had to watch my 14 month old niece, with no spoons. Today I have about 6. This is a great way of describing the way we have to live with any chronic illness.

  8. There are so many ways to manage living with lupus, it doesn’t mean its going to be easy but with awesome support (like you) one living with lupus can be a bit more comfortable. It’s hard to articulate how grateful having a support system is for a Lupie! I “RAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” and flap my butterfly wings for your awesomeness!

    I’d like to share my blog with you, it only has a few posts, but all are about my journey with Lupus. I was diagnosed this january of 2010 and its been a rough but educated road since then! Let me know your thoughts on it if you do take a peek Stay strong! You’ve inspired me to write up my own spoon pilgramage journey! LOVE this post, cant even articulate its awesomeness! *hugz*

    Tiffany, thanks soooo much for reading my blog and taking the time to write. I stopped by your site and was impressed with your energy and determination. I’m glad to have inspired you … your words of encouragement truly lifted my spirits today. Will add your blog to my Blogroll. Good luck and keep looking for the silver lining! 🙂

  9. yes, yes! this is a perfect rant! this is everyday life for me, and what do we do? adapt. soldier through. we get stressed and bottle it up as to not seem like whiners or attention whores. it’s unfair and disheartening. that’s why it’s nice to know that there are others out there JUST LIKE ME! thank you!!!

  10. Hi. I am running about negative 14 spoons lately but do so enjoy reading your posts. Glad you save what you need in order to share. I have lupus, my daughter has lupus and her 10 yr old son (my grandson) have lupus. We need stock in a spoon company!

  11. Hi;I just came across your blog. I myself do not have lupus; i have fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis and a mobility disability. along with some other issues; but the spoon theory fits me as well…some days, I have more spoons, some days less…stress is a REALLY big factor on how many I have spoons on any given day…

    We all have out good days, we all have out bad days..and we all have our micro-second to micro-second days.We do the best we can, and we make lifestyle changes and diet changes that help us out in the long run..

    I have several ‘days’ worth of plans I have worked up that usually cover when I have good days, when I have bad days, and when I have micro-second to micro-second days…so I am usually prepared when I have a bad day and know what I will be doing the next few days to bring things back on track.

    I had an aunt who had lupus, I know she had to pace herself, and she could not attend or do a lot of things she wanted to do; yet she and her family worked with what she COULD do and she led quite a full life, actually.

    I TOTALLY understand your rant, and can relate in so many ways. Blessings!

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