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.
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.
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.
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).
26. Exercising (including just walking)
28. Shopping, like at Target or Lowes.
29. Gardening, weather permitting.
30. Singing (2 spoons if playing guitar).
31. Painting (acrylics).
32. Paying bills.
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 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!