“All I ever wanted was a spoon, a spoon…”

Are you familiar with spoon theory?
It’s a shorthand developed by Christine Miserandino over at But You Don’t Look Sick to describe life with chronic illness, especially an illness that causes fatigue. It’s akin to the energy-point requirements certain PC games have for doing tasks or playing levels, but I think spoon theory’s all the more descriptive because it’s not precise, just as life is not precise. A spoon represents a discrete amount of energy (not standardized in any way, just a representation), and the number of spoons you hold represents the amount of energy you have to get through the day. Healthy people have a virtually unlimited number of spoons; the chronically ill don’t.
My situation isn’t as severe as Christine’s, but here’s an example that’s happened to me more than once:

Let’s say you start the day with thirty spoons. It’s a pretty good day, so getting up and getting breakfast (tea and cereal) takes only one spoon. Then comes checking email and making Internet rounds, which costs another spoon. If there’s work to do that morning, that might take three spoons or so, more if there’s a lot of typing or term-checking involved. Lunch is one more spoon.
(Remaining spoon count: 24)
But there’s an errand you know you have to get run by the end of the week. That’s going to be a five-spoon effort. And you know that it’ll be best if you can get it taken care of today.
So you get up–that in itself may cost a spoon–and go get ready to shower–another spoon. Showering costs a spoon. Getting dressed costs a spoon. Now you’re all ready to go, and you should still have at least twenty spoons left, right?

Then you look down at your hand and discover that it’s shaking… because there’s only one spoon left.

What happened to the other nineteen? There’s no way to know, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ve got one spoon left and the errand is going to take five. You might regain enough spoons with a nap, but there’s no guarantee, and even if you do, you’re likely not to wake up in time to use them. If you push yourself now by borrowing against tomorrow’s spoons, that puts you in a four-spoon deficit from the jump–and you have no way of knowing how many spoons you’ll wake up with or how many you’ll need just to get through the day’s usual routine. That four-spoon deficit could raise the cost of simply getting out of bed to a full spoon–in fact, it could even leave you with only enough spoons to eat, check email, and go back to bed.
So the errand gets put off until tomorrow.
Maybe you’ll have enough spoons tomorrow, or maybe they’ll disappear on you again. Maybe the spoons keep disappearing all week, and you have to call someone to run the errand for you. No matter how it shakes out, though, you brace yourself, because unless you’re very, very blessed, someone’s going to think you’re lazy or tell you that you’ll have more spoons if you just eat right and exercise. (If only it were that simple.)
And when you’re really drained, either depression–yes, it has its own voice–or the Enemy himself will call you a complete failure as an adult and start nagging at you to wonder why in the world you ever thought you could take care of yourself.

God, grant us the grace to stand firm, even when we have no spoons left, and shut the mouths of the lions who would devour us in such times.


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