Lynne Murray says:
I have measured out my life in coffee spoons…
was in his early ’20s and his spoons in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock probably meant something a little different to him than what I’m about to discuss.
I was searching for information about fat-friendly children’s fiction when I ran across Rebecca Rabinowitz’s LiveJournal.
She mentioned the concept of “spoons” when talking about how her chronic illness can drastically limit what she can do each day. She linked to this insightful little essay, “The Spoon Theory”by Christine Miserandino.
Miserandino describes how she used twelve spoons to demonstrate the real daily life effect of a chronic condition like lupus. She gave her friend the spoons and explained that this was all she could have for a day and each task she did would cost her one spoon. She would have to plan carefully because once the spoons were gone, there was no way to get more.
Miserandino describes the ever-present situation of having to ration her energy just to safely get through the day, the need to constantly calculate how to deal with small things that healthy people never have to think about (such as the exertion involved in cooking a meal versus how sick she would feel if she did not eat), and how bad weather or a high temperature could be genuinely dangerous to her. She says, “I miss that freedom. I miss never having to count ‘spoons’.”
Her words struck a chord with me and I shared her essay with a friend who has Crohn’s disease. She found it helpful enough to print out a copy or two to put in her purse to give to well-meaning friends who try to tell her to “just” walk faster, “just” get up earlier or “just” try this or that miracle cure, people who can’t or won’t listen or hear her when she says that she can’t do something or that their helpful advice won’t cure her.
That’s probably why I’m sharing Miserandino’s metaphor here, despite the fact that talking in detail about my own limitations is extraordinarily difficult for me. It isn’t just that it sounds like complaining, which I try to avoid. It’s that I’ve never seen much use in going down the list of what I can’t do that lots of other people can. If there is a payoff there, I have not found it. The best I can come up with is that it may encourage others in a similar situation, just as Miserandino’s essay on spoons helped crystallize some daily-life situations for my friend and me, and that is a genuine positive result.
However, the possibility of helping someone is stunningly abstract compared to my strongest feelings–the bone-deep caution of an injured wild creature mistrustful of showing weakness that could make it a target. Despite all my misgivings, I did want to share the spoons essay and concept, as I’ve found it a helpful metaphor for an energy level that demands careful monitoring of limited reservoirs.