Being a Spoonie

On Wednesday, I had three personal calls, a work call, went grocery shopping, had my hair cut, walked three miles getting to and fro, wrote an article, washed all my dishes, and made dinner from scratch. By the end of the day, I was completely zonked and chose to bail on my evening Zoom plans. Why? Because I’m a spoonie. I like to pretend I’m not a spoonie, but I’m a spoonie.

For those of you unfamiliar with spoon theory, it’s a metaphor coined by Christine Miserandino as a way to describe what it’s like living with lupus. While out to eat with a friend, Miserandino used spoons to represent the amount of energy she starts each day with. While engaging in different tasks throughout the day, a spoon is taken away. For instance, cooking is one spoon, washing dishes is another spoon, laundry is another spoon, etc. And then when all the spoons are gone, they’re gone. There are no reserves to “push through” and take the dog for a walk because the dog needs to be walked, for example.

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Spoonies, like spoons, come in all shapes and sizes. Photo by Dstudio Bcn on Unsplash

That’s me. Not that I have a dog to be walked, but still. When my energy is depleted, it’s depleted and I can’t force myself to do anything else. But I forget this about myself. I think I can accomplish more than I actually can. When I wake up and I feel fine, not even energetic, just fine, I start doing a million things because I finally have the energy and motivation to print out the return label for a package, or refill my spice jar, for instance. But then after doing things I’ve put off, plus the normal life things, I get to the end of the day and struggle to feed myself. Ay caramba.

I think wrapped up in all this is internalized capitalism. To internalize capitalism means to equate productivity with self-worth. It also means a person feels guilty for resting. That is certainly the case for me. I feel ashamed I’m not able to be “normal” like other people. That four hours after waking up my eyelids start to droop and my brain starts to shut down. I cope by taking a nap, but I don’t love that I plan my day around napping. My friends and family already know about my daily nap, but I feel embarrassed writing about it publicly. Why can’t I be like everyone else? Why can’t I have the energy that some other people have?

There are numerous answers – many of them having to do with genetics and also seven years of not sleeping well. But also life experiences. It’s unrealistic for me to think I can be like other people when we were dealt different cards. Isn’t it possible that if other people were dealt the cards I was, they’d also have what I have? I think so!

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to shed the spoonie label, but what’s more important to me is changing my perspective. To stop internalizing capitalism to the best of my ability given I live in a capitalistic society. To value rest and self-care. To remember the trite expression that I’m a human being and not a human doing. I’m pretty sure no one else cares if I check off every item on my to-do list. Maybe I can start feeling the same way.

I dream of a world where we recognize our inherent self-worth. A world where we remember productivity doesn’t make us good and resting doesn’t make us bad. A world where we practice accepting ourselves as we are. A world where we realize the body has its own limitations and sometimes that makes us spoonies.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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