If you don’t know about spoon theory, this is where it came from. Thanks to Ann Holloway for making me aware of it. I love the fact that it came from a site called “but you don’t look sick“* because since I got ill after catching flu when I was about 16 (I’m 43 now), that’s been the most common response I’ve had from people. If you know anyone with Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease / M.E. /Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Lyme Disease, or any multiple allergy syndrome or kind of auto immune issue, or condition arising from traumatic head injury, or any other kind of chronic condition that messes with a person’s daily resources for activity, communication, thinking, or connection, then reading this will help you to understand them better.
For me, it took two years of study and treatment from a Harley Street cardiologist to learn the science behind ‘spoon theory’ although it wasn’t called that to me, and to learn how it affected my body. I went from a deep pain at the unfairness of it to studious application and responsibility for my own part in it. Tough lesson, but the doctor was ex military and took the ‘no excuses’ approach to extreme levels, so I had no choice as a 19 year old other than to decide to be an adult, and take full responsibility of every decision I made and its effects on my body from that time on. It’s served me in many other areas of my life. It’s why some people think I’m ‘hard’, because I don’t accept their BS excuses. However, the reason I don’t is because I know the pain that comes from viewing yourself as a victim rather than a survivor. If you get stuck in the unfairness of things too long, you miss the blessings, and the lessons. Whatever you’re going through – whether physical or emotional, and whether in relation to your personal or business life, it’s better if you own it and learn from it rather than letting it define you.
Without the health challenges I had so young, I would never have developed the ‘Hustle and Glide’ theory I use to help clients achieve more in their business and creative lives. It came directly from an understanding of a need to make the most of good days and write off bad ones. It just happens to work really well for people with no health challenges too. I’ll blog about it another day.
What/Who Steals Your Spoons?
For some people, certain actions and tasks can nab their spoons. For others, it’s being around certain kinds of people, or something else. For me, spoon thieving events that swipe the most spoons include:
Being in audiences (being on stage isn’t so big of a deal, but being surrounded by people I don’t know but have to pretend to be best friends with really zaps my spoons). Plus, am empath, so audiences are a nightmare unless people are actually being honest about who they are. If I’m low on spoons and you pretend to be something you’re not, I’ll call you on it. You’ll hate me and tell everyone what a bitch I am. I’ll lose more spoons. However, in time you’ll be glad that someone finally called you on your BS, and you’ll start living a more authentic life that doesn’t involve you sucking the life out of people like a Dementor. 🙂 Kidding. Kinda. Generally it is best to be yourself, though. Trust me on this. A poem that will help.
Travel. If I’m over-equipped with spoons, I can do it. If not, it’s a nightmare. I don’t fly any more. It’s like applying a spoon vacuum to my resources. If I travel to an event – even if it’s only an hour away – I’ll try to find accommodation to stay the night before and the night after so that I can sneak out and regenerate spoons via solitude or naps as needed. If I can’t find accommodation, I cancel appointments the following week so that I can deal with the virus or whatever that my immune system lets in. Years of experience has shown me that even though hoping for the best is a great strategy, when taking part in the ‘extreme sports’ of spoon balancing (live events) it’s best to leave space for worst case scenarios. When it happens, I just remind myself that I’m paying for a good thing that I experienced, and that I’ll be fine soon.
Feeling like a burden, or enduring others’ disapproval of the fact that I couldn’t come to an event or was a pain to cater for due to allergies. I can be wiped out by this for a couple of days, and not even have attended. Just the emotional trauma of letting people down can manifest as allergic reactions or other illnesses.
So, one of the things that really brings me down is being asked – repeatedly – to speak on stage at events in America. YES. I would LOVE to do that. NO I can’t, because: flying, crowds, weird food, etc. Then I’m encouraged to feel as if I’m letting people down, which loses me spoons anyhow. Now… does this mean I could never go to America and speak on stage? No. Because I’ve lived in America since being differently configured (don’t really view it as being ill any more. It’s more ‘different’ than anything at this stage.) But the way I’d need to do it would be to go there for a month, fit in a week of sleeping, getting use to the food, and encouraging my skin not to react to the sun because, oh yeah, sun allergy. Only comes about when completely spoon deprived, but it’s one of the more annoying ones. Then I could speak at three or four – or maybe even more than that – events over the next two weeks, with a final week to sleep before flying home. A private jet would be nice, so I could avoid the mid-Atlantic allergic reaction to recycled spices and peanuts in the aircon too. But… that would make it do-able.
Housework. And… not doing housework. And… hiring people to do housework. This one’s tricky. The physical act of housework requires many spoons, however although I don’t mind things being a little artistically arranged, when they get messy that bugs the heck out of me, so not doing housework isn’t an option. And strangers coming into my house to clean things freaks me out. Ambivert. I need to socialise on my own terms. If people show up to clean my house when I’m in introvert mode, I’m as edgy as a kitten encountering a cucumber for the next few hours. All require similar numbers of spoons, and affect my ability to do other things. So, I use my Hustle and Glide strategy here, as I do with work, and pick chunks of time in which I don’t care about spoon loss. Then, I clean like a thing possessed. Then I crash out for hours and do nothing, to regenerate spoons.
But… You Look So Well
Turns out that needing to be aware of how many chemicals, spices, additives, etc you put on and in your body has a cool side effect. I live largely organic, don’t take drugs, don’t smoke, and don’t have many of those wrinkle things as a consequence. I told you that you miss the good stuff if you fall into victim mode for too long. 🙂
I don’t tend to write about this stuff, and I don’t share it too often, because I genuinely believe it’s best never to live as a victim, so I’ll only ever share it to inspire. I don’t choose to be defined by this part of my experience on this planet. All the amazing things I’ve done in my adult life have happened with this as a subplot. When I pioneered Internet Marketing in the 90s, I was dealing with this. When I went to university and graduated with honours, I was dealing with this. When I lived and worked abroad, I was dealing with this. When I dated male models, interviewed pop stars, made albums, and helped to change government policy… I was dealing with this. Whatever you’re dealing with doesn’t define you. You define you. <3
*Here’s the Spoon Theory PDF: