If you know someone dealing with chronic fatigue or illness, you’ve likely encountered the “spoon theory.” If you haven’t - check it out here and then come on back.
To be honest, I’m a bit meh about the spoon imagery. Maybe it’s the fact that spoons seem so arbitrary that it bugs me to think about. (Video game hearts/hp make much more sense to me.) Maybe I just spend too much time in denial to admit that if I choose to expend energy in one way, I’ll have to pay for it from somewhere else. Either way, it’s not a metaphor that instantly resonates... until it does.
Recently I’ve been feeling low because I haven’t seen friends for so long. I’ve had a cold/virus since February and I’m just run down and feeling like I’m in survival (aka “just keep swimming”) mode. I’m frustrated with feeling crappy, so I decided to make a point to do some social things with friends no matter what. So I did. I finally had a Saturday flower markets outing with someone I love and we’ve been trying to make it happen for over a year. It was so good. She met me with coffee for the car ride. We bought flowers until we couldn’t carry any more and it was one of those glorious Saturday mornings where everything seems to glow with warmth and light.
But then - whooom - I felt like I was run over by a truck. I was optimistically hoping that the awesomeness of the outing would overflow into the rest of the day. Instead, it seemed like a significant trade off. One awesome outing = 1 full day of feeling like poop.
So aggravating! But it isn’t even consistent. Sometimes I go out and feel so hopped up on endorphins I just float through the rest of the day. Other times, a good outing seems to be like the sea witch in The Little Mermaid. I get my legs, but the sea witch is lurking until the moment she’s going to claim my voice as recompense.
Sometimes I go so long without social outings that I think subconsciously I am avoiding the potential pain. Other times I convince myself I’m being too worried for nothing - only to pay dearly in the aftermath.
It’s the unpredictability that is hardest for me to accept. There are no rules, no terms of reference. It’s all a bit of a gamble. It forces me to again admit that I’m not in control.
My task is to assess the situation at hand and work out what to do next. It’s not a problem to solve, it’s a circumstance requiring a response. So much of my life is about unclenching my fists from a desired outcome that I’m clinging to and to relax them and teach them how to just accept something.
When my arthritis flared up for the first time, my hand swelled and I couldn’t grasp a pen or fork or hold a cup (ironically, I couldn’t clench my fists and hold on to something even if I wanted to.) I was utterly dependent on others and felt quite helpless. I’m glad my meds are working and things have not been that bad since they kicked in, but I often think of that time. Life is full of moments where we are so limited in what we can do that our only option is to avoid or accept.
By no means have I mastered the art of accepting and adapting, but I have gotten better at being grateful for the times things are going well. The simple act of holding a crochet hook is something I can no longer take for granted. I am thankful that I can use my hands to create something. I like looking back on these things as happy memories in the hard times. Each piece is connected to a person or a flight of fancy and it makes me smile.
Accepting the things I cannot change is one of my repeated life lessons. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting better at making lemonade. If I gradually cut the sugar, maybe one day I’ll be ok with the lemons as they are.