Friday, February 14, 2014


Enchanted Rock near Fredricksberg, Texas

I've never been a fan of the spoon theory. It just doesn't resonate with me. If you have or have been around anyone with chronic illnesses, you are likely familiar with it. Imagine each day you are handed a bunch of spoons. They represent the amount of energy you have to expend for the day. You can't have more. Each activity that you do costs you a spoon. The goal is to make it through the day without running out of spoons. I need to define 'activity' because I'm not talking about going for a run or spending the day at an outdoor festival. Those things cost you far more than one spoon. For some people, walking up a flight of stairs, cooking dinner, running to the grocery store or even through the drive-through at the bank will cost them a spoon. Spoon theory is an effective way to illustrate to someone who is healthy what it's like to live with limited energy.

It just doesn't go far enough for me. Most people think, well, you can plan ahead what you will be able to get accomplished. That you can follow a schedule. If you take a nap you gain more spoons. It doesn't work that way. I think a better analogy is to picture yourself walking dangerously close to the edge of the Grand Canyon. You do have a degree of control, but a misstep on your part could cause you to plummet to your death. An outside force such as a gust of wind could cause you to plummet to your death. Sometimes you find yourself falling and have no idea why. See yourself walking along that edge and trying to accomplish everything you need to during your day, but always keeping the looming abyss in mind. Can you see it? Now add fog. Really thick fog, so that the edge is obscured and the abyss hidden, but it's still there. It's always there. This is what it's like to live with chronic illnesses. 

When you wake up, you have no idea how many 'spoons' are in your hand for the day. You guess at the amount of energy you have. You try to base it on how 'good' you feel that day, but anything can come along and steal the energy. Each day is different. It's the inconsistency that's the worst thing to deal with and the hardest thing for others to understand. "You cleaned the house a week ago, why can't you do it today? We had a night out planned. You were fine two hours ago, but now you say you can't go?" It becomes easier to say "no" rather that disappoint someone at the last minute. And those days that you feel as if you can do anything are a double edged sword. It's nearly impossible to not overdo it using up your energy for the next several days all at one time.

But the Grand Canyon is breathtaking. Sometimes you have to wait for the sun to burn off the fog, stand at the edge and marvel at the beauty. Then jump. Jump by choice. Throw up your hands and say, "Damn it, I'm going to do this and if I feel like crap for the next week, it was worth it." That was what I decided last weekend. My husband and I had gone out of town for an art show opening and several events were planned around it. I knew that alone was going to zap my energy. Plus, I had to risk food allergy reactions because we had no place to do our own cooking. I took extra medicine as a precaution. All the art events were on Saturday, so Sunday we were left to our own devices. It was a long drive home, but we did have some time to kill. Ed wanted to climb Enchanted Rock. I should say that Ed wanted ME to climb Enchanted Rock. It's an exposed ancient lava chamber after the volcano eroded away. It's BIG. The path is winding and uneven. There are boulders to climb over. It's also quite beautiful and I've only ever seen it from a distance. He felt like I needed a physical victory. It has been close to a year since I've tried anything dramatic along those lines.

I had mixed feelings. I wanted to do it, but I was afraid of the abyss; the price I might have to pay later. I was afraid if I made it to the top, I might not be able to get back down. I had all kinds of fears trying to stop me. Instead, I told myself I could turn around at any time. Ed said we could stop and rest whenever I needed to. More than once I felt like I was gasping for air; heart pounding. My legs felt like rubber. I had to sit down repeatedly and I truly almost gave up, twice. But with encouragement and patience from my husband, I made it to the top. 

On the way down Ed asked if I was proud of myself. I said, "No. I was a big baby about it." At least I felt like I was. I complained more than once. I expressed frustration instead of just sucking it up and shutting up. He assured me this was something to be proud of. Yeah, he's right. It is. I just hope the next time I can keep the fears at bay. I suffered some pain afterward and was worn out for a few days, but it was worth it. I got to see the beauty in the abyss and gain a new perspective...standing at the top of this giant rock.