There was a time, years ago, when I was no longer working at the magazine and was waiting to find out whether or not I was approved for disability. I was living off of a few hundred dollars a month from unemployment and paying most of that to keep my health insurance up to date.
The funny thing is, while I was broke, unemployed and disabled you never would have guessed it. I was house sitting for friends that were traveling, which means I was living in a lovely home on Prospect Blvd. that had a hot tub in the back. I was driving my parents' old Lincoln Continental, which fit in quite well with the neighborhood. While I was sick and in pain, at the time I was only using my cane on bad days. In other words, I could pass for any other successful and healthy person on the block. Ahh... the old book and it's cover dilemma. Let's just say mine didn't match.
Back then I found it difficult to explain to people about my life when it didn't look like I was sick. How do you explain to someone that you're limited when you appear to be fully able? That's when I read The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. It's well worth your time to click the link and read it in it's entirety, but the gist of the story is that the author, Christine, was asked by a friend to explain how it felt to have Lupus (an autoimmune disease that is different than mine but with some similar complications).
She gathered up the spoons on the table, gave them to her friend and had her count them up. She explained that when you have an illness you only have a certain number of spoons at the start of your day and each activity you perform requires a spoon. Get out of bed... lose a spoon. Shower... lose a spoon. Make a meal... lose a spoon. Do the dishes... you get the point. So at the start of each day you have to map out and plan a strategy to get everything done and not run out of spoons. Healthy people's spoon supply is limitless. The sicker I get, the fewer spoons I have to start my day.
My friend Scott especially liked the idea of The Spoon Theory. For awhile every time I talked to him he'd ask me how many spoons I had left before he'd ask me if I wanted to join them to do something. It was a helpful tool in allowing people to understand that while I wanted to join in and do everything they were, sometimes there were just no spoons left in my day.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately because I've been missing the days when I had spoons to play with. It used to feel limiting to only have seven spoons at the start of the day. It was hard not to have enough spoons to go to work or sit through a movie or go out to eat. But in the past year my regular teaspoons have been reduced to baby spoons. The kind that have the soft, protective plastic over the metal.
I have a baby spoon to write this blog, another to take a shower and maybe two or three more to make it through the rest of my day... they are used up by heating up a meal or loading the dishwasher or having a long phone conversation. Every once in awhile I'm blessed with a whole teaspoon of energy and I'll have a friend come over to visit. Days like today, when I'm having the leftover effects of a migraine, the blog post is about all that will get done.
I'm not saying this for sympathy or to have a pity party; it's just a part of my life right now. My point is that even with my baby spoons, you still can't judge my book by its cover. I have a lovely condo that I live in, I have good friends and a cute dog and a car in the garage. The fact that the car battery is dead because I can't remember the last time I was able to drive it is the part of my book that people might not notice. The fact that I would feel like a rockstar if my lungs were strong enough for me to sit on my beautifully decorated patio is something people might miss. Perception and reality don't always go hand in hand... you can't judge a book by it's cover.
I can get just as caught up as the next guy in making snap judgements about people. I can wonder why people are parking in the handicap spot when they look fine, or why they waste gas driving to church when it's three blocks away, or why they're not willing to get involved in their community. But more often than not I don't know their book... I'm only looking at their cover. And I have no idea how many spoons they have to spare.
But as Oprah would say, there is something I know for sure. I know that today, no matter what story your book may tell or how your cover may look, my wish for you is a handful of spoons.