Friday, July 24, 2015

A Spoonful of Hope

This has nothing to do with spoon theory. But it's a pretty
view from my veranda!
I had a lovely fistful of spoons this past week.

After spending the second two weeks of July in an intensive workshop (more on that later), I had been feeling a bit rundown and more tired than usual, so that weekend, I decided to greatly reduce my usual plans and plant myself horizontally on the couch for a few days of furious resting. “Spoon-gathering, ” I called it.

In the world of chronic illness, “spoon theory” is a way that Christine Miserandino developed to describe how she has to manage her energy (her spoons) throughout the day, making wise decisions as to when she can afford to spend her spoons or ought to keep them in reserve. Of course, healthy people have spoons too, but the difference is that those with chronic illnesses (especially ones that affect energy, like my challenge with chronic fatigue), have a smaller number and may need to spend their spoons on something as small as taking a shower or getting dressed or standing for a length of time. If a person overspends their spoons, he or she can have sometimes painful and debilitating consequences, and it may take days for the supply to be replenished.

When I was in the worst part of my illness, I found “spoon theory” to be a helpful way for me to explain to myself and others why I was making the decisions that I did, why I had to sometimes cancel plans at the last minute, why I was militant about respecting certain boundaries—it has helped me not to overtextend myself and learn a measure of contentment in my limitations. As I’ve been recovering, I’ve been occasionally discovering that I have one or two more spoons than I did a month before, which is very exciting.

But sometimes, knowing how many spoons I hold in my hand can make me rather cynical (I like to call it “experiential realism” but let’s not delude ourselves...). About 5 weeks ago, when I had my first translation session with the Kamano-Kafe, I ended up missing most of my rest times and crossed nearly every boundary I’d set for myself that day. As a result, by the time I came home that evening, I was barely coherent. My roommates kindly fed me and shuttled  me into bed, where I promptly slept for 12 hours without stirring. As I dragged myself around the house the next day, barely mobile, I moaned in despair, “This will never work. I’ll never be healthy enough again to do my job. What was I even thinking??”

And I really was afraid. After all, my workload and output was at a snail’s pace compared to my previous life; I’d already cancelled multiple workshops I was supposed to attend due to lack of energy, and now I was attempting to manage an intense two-week workshop in July. How could I possibly have enough spoons for that?

“Why do I think I can go anywhere?” I wonder, looking at my track record. “This is idiotic. It will never work.” And so, I lay out my future in stone, as if I was some sort of god, able to see beyond the present.

“Never!” says Cynicism.

“Maybe!” says Hope.
The Kamano-Kafe team leading in worship

Maybe you can’t do this right now...and maybe that’s because He’s not asking you to...Or maybe if you drop those spoons alongside those loaves and fishes, you can. And so it ended up that the Culture Meets Scripture workshop was that very thing—a deep breath and I laid fears and spoons aside to see what might happen, and while I still participated in the workshop with times of extreme fatigue, the point is, by His grace and through your prayers, I participated in it. 

It’s hard to live in equally in both hope and contentment—to be satisfied in the present, yet optimistic for the future...and not be dragged into cynicism and resignation by years of waiting for those spoons to increase. In a few weeks, I’m flying to Australia for a holiday, and despite my attempts at realistic planning, I can just see my spoons flying out the door left and right as I navigate doctors and housing and transportation and reverse culture shock and physical labor at a horse barn and more. It’s enough to want to make anyone give up....


but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30