A few years ago, I was getting ready to host my family for Thanksgiving when I realized I didn’t have enough forks. I did all the dishes, looked in all the drawers and came up with exactly five forks. I fretted for a few hours, until I remembered there are only five people in my family and as long as no forks disappeared mid-meal we’d be fine. I still fessed up to my family, and my fork shortage became a running joke. (My mother gave me one fork in a jewelry box for Christmas.) Now that I’m no longer literally running out of forks, I find myself counting my metaphorical spoons.
There’s this thing called The Spoon Theory. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s an explanation of life with a chronic illness as illustrated by a bouquet of spoons. Why spoons? Because they were the closest object to the storyteller at the time. It’s a weird metaphor, but it caught on long before I came to the chronic life scene, so I’m rolling with it. I have now joined a gang called the Spoonies. (Like the Goonies, except instead of searching for pirate gold we might eat some soup later if we can get out of bed.)
It took me a while to admit to myself that I am a spoonie, and even longer to admit it to anyone else, even the people to whom it is painfully obvious. I am speaking here specifically of Lacy, my best friend and roommate who has become my accidental but eternally patient caretaker. Well before we knew what was going on, she took over grocery shopping. She accepted my total domination of the couch. She accompanied me to several late-night ER visits. And she makes great coffee.
Lacy and many others have been there for me over the past year and a half, particularly during what I like to call the Hard Reboot of Rachel. My wonderful workplaces and school let me take several months off to attempt to “get better” or at least figure out what was wrong. Basically, I watched everything on Netflix in between doctor’s appointments, and even though I am not better, I’m so grateful to everyone who let me take that time and supported me through it.*
I’m still Rebooting. I’ve had time to come to terms with the pain of ON, but it’s harder to accept the changes to my life. Knowing my supply of spoons is limited does not stop me from trying to do everything I used to do. It’s kind of like deciding to have another beer and knowing you run the risk of a hangover the next day, except instead of having a beer, it’s reading a book. Or taking a shower. Or working a full day. And instead of a hangover, it’s…actually, that is what it feels like sometimes.
I’m trying to spend my spoons wisely. Work. School. Seeing friends and family in limited ways, even if I know it will cost me later. And the upcoming Women’s March Minnesota. That one is going to hurt in so many ways, but it’s necessary in so many more.
*I’m especially thankful to the people who went above and beyond to bring me to or from ERs, hospitals, pain clinics, and more: Aimee, Bryan, Lacy, and my family.