*Blows away some dust and coughs*. Well, this place has been pretty quiet hasn’t it? I’m afraid 2019 has seen one whole blogpost…. Yeah, that’s a new low even for me. But, I’m not going to apologize for it, as I don’t feel guilty in the least.
2019 has been a year of learning, realizations and acceptance for me. And the one big thing that lead to this is that I have learned how to get better at being a spoonie. For those unfamiliar with the term: a spoonie is someone with a chronic illness. The nickname comes from spoon theory. This basically means that you only have so much energy to spend, which is represented by spoons. Some days you have a lot of spoons and on other days only a couple. Or on the really bad days you have absolutely none and you are reduced to being a total couch potato.
Previously, (read only a couple of months ago) I used to get very frustrated on my zero spoon days. On those days I had usually planned on either working on my Aberystwyth homework or on my PhD, meal prep, do the dishes or laundry… Or, preferably all of the above. I would have included this to do list in my planner complete with matching stickers. So imagine waking up and instead finding that all you could do that day was make your way down the stairs, pop down on the couch and for dinner pop a ready meal into the microwave… Of course I spent the better of that day mentally beating myself up for not being the least bit productive that day. This state of mind wasn’t improved by staring at the part in my planner with my to do list and having to face the fact that I could not tick off one single thing. So by the end of that day I was frustrated and felt like a failure.
It took me a good while to realise that such thoughts were not just depressing, but incredibly unhelpful. Being frustrated certainly didn’t help my energy levels go up miraculously nor did it help me in any way. Shocker right?
So, I decided to stop thinking this way. I literally stopped planning and decided to listen to my body on my days off to see what it needed. If it can shove some dishes in the dishwasher that day, I do that. If I have a really good Sunday enabling me to write: whoot! Here for it. And on the zero spoon days? I now make myself a nice cup of tea (and I mean fancy, comforting tea), curl up underneath my fleece blanked on the couch, wait for one of my cats to join me for some lovely cuddles and just binge watch a Netflix series. I declare those days self-care/recharge days and try to enjoy them. I know that I always (and I mean always) push myself to do the best I can at everything I do, and on some days just getting out of bed is all I can manage. And you know what: that’s good enough for me.
As a result, I have stopped decorative planning. I really miss using my stickers, but hey: no matter how cute that sticker is it sure isn’t worth feeling like crap for. I am still holding on to my planner supplies for now, just in case I change my mind. If not… I am sure I can find a friend who is into journaling that would appreciate them just as much as I do.
Adopting this “I do things when I have the energy for it” approach also meant very few blogposts. In the grand scheme of things, they simply did not have priority this year. I work 4,5 days a week, am doing a postgraduate course (which is going really well by the way: I’m ahead of schedule at the moment) and work on a PhD whenever I can… So with that much on my plate I simply didn’t want to pressure myself in writing blogs. After all, they are supposed to be written for the fun of it, not because I feel like I have to. So instead, I opened an instagram account where I sometimes post pictures. If I snap a good picture or have something to share I post it on there. But again, it’s a no pressure “la-dy-da” approach. No promises, no regular update times. I post whenever feel like it. I would love it if you could sneak in for a peak sometimes. My instagram account is @positivelymar.
My embrace of spooniedom has also lead me to stop entering weight-loss related challenges. I just really want to focus on listening to my body and getting it to a state where it functions at its best. And that comes with enough challenges on its own. Honestly, because of my illness the motivational quotes that were supposed to help me reach my goals during the challenges were getting a bit on my nerves. Constantly being told “do your best” gets a bit frustrating if that is all you are doing. Living with a chronic illness means that you are constantly pushing yourself: whether it is to go to get out of bed, to go to work, to write… And in those cases regular motivational quotes can be discouraging as they make you feel like you aren’t doing enough. So… I stopped. Instead I started following some instagram accounts from fellow spoonies that share messages that currently resonate more with the stage of life I am currently at, like “you are enough”, “you are already doing everything you can, hang in there”. This does mean I have gained a bit of weight again, but I am sure that will come off as soon as I find the right balance.
Before I end this blog, I do want to make it clear that this new approach doesn’t mean that I feel sorry for myself, have planned to spend all my weekends in bed and will never try to achieve another goal in my life again. I mean, come on…. Have we met haha? I still have that freaking PhD to finish and I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will finish it!
No, this new approach simply means that I am learning to roll with the punches. That I am trying to work with my illness, not against it. A lot of people with chronic illness feel as if their body actively working against them. As if they are choosing to subject them to pain, fatigue etc. Well, I am not sure I agree. I am pretty sure my body and mind are in the same (rickety) boat. So instead of constantly quarrelling over who should be steering (and occasionally scoop out the water), we’re gonna have to learn to sail this thing together.
When I declared at the end of last year that 2019 would be the year of change, embracing spooniness wasn’t exactly the change I had in mind. But it was the change I needed. For the upcoming year I’m just going to continue this change. As I result, I am not going to make any resolutions, promises or set any definite goals for 2020. I’ll just see how it goes, go with the flow and cross bridges when I get that far. In short: I’m going to live life by using one spoon at a time.
For you, my dear readers I hope that 2020 will treat you well and that you will learn to be kind to yourself. We so often demand the world of yourselves, where we wouldn’t dream of demanding even half of that from others. It’s time we are a bit more forgiving to ourselves and learn to listen: to our mind, our heart and our bodies. Have a lovely 2020.