I’m going to take a break from trying to be funny and write a serious post on something that is personal for me. My wife, Michele, suffers from a horrible disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis. She was diagnosed with this disease when she was just a little girl and has been dealing with it all her life. She has pain in just about every part of her body all day long. Despite that, she does her best not to let it affect her day to day life.
When I met her 14 years ago, I had little understanding of the disease. To me, Arthritis was just something old people got . I had no idea that Rheumatoid Arthritis was a whole different animal, with Juvenile RA being even worse. As the years of our marriage went by, I began to see how much she had to overcome each day just to function. Even with this increasing awareness I really had no true idea what it was like. Even when you love someone it’s easy to get frustrated with them when you don’t understand why they can’t do something that seems so easy for you.
That’s when a little over a year ago I came across The Spoon Theory. It was written by Christine Miserandino who suffers from Lupus. It’s a brilliant article that opened my eyes to what it was really like to live with a debilitating disease. If you have the time, click on the link and read the article. If you don’t, I’ll give a little summary here. She explains to a friend what her everyday life is like by grabbing spoons from tables in the diner where they were having a snack. She gave them to her friend and explained that each day she would only start with a limited supply of spoons. As you completed even the simplest task throughout the day it would cost you a spoon. Her friend soon realized that she would quickly be out of spoons long before completing one of her typical days. You should really read her whole article because she explains it a lot more eloquently than I can.
After reading The Spoon Theory it seemed like I had a whole new understanding of what my wife had to go through each and every day. I was so overwhelmed with clarity that I immediately posted on her Facebook page.
This article allowed me to communicate with her about her disease on a much deeper level. Now we typically talk about how many spoons she has when planning our tasks. I’ll sometimes wish her a drawer full of spoons in the morning, which is my way of saying have a great day. It truly has given me, and many others from what I’ve seen on social media and other blogs, a whole new avenue of understanding when it comes to communicating with your loved ones who are cursed by one of these diseases.
However, The Spoon Theory is not the subject of this post. What I want to talk about is The Fork Theory. It’s a theory that has been germinating in the back of my mind when we talk about spoons. Here it is in a nutshell. While the people living with these energy sapping diseases have to manage their limited supply of spoons, all their disease free loved ones, be it family or friends, carry a different utensil around. You guessed it, it’s a fork. Furthermore, we only carry a single fork around with us. Our loved ones have no choice but to give up a spoon when completing a daily task. We, on the other hand, must strive to keep our fork put away and never bring it out. Why, you ask? Because when we bring that fork out and hold it up, we’ve lost the battle of understanding by saying FORK YOU!
It should never happen, but if you are being honest, you know it does. Want to go out on Friday night but she can’t go because she just doesn’t have any spoons left? Out comes our utensil, FORK YOU! Want your husband to cut that yard but he’s saving his last spoon to walk the dog? FORK YOU! Snuggled up to the wife in bed at night while subtly suggesting some sexy time, only to discover she didn’t budget a spoon for that today? FORK YOU! (Or more accurately in this scenario, no forking for you.)
Don’t get me wrong. I know this kind of struggle in no way compares to the one living with the disease, but it’s a real struggle. It’s a struggle that all loved ones of a person with a painful disease should fight hard to win. You should try to keep that fork firmly planted in your pocket. You won’t always be able to do it, but when you can, it takes away another level of stress when your disabled loved one is already juggling those spoons.
Even the most insignificant things can cause that fork to rear its ugly tines. For example, my wife is very active in fund raising for the Arthritis Foundation to do research for a cure. She was recently honored at a fund raising event for all her efforts. It was a well-deserved honor and I was very proud of her. After she received her award on the stage and was walking back to where I stood, I went to give her a hug. She walked by me and started giving hugs to her family that had come from out of town especially for the occasion. Somehow she missed me entirely and I immediately became angry. I reached for that metaphorical fork and had it halfway out of my pocket. I was ready to shove it in her face when I realized that it would ruin her entire day. I’m sure she was just overwhelmed, low on spoons, and inadvertently overlooked me. Even good things that happen to her cost spoons, and she wanted to spend them sharing her excitement with family members she hadn’t seen in a long time. So I slowly pushed the fork back down in my pocket. It wasn’t about me. It was about her accomplishments.
So all the loved ones of somebody who has to manage their spoons each and every day just to get by, remember The Fork Theory, and join me in doing our best to keep that damn implement out of sight!