Tag Archives: spoons

The case of the disappearing spoons: disability, Twitter, activism, and spoon management

I blocked someone today on Twitter.1 I think I’ve done this maybe half a dozen times to non-spam accounts in the more than year since I’ve been on Twitter, and (almost?) all of those have been run-of-the-mill trolls and douchebags. This one was wasn’t. She was someone who was, I think, misinterpreting what I was saying, taking offense at it, and letting me know. She is probably a lovely person, and good at what she does.

And I blocked her.

Why? Because I was dreading looking at my timeline. Because my sympathetic nervous system was activated; my pulse was up, my breath faster, my attention hyper-focused, my hands starting to shake. Because, simply, my spoons were vanishing before my eyes.

Spoon theory, to summarize, states that we have a limited number of units of energy, coping ability, what-have-you (measured in spoons, of course), and everything we do takes some number of units. Nondisabled people have if not an infinite number then a plentiful supply; and what’s more, they are (more or less by definition) easily replenished.2 People with various disabilities (mobility, energy, psychiatric, mood/emotional, and so on) might have a smaller number, need to spend more going about daily life, have difficulties getting them back, or have more dire consequences should they run out.

I am mostly stable at the moment; I don’t have to count each single spoon when I get up the morning, nor weigh each minor activity against my remaining supply. For all that I complain (with cause!) about having to choose between sleep and work, I mostly, on balance, am getting adequate (if not plentiful) amounts of each. But always, always I must be aware of my spoon supply; always I must monitor my expenditures; always I must make sure I do not come too close to running out, else risk falling into disregulation, with the weeks — or more — of hard work and lost time and lost living that would follow. Because I am about as stable as I ever get, these things don’t have to be at the forefront of my mind; because I am and will always be bipolar, they must always at least be in the back.

Almost all of my activism is online; almost all my work is virtual. It is no less real therefore, but it does afford me this: that when I realize that my spoons are being sucked away at an alarming rate, I can have great control over/access to tools of disengagement.

Sometimes, when I stop debating, it’s not because I think you’re right or I don’t have a counter-argument or I’m giving up — it might just be because I’m out of spoons.

Sometimes, when I stop following you, it’s not because I hate what you say or think you’re unbelievably boring — it might just be that I can’t spend my spoons on you anymore.

Sometimes, when I block you, it’s not because I think you’re a troll or a bad person or are talking in bad faith — it might just be that my spoons are vanishing before my eyes.

I have to be careful with this, of course; disengagement is also a powerful privilege-protection mechanism, usually unconscious. We use it to not have to question ourselves, to ignore challenges to our unquestioned assumptions, to stay safe in our comfy familiar cages. So I question myself every time I choose it, and (too often, perhaps) don’t disengage because I think I need to hear what is being said, or am afraid it’s a too-convenient excuse, or don’t want to — hah! — be that “weak”. But I usually know, early on, whether a conversation is going to be productive; I usually know quickly whether I have the spoons at that moment to find out. Every time, I have to find my way between self-delusion and self-care.

Disengagement, thankfully, isn’t the only method of spoon conservation, and it’s definitely not the only tool I use — but I gotta say, I do it a lot3. When I do (when I see spoons disappearing or after they’ve all been drained), sometimes I explain, or try to; sometimes even the thought of that is more than I am able to do right then. Sometimes I am able to come back later; sometimes I am not. I know it can suck to be on the receiving end of; I know it sometimes makes me look like a bad activist, like I’m giving up or giving in. But none of that, none of that is as important to me as my primary goal: stability.

So I’m sorry. The person that I blocked: I was frustrated with you, yes, but it wasn’t about you at all, really. I’m sorry you probably think horrible things about me now. I’m sorry I probably hurt you. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to have a productive conversation with you, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to simply not have a conversation with you right then. I haven’t forgotten or dismissed or ignored what you said, and I’m sorry I won’t be able to talk with you about it after I’ve mulled it over. Maybe I could’ve or should’ve made a different choice. Maybe some other time I would have been happy to.

But sometimes, spoons come first.


  1. For those not on Twitter, this means they cannot see my tweets, and theirs do not show up in my timeline.
  2. Spoon theory isn’t about abled people because, simply, they don’t need it. Abled people might like the nomenclature or the idea, but there is a difference between the daily trials of abled life and the sort of spoon-economics the disabled must become proficient in.
  3. Sometimes I think that what others see as me being composed, or kind, or serene, or able to somehow rise above, or whatever, is more a matter of me knowing that I can’t allow myself to get engaged by spouting some of the choice comments that are threatening to get out.

Interesting weekend

So here’s something I’ve discovered I won’t blog about: when it’s not my story to tell. When telling of my experience would reveal more than others are ready to share.

That was my weekend. This is the first time I’ve been at my computer for more than 5 minutes since Wednesday night.

Dear Record Number of Commenters: I’m not ignoring you, I just haven’t had time yet  to properly reply to all of you. Or even pretend to properly reply to any of you.

And now I have time, but I am spent. What I’ve spent my energy on would be a bargain at ten times the price, and I’d do it all over again right now if called to do so, and again after that. But I’d be drawing on credit, the credit of spoons which has steeper interest rates than any financial company — and I’d do that for what and for whom I did this weekend, in a heartbeat, but for not much else; not even for this, my beloved blog.

So to tide you over until my deficit is replenished and we resume the regular irregular schedule of kyriarchy blame 1, here’s some fabulous reading from elsewhere, in no particular order:

  • half the population can’t be a niche market in which Shiny so clearly lays out how silencing works (primarily looking at women, but acknowledging it works that way for other axes of oppression as well).
  • The Inconvenient Truth About Raising Kids “In raising kids, I don’t think any parenting book will get by the fact that most of us need to work on ourselves first to be better parents. Parenting does not get easier by getting better at “managing” our kids. The best parenting advice I’ve ever heard is work on letting go.”
  • Ranting bfp on John Mayer and racist double standards in criticizing sexist cock heads
  • What is bisexuality FAQ The best FAQ on bisexuality I’ve seen.2 (Though as Reclusive Paradox points out, it is not true that “bisexual” is not binary-reifying or cissexist, only that it is no more so than “homosexual” or “heterosexual”.)
  • Pretty and not sporty – worries about gendering our children Dad Who Writes isn’t making the same choices The Man and I are, but he’s facing the same problems and thinking smartly about them.
  • The Ninth Carnival of Feminist Parenting is up, and as usual has more good reading than I can get to in a month, but I’m going to try.

And, finally, not an article but an announcement for a new blog: existere has started babywearing times two for twin (& other tandem) babywearing. Although I pray I never need to use it, I’m glad she’s creating this resource. Read, learn, contribute. Babywearing is so where it’s at.

  1. There’s another installment of Naked Pictures of Faceless People on the way, and inspired by the most recent fat-people-flying debacle I’m finally going to write about taking the train last December and whether I’m heading to BlogHer ’10 in New York City in August — which would, in the practical world, require taking commercial flight
  2. On a related note, if anyone wants to buy me one of these — or pretty much any of their Ts — I’d be ever so grateful. And I’d post pics.