Parts of my life need me to consistently manage my spoons in order to continue doing the things I love. What are spoons, you ask?
Well if you haven’t read the original post yet, do so now. I talk about spoons a lot when I’m talking about my life and so, the short answer when asking about the Spoon Theory is this:
The spoon theory is a model used by some disabled people and people with chronic illness to describe their everyday living experience when their disability or illness results in a reduced amount of energy available for productive tasks. -Wikipedia
My everyday living experience changes daily. Sometimes I’m very high energy, I feel like I can accomplish anything. Those days I work late into the night. I write three blog posts in a few short hours. I clean my room, desk, house. I purge my closet of anything that I maybe don’t want to wear anymore. I read book after book until I forget what I’m reading.
Sometimes, I feel fine the next day, more of a baseline. Sometimes it takes me two days to recover. Sometimes the high energy lasts for a few days and then I come crashing down into misery.
Which brings me to Mekita Rivas’ post “You Aren’t Too Busy To Be A Friend, You’re Just A Bad Friend“. Evidently, this post was a written in 2013, but I didn’t see it, and so I’m only just now finding it popping up on my feed with all the rest of the posts about how no one is really “busy” and how “busy” has just means that someone/something isn’t a priority.
When I read Mekita Rivas’ post I came to a very specific section that nearly made me cry
“I’m too busy” is way too common of a copout in modern friendships. And yet as it’s become more common, it’s also become more acceptable – hell, maybe even expected – when doling out reasons for neglecting friends and loved ones. What’s most frustrating about saying “I’m too busy” is that it’s pretty much a direct slap in the face to whomever you’re saying it to. You might as well tell the person, “Everything else in my life is exponentially more important and worth more of my time than you. XOXO.”
I stopped and I looked at my friendships and I felt like the worst person ever. How many times have I talked to friends and said “Oh I’m so sorry, I’m too busy to hang out this week”? How many times have they felt like they weren’t worth love, attention, or affection? Was I really a shitty friend? Was I really making people question their own self-worth? I read once that when people say they’re too busy, what they’re saying is that someone is not a priority for them.
Telling you that I’m too busy means that I don’t have to worry about trying to schedule, or finding that I’m leaking spoons because I’m having a conversation with you. I budget my spoons down to the last fucking ladle. When I’m done doing the things I must do (work, doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, etc.) then I evaluate the spoons I have left. Of that, I prioritize things in the way I feel that I need to. If I tell you I’m too busy, it’s not because I don’t think you’re worth my time, it’s because I don’t have any energy left to give you.
But how do you inform someone that you’re not comfortable telling them why you can’t make plans with them? How do you tell them that you’re not comfortable being around them when your spoons are so low? At what point do you inform a friend who wants to be a priority for you, who is making you a priority that the mere act of being around them is exhausting for you? If the simple act of coming up with a legitimate excuse beyond I’m busy leaves you drained, how is having a long conversation going to help?
I say “I’m too busy” because it’s less shameful to me than saying “I’m having a rough go with my mental health right now, and I just can’t be around other people right now”. I do prioritize things. I have a very (VERY) small group of people who I feel comfortable doing nothing with. Most of them are my partners. They’re happy to sit next to me and not talk, or to brush my hair while I fall asleep to cartoons I’ve seen more times than I can count (lookin’ at you Futurama). Even you telling me that we can just hang out and do nothing with doesn’t help me. The mere act of being around people who I am not 100% comfortable with causes me to spend spoons. It requires me to be functional, to smile, to have conversations, to be a good hostess, to shower, when sometimes I just need to sleep, and have a good cry.
As I write this, I’m laying in my bed, under my duvet. I can feel the exhausted ache in my joints, in my spine, mostly in my rib cage. My head is throbbing, and my fingers are sluggish, bringing my typing speed from 73wpm, down quite far. I spent much of my day being productive when I had very little energy to start out with. I have a friend coming over tonight, and as much as I want to be awake for her, I also don’t know that I’m going to be able to be. I might throw some deodorant on, and run a bit of dry shampoo through my hair, but likely, I’m just going to have her come and hang out in silence in my room. I appreciate the fact that I have people who I can do that with. I am so lucky to have friends and loved ones who understand my mental health and help work around it. I appreciate that they still take time out of their day to spend it with me, when I know that I certainly wouldn’t be able to do the same.
We need to encourage people to take care of themselves, rather than require them to be social at all times. If someone is reaching out to make plans with you, be grateful that they are, even if you have to say no. They are making a space for you, and making you a priority. For some of us, that’s a really big thing. If someone is agreeing to schedule something with you, be grateful that they’re taking time to make you a priority as well. If someone says they’re too busy, don’t take it as a slap in the face, take it as a quiet admission that they’re trying to take care of themselves.
Just because someone isn’t a priority for you that day, that minute, doesn’t mean that they’re not important. If your self worth is so tied up in one person’s schedule that their self care, or their priorities make you feel unimportant, it might be time for you to re-evaluate your own sense of self. It’s not my job to manage your self-worth, it’s my job to take care of myself, whatever that means.
So if you think that taking care of myself makes me selfish, that it makes me a shitty friend, then so be it. But really, why would I want to have friends who wouldn’t understand, when I have so many who do?
Until Next Time
-The Frisky Fairy