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Spoons, Marbles, and Other Finite Resources

  • Posted on November 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM

I was first introduced to the spoons metaphor in 2010, so when the family member who “diagnosed” me with fibromyalgia (it’s not official, because she can’t do the treatment plan) started talking about the implications and used a metaphor involving a jar of marbles, I knew exactly what she was talking about.

For those who don’t know and don’t want to follow the links, here’s a brief description: Everyone has a finite amount of resources with which to get things done in a given day. For most people without disabilities, the primary finite resource is time—we don’t have enough time to do everything we want to do. For many people with disabilities, the primary finite resource is energy, partly because we may have less energy than the average person and partly because the things we need to do require more energy of us than they require of the average person. This energy can be seen as a form of currency—the original example was spoons, but marbles or anything works just as well. If you don’t manage your spoons, you run out of energy before you run out of time. A person with fibromyalgia may have fewer spoons to spend due to their fatigue. A person with fibromyalgia may also have to spend more spoons to get a given task completed than the average person. So, in short, a person with fibromyalgia can get less done.

Even without bring up the marbles/spoons analogy, I knew that with fibromyalgia I would need to come to terms with productivities levels that were less than what I used to be able to do. The last few months bear that out.

Along with finding that first spoons post, I also unearthed some others.

The first one that caught my eye was the third in a three-part series of posts in which I acknowledged back in 2010 that I was noticing a decline in my abilities:

My energy (and yours) is always limited, and some days it’s more limited than others. My energy also varies during different times in the day.

Along with limited energy, two other finite resources affect my ability to accomplish tasks. One is my ability to concentrate. Unfortunately for me, sometimes having energy doesn’t mean I’m able to concentrate. Sometimes being able to concentrate doesn’t mean I have energy. The most mentally challenging tasks have to be completed in those periods of time where having energy and being able to concentrate intersect. The other finite resource is time. This is significant, because there are tasks that are time sensitive and those that are not.

The second one involved another series of posts called “Imminent Burn-Out?” in which I committed to taking better care of myself…and then I got too busy to worry about it.

So, I feel like I’ve come full-circle. It’s time to take a good hard look at my spoons and to figure out how much/little I can do with them.