First, a little note about the blog - I know I've been super sketchy with these posts lately. I'm going to address that in just a little bit, in this post. Stand by!
So, yesterday. Not my best day. I have a relative who I love very dearly, who in recent years has become a very religious, very conservative person. They've also become a bigot. (Please note here that I am not saying that religion = bigotry. That's not the math. That's just true for this person, in this case.) They regularly say cringe inducing things about gay people, and transgender people, too. We've gone some rounds over it, and had reached a shaky detente. I was resolved to keep my opinions to myself.
Yeah, not so much. Yesterday, we had a little social media blowout, where I just had had enough, and told them I was ashamed of them. Publicly.
I had like a sort of grief hangover from it, the rest of the day. I ranted to some loving folks who would listen. Then I did what any sensible person would do. I went out for pizza and to the movies with my wife, a co-worker, and one of my closest friends. Seriously, that's what you do. Look it up, it's in the manual.
Anyhow, the gratitude part that happened just now. I was having a little disaster-debrief with Brother and with our friend Felix. I was saying how this particular relative and I looked like we weren't going to be talking for a while. Truthfully, I could use the breather from dealing with their bigotry anyhow, because I have a lot on my plate in my own daily life.
That was when I said:
"I have exactly zero spoons for much else."
This is when the magical thing I'm grateful for happened. Felix, brother and I had this conversation:
Felix: "But you don't have a chronic illness, mako "
Spacey: "Is there a root for the expression of having spoons I'm not aware of? I think in brother's case he is referring to mental capacity for stress. Though I know it often is also used to refer to physical capacity or energy outlay needed.
Should spoons only be used in the context of chronic illness and why? (Honest question.)"
I was in fact referring to being mentally spent from stress. There is a really good reason why "spoons" should only be used when describing chronic illness and its relationship to energy. I knew this too. The whole spoon thing was originally created by Christine Miserandino. It's brilliant, really. You should read it: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/
But anyhow, then Felix, who is a very smart person, told me something I hadn't really thought through. She told me this:
It's just a question of co-opting resources. People with chronic illnesses and disabilities already have a hard time making their conditions understood, and most people don't take the time to empathize. By using spoons to describe everyday life stuff, it takes away from the original meaning.
The boldfacing is mine, fyi.
This is a big deal. I apologized for being offensive, and she said no apology was necessary, but just to not take those spoons from people who really need them.
This relates back hugely to why I was venting about my grief hangover in the first place. The thing that bothered me about my bigoted relative was their utter lack of empathy for people that they didn't understand. It's not a giant social imposition to allow people who are transgender to have a safe place to pee. It's practicing empathy.
Felix suggested to us, regarding the spoons thing, that maybe I could come up with a different term. And I have!
I suggest for those of us who do NOT in fact have a chronic illness that instead of being out of or low on spoons, we can instead say we are low on mana.
For those of you who are not video game players, or fantasy novel obsessed, mana is "a word found in Austronesian languages meaning "power, effectiveness, prestige," where in most cases the power is understood to be supernatural." It's magic juice, mojo, creative power.
I freaking love this. In video games (like Diablo, a favorite of mine) mana is often represented by a little potion bottle, filled with otherworldly glowing liquid. As you cast Magic Missile, or Obliterate Traffic Jam, or Make Amazingly Fluffy Egg White Omelet with Side of Mystical Hashbrowns, the amount of mana you have gets lower, and can even possibly run out completely.
There are TONS of ways to replenish one's mana. It tends to regenerate slowly over time by itself, or you can do things to re-up it quickly.
In a video game, that's usually drink a potion, or touch a special artifact. In the real world that can be getting some sleep, having time to be alone, spending time with people who lift you up, eating comfort food, going for a walk, listening to a great piece of music.
I am going to start using this expression often. And probably get some of the cutesy clever mana/magic themed merch I've put examples of in this post. I would love a huge mana t-shirt.
Relatedly though, the whole episode has me feeling better. Why? Because I was able to see that learning to practice empathy is a constant mindful discipline. What my one relative isn't doing, and may never do, helped me to see when I wasn't doing it, for something else. I didn't have malicious intent, but I had to make the effort to witness it. And because I was in a kind of raw place, I could see it, which was kind of magical, really.
And that was really recharging to me. Which is why I'm barely low on mana at all, just now.