I have a lot of jobs right now. I don’t know how it happened! I work 40 hours a week as a librarian. That’s the job that pays me. I also am the current president of our union chapter, and believe me, that’s another full time job and it doesn’t pay me. I do it because it’s necessary and believe deeply in the benefits of unionized labor.

Now I’m a writer! I always was, of course, I’ve always written a lot and continuously, but when you have things like contracts and deadlines, it becomes a thing you have to budget into your week instead of a hobby you can pick up whenever the mood strikes.

But my other, other, other job is chronic and one I can’t quit. It’s pain. It’s fatigue. It’s blinding migraines and swollen, tender joints. It’s subluxing ribs and burning hip bursitis and all of the other things that go with a lifelong chronic illness.

If you have ever known anyone with a chronic illness, they’ve talked about their spoons. The Spoon Theory has become widely used slang among us chronically ill folk, but I think of myself more as a phone that will only charge to 50%, say. (50% on a good day.) The phone can do anything that a fully charged phone can do, but not for as long. So then you have to start making choices. What is crucial, what’s important, what can hold when you run out of battery and have to crawl to bed.

I wish that I could write when depleted. I wish that having my laptop in bed didn’t cost energy, but it’s hard to think when you’re exhausted and in pain and you can’t write without thinking, unfortunately. I’ve tried. I write best in the morning when I’m awake and charged and fresh. I end up writing on my days off, early. I end up writing in pockets of time during the day. But by the time the sun sets, I just can’t write anymore. I can’t do chores. I can’t take long walks. I can’t process complex conversations or watch anything complicated or new.

However, I’ve been doing this for a long time and while you never get the hang of it, exactly, you learn how to plan for it. You know that some things are costly and will need recovery days buffered in. For instance, I never have a day of travel and then plan to go to work the next day. I always factor in a day of recovery in between. Since the pandemic, a lot of meetings have gone virtual, and that’s been a life saver for union things. May I never have another in person meeting again!

So, here are my brief spoonie survival tips:

  1. Buffer in rest days
  2. Find the products that work for you: ice packs, heating pads, soft clothes, etc.
  3. Having a buddy or two to keep you company always helps!

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