(Reposted from Facebook, where this got hot enough for someone to unfriend and block me.)
Can we talk about something else no one wants to say?
We don’t have enough for everyone.
Time. Money. Attention. Energy. Adaptability. Interest. Legos.
This is something I learned from 25 years of being in polyamorous relationships, because it is a HARD COLD TRUTH there. If you can’t learn to be blunt about it, a multi-partner relationship won’t even get off the ground. Love is not limited but EVERYTHING ELSE IS.
It’s true of families too. Of workplaces. Of friends and communities.
In the “celebrity suicide aftermath” there is, of course, a ton of discussion about “reaching out.” We’re all being admonished to “reach out” to everyone, and not just the people who are *visibly* having a hard time but EVERYONE, because people can seem fine and be dead the next day. Which is totally true.
I’m not trying to mock or discourage this idea – but nobody seems to want to talk about what I’ve come to call “spoon calculus,” derived from the now famous “spoon theory” from Christine Miserandino. (For anyone who doesn’t know it: https://butyoudontlooksick.com/…/written-…/the-spoon-theory/ )
How many friends do you have? Close? Medium? Sorta on the edges of your life?
How many coworkers? Colleagues? Employees?
How many neighbors, local shopkeepers, bus drivers, parents of your kids’ friends, mail route drivers, community members?
(Note that I didn’t even ask first about kids, partners, parents, siblings, and other family members.)
Yes, most of us live in a culture that encourages self-absorption, overwork, material consumption, a breakneck pace, and ever-more achievement at all the wrong things. Yes, we’re less aware of those around us than we’ve ever been. No argument from me.
But none of us, even if we’re truly “fully stocked” ourselves – and a lot of us aren’t! – can spend all our spoons trying to make sure other people are OK. There just aren’t enough spoons.
And that means we have to choose.
Oh, my dear humans, how no one wants to talk about the choosing.
No one wants to be the one not chosen. It’s the most awful thing I know of. Period. For anyone I’ve ever known.
It hits us on every level from the most primal-biological to the most conscious.
Being not chosen feels like dying.
But the painful truth is that none of us have enough spoons for everyone who wants, or even genuinely needs, a spoon from us.
WE HAVE TO CHOOSE. And that means we choose not to spend spoons on people. We choose to not choose them.
Periodically. Permanently. Tiny spoonlets and giant soup ladles.
Let me restate – sometimes this is because we are drastically (and potentially lethally) short on spoons ourselves.
But even when we are doing exceptionally well, THERE AREN’T ENOUGH SPOONS for everyone who wants or needs one.
I’m not here to tell you what your priorities should be. That’s something each of us needs to figure out for themselves. I can’t tell you (though everyone else seems happy to do so) how you should spend your spoons, or where you’re wrong in your spoon-spending.
But if you aren’t willing to be truly, clearly, deeply honest with yourself about the fact that YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE because there are not enough, then actually you’re probably not spending them from a place of deep integrity.
You’re probably spending your spoons out of guilt, fear, shame, obligation, resentment, confusion, or unconsidered habit. AND THERE STILL ARE NOT ENOUGH SPOONS.
Again: this is something no one wants to talk about. But if we’re going to keep having this really messy, difficult, uncomfortable conversation, we have GOT to talk about this part.
Because it means that someone might die that you could have given a spoon to – whether it’s death by suicide or some other way.
And you’ve got to figure out a way to be OK with the fact that you didn’t give that spoon. OR realize that you genuinely wish you’d chosen differently and now you have to learn to live with that and figure out how to choose more clearly going forward.
How honest can you be with yourself about this?