How I’m Making the Most of My Limited Energy as Someone With MS
The last few years have been rough for a whole host of reasons, and I think it’s safe to say that most of us in the United States feel utterly lost and burnt out. There’s no shortage of things to be stressed about and afraid of. I feel like I’ve been spinning myself into a gigantic knot as of late with all my worrying, which isn’t good for an MS patient in the best of times.
Thankfully, today I came across a tweet from my friend Courtney B. Ellis, in which she said, “What if we took all that energy we are using to be afraid / and instead used it to cultivate wisdom, kindness, and readiness to do the hard work of loving our neighbors well?” I sat with that for a while, and the more I thought about it, the better it seemed to me.
Most MS patients are “spoonies,” meaning we have to constantly keep tabs on our number of spoons — a metaphor for our energy level — and decide how to use that energy wisely, since it’s not a bottomless resource.
In addition to navigating the regular stuff that comes with being human — work, commuting, family, paying the bills, and so forth — we have to wrestle with the changing nature of our disease, find workarounds when things go sideways, and make the best of what we’re given in any season of life. It’s a lot to ask of one person! Worries and stresses take from an already tapped-out resource.
There are still things I must handle. I mean, I can’t give up all my responsibilities as a functioning adult in this country, much as I might like to. However, Courtney’s quote got me thinking about how I spend my energy and time. After all, what does fear profit me? What do I gain from worrying? Really, the answer is nothing much.
Yes, I need to stay engaged and know what’s going on in the world. But rather than throw my proverbial spoons away at an issue that I really can’t do much about, it’s better for me (and my loved ones) to focus my powers on those good things she mentions: cultivating wisdom and kindness and loving my neighbors well.
The American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer Wendell Berry once said, “Rats and roaches live by competition under the law of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”
These days, it’s hard not to feel burdened by the uncaring laws he mentions. It’s hard not to feel blown around by the winds of fear and scarcity. But he’s right. As people with souls, hearts, and minds, we are blessed to experience justice and mercy. We are also blessed to be able to extend those two things to others.
The trouble is that we neither give nor experience them enough. Why? We’re too busy worrying — too busy keeping our eyes on the road in front of us and grinding through another day — to give ourselves permission to be at peace and to share peace with others. That’s something well worth spending our energies on. Perhaps if we can approach life from that more relaxed and generative posture, things might begin to get better for all of us.
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