The Spoon Theory … or How To Continue to Be Happily Artful Despite Chronic, Catastophic and/or Life Threating Illness

This one is for all my poet, writer, artist and musician friends who continue to create in the face of sometimes dramatic  physical health issues and disabilities. Be as well as you can be. You are valued. 

There are two videos included here.  If you are reading this post from an email subscription, it’s likely that you’ll have to link through to the site to view the videos. They’re both worth the time and effort.

The Spoon Theory (see video above) is a clear and vivid way of explaining what it is like to live with any chronic, catastrophic and potentially life-threatening illness. I suspect that it is also explains what life is like for those who have lived long enough to be described as “elderly.” Understanding The Spoon Theory gifts us with compassion for ourselves and patience with how long it takes to get things done … even a poem, piece of flash fiction, a blog post or visits to other bloggers.

The first step in living successfully with catastrophic illness and advanced aging is to recognize (acknowledge/understand) the ramifications in terms of everyday life and its details. The Spoon Theory helps with that.

The second step is acceptance. That’s about letting go of your story. It’s about not being defined by the circumstances of your life. It’s about living with not struggling against. This requires something much more profound than positive thinking, which tends toward the superficial.

Letting go of our stories means letting go of judgement and attachment and a sense of victimization, which are the root causes of many of our very human pathologies. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote of this my-story mentality as “striving, disappointment, and boredom” or a life that is devoid of Spirit. Songwriters, who often make their living by stoking the “pain body” or the residue of emotional pain that stays with us [Eckhart Tolle], call this the IFD disease – idealization, frustration (the ideal cannot be achieved) and demoralization.

The third step in the journey is to adapt, a business of the heart. Adapting is not about giving up. It’s about finding our core of  joy and gratitude and no one reminds of joy and gratitude  better than the beloved Benedictine monk, Brother David Stendl-Rast (video below), who combines the wisdom of traditional Christianity with pragmatism of Buddhism.

No guilt. No judgement. Just joy. With understanding, self-compassion, patience and acceptance, we can still produce as so many of us do … and maybe, instead of beating ourselves up over what didn’t get done each day, we’ll be able to pat ourselves on the back for all we do accomplish. We cannot share The Spoon Theory with everyone. Many people will not understand our challenges. All that matters is that we do and that we support one another.

© 2017, words, Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day), All rights reserved


“In politics being deceived is no excuse.” Leszak Kolakowski

Recommended read: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. Left, right or center – American or not – it’s a must read for our chaotic times … and not just the list of lessons but Prof. Snyder’s commentary on each. This book is a rational enlightening little gem and a powerful wake-up call.

Lesson One: “Do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given.  In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked.  A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.” Prof. Snyder

THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers

SUBSIDIARY DEITIES

Introducing Baxter Dedes, the newest member of the family and 'The Poet by Day' office manager

Introducing Baxter Dedes, the newest member of the family and the new ‘The Poet by Day’ office manager. Baxter is a Rat Terrier and Chihuahua mix … a “Rat-Chi.”

Remembered warmly and with gratitude, Baxter’s predecessors:

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Brutus.

“A kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship . . .  The Dog is a survival — an anachronism.  He toils not, neither does he spin, yet Solomon in all his glory never lay upon a door-mat all day long, sun-soaked and fly-fed and fat, while his master worked for the means wherewith to purchase the idle wag of the Solomonic tail . . .” Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

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Buddy and his best pal.

“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down.” Robert Benchley

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Xiang Xiang’s Ah Man, better known as “Gus.”

“My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to 99 cents a can.  That’s almost $7 in dog money.” Joe Weinstein

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Feyd.

“How’s it going, Mr. Peterson?,” asks Woody in Cheers. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world, Woody, and I’m wearing milk-bone underwear.”

© 2016, photos from the family album, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Happy Father’s Day with Mexican-American Poet and former California Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera … the immigrant experience

Juan Felipe Herrara (b. 1948), American poet and writer, photo by SlowKing

Juan Felipe Herrera (b. 1948), Mexican-American poet and writer, photo by SlowKing under GNUFDL

I posted this a few years ago here and just included it in this month’s issue of The BeZine.  I’m re-posting it now because it highlights the quality and character of immigrants to the United States of America, which seems a good thing to do at this time. I’ll post this Sunday’s Poesy later today. 

Juan Felipe Herrera is a Mexican-American poet and performance artist, a writer and cartoonist, a teacher and an activist.

“Many poets since the 1960s have dreamed of a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too. Many poets have tried to create such an art: Herrera is one of the first to succeed.”  Punk Half Panther by Stephen Burt in the New York Times

Herrara incorporates into his writing his experience of family and the life of the compesinos, migrant farm-workers.

“Into the tilted factories, the smeared taxis,
the stunted universities, into the parlor of bank notes,
in the cramped cookhouse where the dark-skinned
humans still stoop and pitch the daily lettuce bags …”

He sometimes tells stories that arise from what is for him a pivotal moment: the early school experience of trying to fit in though he had no English-language skills. He also writes stories that illustrate the problems of immigration, which often separates families.

In 2012, California Governor, Jerry Brown, named Herrera California Poet Laureate, the first Chicano poet to be so honored.

Many of us – like Juan Felipe Herrara – had fathers or grandfathers who came to the United States to make a better life for themselves and eventually for their children and future generations and who went on to make substantive contributions to this country. Sometimes we like to remember and acknowledge them for their vision, courage and hard work. Today seems like a good day to do so. The video below is charming children’s story, A Tale for Father’s Day, about Herrera’s immigrant father. Enjoy!

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads and to all the moms who, for one reason or other, are both dad and mom.

You Left to Pirouette on the Moon

800px-Pointe_shoe_ribbonsyou left one winter day to balancé on sunbeams
and pirouette on the moon, artfully swirling
lunar dust and scattering it over our dreams,
sparking our lives with your memory, your love
a legacy of dance for tiny ballerinas

…………see us now . . . 
as well-worn as your old toe shoes

© 2015, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credit ~ pointe shoes by Lambtron via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license