A crowning of my own

I read online about spoon theory, this idea that every morning when we wake we have a number of spoons full of energy for the day and most of us don’t even think about it. We simply get up and go about our business oblivious to the notion that every activity we undertake requires a number of spoons of energy.

We assume we’ll have enough for every part of the day until we can collapse at night.

For people with chronic illness, people who suffer from all manner of ailments that reduce the number of spoons in their possession it can be especially difficult.

They need to be aware of their reserves of energy. They need to calculate how many spoons it will take to get dressed for instance, how many to prepare and eat breakfast and so on throughout the day.

It’s even more dreadful for someone who once had unbounded energy to suddenly find themselves in this depleted position.

For most of us our energy levels taper off as we age. I’m lucky I still tend towards the energetic, though I notice I’m not as fast with the housework as I once was, and there are tasks I’d have undertaken, like ironing or cooking that I have to drag my feet towards. Once I’m into them it’s fine, but there are other things I’d rather be doing or so I reason, and these once easily scratched off jobs take longer if at all.

The older I get the more I’m struck by the amount of information out there in the world that calls for my attention. It throws me back to the days when I was young and took pleasure in dragging out one of the encyclopaedias from my father’s library to look through the various items and events listed in alphabetical order.

You could read about obscure animals in the encyclopaedia, the mating habits of orang-utans, the life cycle of the dung beetle, the reasons why moths are attracted to light. You could read about famous people, about Boadicea, and any number of saints. You could read about the reason why water flows down plugholes in different directions, clock wise or anti clockwise depending on which part of the globe you stand in. You could learn any number of things and as randomly as you liked depending on which letters of the alphabet you selected.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica was my bible. I used it for homework. I used it for pleasure.

One day I noticed some pages had come unstuck and were about to fall out. This in the days when I collected poetry, and the snippets of poems I had in my possession became my treasures. I pored over them at night for company.

On page 7027 of Volume ten, I came across John Drinkwater’s ‘The Crowning of Dreaming John’. I eased out the loose pages and filed them away for posterity.

The poem tells the story of John of Grafton who took seven days and seven nights to travel through the back lanes of England to see ‘ A king put on his crown’.

John brought with him a shilling, a whole silver shilling. ‘But when he came to Westminster They wouldn’t let him in.’

You’d have thought he’d be bitter, our John, but no, instead he smiled at the crowds of people, turned, ‘whistled and was gone’.

That evening after he had walked for twenty five more miles, through ‘the twisting roads of England back into the Warwick lanes,’ he stopped to rest.

The accompanying illustration showed an old man stick and swag in hand settled against the bough of an elm, his eyes focused upwards.

As he rested ‘the spirits of trees and pools and meadows, mountain and windy waterfall, …clouds and skies and rivers, leaves and shadows and rain and sun’ descended from on high.

They came with ‘a sound of singing and chiming music’ and bore ‘aloft a flashing crown.’

So although Dreaming John had travelled to London his trip was not in vain for ‘in a summer evening, along the scented clover’  Dreaming John of Grafton held ‘ a crowning of his own.’

The story captured my imagination to the point when I read the words over and again and slide my eyes across the old fashioned images, I spill over with joy and sorrow. This old man so unlike anyone I had ever known became an example for me of hope over adversity.

Now to find ideas and images, I use Google and Google offers so much more but I sometimes cop that strange overwhelmed feeling I once had as a child when I met Dreaming John and first discovered the meaning of the word infinity.

The idea that numbers go on and on and on. That there is no end to time, as far as I knew when I was a girl. Things can be endless.

This in contrast to the fact of limits and the ideas of death and the awareness that hits me more and more as each day passes that there is only so much you can do in one lifetime.

Maybe I need to conserve my spoons full, though most of me reckons to hell with it, spill my spoons, spend my money, live life to the full and when the time comes and I’ve nothing left, find another way to survive until I’m dead.

Or have a crowning of my own.

4 thoughts on “A crowning of my own”

  1. I’m familiar with spoon theory. I’m more familiar with running on empty. I’ve just sent off an e-mail to a friend who, I fear, is overworking. I could cut and paste that here and it would serve as a good response but I won’t be lazy. I’ve had four burnouts in my life, roughly every eight years, and each ended in long periods of depression which resulted in major life changes: new job, new town, new wife, new life. I never learned to pace myself. I simply kept going until I broke. The first time should’ve been enough but no sooner had I recovered than I climbed back on the horse again and dug in the spurs knowing full well what would happen and secretly intent on making it happen. To be fair when I was younger I had bags of energy which is why it took me another eight years to get to breaking point but get there I did. There’s a self-destructive gene in many artists and much has been written on the subject. I’ve never understood the likes of Dylan Thomas or Hemingway but then I’m not a drinker nor am I a gambler like Dostoyevsky but I do have an addictive personality: Hi, my name’s Jim and I’m a workaholic. I’m only happy when I’m working. Correction: I’m only happy when I’m working on things I consider meaningful. Doing the dishes is a chore. Hoovering’s a chore. Redecorating is such a chore.

    Nowadays I don’t get many spoons a day and they get used up too quickly. I’m constantly tired but worse than the tiredness is the brain fog. Tired and sore I can work through and did for many years but when your concentration blows a gasket what can you do? My dad lost his sight just after he retired and it killed him. He said to me, “Jimmy, I’ve waiting all my life to have the time to read books and now I have time I can’t see.” He tried audio books. He even had a go at learning braille but his pudgy hands couldn’t cope. So mostly he sat in a chair in the living room in silence waiting for his wife to come home and make him lunch or tea.

    I wrote the above four days ago and no sooner had I finished that last sentence then this wave of vertigo came over me and that was me bedridden and dripping in sweat for the next couple of days. I’m still hobbling round with one of Carrie’s walking sticks but it will pass. The first time was the worst because I’d no idea what was happening but as the symptoms are quite specific it wasn’t too hard to pin down the one or two possible causes and none are life threatening. One symptom not included in any of the online texts, however, is: Inability to write. Sometimes our spoons get taken away from us and even when they’re not the thing about the spoons is quite often they’re full of stuff you don’t want to stick in your gob. If I had twenty spoons I’d want ten full of good ideas to write about. That’s what I’d want. I’d even settle for five. I’m not a greedy man.

    Like you I grew up on a steady diet of encyclopaedias. We had two sets in our house plus two other sets of books my dad ordered from one of his book clubs which were science-based and not really mu cup of tea but the pictures alone fascinated me. All of that’s available online as you say and yet it’s not the same. Not for me in any case. As a tool the Internet’s invaluable but as a source of inspiration I find not so much and yet every day, dutifully, I drag myself to Facebook to see what my “friends” have been up to, most of whom I couldn’t name and even those I can I probably couldn’t tell you five half-interesting things about any bar a handful.

    I’d write more but you’ll have to forgive me; I’m out of spoons.

    1. Oh dear, Jim, I hope you’re okay. To lose all your spoons after one hit of vertigo and you such a workaholic. Appalling. But seriously, life can be tough on us, especially when we grow accustomed to managing things well, if only in eight year stretches. I hope you’re okay now and off the stick. I hope you’ve regathered a few more spoons. Thanks, Jim.

  2. As we age, I suspect a part of us becomes more conscious that our spoonfuls are running out, so we don’t waste them on housework. That’s what I tell myself anyway! I’m using my spoonfuls to do things I really want to do! And thanks for sharing the story of Dreaming John! 🙂

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