I hate surprises. I mean it, I really do hate them. All surprises, even really good, ones are awful to me. I can hardly think of a single time that I really have ever enjoyed not knowing something that directly affected me. Now, I understand that this is, in part, stemming from my personality. Even as a child I hated it when I didn’t know what to expect.
However, there is more to my loathing the unexpected than just my personality. While I may not have enjoyed spontaneity as a child, I certainly did not detest it as I do now. My deep hatred for surprises really goes hand in hand with my diagnosis as an autoimmune mess.
After I began dealing with my autoimmune disease, I quickly learned early on that I had to understand and respect my limitations. Limitations, for someone who deals with a chronic illness, is a completely different ballgame than limitations for the average person. There are no reserve energy levels that I can resort to or conjure up if I reach my limitation. Every time I push past my limitations I get sick. Imagine if every time you slightly over did it you came down with a horrible flu and you will start to understand the seriousness of limitations to people with chronic illnesses. Exceeding my limitations means a flare up of my symptoms that takes days or even weeks to recover from. The best way to explain the difference is with Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory. If you or someone who you love suffers from a chronic illness you absolutely must take the time to read it. It has become such a subcultural phenomenon within the chronic illness community that autoimmune messes like me have adopted it as their namesake and lovingly refer to themselves as “spoonies”.
If you are dealing with limited spoons in life you quickly become adept at inventorying and rationing out those spoons. This is a critical skill for managing my disease. I start planning my spoon allocations farther in advance than non-spoonies would ever understand. For example, in a few weeks, I am headed out-of-town to visit family for the weekend. This is a special spoon expenditure which means that any spoons that I might otherwise spend the weekends before or after must be rationed in order to afford it. Rationing out my limited spoons in advance in order to do the things I really want to do doesn’t even take into account the daily fluctuation of spoons that takes place with the ups and downs of my illness. I may wake up one morning with fewer spoons than normal and have to take that into account when I go about my day. I may not realize the cost of an activity and have to re-budget my spoons based on that or risk overdrawing my spoon account. In other words, both long and short-term, I am constantly aware of my spoon situation as I make plans. I have to be aware of my spoons because when I a make a mistake with my limitations I pay a very steep overdraft fee of intensified and aggravated symptoms that leave me feeling miserable for days to weeks. I can tell you at any given moment exactly how many spoons I have and how I need to carefully spend them that day.
When you lovingly pop a surprise into my life it throws my entire spoon situation off. Suddenly I have an expenditure of energy, whether it be physical or emotional to deal with, and I may or may not have spoons in reserve to do so. Let me just take a moment here and declare that emotional spoon use is just as costly as physical for spoonies. If you stress us out it is the same thing as making us run the pacer test on a bad day. So whether it be emotional or physical, surprise spoon usage pushes me one step closer to my limitations for the day. This means that I have to take away spoons from something else that I thought was important, such as showering, in order to afford the spoons I spent on your surprise.
You’re surprises literally make me sick. When I go out with you and you want to add one more activity to our plans unannounced or you decide to show up and ask something of me at the last minute, please realize that you are putting my health at risk. When I get cranky and seem inflexible and difficult, please realize that it is because you are asking me to give you spoons that I can not afford to give. It is no small feat for me to me to be generous with my spoons when the few I have barely covers my daily needs as it is. If I offer to use my spoons on you, it is a highly complimentary act on my behalf towards you. If you understand my limitations and you still choose to throw surprises at me, it doesn’t take me long to figure out that those surprises really are in your best interest and not mine and I will be forced to be careful with my spoons around you. I just don’t have the luxury of wasting my spoons.
Understand that I really appreciate the generous gesture of people who want to give me pleasant surprises that they feel are going to make my day and life better. I could not be more grateful for the people in my life that have such good intentions in their surprises. If I could generate more energy and be the gracious person I want to be in dealing with surprises, I would. However, because I am an autoimmune mess, I can’t reach beyond my limitations and your surprises do not always have the good effect that you want them to. I realize that you don’t understand how difficult even really nice surprises are because you have never had to ration out your energy based on the stringent limitations given to you by your body. I realize that you may not be aware of how many spoons I have to use that day or how important the thing is they are designated for. I take this into account and try to be congenial at your best intentions. I lovingly ask you in return, to realize that my limitations are real and that when you add unexpected things into my life for me to deal with, you are straining them. I ask that you realize that I need your help accepting and managing my limitations at times. Above all, I ask that you realize that my spoons are precious and you should never surprise a spoonie.