holding onto your spoons

Amys Gluten Free Pantry


This arti­cle appears cour­tesy of Gen­er­a­tion Res­cue, orig­i­nally posted March 5, 2012.

If you’re lucky, you have a few peo­ple in your life that can offer true guid­ance. I just lost one of the wis­est women I’ve ever known – my dar­ling mom. For the remain­der of my life, I now have to ask myself, “What would mom say?” There is an old African proverb that relates the death of an elderly per­son to the loss of a library. I’ve read most of her books and perused her card cat­a­logs of advice, but I know noth­ing will replace the sheer com­fort and joy of hear­ing my mom’s words from her own lips.

With the phys­i­cal loss of some­one so dear, so valu­able and wise, I find I look for wis­dom in other places now. Trust­ing my gut instincts has always been invalu­able, but for addi­tional per­spec­tive, I look to my friend and home­o­pathic doc­tor, Cat Mar­shall. She’s even writ­ten a book about her son and the ADHD chal­lenges that improved with, among many things, a gluten-free diet. Here’s one of the wis­est things she’s ever told me.

Every morn­ing before you start your day, go into your kitchen and grab a hand­ful of spoons. You can do this phys­i­cally, or as I do, metaphor­i­cally, as haul­ing a jan­gling bou­quet of sil­ver­ware in my hand­bag all day does lit­tle to improve my mood. Now imag­ine each spoon is a unit of energy, and all the spoons you have rep­re­sent the total amount of energy you have for that day. Six spoons equals six units of energy.

Now, here’s the ques­tion. Who do you want to give your spoons to?

I fig­ure I can com­fort­ably grab about 10 spoons. So when my friend calls, as she does on a reg­u­lar basis, to lam­bast her hus­band, am I going to give her my energy? No spoon for her, I decide. In fact, I cut the call short and con­tinue work­ing on my lat­est project. And when my dog throws up on my daughter’s bed­spread? He’s got his tail between his legs and feels bad enough with­out me berat­ing him. No spoon for Bailey.

Last Mon­day was a long day – lots of laun­dry, gro­cery shop­ping and cook­ing. That’s phys­i­cal energy, so I gave it two spoons. A fam­ily mem­ber who is in per­pet­ual tur­moil called and for once, I decided to just lis­ten for a short time, with­out invest­ing my energy, thereby retain­ing my spoon.  I felt kind of smart for hav­ing made this men­tal shift, until the next day when my com­puter sput­tered and died and I gave away at least five spoons to an inan­i­mate object. Do you ever feel like a dumb smart per­son or is it just me?

When I step back, I know that as a mother, most of my spoons will go to my kids for their bad days, wounded feel­ings and scraped knees. And I always know I’ll expend sev­eral spoons on ask­ing them for the 14th time, to clean their rooms, stop fight­ing and put their toys away. So with chil­drea­r­ing a given, I got to thinking…to whom am I giv­ing the remain­der of my spoons? And why are there none left for me at the end of the day? The answer sur­prised me.

Now that my son is older, we’ve slowly intro­duced gluten back into his sys­tem to see where he is with it. After an 8-year absence from gluten, we gave it to him every third day and he seemed to be tol­er­at­ing it well for a while. No diges­tive issues, but slowly and insid­i­ously, his cog­ni­tion changed, as did his lov­ing nature and his abil­ity to focus.

The last straw was when he went to a sleep­over and ate a ham­burger on a gluten bun. The next day played out like the most frus­trat­ing exer­cise in futil­ity as he tried to fin­ish his home­work. Viola. There went all my spoons.

My hus­band, daugh­ter and I wit­nessed the whole event and sud­denly, every­one was on board.  Now, weeks later, the gluten is gone and peace has once again descended upon our home. The white stri­a­tions on my daughter’s fin­ger­nails are start­ing to clear. (Yes, this is the daugh­ter who tested neg­a­tive for any gluten intol­er­ances). Every­one in our house has con­fessed, how­ever grudg­ingly, that they feel far bet­ter and more focused on a gluten-free diet. I’m con­vinced that gluten stock­piles in our sys­tems until it has to be leeched like poison.

So when my hus­band, an avowed gluten-lover (code for pasta, sour­dough bread, beer and choco­late chip cook­ies) said, “Get rid of it all”, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The truth is, for years we had a 95% gluten-free house. We kept a few stashes for my daugh­ter and hus­band, but then, like a slow infes­ta­tion of ants, it crept back into our pantry in greater num­bers. After a thor­ough purg­ing, my friends were happy for the box of gluten-laden crack­ers and treats they received, and I am over­joyed that bal­ance is restored to my kitchen, my soul, my family’s diet and my ever expand­ing spoon collection.

This all-or-nothing approach might not appeal to every­one, but the fact is, we all need to assess what is drain­ing our energy and what is pro­mot­ing our health and well being.

Bal­ance looks dif­fer­ent for every­one. Com­mit­ting to a gluten, dairy, soy-free kitchen is daunt­ing and the best of us may fall off the wagon from time to time. But if I’ve man­aged my energy smartly, I still have a choice to make at the end of the day. I can use it to sprin­kle bath salts into steam­ing water for a sooth­ing soak. Or I can stir a restora­tive cup of tea with it. Or, I can whip up a batch of gluten, dairy, soy-free choco­late chip cook­ies and dig into the bat­ter with my last remain­ing spoon.


About the Author:
Amy Waczek writes a gluten-free, casein and soy optional blog fea­tur­ing a recipe index and resource guide atwww.amysglutenfreepantry.com.

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