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.