Let’s talk about spoon theory (or matchstick theory, which is a variant of the same thing).
Recently, someone said to my love that spoon theory sounded a lot like just “energy levels”, like the energy bar in a video game, like the health bar in Street Fighter, or the mana bar in Diablo.

This is both right and also completely, horribly wrong.

Let’s start with how it’s right.

It’s right because yes, as you do things your supply of spoons / matchsticks / energy goes down. And when you get a chance, it can “recharge”.

How and how fast it recharges will vary greatly from person to person.

But even with that caveat, the video game analogy falls short.

Let’s imagine that one day you wake up and you can cast a fireball for five energy. Great! And you’ve got sixty energy! Also great!

And the next day, you wake up and that fireball costs twenty energy. Oh crap!

And the next day, you wake up and you only have twenty five energy TOTAL. Oh super-crap!

Meanwhile, your friend the mage consistently wakes up with fireballs costing only five energy, and always has sixty energy. They don’t understand why you can only cast three the second day, and maybe only one the third day.

It’s not just that the values can (and do) change from day to day for reasons beyond your control. It’s also that those values stay the same for those around you while they’re shifting unpredictably for you.

To bring us back to spoons, not only might the number of “spoons” you need to get out of bed vary unpredictably, but the number of spoons you have total will also vary, and all the while, everyone else is looking at you with a full silverware drawer wondering why you can’t get up today.

So the next time you see someone mention how many spoons they have today (even “imaginary spoons“), take a moment to think how that’s something completely different than the energy bar you might be visualizing in your head.