Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About the Pain I Feel After Remodeling My Kitchen
As a mom and a wife living with a chronic illness, life can be difficult at best. There are expectations in life that a person is expected to meet. I struggle so often with the feeling of guilt. Guilt that I cannot measure up to other moms, to other wives. I cannot simply breeze through a day and get everything on my to-do list accomplished. Some days I don’t even accomplish one thing on my list.
If I’m not careful, guilt clouds my day. Guilt that I’m not doing everything I should be doing and could be doing. Guilt that I don’t keep in touch with friends and family. Guilt that I don’t run that errand. Guilt that I don’t attend this function or that function. Guilt that I don’t cook a hot meal. Guilt that I don’t contribute. Guilt that I don’t do enough. Just guilt — such a powerful emotion. Yet such a useless one. What positive purpose does it serve?
When my health started to seriously deteriorate about 18 years ago, I thought it was a passing thing. I thought I would suddenly wake up one morning and all would be well. Little did I know then that it would never be the same again.
While I do have “good” days, they’re usually few and far between. I was used to keeping an immaculate house. Extracurricular activities for my kids were a staple to get through long summer days. Outings to the library, art classes, dance camps, park days, shopping trips, play dates, Wednesday night church, visiting the elderly, dinner dates and more were a weekly thing. I loved to cook complicated meals. I loved to craft. I loved to paint. I loved homeschooling my children. I loved being busy. Now, when I look back at my life “before I got sick,” I am amazed by all that I did in a day’s time. Busy is not a possibility for me any more. At least not in the sense that it meant in my 20s.
These days, I feel accomplished if I can finish a load of laundry. (By finish I mean wash, dry, fold and put away.) The extra activities for my children are a thing of the past. I deal with the guilt of not being able to offer my younger children the same childhood their older siblings enjoyed. It is a quieter childhood to be sure. When I take a moment to really look at what a day, a week or even a month holds for my family, though, I know that it is much fuller than it seems.
The days are still filled with giggles and smiles. My life is still filled with the trappings of family life. Still filled with lots and lots of love. I just have to get it through my head and heart that “I am enough.”
On good days I tend to do too much. I stretch myself thin when I know in my heart a slower pace would be wiser and better for my health. Sometimes, I get so sick of being sick that when the sunshine peeks out from behind the clouds I go a little overboard.
This is what happened to me recently. I had a string of several good days. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had more than one “good day” in a row. I was amazed. I was thankful. And I did too much. Like I said, I went a little overboard. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Three decent days in a row! To say I grasped the chance to do something with both hands is a gross understatement. I overdid it! Seriously.
For years, I have been longing to redo my older kitchen. So when my husband offered to get the paint to refinish the kitchen cabinets, I jumped at the chance to help make a much-needed change. While my sweet husband did much of the work, I helped the best I could. I did OK the first day. Yes, I hurt. I had a headache. I was nauseous. I was somewhat dizzy and unbalanced. I felt a little foggy. But I was able to be up and about without feeling like I was dying. A huge improvement for me from the past months.
Lyme disease has a way of bringing you down. You feel like you are living life in a box — looking out of a window and watching life passing you by. You seldom feel like doing much of anything but resting.
There are different versions of resting for me — sitting on the couch and reading, blogging or working on paperwork. Or I’m lying on my bed doing much the same thing. On cooler days, I rest on a little sofa on my sunny front porch. But on really bad days, it can be a struggle for me just to get up and get dressed.
So back to the kitchen redo — day one went fairly well. By the end of the day, I was still flying high from the difference in how I felt. I felt clear-headed. I felt like I could handle life! I felt in my heart, “I can do this! I really can! Let me pinch myself! I can’t believe how much better I’m feeling! What did I do differently yesterday? Anything? What did I do, so I can be sure to do it again and again?”
I was so desperate to hold on to this wonderful feeling. I was achy, but I was OK. I was tired, but I felt I could keep going. It was awesome! And I don’t use that word often. I felt so much better that first day that I half-convinced myself it would stay that way forever.
By day two of the kitchen cabinet redo, every joint in my body began to hurt. I began to think, “What have I done? What did we just get ourselves into?” But I still had energy. This was very unusual for me. I actually felt like carrying on a conversation with my husband — also unusual for me. I felt like being a part of life. It felt good to be up and doing something, anything. But to be doing something so radically different as painting a kitchen cabinet — now that was fantastic!
By day three, I did wake up in much more pain than usual. I’m sure it was due to my overexertion the two previous days. I had a pounding headache. I felt the fatigue and sickness lurking right below the surface. The kind that says, “Hey, you better watch out!” But, lo and behold, I still had a tiny reserve of energy to burn. So I did.
Not a good idea, I assure you. I should have stopped while I was ahead. Instead, I kept on trucking. I saw a wonderful change in my kitchen. Once dark and dreary, it was now filled with bright, light, sunny cabinetry. I was motivated. I wanted to keep going. But then I began to feel awful — very awful. I was totally oblivious to what was coming — the proverbial freight train. But I kept right on.
I pushed through several more days of working and ignored my instincts to stop. While I did accomplish quite a bit and felt in the end it was probably worth it, I know I will be paying for this “disobedience” for quite some time. Still, it was refreshing to throw caution to the wind for a while and just live. I had almost forgotten what it was like.
Now here I sit on my couch. Yes, I have a brighter kitchen. Yes, by God’s grace the job was finished. But here I sit feeling much more fatigued than I should be. Feeling much more pain than I should be. Feeling that terrible weight on your chest that comes with Lyme disease. Feeling the weight of reality setting back in. Feeling quite sick. But accomplished and free from guilt — at least until tomorrow.
The challenge is real, folks, but I’m going to beat this thing. I just know it. And now I have a few sunny, busy days to keep in the forefront of my mind. It’s something to aim for, something to look forward to. Maybe …
Fighting for a cure for Lyme disease, one day at a time. Fighting to survive. Fighting to live.
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