So my husband and I own this house. It’s an old house with lots of character. It has lots of original wooden trim, hardwood floors, arched doorways, a cool old alcove. Its a great old house. But since it’s just my husband and me, keeping it spic and span is getting harder. My husband is 62 and works long hours at his job. He will be retiring within the next 2-3 years. He’s a big man and starting to get some aches and pains now that he’s approaching the golden years.
I have been an antique dealer for 17 years. I love my job and never want to quit, ever. But it’s getting a lot harder to do. I sell online as well as at an antique mall. There is a lot to it, and since I have multiple chronic illnesses, it’s always been a challenge, especially lately. My hubby helps me a lot, with packing and shipping mostly.
So my bathroom floor has been in need of a good scrubbing for awhile. I am a gal that uses hairspray. Lots of hairspray. I love to play with my short hair style and make it look good. Which requires hairspray. And the residue of the hairspray lands directly on the floor. (we have a vinyl sheeting flooring in the bathroom) So the whole floor really needed some attention, especially right where I stand to do my hair, where the hairspray residue build up was.
Since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 30+ years ago, the way I do things is a little different than the way normal folks do things. Even though I was born a perfectionist (like my mother), I have learned over the years not to get too worked up over a little clutter, a little dust, in other words….if my house isn’t fit for “House Beautiful” magazine, I try not to sweat it too much. I have learned that because of my fibromyalgia, and now that I have also developed osteoarthritis, tendinitis, and several other issues that tax my body and cause varying intensity of pain….to just not let myself get too freaked out if the house isn’t immaculate.
But my big thing is floors. I like a clean floor. I get a little freaked out if I see a dust bunny. Since we have two large cats that shed a lot, we get dust bunnies on a frequent basis. When a dust bunny begins to gather in a corner or god forbid, rolls across the floor….okay, that’s it. I have to get the swiffer and go on the attack. Not a big deal. Unless my feet are really bad, I can usually handle the dust bunnies. But the bathroom floor is another thing altogether. A whole different problem. Because a simple dust mop, or even a wet mop, will not suffice with the bathroom floor. The bathroom floor must be scrubbed with a brush. With me, on the floor. Yeah. Me on the floor. OhMyGod. LOL
Years ago, it was not a huge deal, me getting on the bathroom floor to scrub it. I would just grab a pillow for my extremely tender knees (fibro) and another for my butt to sit on (hips), and I would just lower myself down with my handy bucket and scrub brush and go at it. Yes, I would be sore afterwards but that was years ago….even though I had fibro and that made things a lot tougher….I was younger and a little more flexible and a little more energetic. Now, I’m 58 and wow…..I’m no longer even a little flexible and way not energetic. It’s a huge, huge deal for me to even think about getting on the floor. Because if I get on the floor, that means I have to get up OFF the floor. And not only that, but while ON the floor, I have to actually maneuver my body all around the floor in order to SCRUB the floor. So you see why I tend to put this job off until I cannot stand it another freaking minute.
So a couple nights ago, I was straightening up a bit in preparation for my mom and sister to come over the next day. I had been eyeing that bathroom floor for weeks….thinking, You have GOT to get this done. No one is going to magically appear at my front door and say, I got a message from God that you needed someone to come scrub your bathroom floor for you, so HERE I AM!!! That just wasn’t going to happen. Even though I had considered that just maybe a magic little fairy might do it in the middle of the night and I would get up one day to a gleaming bathroom floor…..it just never happened. Dammit.
So anyway….it’s 10pm on Friday night and I just said Hell With It and got out my broom, swept it good. Got out the bucket, filled it with water and some cleaner, grabbed a brush, a roll of paper towels, a pillow for my knees and my butt, and brought it all to the bathroom. I threw the pillow down on the floor. Didn’t even think about it, I just began to lower myself down, down, down, down…..PLOP. Okay! I made it down. Hallelujah. Didn’t break anything. Hips are okay, knees are okay. Cool beans.
So I tried to arrange my body to where I wanted to begin, and dragged the bucket with the brush over towards me. I dipped the brush in the water and away I went….with determination. I scrubbed, and scrubbed. I got one area done and then realized I forgot my bucket of clean water to rinse with. Oh my god, oh god no. Now I have to get UP and get a bucket of clean water. Are you kidding me? Okay fine. So again, without thinking about it too much (for fear of being paralyzed there on the floor), I just turned my body around there on the floor, got my pillow under my knees and pushed my body up off the floor. There! I made it. Wow. Cool. This is going to be okay, I can do this.
I went and filled a bucket with water and came back to the bathroom. I looked down at the pillow and without thinking about it, just lowered myself down again onto the pillow. I now had two buckets of water, paper towels, and my rather large body all down on the floor. Mind you, this is not a huge bathroom, so there was not a whole lot of room for me and two buckets (and a pillow). So I scrunched myself around, trying to twist myself around, with my legs all akimbo….grabbing the brush and beginning to scrub again.
I scrubbed, I rinsed, I shifted around…..I scrubbed, rinsed, shifted, scrubbed rinsed, shifted. Started sweating. Started feeling the pain growing and growing as I worked. Started getting a little pissed. (I always get pissed when I’m trying to work hard and pain makes it even harder, just the hot temper I inherited from my dad) But the pain and the anger made me scrub even harder and at that point I was all in contortions, trying to reach behind the toilet and around the cupboard, and behind the door. Starting to cuss under my breath now. Almost done, almost done….come on!!! You’re almost done, holy crap, just a little bit more!!
Finally…..I had scooted myself clear out of the bathroom and finished the last section. I sat there on my pillow, my legs straight out in front of me in the hallway, with the two buckets, the paper towel roll next to me. And then I thought, Now…..can I get up? I don’t know. I don’t know. Then I realized, as I had learned long ago when I first started learning how to deal with this pain-laden body of mine….you do NOT “THINK” about doing something, wondering IF you can do it…..you just hurry up and DO IT. Before your brain has a chance to think that maybe you might just be on that floor for hours or maybe forever…..you just swing your big fat body around, get your knees firmly planted on the pillow, and put one foot solidly on the floor and UP YOU GO!!! I did it!! I got up!! WOO HOOOO!!!
Then, once I got up, I thought, okay, get the buckets dumped out and rinsed, rinse the brush, get the big fan out and aim it at the floor to dry it before the adrenalin slows down and the pain kicks in…..because I knew, without a doubt in hell, that the pain signals were coming and they would be incredible.
I put everything away, and it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the floor to dry. I then disconnected the fan’s cord from the outlet and put it away. I stood in the doorway of the bathroom and the floor just literally gleamed. It looked SPECTACULAR. Looked like a different floor. All the residue from the hairspray…..gone. The dusty corners….shiny. I was a happy girl. I was ecstatic. I did it. I actually got this damn floor done. I was so proud. And then…..the pain set in.
I walked to the recliner and sat down. My hips were the first thing to start. Both hips felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer and pounded them for about an hour. Shortly after I became aware of that pain, my lumbar spine (where I have osteoarthritis as well as a hemangioma tumor) began to ache like a bomb went off in there. My hands and wrists (osteoarthritis and carpal tunnel) began to hurt awfully, as though someone stomped on them with army boots. My back ached. My knees were tender. My arms throbbed.
It was now time to pay the piper. I knew it would happen. I was fully aware of the price I would pay. But I also knew that no one else was going to do the job. My husband was too big (6′ 4″) to be able to get up and down off the small space of the bathroom floor. No children to come over and do it for us. No one. So it was just a matter of me making up my mind, when I was going to be ready to face the music….when I would finally, mentally be ready to do the deed, then wait for my body to react to the insult of scrubbing my bathroom floor.
It’s now Day Three after “the bathroom floor incident” and I hurt worse now than I did immediately afterwards. My hands and wrists are still killing me, in fact now the pain has progressed into my forearms. My lumbar spine…..forget about it….it hurts really, really bad. Even with the pain meds….doesn’t matter. This is the price, this is the cost for scrubbing my bathroom floor. So I scrubbed the floor and accepted my fate. What else can I do?
This is not just my story. This is the story of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of women and men with chronic pain, chronic illness. People who are not lazy, but people who often put off doing household chores because they know what is coming AFTER the household chores. Or during. Most of us are already hurting before we even begin the chores. We know that the price will be high, but we have no other choice than to do the chores or else continue putting it off until who-knows-when. The multitude of chronic pain survivors all over the world live with these challenges every single day. If it’s not the bathroom floor, it’s washing windows. If it’s not washing windows, it’s washing dishes. Or laundry. Or cooking dinner. Or cleaning out the refrigerator. Any and all household chores can be not only difficult, but sometimes even nearly unthinkable to someone who is already in severe pain.
So if you are one of the lucky ones who can scrub a bathroom floor without having a price to pay afterwards….a price that can sometimes go on for hours, days, weeks, or even months…..recognize, for a minute, how fortunate you are. Thank your lucky stars that you are blessed with a body that cooperates, that functions normally. Because I used to be like that. We all (chronically ill) used to be like that. Until the Pain Monster came to live inside of us. And changed everything.