Nothing is normal

Back in 2011 I bought a house - the first one I've ever owned. It has good bones; a sturdy roof, attractive brick, a large yard. The person who owned it before me was in the process of renovating when he sold it. The house was built in 1989, which incidentally is the year I graduated high school. The previous owner made some important upgrades. A new roof. Hardwood flooring in a pretty mahogany shade. Tile in the kitchen and bathroom. He was planning on renovating the kitchen by putting in new cabinets, counter-tops, and appliances. He was going to finish remodeling the bathroom by removing the 1980's style grey fixtures and replacing the ugly medium oak vanity and light bar with more modern editions of the same. But something tragic happened. He was in a very bad car accident, which left him unable to walk without a walker for more than a year. By the time I met him, he had graduated up to a cane, but he wasn't able to use his hands effectively at that point, and finishing the renovation was beyond his capabilities.

When I bought the house, I knew that it would take me several years to renovate it and complete the work the former owner had begun. The first year, I made some changes in the yard and landscaping. There are many more that need to be made. The second year, I added a raised-bed garden and replaced the old heat-pump with a new unit. I didn't want to do that last bit, but it was necessary. This year, I decided to take on the kitchen.

I measured the cabinets, planned colors and surfaces and materials. I put together a budget and then began to pick up the necessary pieces to complete the work. I bought tools. Light fixtures. Paint, primer, hardware. I spent yesterday taking off the cabinet doors and removing hardware. The Man in my life installed the two light fixtures while I worked on the cabinets. The shopping, prepping, and working took all day. I got up this morning with a stiff neck and painful hands, but nothing worse. It loosened up around 11 am. By the time I had picked up the kids from their dad around 4 pm, I was ready for another round of work. I mixed tri-sodium phosphate and scrubbed the cabinets, doors, and drawers. I sanded several more doors and stacked them near the wall. I worked steadily from five until eight pm, then I had to stop. The pain in my upper back was so bad that I couldn't get my breath. It is still that bad, an hour later.

So I must be crazy, right? Here I am, trying to do work that I likely won't be able to do. My physical condition is not as bad as the previous owner's, and obviously the reasons for our health issues are completely different, but I don't have much manual dexterity anymore. I don't have much stamina. I don't tolerate normal exertion very well. I guess that's because I'm just not normal anymore. My body doesn't do what I want it to. There's no use sugar-coating it. I used to be able to do physical work all day long. Just a few years ago, if I started a job like this kitchen renovation, I wouldn't have stopped working until it was done. Oh, I couldn't have finished it in a day even then, but the sanding and stripping would have been done. The priming would have been done and set to cure overnight. Then the next day, I would have done the painting and added the hardware. The next day I'd have installed the counter-tops and fixtures. I would probably have had some help, but the work would have been steady and I wouldn't have had to stop, to rest, to sit down and try to stretch, to loosen my muscles and joints, to breathe.

I'm just not normal, and I hate it. I even hate the word. It doesn't really mean anything anyway - your normal and my normal aren't the same thing. I think average is probably a better term; averages are quantifiable. They can be measured. They take into account everything that falls above and below some imagined norm, and factor those in. Given all that, I'd have to say that I had an average day today. Pain, fatigue, brain-fog, and stiffness were all about par for the course. I overexerted, and now I'm paying the price. But I miss the days when I could push past pain and fatigue and finish a job, even if it meant working past midnight. I knew days like that wouldn't last forever, but I didn't expect them to end this soon, or for this reason. I hate RA.


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