A few evenings ago, I stood in my kitchen making dinner when a rush of nausea and dizziness hit me. I leaned on the counter for support. I had stood too long and my body was rebelling. I left the hot kitchen and headed to my leaving room to sit down while the episode passed. By the time I had sat down, I was sweating profusely. I asked my 13 year old to grab an icepack from the freezer. I placed the icepack on my forehead and rested for a bit.
I finished making dinner and the rest of my evening was shot because I was too tired to do anything. I even left the kitchen a mess until the following morning. I was even too tired to ask my 13 year old to load the dishwasher.
Being in the kitchen and preparing meals used to be one of my favorite things. These days, my kids are lucky if they get one home cooked meal per week. Usually, dinner consists of whatever is fast on most nights. When I am able to prepare a home cooked meal that requires effort, I feel like I bring some normalcy back in our home. Or when I am able to keep up with the housework and laundry, it seems like my kids can have a normal mother. Normal is what I strive for but it is not easy and it doesn’t always work in the way that I want it to.
Despite my RA and fibro being somewhat controlled, I have learned that normal is the exception to the rule. When I try to make my life feel normal, I end up paying for it. I am a busy working mother and I am raising two very active boys and sometimes, I can barely keep up with everything life throws at me. Something as simple as preparing a meal should not be so hard but when you live with chronic illness, it is big feat. It is as close to normal as I can get.
When a person is healthy, their life and identity is built around what they are able to do and how their body helps them do it. When you are sick, you start to doubt yourself. You want some control of your life and you keep striving to reestablish normalcy. After all, chronic illness changes what normal is and most of us don’t like the type of normal or the lack of normal it brings.
I am still striving for normal even through normal can be hard. Normal is just the little things like preparing a meal that involves standing for long period without having to rest in the middle of it or after it. Normal means that I can clean my home without having to rest every half hour. Normal means that after doing laundry I can actually fold it and put it away. Normal means that I can spend the day at a park or beach with my kids without the heat or cold getting to me. Normal means that a long drive isn’t tiring. Normal means that my kids get to feel what it is like to have a mother who can do so much more than I can do. Normal means that I feel like I can do the things that others can do including creating a work-life balance despite living with chronic illness.
I strive for normal everyday and some days, it can be pretty hard. Other days, I get pretty close. And once in a while, I have a rare day where normal doesn’t wear me out and it allows me to feel like any other member of the human race. Normal isn’t my reality but I keep striving for days where it can be.