I am not generally a superstitious person. I love black cats. Don’t fear walking under a ladder unless there is an open bucket of paint on the top rung. My grandma had all kinds of superstitions but I never really paid attention to them. I think we were to throw salt behind our back if we spilled it and there was something about kissing a fool when our nose itched. (I will not make a comment about a chronic itchy nose during my first marriage, oh, guess I just did.) I am not superstitious but I do pause before I do one thing, clean my refrigerator.
I think this concern began when my grandfather passed away. I live on the other side of the country from my family so I learn about deaths over the phone. I vaguely remember having just thoroughly cleaned my refrigerator before my Mom called me with the news of Grandpa’s passing. Then, many years later, I was giving our refrigerator a thorough cleaning when we heard the news of my children’s Nana’s passing. At that point, I wondered if I should ever clean my refrigerator again.
These weren’t the daily or weekly or let’s be honest monthly cleaning out of expired food or empty containers that someone must have thought there was enough yogurt in for a small bite later. These were empty the fridge out, remove the shelves and scrub down the entire inside kind of cleaning. So, in my mind, I wondered if I could stop the death of any other loved ones by never doing this kind of cleaning again. I quickly figured out that I would need to clean the refrigerator even at the risk of lives eventually.
So many years have passed now, over 10 and I have successfully cleaned refrigerators without losing anyone dear to me. But still, this morning as I decided the risk to family wasn’t as great as the disgusting nature of our refrigerator, I started the process with some trepidation. An hour later, I was slow and thorough this time, my refrigerator is sparkling and looks almost new. It is only a couple of years old so the sparkle is still there with some soapy water and elbow grease.
Since my MS flare almost a year ago, I don’t always have the energy to do deep cleaning projects in the house. In all honesty, my house is a disaster or at least not up to my old standards. As I keep telling myself about so many things, it’s the new normal. But I miss the old normal and I wish it would come back. Maybe not so I can clean the refrigerator more ( after all, I don’t want to put my extended family at risk more often) but so I can go shopping with my daughter and walk the mall for hours again. Or so I can go take a hike without fear of getting overheated and weak. Or I could clean the refrigerator and mop the floor all in one day without feeling like I can’t walk when I’m done. A new normal is great when it is better than the old. A new normal is tough when it means things have been lost.
It is difficult to get through the new normal. One thing I’m learning with my new normal is to be kind to myself. These things have helped me:
- Rethinking Expectations – A new normal needs new expectations. I can’t beat myself up for all the things that aren’t getting done or that might be done to a lesser quality than before.
- Re-prioritizing activities – When I could do it all, I didn’t need to think about what was most important. Now I need to plan my energy to make sure I can cook dinner, do dishes and take a shower. Sometimes, I can’t do all three after working a full day. Sometimes, it’s more important to wash me than the dishes or vice versa.
- Re-working the process – Sometimes it’s better to work smarter, not harder. I am learning hacks that make things easier for myself. Preparing meals ahead or finding simple, quick and healthy meals to cook means less time on my feet in the kitchen.
- Reward the progress – Even if what I did seems small, like cleaning the refrigerator, I will relish what it represents – a moment of strength and health. Where’s the Ben and Jerry’s, oh wait, the new normal also includes no sugar or dairy. I’ll just bask in the glow of the refrigerator instead.
I don’t really like the new normal. But it seems to be here to stay. Rather than stress about what I can’t do or what is lost, I will rejoice in what I can do. Neither the new normal or an old superstition, will keep me from a sparkling refrigerator today. And that is a new normal I can be proud of!