Monday, April 24, 2017

What it's like spring cleaning with asthma

I have attempted to explain to my readers what it's like to have asthma. My contention that having asthma is more than just being short of breath, mainly because you're not short of breath most of the time. Still, even on good asthma days -- which most days are these days -- I still have to work to avoid asthma triggers. And I have another good example I wanted to share. Although, with this one, I might be walking on a fine line. I will try not to cross it.

I have said that asthma is all about explaining to those around you why you do things the way you do. For instance, I have learned that, if I want to clean my house, I have to do it in short spurts. I have to do a little bit at a time Technically speaking, I usually follow two unwritten rules.
  1. Clean for a half hour and take a break to re-assess how you feel. If you sense any of your early warning signs of asthma, it's time to quit.
  2. Clean until you observe your early warning signs of asthma, and then quit. 
I find that both of these rules are violated somewhat every time I clean. I don't intentionally violate them, but it's just that when you get into a cleaning funk, you get on a roll, you want to finish. It's not like you feel like cleaning every day. It's not like you have time to do it every day. It's not like you're motivated every day. So, when you are on a roll, you want to go with it. 

When we were kids, my brothers and I would observe this in our mother, and we referred to it as "cleaning tangent." Mom is on a "cleaning tangent. Watch out!" When we saw this, it was our cue to get out of her way, or we would be plowed over. By that, I mean she would say something like, "John, why don't you pick up those blocks behind the couch." See, she'd suck you up, maybe even make you feel guilty for sitting around watching TV while she was on a cleaning tangent. 

Anyway, there isn't a lot of time around my house to clean. I work three twelve hour shifts a week, and much of my free time is spent right here working on my little Chrome book writing about asthma, COPD, respiratory therapy, or creating newsletters for the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. This is my home job; my part time job; my side job. Any free time is spent with my wife and kids, and they are a priority when they are home. This job gets moved down the priority list. 

So, yesterday I decided to clean. And, keep in mind here that I have four kids. And if you have kids, you know darn well that it gets hard to keep your house clean when you have kids. So, that said, just think of worse case scenario, and that's what my house looks like. I actually have a small house, so the piles of stuff look a lot worse in my house as compared to, say, a capacious house. 

So, I decided I wanted the mess to end, so I started digging under couches and chairs and tables and pulling out all the junk that collected in those places. There were books scattered all over the room, and Lego's, and magazines, and homework brought home from school. You would be amazed at how many papers were scattered around my living room alone. It was a mess. 

So I took (and I realize I just started three paragraphs in a row with so, but we'll just ignore that for now) all this stuff and I made a big pile in the middle of the living room. I started cleaning behind the TV and behind the desk, but I realized those places were replete with dust and cobwebs, and probably contained millions or trillions of dust mites. So, (and there it is again) I decided to skip those areas for now. I would focus on the mess in the middle of the room. 

I have to clean this way. Okay? I have to clean this way because of my allergies. I know that once I start cleaning I don't have much time. I cannot pick up a toy, take it to where it belongs, and put it away. I have found in the past that all this does is result in me being exposed to even more dust mites. It makes it so I get very little done. So, I make the pile in the middle of the room. Then I sort through the stuff one at a time. 

Trust me when I say that my wife has gotten mad at me more than once because I have left the pile in the middle of the room. Why do I just leave it? Well, according to her it's because I'm lazy. She sometimes gets mad at me. And I find myself having to explain all over again to her what it's like to have asthma. I explain that I have to do it this way. 

But, anyway, yesterday she didn't get irritated with me. So, a part of me wants to think that she finally understands. In fact, not only did she not get irritated, she actually finished the job. I did not explain to her why I quit. I did not tell her that I was feeling the sniffles, and head congestion that often start up as soon as I'm exposed to dust mites. And, sad to say, they are even in our living room. They are under the couches and chairs. They are on the carpet. 

My house does not look dirty, it's just messy. Dirty means the furniture looks trashy. That's not the case at all. However, messy means there's stuff scattered about in a sloppy fashion. Messy means you have kids, for example. Okay? So, by telling you there's dust mites everywhere in my home I don't want you to think I'm white trash or something like that. I'm not. At least I don't think so. 

Anyway, yesterday I did not have to explain why I quit. My wife didn't get irritated with me. My daughters didn't complain because I piled all their shoes in a bin. Well, until this morning anyway. This morning my teenage daughter got upset that she couldn't find her shoes. Then she and my wife, in a hurry to get off to school, were openly irritated with me. 

My son is home from college. When the women were gone, I said to him, "They get mad at me when the house is messy, and then they get mad at me when I clean." He laughed. But it's true.

Keep in mind this is not a criticism of my wife and daughter. It's natural to get frustrated when you can't find something, and it's natural to blame the person who cleaned, or the person who got half way through the job and quit. That's just natural. But, because they don't have asthma, they can't fathom what it's like. So they forget. Or, in the case of my daughter, I probably never told her. 

So, as I get older and wiser, I find myself not explaining myself as much. Yesterday I didn't explain what it's like to have asthma. I didn't say why I quit cleaning, even though there is much to be done. And that is my job when I get done with this: to spend another half hour or so cleaning. 

I want to finish with the living room today, and perhaps move into the kids room. And, you would be amazed at how many dust mites I will get exposed to in there. My Laney, my special Laney, when I said yesterday that she should clean her room, she did. She is a pleaser. I was so happy she did that. So, this should make it that much easier on the asthmatic dad on a cleaning rampage.

The fact that I didn't have to explain myself yesterday brought joy to my heart, in a way. Finally I didn't have to explain why I left the job half undone. It was so nice to get help from her and from my daughter. And I think this is even more so true when you have an invisible chronic illness and your mission in life is to avoid those invisible asthma triggers. So, thanks, family. 

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