It’s amazing how much the sun can lighten your mood, fill you with energy. Add that to the time of year, spring, Equinox past and Beltane on its way, the plans and goals we set ourselves earlier in the year just need a little kick start to push them into action.
During the dark and cold of winter, I finally admitted to myself that my bathroom needed redecorating. Calling it a bathroom is to give it a far grander name than it deserves. It is a single toilet and sink squeezed into a space which was never intended to house one. With six children and two adults in one house, it was much needed.
I spent hours poring over paint colours and wall paper design. It’s difficult to be sure when you are looking at tiny pictures on line but I finally made my decisions. Did I choose something sensible, respectable and what you might expect to find in a bathroom? Of course I didn’t. A Chinese inspired design with bright paper lanterns on a yellow background striped with foliage. The walls were to be painted in deep green.
And one day a week or so ago, I looked at the pile of decorating equipment stored on the cupboard in the living room where it had been for a while, and decided it was time to start. Did I add that this room hadn’t been decorated for a long while? With my husband ill, maintaining the house had rather fallen into that dark area brushed to one side, things that you ought to do but didn’t have time nor inclination to do so.
As I started the preparation, I ran into a few problems, things I should have known about if I had given it any real thought. Firstly, the physical work that was needed was more than I expected. I stripped some paper to reveal a damp patch under the window. There was a crack in the plaster on the ceiling, and small patches of plaster crumbled away with the paper.
However the second problem was me. Last time I had decorated, I hadn’t had so much trouble with the arthritis in my hips and spine. I hadn’t been so wobbly on my feet that I needed a different set of steps with broader treads and hand rails. My knees had not objected quite so much to climbing up and down.
I could have thrown up my hands and called in a professional to undertake the work for me. I could have, but I didn’t. Stubbornness can be a good thing that pushes you to finish and you end up patting yourself on the back. Stubbornness can also be the thing that leaves you feeling that you should have rethought your decision.
Within hours of starting, I knew that I would have to take this steady. I worked for half an hour. Sat down for half an hour. I worked for half an hour, then sat down for an hour. And so the day carried on, with longer and longer gaps between actually doing any work. I went to bed early, rose late, drank far too much tea.
Yet I needed to do this, for reasons unconcerned with keeping up scenes of tidy domesticity. This is the bathroom where my husband almost died. His fistula burst with massive blood loss. We had been told by the consultant at the hospital that if this happened he would bleed out within four minutes and die. We knew what we had to do in case of catastrophe, put our plan into action, saved his life. By the time the paramedics arrived, the bleeding was under control, although the bathroom looked like a CSI crime scene.
My family has a quirky sense of humour. We now have a private in-joke memorial for Brian in the bathroom. He loved monkeys. A metal monkey firmly grips the toilet roll.
Why am I telling you all this? Recognising the limitations imposed by my health is helping me manage them. Yes, I still fight against them, but acknowledging them, accepting them, and building them into my timescales, takes away the frustration. And being forgiving of myself for not getting things quite right because my stroke brain doesn’t always do its job properly is a massive help. (The pattern match on the wall paper is definitely not right. Oops.)
Working with all this, and the energy of the season, I am now finished, almost, and can stand down and enjoy my achievement, albeit while rubbing gel on my stiff knees and protesting back and smiling at that wretched monkey. Brian would have been proud.
Written by Portland Jones, PF Disabilities Liaison for the Midlands