Yeah, I can’t do the things I was able to prior to having a chronic disease. I was a Youth Leader at church, I could travel to my mother’s for a weekend hike, and I cleaned my house twice a week. On Saturdays, I could rise at 7:00 a.m. and work through the morning and afternoon deep cleaning, dusting, vacuuming until everything sparkled.
Now, Rheumatoid Arthritis interferes with how much of the house gets cleaned. My husband, Greg, travels for work and when the weekends come, I aimed to have the house spotless so we can spend time together. On the weeks when my arthritis and fatigue win the battle, chores are left undone.
One Friday evening, Greg arrived from the airport with a suitcase in tow. I had a rough week and didn’t get to the normal kitchen or floor cleaning as I wanted. He dropped his stuff in the office and with a quick hello and kiss, he cleaned. As I watched him scour the counters and sweep the floor, while my emotions rose.
Now, most women would say, “Are you nuts? What’s wrong with that? I wish cleaning would cross my husband’s mind just once!” Ok, ladies, I get it. Hang in here with me.
As Greg cleaned, feelings of guilt and worthlessness arose. I picked up a cloth and began cleaning around him, as if in competition. The stew of emotions boiled over into anger. Greg glanced sideways at me and kept on cleaning.
Feelings of insecurity and worthlessness were sparked by guilt over my chronic disease; I thought, I am not keeping our house clean, he thinks I’m not good enough. I’ll show him. And anger towards my husband ensued.
This was nuts!! Why was I getting angry at him for cleaning?? “Good Lord above, help me please,” I yelled in my heart, “This is not me – this, this GUILT, and anger!” I took a deep breath and forced my emotions to simmer down. I had to talk about this – NOW.
“Greg,” I began while he paused from his cleaning. “I feel terrible you clean. I should have finished all of this already. I started cleaning around you because I feel so inadequate. When you travel, I want nothing left undone when you come home. When you clean, I feel like I am not good enough. I didn’t have the energy this week to get the chores done and I am sorry.”
Greg put down the cleaning rag, looked at me and said, “I didn’t mean for you to feel that way. I came home after a long trip knowing you have been in pain, yet still working full-time and caring for the house. I feel guilty and needed to do my part. That’s the only reason I am cleaning – I needed to help you.”
Greg didn’t cause the wound I was feeling. My anger at him was unjustified. My own guilt and inadequate feelings were stemmed from mourning and loss of my former self – hiding just under the surface. I saw how guilt can creep in and interfere with the wonderful marriage Greg and I share? Just like that! If I allowed it to fester, it would have created discontent and problems between us when there were none.
God adjusted my perception of the situation and showed me how much GUILT can affect me, and how I need to share my feelings with my husband. Greg was not my enemy, he was and is my partner. Talking with Greg and sharing what I was feeling made the guilt dissipate. Do I still feel guilty when he cleans? Not so much anymore, but it still tries to creep in. I recognize it and tell it to go away – as I thank Greg for wiping down the counters and running the vacuum cleaner.
“And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”