Diary of a Mad Allergy Sufferer

I’ve been up since 4AM. My husband gets up that early to go to work and I don’t know how he’s still standing at 9PM. My allergies have been nasty this winter. It probably has something to do with the house being all shut up and there being an extra cat (one of my worst triggers) here with Granny. So, I was awakened several times last night with that annoying little tickly cough and finally jarred completely awake at 4.

I’ve had allergies as long as I can remember and if you suffer too, you know the struggle is real. No, really. It sucks. Try going anywhere and staying overnight with your friends in a hotel. When you wake up in the morning and you’re hacking phlegm all the way up from your toes in that super echoy bathroom making your friends swear a 65-year-old lounge singer who’s smoked her whole life sneaked into the room sometime in the night and is using the bathroom. Like nature? Not since I’m allergic to air. Even though I have an admiration and respect for the flora and fauna that grace this planet, I catch myself leering at the fields of corn, soybeans, wheat, flowers…well, you get the idea. I love animals but when I look at them, all I see is the near future consisting of a box of tissues and itchy eyes. I think a combo of being a cleaner and allergic to everything makes me see things like intricate, ornate woodwork, ledges along high ceilings, or lots of knickknacks as an evil conspirator with dust. It also makes me dumb. Or just very unlucky.

I’m really good at cleaning so it only makes sense that my body would react to the activity like it was trying to put out a fire with my draining nose. It’s a cruel joke, in my opinion. But it doesn’t stop me from cleaning. If anything, I clean harder. Most of the places I clean I’ve been doing for long enough that the dust is under control. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve faced a problematic job since the end of last summer. With three people and five large breed dogs in the house, the dust is never under control. It’s dust chaos. If I were to try and remove it from every surface, I’d be there the rest of my life because as soon as I got through the house, which is over 3000 square feet, I’d have to start over again. The dust settles so quickly that each week, it’s like I never dusted at all. With my OCD, the part of cleaning that is so satisfying is seeing the difference I make. It makes my mind happy and all the physical work worth it. I see a sliver of it when I’m done for the day, but I know it will only last a matter of hours and that almost hurts. This is just proof that my love for cleaning is a mental disorder.

So, I decided to quit. I need the money but as I’ve mentioned in the post Open Doors and Benadryl , it’s not worth it. I’ve also lost numerous Fridays of possible productivity because I simply am too sick to get off the couch. The allergic reaction from being exposed to the dust and dog hair lasts into the night and often leaves me feeling horrible the following morning. I’m tired of losing time because of it. It would be one thing if I felt like I made a difference but I don’t. Not only is the dust always back, my hard work goes unacknowledged and even disrespected at times. It wasn’t until the day I decided to quit the first time (I got a temp position and thought I could quit cleaning), that I was told that I was doing a good job. I don’t expect to hear it every time I clean, but I need to know that I am meeting expectations. It’s necessary to know what I need to do better. I don’t like taking people’s money and not giving them what they pay for. It also lets me know that what I’m doing is helping them, and that’s the core of why I do what I do. I’ve had more than one occurrence of the family walking right over my wet floors as I mop. In the beginning, things were picked up so I could do my job, but as time went on, less and less was put away, causing me double the work in the same time frame. I’ve never gotten out in the agreed upon 4 hours. It was always 20-45 minutes longer and that’s time I was never paid for. I could’ve said something, but I was afraid to lose the job by asking for more money. Now, the money has become a secondary issue to my health.

Two more weeks, and I can walk away. I’ll be devoting my free time slot to my writing and my new job. Both of which give me more validation and respect. I wish the family the best and hope that they might realize they need more than a weekly cleaning lady. They need a full-time housekeeper. And that definitely isn’t me.

~L~

Open Doors and Benadryl

There are days I think I have this all figured out and I know what I’m supposed to do, what I’m supposed to be when I grow up. Then there are days like today, and days like last Friday that tell me I’m completely wrong about having a clue.
The new year is a fresh start for a lot of people. Not me. I spend all year scrutinizing my choices, making resolutions I never keep, feeling like I need to make my life better. The new year is just more of the same. There is no discernible difference in my anxiety levels, my drive or lack thereof, in say, June compared to December and the beginning of January. It’s all the same. One chaotic “What the hell am I gonna do?”
Very recently, I considered taking my cleaning job and making it my “real” job. What I mean by that is promoting my cleaning service and treating it like a small business instead of a side job while I work on my writing. I’ve been looking for a full-time job or a decent paying part-time gig, so I’m in the market to work more than I currently am but I’m not having much luck landing an interview, let alone a job. I’m good at the cleaning thing and I have no doubt that if I really threw myself into building a business around it, I could get enough jobs to pay the bills and then some. Then I think about the downsides.
Though I excel at pleasing my current clients with excellent customer service and perfection driven cleanliness, the work is hard. It’s downright exhausting in some cases. I still want to write in my free time and I’m afraid that if I take on several more jobs, I’ll be too tired. Not like now—how I’m always so wide awake. *YAAAAAAAWN*
Then there’s the reality that I try to ignore and that’s that I have terrible allergies to pretty much everything that a cleaning job has to offer: dust and pet dander. And though it’s not an allergy, I have sensitivity to strong cleaners, probably because my sinuses are already inflamed and downright pissed off at me just from everyday breathing. I suffer through every day and most of my jobs aren’t very sneeze inducing, at least not anymore. I have the dust under control in almost every case. It’s that one case where there is absolutely NOTHING I can do to keep the dust at bay that makes me reconsider my business venture. I assure you that it’s not just the dust.
Today, I almost saw the junk of the son of my ultra-dusty client. I’d gone around and poured BLUE toilet bowl cleaner into all four toilets and let it sit. After some time, I began to clean them. When I got back to the son’s toilet, he was standing there, peeing, looking out the window, with the door open.
“Oh, Geez!” I said, turning quickly back the way I’d come. “Sorry ‘bout that.”
Later, in the kitchen, he said, “Sorry. I forgot you were here today.”
I assured him it was fine and really it was. I didn’t actually get a glimpse of anything. I also understood that with the holiday, he could’ve easily forgotten what day it was. I felt like it was Saturday all day today, when in fact, it’s definitely Friday. I can only assume that he didn’t look into the toilet bowl to aim and see the blue cleaner, put two and two together, and realize I was there. Or perhaps he was too tired to notice.
This near eyeful isn’t really the issue. Beyond the uncontrollable dust, the job is very physically taxing as I clean at a breakneck speed for four hours just so I’m not cheating myself out of money. I finished almost a half hour late today because everyone was home and my routine was knocked off kilter. That’s time I won’t be paid for. On top of never actually finishing in the agreed upon four hours, it’s not really worth the 30 minute drive or the level of cleaning I have to do every week. The amount of work I put into this job is the same as I devote to my monthly jobs that take from four to six hours. Last week, after spending a full 8 hours there helping to prepare for a holiday family visit, I left with a sore throat, cough, and a splotchy rash down my neck, not to mention, a gargle-worthy amount of phlegm. I took two Benadryl and went to bed pretty early that night. These are the things that make me consider that my future might not be in the cleaning industry.
I can’t load myself down with exhausting jobs if I want to be able to pursue writing at the same time. I also can’t do a job that literally makes me sick. I feel like signing up for more jobs potentially like this one could be bad for my health. Getting a sinus infection every month because I expose myself to what I know is bad for me, well, that’s just crazy. What’s really disappointing is that I know I’d be good at it. I know I’d make a name for myself cleaning.
Such is the internal battle waging as of late. If it’s not this, it’ll be something else. There is no peace in my mind. I suppose that’s one significant reason why I write. That, and it doesn’t make me sneeze.

~L~

Toweling Off

For years I’ve tried to figure out what I’m good at. Moreover, what I’m good at that I can make money doing. As it turns out, the only things I’m good at won’t make me much money. What I’d really like to do professionally is write. I’ve been writing stories since I was able to construct sentences. I’ve journaled for years, blogged, and even wrote a novel. What most people don’t realize is just how hard it is to make a living as a writer. Hell, I had no idea it was going to be this hard until this past year. The amount of work that goes into perfecting a manuscript and getting it published is unfathomable to anyone who hasn’t tried. So, while I struggle toward publication, I have to do something to pay for those haunting student loans and the English degree that has yet to earn its keep. So, I turned to the only other thing I feel that I do well: cleaning.

I started cleaning for a friend and got referred to her friends and family and so on and so on. So I clean for several folks in an effort to pursue my writing and still keep the loan collectors from taking me to court. It’s pretty hard work sometimes, not to mention gross. Especially since I’m a functioning germ-a-phobe.

I’m all too aware of the germs on and in everything. I think about the nastiness on every surface I come into contact with and shudder if I accidentally put my fingers in my mouth before washing them (I have a horrible nail biting habit). But I don’t let my awareness keep me from doing anything. I just wash my hands regularly. I still use hand towels in my home bathroom because I can’t bring myself to use paper towels since I’m also keenly aware of the environment. So, I change the towels about every two days as a way to compromise and to try to keep the nastiness to a minimum. Maybe that’s psycho-level often, but it makes me feel better so I do it.

I take into account that I am border-line insane when it comes to a lot of things including my germ awareness. However, if you never change your hand towels, I feel okay judging you. You know who you are. You can’t see me, but I’m shaking my head at you.

The truth is that not everyone washes their hands the way the CDC would prefer but you can bet that they’re still drying them on that towel. That means it’s not just water clinging to those absorbent fibers. If I can see discoloration in the spot where I know everyone’s been drying their hands or if the towel crunches when I pick it up, you have surpassed the time limit for a single towel to be displayed. Your towel’s 15 weeks of fame are up. I think a good rule of thumb, for the non-crazies out there, is to change the towel at least weekly. When I see the same towel hanging that was there the last two months or better, I tend to take some paper towels into the bathroom with me. I mean, what’s the point of washing my hands and then wiping them dry with the crusty germs of everyone that’s used the towel in the last half a year. Also, if you have pets, don’t put out what’s supposed to be a fresh towel and let me pick it up to dry my clean hands only to find it covered in pet hair. Despite their cuteness or lovability, their hair on a hand towel is disgusting. If I wanted to wipe my wet palms on pet hair, I’d dry them on your dog.

http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/index.html

~L~