The room in which I am selling furniture is an empty office in a small office complex. While I was waiting for customers, the woman who cleans the restrooms on the weekends came in. She’d heard of my situation and was ready to let go of this cleaning job. Do I want it, she asked? She wanted to offer it to me “as a charity.”
I hope I adequately communicated my gratitude for the offer. It was very kind. Her intentions were noble.
But the conversation did not go so well. I can not do cleaning work, and when I told her that, I found myself in the position of explaining why. Except her reactions made me feel more like I was defending myself.
Why can’t I clean? For starters, the chemical sensitivities. “But you can use any product you want,” she replied. True, if I had money up front to buy them. And the owner would have to agree to stop using bleach, Pine Sol, Windex and deodorizers, either spray or plug-in or toilet bowl or standup fragrance dispensers. (If a room is clean you do not need fragrance. Same with bodies.)
“It’s easy work,” she continued.
Easy is relative. What’s easy for your body can be difficult for mine. (The whole academic topic of body consciousness fascinates me. What is the sociology of the body? I experience the world — everything — differently than you because our bodies feel, move, sense, think, reach etc. differently. Multiply those differences by all the bodies on the planet, filter them through thousands or millions of cultural differences in how people inhabit their bodies, and we have a fascinating area of study.)
I told her that the fatigue can hit any time, making it difficult for me to commit to be someplace in advance. Currently I’m safe making an appointment for the short-term — tomorrow, maybe later — but even then, if I wake up in a fog it’s not definite I can follow through.
Then she made the comment that triggered me into silence; better say nothing than speak from anger.
“Yesterday I woke up feeling like crap, but I pushed through it and got myself to work.”
I shut up.
Here’s what I wish I had said:
“Do you think I didn’t wake up feeling like crap almost every morning for many years, but pushed through it and got to work? Do you think I had the career I had without an excess of ‘grin and bear it’ energy?
“I do not know what it is like to live in your body. You do not know what it is like to live in my body. Until you do, you have to accept me as the authority on me. You have no right to imply what you are implying.”
I could go on, but it will just make me madder. I will add:
“Thank you for the offer of the work. I appreciate you thinking of me. Please make no presumptions about why I turned down the work — take my word for it and leave it at that.”