Feeling Free

By Ferida Wolff

I woke up feeling cranky. I didn't want to do housework, though the laundry was piling up. I didn't want to read the work I brought home from the office. I didn't want to do anything that resembled responsible behavior. It was that kind of day.

As I drank my morning tea, I thought I felt a headache coming on. Yes, there it was, a dull throb just behind my eyes. Maybe I should go back to bed until it subsided. As I put the dishes in the sink, it seemed that my muscles were beginning to ache. Or was the ache in my joints? That could mean I was coming down with the flu. Everyone I knew had the flu this year. Why should I be the one to escape it? I absolutely should be in bed.

I shuffled back to bed, wiggled under the covers and shut my eyes. Another couple of hours of sleep would be so nice, only I was now completely awake. I ought to get up. But no, there was that headache and the beginning of a sniffle. Better get the tissues.

On my way back from the bathroom with a family-sized tissue box, I stopped to grab that big new novel I had bought but had no time to read. I opened the book and settled against the pillows.

The morning was moving along and so was my reading. Another twenty pages and I was stretching. I should try to crack the report I was working on. I should at least get up and do the wash. What if I was contagious? I certainly didn't want to spread any germs. The wash could wait. My family was resourceful enough to scrounge clothing for the next day.

Maybe I wasn't actually getting the flu. I didn't really want to be sick. To be truthful, all I wanted was a little time off. I needed to nurture myself away from people, chores, career and the outside world. Did I have to wait to be sick to do that? As a child, the only respite from school or family chores was illness. But I wasn't a child any more. Did I have to manufacture symptoms to provide myself with an excuse? No, I decided, I didn't.

I talked to myself. Okay, I said, you need a day off. Admit it. Accept it. Toss out the guilt and enjoy a mini-vacation. What would you like to do? Read? You're already doing that. Pamper yourself? Take a bubble bath. Be a hermit? Let the machine answer the phone.

I poured half the bottle of bath gel into the streaming water and added a hearty handful of chamomile bath salts. Then I lit a vanilla-scented candle and gingerly stepped into the bathtub. With a grateful sigh, I immersed myself in my homemade spa. I heard the phone ring somewhere off in the distance and smiled.

Funny how the aches subsided in the heat of the tub. They just slipped away with the last of the bubbles down the drain. My head felt just fine, the throb replaced by a sense of well-being.

By late afternoon, I was back at it, refreshed physically, mentally and emotionally. And rather than feeling helpless, I felt empowered. I had given myself permission to listen and respond to my needs, to care for myself the way I tended to my family. I didn't need the crutch of illness to justify a rest. It was such a simple awareness, but then isn't it the simple things that set us free?

Reprinted by permission of Ferida Wolff (c) 1999 from Chicken Soup for the Soul Life Lessons for Women by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Stephanie Marston. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.

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