Mental Holiday

Perseverance Path in Dennis is about 50 yards long, and it’s a dead end – how’s that for perseverance? I think it’s a sign of the times. Perseverance in the 1950’s was walking a mile to the store in the middle of summer to buy an ice cream cone. In the 60’s, it was going into the kitchen to answer the one phone in the house. In the 70’s, it was getting up to turn the dial on your black and white television. In the 80’s, it was waiting until 5pm to hear the day’s news. In the 90’s, it was not being able to retrieve your phone messages from your answering machine until you got home from work. Now, in the 21st century, perseverance is waiting with exasperation while your Nextel “bleeps” before you can speak to your next-door neighbor while you are both home.

I gave my mother a Nextel when her clunky old cell phone finally expired. A few minutes later, I “bleeped” my brother to warn him that Ma had the ability to contact him at any given moment. There was silence for about 25 seconds before he responded, “You’re grounded.” That’s when I realized that we’ve come too far. Do we really need to be in touch with everyone we know every second of the day? Doesn’t absence make the heart grow fonder? We’ve become addicted to instant gratification.

My friend’s seven year old complained that the ride from Yarmouth to Orleans took too long. He said, “I hate minutes. I like seconds better.” Do you agree? Does instant coffee take too long? When was the last time you counted out cash instead of sliding a debit or credit card through a machine? When was the last time you were bored? Do you sit down to eat? Are all five of your televisions always on? Is everyone in your household taking medication? That’s always a good sign. I knew I was cooked when the vet prescribed Valium for my dog.

With four phone numbers, five email addresses and a doorbell, I’m fairly easy to contact. And people contact me, over and over, hour after hour, day after day. I decided I needed a break from the world. I wanted to spend a day with myself, out of reach, incognito, disguised by a lack of technology. So I conducted an experiment. I spent two hours just sitting still so my kitten could sleep on my lap. I did nothing while she slept. My coffee got cold. My legs fell asleep. Dust settled on the mantle. I could hear snow melting off the roof. My cell phone languished on the kitchen table. I didn’t drop dead when people dialed my number and no one answered. After the kitten woke up, I walked out of the house without looking at the caller ID and drove to the beach for the sunset.

I didn’t bend the speed limit so I could screech to a halt at the end of the boardwalk just as the sun dipped below the horizon. I allowed enough time to park legally. I strolled out over the marsh and sat comfortably watching day turn to evening. I remained still until the shards of sunlight faded to gray. I continued to enjoy the view after I turned back toward my car. I didn’t reach for my keys until I used every opportunity to inhale the crisp ocean air. I felt relaxed. It only took thirty minutes and it was much cheaper than flying to Paris. It was a mental holiday, a break from the 21st century, a fast.

Some people fast one day each week to cleanse their bodies. I recommend giving up your cell phone for one day each week to cleanse your mind. Being out of touch can be a good thing. We don’t have to be busy to get things accomplished. Sitting quietly by yourself is doing something, accomplishing something. Our time, and our thoughts, are some the few things that we truly own. We can decide how to use them. Two minutes spent screaming at the driver in front of you or twenty minutes spent harassing your spouse for last week’s infraction can set the tone for your day. Two minutes spent playing with a puppy or twenty minutes spent making cookies with a child can change your day, your whole week. It’s even more relaxing if you can send the puppy and the child home to their real families when you’re finished.

Don’t just do something, stand there. Or, if you’re the type who must do something, do something else. Ignoring your phone is doing something. Not checking your email is doing something. Refusing to answer the door is doing something.

Taking a mental holiday is doing something.

Just don’t use Holiday Lane in Yarmouth. It’s a dead end, too.

Jill Wragg is a retired police officer in Massachusetts.
She can be reached at

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