I can honestly say that there are numerous times a day I think to myself, If I only had five minutes I could get that done! The sadder truth is that there are 288 sets of five minutes in a day to choose from (yeah…I’m a secret mathematician)! You would think that within that amount of time I would be able to steal some to myself, but it is harder than you’d think. I sometimes have these grand plans for myself like, reading a chapter of a novel during my lunch hour, but then … like today, a few students see that I left my door a crack open and come traipsing in with some half-baked excuse to stay in my classroom instead of going outside for recess. It goes something like this:
Me: “Why do you need to stay in?”
Kid: “I have lots of stuff to do.”
Me: “By stuff do you mean homework?”
Kid: “Yeah, that’s it.”
Me: “Well, homework for my class?”
Kid: “Pretty much homework for every class.”
And for the first five minutes I think it’ll be okay, and I think he’ll work quietly, but then another student sees him in there and comes in to join him. At this point I have no argument for why she cannot be in there if he is–so I’m sunk. Instead of getting anything done, I’m trapped between their thirteen-year-old logic of the problems in the world and how they’d solve them. It goes something like this:
Kid #1: “I don’t even know what I’m going to do this weekend.”
Kid #2: “I’m just gonna sleep. I’m so tired and school just makes me more tired because it’s so boring.”
Me: “I think only boring people get bored, and you’re not boring.”
Kid #2: “Actually, I am boring. I never do anything really.”
Kid #1: “Me either. Not on the weekend anyway.
Kid #2: “Yeah, and when teachers tell me that they want to help me care more in school–I actually tend to start caring less.”
Kid #1: “Totally!”
And this is pretty much where I decide to mentally check-out before I lose it completely. One thing I am sure of when it comes to myself–I am not boring. I have quite the active imagination actually … sometimes too much so. I’ve labeled myself with Over-Active-Imagination Syndrome where I can pretty much let my imagination take me away when I need to. This was one of those moments. And just like that … I’m free. Albert Einstein is one of my personal heroes when it comes to honoring the power of the mind. He once said, “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” At the very least, I know it encircles mine.
Aside from when my students steal my lunch hour, I’ve identified a short list of perfect times to pack up my daily issues and take a momentary mental vacation.
1. When your husband tells you he is only running a half-hour late (yeah, there’s only 48 of those in a day, so that’s a lot of time to wave around when someone’s exhausted and waiting for help with dinner, baths and bedtime)
2. When you are in a meeting that seems to only be focused on identifying problems but never solving them
3. Before you start the bills
4. After you finish the bills and realize a mental vacation is the only one you’ll be able to afford for quite a while
5. When your son discovers a new affinity for joke-telling and rents a book from the library that has 101 dog-related jokes
6. When your daughter’s vocal station has been stuck on the same song for the last six months (ironically called “Let it Go” … I wish she would)
7. When someone leaves you a marathon voicemail that you’ve stopped listening to after the first time they got cut off and needed to loop onto another message
8. When you’re trying to match the unmatchable, nightmarish basket of socks that haunt you (or, me)
The funny thing is, the first time I ever really thought about mental vacations was after they were recommended to me in a relaxation and stress-management seminar. I’d gone off in my imagination plenty of times, but packing up and taking off to another location was new for me. I’ll never forget, the instructor spoke to us, made us close our eyes and “see” where we would go. I thought I’d end up on some stretch of endless beach, but I didn’t. I was surprised to find that what I ended up in, was a memory. My mental vacation ended up being a time travel instead, taking me to a perfect day I’d spent in Germany with my husband.
We were visiting an ancient city, walled in and so completely disassociated with the world I know, I felt freer than I ever had before. The sunlight dappled and danced over the stone wall we sat on holding hands and surrounded by a forest older than time itself. There is no finding someone at the edge of a place the world practically forgot. I think that is why I loved it so much. Oscar Wilde said, “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,” but when traveling through my mind, I’ve never seemed at a lack of mental currency; I am rich in memories at least.
So my hope, when life does what it does and overwhelms … you’ll find yourself packing. Do me a favor and send me a postcard! I’d love to know where you’ve been.