Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Art of the Mental Health Day

One of the keys to being a responsible adult is the careful exercise of the Fuckits.

There is nothing so liberating or relaxing as giving oneself permission to not do something, provided that such permission is not given with too much regularity. My parents called it “declaring a Mental Health Day,” the idea being that, if you are in a position where it is possible to do so, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to take a day off. Like all super powers, the ability to declare a Mental Health Day comes with great responsibilities, and it is vital to insure that these responsibilities are met before taking action.

First, always remember that taking too many Mental Health Days can lead to the loss of your powers and transformation from “hardworking guy who deserves a break”, to “that loser over there.” Being a productive member of society and involved in the real world is a good thing, despite the inherent element of pain-in-the-assness that comes with it. The point of the Mental Health Day is to regroup and recharge by taking a short break, so that you can return to the workaday world in a state of mind conducive to not strangling the witless sons-of-bitches you have to deal with every day. Hence, Mental Health Day, rather than Mental Health Month. Also, bear in mind that a Mental Health Day cannot be part of previously scheduled vacation time, or bank holiday, or long weekends. We’re not talking about carefully saved-for and planned time off here, Readers Mine; we’re talking about playing hooky. It can, however, be the day before your scheduled break when you say “Hey, there’s no reason I can’t take today off and go ahead and head down to the beach early!” Or the extra day spent at the beach when you decide it’s just going to be too nice to leave tomorrow and what the hell, you can afford it, so fuckit. Both good examples of the Mental Health Day.

Now, one of the most important things to remember when considering the declaration of a Mental Health Day is to not fuck over someone else when you do it. Life in the real world is comprised largely of relationships with other people which are as necessary to your continued existence and basic sanity as they are for everyone else. Needlessly damaging these relationships is not just counterproductive, it’s stupid. So remember the Social Contract: Don’t Be A Dick, Be A Dude. One of the prerequisites for a Mental Health Day is making sure that you’re not going to flush someone else’s day down the crapper by laying out. Often, this can be accomplished by a simple phone call or e-mail the day before: “Say, Bob, we’ve finished up the Jones Account nicely, so I’m thinking about fucking off tomorrow if that won’t put you in a bind.” If Bob comes back with a reminder about your joint presentation the next day, or that the staff meeting has suddenly become mandatory, don’t be a dick, be a dude and plan to come to work. If Bob says that it’s no problem, take him at his word and don’t sweat it, it’s probably a good time for a Mental Health Day.

You must also be sure that your own shit is together before declaring a Mental Health Day. If you’ve just received a “D” on your last Western Civilization exam, most likely you are not in a position to declare a Mental Health Day, as you’ve probably taken a few too many already, so suck it up and get your ass to class. If, on the other hand, you’re averaging high “A’s” across the board, and there’s not an exam or entirely new concept coming your way, take a fucking break, Poindexter, you deserve it. It can thus be seen that another vital prerequisite for declaring a Mental Health Day is consistently meeting your responsibilities daily, and even working a little harder in order to get ahead so that, after a Mental Health Day, you’re not at all behind. Remember this is supposed to be a reward for all of that grown-up stuff you’ve been doing day after day after day, and so it only really works, only really gives you that slightly naughty Tom Sawyer with a fishin’ pole feeling, if you’re actually playing hooky from a responsible life.

Finally, Mental Health Days are not about catching up in other areas of your life. Don’t clean the house, don’t wash the damn dog, don’t grade papers, or put together schedules in Excel. Take the fuckin’ day, man! Stay up late and sleep in. Grab your honey and make the beast with two backs in the middle of the afternoon. Go to the beach early, read a novel instead of primary source documents from the Late Roman Republic. Spend the day in pajamas or hiking somewhere beautiful. Go see a matinee, or that art exhibit you’ve been meaning to get to. Have a cappuccino at a coffee-house and make fun of the pseudo-Beats writing in their hand-made journals with their Mont Blancs. Lay in beer and nachos and spend some quality time with ESPN, whatever fires your phasers, just get your head into a different space and play!

We all have a vested interest in our collective sanity, and the proper and careful declaration of Mental Health Days is a valuable tool in the continuing effort to avoid going completely batshit.

Use your power wisely, Grasshoppers.

By the way, I’m going to the beach with Mockingbird tomorrow, so I won’t be in. Have a good one!

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