Distractions are important. I think we can agree on that.
They preserve a person's mental health, ability to cope and cheerfulness in the face of such challenges as road salt, skintight jeans and the price of fresh mixed berries jumping $3 overnight.
I once looked to social media for distractions, but social media now is one of the reasons I need distractions. I enjoyed videos of cats riding robotic vacuums, dogs greeting returning soldiers and "funniest sitcom scenes ever;" but I can't do that anymore because I risk stumbling into stressful information even before I tap in my password.
Because my electronic diversions are failing me, I've decided to seek the distractions of my past, assuming I can remember what they were.
At age 11, I sought escape in the comic books my mother didn't allow me to buy. Fortunately, the mother of the kids down the street had no such literary principles, and I was able to follow the lives of Little Lulu, Tom and Jerry, Donald Duck and Nancy and Sluggo.
So there's an escape I could resume: spending summer afternoons reading comic books in somebody else's backyard.
When the backyard is too wet or snowy, I could turn to another classic childhood diversion: Saturday-morning cartoons and television shows. My mother didn't let me watch those, either -- are you beginning to see a pattern? -- but luckily, the same mother who was soft on comic books also allowed her children -- and me, by extension -- to watch "Heckle and Jeckle," "Sky King" and "Circus Boy" until our brains rotted. (Putting her parenting values up against today's standards, I'm surprised she didn't encourage us to go out and rob liquor stores.)
Of course, I spent most of my childhood days playing outside. Many of the games we played we made up, including "Camping Around the Block." That one involved a wagon, several doll-sized blankets and snacks. We'd set out, journey around one corner, circle the wagon for a snack and set out again. Before we reached the second corner, we'd stop for the night and so on.
You know, I don't think I can resume Camping Around the Block, even to distract myself. It would alarm the neighbors to see me in the fields, pulling a wagon and stopping for the night every few minutes. What they say is true: You can't go home again. Though in my case, it's more accurate to say you can't go to your neighbor's home again.
When my children were babies, I nursed them, of course. Nursing is a great stress reliever, partly because of the oxytocin and prolactin involved, but mostly because a nursing mother must sit and allow her heartbeat to slow. Oh, I tried to multitask, but learned right away that a person nursing a baby can't do anything more ambitious than turn the pages of a novel or sift through the mail. It's easier to look at the baby, whose fingers are grasping a tiny handful of your T-shirt, and maybe wonder how many days it's been since you dusted.
Obviously, I can't return to that distraction. I need an activity that's available to me now.
Since the whole point is to avoid electronic media, no password will be necessary, which is a relief. Passwords are inherently high-stress. Although I keep a list, my passwords rarely open the sites to which they're linked. "Password is incorrect," I'm told in red letters. "What do you mean?" I say to my phone, pounding in the password again. Or maybe I pound in another password. I run down my whole directory, one password after another. "Password is incorrect," the red letters say. Is it any wonder I'm stressed?
Maybe I'll try one of those saltwater immersion tanks. It says right here on the internet that saltwater immersion is a "luxurious way to soothe and heal the body from the constant stress of life's daily pressures." That my mind immediately wanders to the Titanic and what its passengers would think of this description is indicative of my stress levels and how desperately I need to "seek healing in a private, peaceful space."
Or maybe I'll go to YouTube and search for "funny cats."
Write to Margo Bartlett at email@example.com.