Labor Day marks the beginning of Fall: the kids are back in school, football season begins, and people put away the whites and summer clothing.  Labor Day is eight weeks away, which is “no time at all” nowadays.  Already there are fall catalogs coming out.  Summer is now a hiccup between Memorial and Labor Day sales.

Once upon a time Summer was timeless. Between one grade ending and the next one beginning there were oceans of time. Summer days would stretch for weeks with nothing to do and nothing happening.  They were a blur of hot days and nights.  Once in a while, there was a family vacations to break the monotony.

People would ‘spend the summer’. Northern Michigan was full of homes where people lived for 3 months each year.

Traditionally psychiatrists would take off the entire month of August and tell their patients to somehow muddle through without them.

One of my patients recently told me he and his staff have to work harder because their European branch is – gasp – taking 2 weeks off in a row and in the middle of summer!  Isn’t that shocking? Yes, but not for reasons they think.

In my job I have to actually have to implore people to take time off. This is particularly so in summer.  Everyone concurs it is a good idea, but few actually do it.

Americans believe if they take time off the following disasters will happen –

The world can’t spin without them or worse – the world CAN spin without them, and they will be let go.

They will loose money.

They will ‘get behind’ in the competitions.

They will be seen by others as slovenly.

God will punish them. (Don’t laugh, this one is more active than you think. You may state you are free from superstition but American Tribal custom still has you by the ear.)

Damned Technology makes vacation time even more blurry with work. People want to ‘check in at the office’ via email/texts etc. Last month Someone and I were waiting in line to see the Flagstaff observatory. I chatted with the woman behind me. She and her spouse were on a week-long vacation.  He kept leaving the line to answer his iphone ‘another call from work’.  “But I thought you two were on holiday?” I inquired.  She responded he was given a vacation provided he was accessible by cell phone. She assured me it was no big deal – he felt strange not working.

I fight back. I continue with the old-fashioned concept taking time off is a not a sign of pathology but a good thing. Regular vacation times are necessary for mental and physical health.  When I started working at my present clinic, we were open New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the 4th of July, as the previous doctor wanted to work. I was considered a spoilsport to not go along.  Now we are closed these days, and the clinic is doing just fine thankyouverymuch.

So I hope Spo-fans will take regular holidays from their work. Doctor’s orders.

Finally –  it is joyous to respond to the question “How did you spend your summer vacation?” with the reply: “Oh, I did nothing, really.”  Even just to see the bewildered shocked facial responses it evokes.

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