December 24, 2023

Where Do You Go on Mental Vacations?


I am a huge daydreamer.  My mind is a separate universe with lots – sometimes too much - going on in it.  This can be really helpful when I want to vanish from a situation that I am unable to actually physically escape from.

This seems like a good topic to talk about now, either for those of you who need a mental vacation from illness, or a mental getaway from too much family togetherness around the holidays.

When I am laying on a table getting ultrasounds, I choreography ballets in my mind.  I also love obsessing over the details of dinner parties – I plan menus, table settings, and fantasize about floral arrangements.  I’m also quite addicted to mental wedding planning.  It’s all pretty girlie, I know.  My own wedding got me through a years worth of cancer scans, and now I have moved on to making mental schemes about my friends weddings too.  (Congratulations Dan and Sara on your engagement!)

When I am waiting for test results or anxious about new symptoms occurring in my body, I zone out on  It is heaven online.  I am also really into looking at the furniture listings on craigslist.

Without my vivid imagination and ability to totally check out when needed, I think I would have had a serious mental breakdown by now.

Do you daydream when you are stressed out, need to escape your surroundings, or get a break from medical hell or too much family time?  Where does your mind go?

Learn about Greg’s boat building daydreams in Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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  1. Robin Says:
    December 24th, 2009 at 2:14 AM

    Hey Kairol,
    Fun topic! I’m a huge daydreamer; it’s a wonder I get anything done, or that people don’t notice. I sort of do mental fan-fiction. Inject myself into the latest story I’ve read or movie I’ve seen. Though my two main themes tend to be King Arthur and Dr. Who. Or I think of future inventions and things, and slowly build up this futuristic background to a story I don’t actually have yet. If I had any kind of attention span, I would start writing it all down.

  2. Kairol Rosenthal Says:
    December 24th, 2009 at 12:58 PM

    Robin, I love that I’m not a loner in this department! And your comment reminded me that yes - I also daydream about inventions. Practical, everyday commercial inventions, services, and patents. Hilarious considering how low I try to be on the consumer chain and would never buy the crap that I cook up in my head. My memory is a problem too - I think of the best new gadget and cannot remember what it is an hour later.

  3. Melissa Says:
    December 24th, 2009 at 2:02 PM

    Thanks for the fun topic! I daydream all the time. With two small children (one with health issues of her own), it’s about the only alone time I get, when I am absorbed in my own mind. I daydream a lot about food. I plan menus in my mind, things I’d like to have the time to cook, ingredients I should have on hand. I think about restaurants I’d like to go to(I don’t get out much) and also shows I’d like to see. I also imagine how I’d redecorate my apartment if I could afford to. Most of my daydreaming is pretty domestic, how scary!

  4. Dori Says:
    December 24th, 2009 at 4:02 PM

    I daydream all the time. I always imagine how things go and what I could be doing if I wasn’t (insert chore/uninteresting event/stupidity here). I love to think about things and talk about crazy nothings that should be. I sometimes get sad around the holidays, not because of stupid cancer or whatnot, but usually just because it gives me too much time to sit and think. Think about everything that happened during the year, or even past holidays.

    I love talking to my best friend when things are happening, mainly because we talk about the most fun things. We imagine trips to Europe, meeting members of singing groups we love, and dreams that we have that are funny and absolutely ridiculous. It makes me forget my troubles and everything that is going on in my family and the world. It’s nice to escape. I think we all deserve that, no matter what is going on.

  5. Anonymous Says:
    December 25th, 2009 at 5:24 AM

    Ooh, good topic choice. My favourite daydream is ‘what my life would be now if I didn’t have cancer’ - I’d be living in the city I was supposed to go back to after travelling, with the dream job that I got offered but had to turn down because I got cancer instead and I’d have splurged a whole lot of my savings on one of my big goals in life (instead, a lot of that money got spent on expenses that arose when I got diagnosed - and that goal is no longer realistic because I’m not going to be around long enough to fulfill it). I’d be going out partying like I used to with all my old friends, enjoying the holidays and basically having a full and happy life.

    Some people expect those diagnosed with cancer to have a sudden epiphany about the meaning of life and how to get the most of the time you have left. But my life before cancer was jam packed with experiences and adventures, I didn’t need death hanging over my head to give me the impetus to get maximum enjoyment out of each day, I was doing that already. All having cancer has done is make me miserable and resentful that I don’t have a future any more. I’ve gone from doing heaps with my life to counting down to my death and pretty much not caring what I do in the mean time.

    Lucky I can still daydream. I go back and edit my past a lot too - catch the cancer earlier so it’s curable without any lasting effects. Then I buy myself a winning lottery ticket too ;-) and pay off a few of my friends student loans and mortgages, send my parents on an awesome holiday overseas and buy myself my dream house with land attached. That’s a good daydream….

  6. alk Says:
    December 25th, 2009 at 4:04 PM

    I work. That can keep me busy 24/7 if I let it.

    I also love obsessively looking at Craigslist (I guess I am not the only one) Focusing on something concrete is better for me than day dreaming. When I want to fogg out and pass the time, I watch stupid TV. The stupider the better.

  7. Kairol Rosenthal Says:
    December 25th, 2009 at 9:44 PM

    I can completely relate to what anonymous said about having led a really fantastic life prior to diagnosis and not needing this as a wake up call. I realize some other patients have a contrary experience and cancer has taught them how to live more fully. But I think there is some danger in the image that is often portrayed that all cancer patients have had their lives improved and uplifted by the experience. #1 - It just ain’t true for me, anonymous, and others. #2 - I feel like it gives the image that cancer is a life enhancer, that it is not so bad after all, and even makes some people envious of our experiences of illness. And that is just plain sick.

    ALK - I hear you on the working 24/7. In writing, researching, and promoting Everything Changes I have worked a lot of 80 - 110 hour work weeks. Yes, I’m passionate about what I do, but it has also been a damn necessary distraction. I hope that with your 24/7 work, it is a job that you like too!

  8. anonymous Says:
    January 3rd, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    My daydreams are not as creative or productive (I don’t choreograph ballets!), but I couldn’t get through life without them. They keep me sane.
    And I escape to ApartmentTherapy all the time. Though that is something I need to cut back on. It’s taking up too much time.

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