Why Do This To Myself?

Working in D.C. is an experience. It’s a vibrant, dynamic city full of people rushing to and from work by bus, metro, bike, or car. Maintaining the hectic pace keeps me on my toes. I love it, but everyone needs the occasional break. A few years ago I made the decision to spend a weekend alone at my uncle’s cottage on the Chesapeake Bay.

I love the old cottage that sits surrounded by bay, pine trees, and marsh, but before that weekend I’d only spent time there with family. There are usually so many of us that between kids squealing, television blaring, and dishes clanking, it’s no quieter than Pennsylvania Avenue during rush hour. I’d never experienced the place alone and my plan was to leave behind work, phone, and television for a long weekend of solitude. I was excited to abandon “civilization”. Or was I? Spend a weekend alone with no one and no technology?

Why do this to myself?

Unpacking was easy. I threw one small bag onto the bed, turned off my cell phone, vowed not to use the television, and sat to watch waves roll on the bay. Minutes later I reached for my phone. Surely someone had called, emailed, or sent a text. No, I wasn’t to check, I remembered. I put down the phone and reached for the television remote. Surely there was something in the news I needed to hear. No, I wasn’t to check that either.

I swatted mosquitoes on the way to my car. I’d decided to lock my phone and the remote in the glove compartment so as to avoid temptation. Once back inside I looked around the little cottage where usually kids laughed, television blared, and someone chatted on a phone. Now – dead silence. I twiddled my thumbs and wondered whether there might be a radio around. I resisted the urge to search and continued to twiddle and stare at the room.

Why do this to myself?

Bored, I went to bed early and braced myself for a dull morning – but it dawned beautifully. Without an alarm clock to shock me into awareness I slept until pink rays of diluted sunrise streamed into the bedroom. I sat up and looked towards the water. A smattering of clouds along the horizon gave the light something to play with, making the sight all the more spectacular.

Unable to check my phone, I walked to the beach to see a startled heron poke at small fish just out of reach. Knowing I couldn’t watch the morning news, I walked a bit further and witnessed an osprey snatching a silvery fish from the salt water. Further on my walk two bald eagles watched me from high in a dead pine at the edge of the marsh. Sun bleached driftwood, tiny shells, and horseshoe crabs were here and there along the way.

That evening, unable to check email, I walked down the sandy road leading from the cottage. Deer hidden in cattails along the swampy ditch grunted before they disappeared with graceful leaps. A fox paused while crossing the road and sunset hitting its reddish coat made it the color of fire. As it bolted towards the marsh, a bluebird swooped down from a nearby tree to pick up a cricket for dinner. That evening I again went to bed early, not from boredom, but with the satisfaction of a good day and the expectation of another.

Over the next few days I fell effortlessly into the cycle of sunrise and sunset. Changes on the bay were hourly as wind molded the waves and sunlight gave them glitter. When there were no waves at all the bay was majestically peaceful. A thunderstorm on the second evening made for an unbelievable show over the water and I’d never truly listened to rain until that night. What a magical few days I’d had.

At the end of the weekend I packed reluctantly and realized I’d not thought about my phone anymore. What had I done with it? And where was the remote that was usually on the table? Ah, yes, now I remembered. As I checked drawers to make sure I’d packed everything I’d brought I saw a radio. I laughed as I tossed it back. Who would need one of those?

I left the cozy cottage and drove down the sandy road heading home. Along the way, half hidden by a blanket of trumpet vines heavy with orange flowers, a deer stared at me for a moment. She flicked her ears to shoo mosquitoes then turned and melted easily into the woods. Her fawn followed but looked at me over its speckled shoulder before melting away just as easily as its mother. They were lucky, I thought, being parts of the rhythm and peace that was this place.

Once on the paved road I turned on my phone and it buzzed incessantly with incoming messages. The car radio had been on when I’d arrived and it now blasted bad songs and bad news. I remembered things at work I needed to handle, deadlines were now closer, and there would be meetings to attend. Tomorrow I would make a tedious work commute before the sunrise I would miss, then battle emails and phone calls and not be home before the sunset I would also miss.

Somewhere back there by the water a fawn would follow its mother, an osprey would watch for fish, and sun sparkling on the waves of the bay would go unseen because I would be back at work surrounded by schedules and technology.

Why do this to myself?

Stuart M. Perkins


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275 responses to “Why Do This To Myself?

  1. Being Woven

    I enjoyed being along the Chesapeake Bay with you this day. I, too, lived in DC for three years as a teacher with the DCPS. I loved it all and needed breaks too. I once drove to Rehobeth Beach for a long weekend and loved it all. I drove to the Skyline Drive also. The rat race is hard, but the life in the big cities is exhilarating too.
    Thanks for checking in at Being Woven today, ~ linda

  2. Somewhat similar to my house, except you missed the part about being jumped by a young stag when out walking the dog. Twice. Sounds like you had decent recharge! Also, thank you for the follow, great to meet you 🙂

  3. Awesome.! Thanks for the blog follow too 🙂

  4. Abirami

    I can’t wait to be done with my exams. Then, all that will be MINE 😀 And, great story!

  5. I really enjoyed reading, and plan to revisit & read more! Love your detailed and poetic writing! Thanks for the follow! 🙂

  6. I loved reading this. It made me smile at how true this is. Just sitting and being without the noise of the outside world is well hard in this day and age. Everyone needs a to detox from technology once in awhile. Thanks for stopping by my blog and I look forward to reading more of your stories.

  7. Well I gave you a look. Very well written. I totally could feel your experience. I felt as if I was there at the cottage too. That is exactly how I felt when my husband and I took our first month long outing in our RV in Arizona.

  8. I think many people share your opinions! Hope all is going well for and look forward to seeing more from you.

  9. What a wonderful post! It calls to mind two great books, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “A Gift from the Sea” and Bill McKibben’s “The Age of Missing Information.” I’m glad you had the opportunity to switch off all the distractions for awhile and hope you’re able to do so again soon. Thanks also for liking my poem.

  10. Why indeed. Such a glutton for punishment. 🙂

  11. This is lovely. I rarely have the time to sit anywhere in true silence and this piece made me envious of this gift of solitude you were given. Thank you for this beautifully written piece on what we can see when we shut out the noise and look for the small things that we could easily miss.

  12. Lovely short story – but wish I were in that cottage 😉

  13. Reblogged this on lookatmeandfeelbetter and commented:
    Inspirational – he locked away his phone and remote and found peace….. How did he keep from just unlocking them the moment he felt uncomfortable? I guess the question says it all….

  14. Magnificent isn’t it Stuart?

  15. Thank you so much for visiting one of my blogs today, Stuart! I am working on converting myself from a visual artist to a writer, and I really appreciate the encouragement, because I am very isolated. I just read your post above – Why do I do this to myself? I am a single parent without any close family or support system, and for much of my adult life I lived in France, where I was able to work part-time. In that rhythm, I was able to enjoy my creative life as an artist and find balance between solitude and social activity. I do believe American society is way out of balance, but by simplifying our daily lives and reducing unnecessary distractions, it is possible to, as you did on your weekend get-away – to rediscover the wonder of the real…and to make it a priority to be present in the moment and not be constantly distracted. (My other main blog is adamevenevenadam.wordpress.com – musings about the nature of reality)

    Thank you again! Rebekah 🙂

  16. ahhhh… I have lived through that, the anxiety, but perhaps some people need it to keep them on their toes. I always used to look for a good bar after work so I could relax and wind down and have a laugh.
    I was able to walk away from being a trader on the stock exchange only when I found my real interests and life purpose:


    best of luck to you, I long to go to America one day, it looks beautiful 🙂

  17. I enjoyed your post, Stuart. Now I crave a spot like the one you shared. Solitude is bliss.

  18. Can I come the next time? Promise not to talk!!!

  19. I love this. I have found recently that the biggest writer’s block I have is technology …

    Beautifully written…

  20. Enjoyed the post! Following your blog and Tweeted. Nothing like nature to nurture and inspire a writer. Happy Writing, Stuart! 🙂

  21. I just nominated you for the versatile Blogger award as well, I was searching hard for your blog name and couldn’t find it earlier when I posted it.

  22. Thanks very much for your ‘like’…I feel honored! I know Chesapeake as my dad’s family are from Virginia. England where I live now is a very crowded little island, but we are reconnecting with the rhythm of life here in Cerne Abbas.

  23. I am in the process of disconnecting from the world of my phone and tablet. It certainly isn’t as simple as one would think. Thank you for your lovely story that emphasizes the need to leave cyber world occasionally.

  24. baeicher

    Thanks for taking me to the lake with you! I truly enjoyed that. And yes, why do that to ourselves? It’s my goal to never live like that again. Actually, while I was seeing the heron and the osprey I was simultaneously seeing my childhood. Life was so much simpler and quieter.

  25. wilabea94

    Thanks for checking out my blog – I thought I’d do the same to yours and I’m glad I did. What an adventure you had! I used to live in NYC but now we’re more in the country. But wow it’s great when we get to go away to the deep woods/lake and go camping – one of my favorite places is to be out on a lake in a canoe, just focusing on paddling. Or building a fire. Tangible tasks like that. What a pull we have between the bustle and the rest! It’s good that you have that opportunity it’s so important to go and recharge.

  26. When I worked I lived for the annual family camping trip. Out in the woods, peace and quiet, the lake softly lapping at the shore. Glorious. Thanks for sharing your story. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  27. I spent decades working long hours and seeing nothing for it except occasional vacations. Then after a bout with breast cancer, the chemo brain forced me to retire from handling millions of dollars in accounts with complex problems. When I retired I had a long list of things I planned to do. I was not going to be a retiree who was so bored I went back to work. I spent the entire first year off doing nothing but sleeping and reading. I didn’t do anything on my list. The second year my sister nagged me into self publishing my first book, just before she dived into ovarian cancer that required me to become her caretaker for the year. Now I finally published my second book and am starting my third, and my list is still untouched except for the item about writing. But wow, do I feel good. I’ll get to the list eventually.

    • You’ve been very busy, and that’s very good! What an excellent way to spend your time – even if the timing of it all was out of your control. You still win! Thanks for reading and I loved the comment.

  28. That is beautiful- motivation to take it a little slower.

  29. AnOldServant

    …and you woke up to what is real. Wonderful. We did well without the distractions and we saw what was real then.

  30. The key? weaving this into your daily life. Sit in the waiting room, and just sit and wait; drive to work and just sit and drive; walk to work and just walk and, er, walk; wait in line and just wait in line. I have quite the healthy case of ADHD, and I’ve never had trouble finding things to do sans electronics.

    Life is lived in between everything else.

    Thanks for the like!

  31. In the overwhelming busyness of contemporary, we miss so much of the peace and wonder of the beauty around us. You took a moment to open your eyes and see. Enjoyed reading your lovely essay. I’ve never been to Chesapeake Bay, but you made me want to spend at least a weekend there.

  32. Oh thank you for the like! d:)

  33. Thanks for a delightful story and important lesson.

  34. Lovely post 🙂 I also live in the D.C. area and frequently ask… why do this to myself?

  35. Pingback: Why Do This To Myself? by Stuart M. Perkins | Brad Rhame

  36. I really enjoyed your quiet weekend and the way you described your feelings about it.Disconnecting from the cyber world now and then is good indeed. Thank you for your visit and like.

  37. Katie Anderson

    Although I grew up somewhere different (in the woodlands of florida), there are people who have forgotten and some who never knew what it was like to be immersed in nature instead of technology. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  38. Ah, DC and the get-away-weekends. I use to work at 16th and K and you’re right about the draw of the capital city. Thanks for the follow by the way.

  39. Good question we should all ask ourselves!

  40. Mum2Gs

    Thank you for the bit of serenity you have out to the world today.

  41. Wonderful post. It really does sound idyllic and the stupid thing is is that it should be easy to do. Modern life doesn’t allow us to live anymore without technological access which is a massive shame.

  42. oldageisnotforsissies

    Technology gives us great access and makes us more efficient, but all we do is fill up any extra time achieved with more projects. It is hard to gear down. Thank you for sharing; and thanks for following my blog, too.

  43. Ron

    Just exquisite, Stu! Why have I not read your posts in weeks and weeks? The only thing I can say is…”It’s Just Something I Do To Myself”!

    My son and his family live in Maryland, he works in DC as a Psychologist for the Department of Defense…maybe he can answer your question!


    • A psychologist might just be exactly what we need, right? To have our heads examined for sitting in an office when there’s so much more to do out there would be a good idea! Thank you for reading and for the fine compliment!

  44. I loved being at the lake with you today. What a beautiful memory to take you away. And a most excellent reminder how clogged our lives can be. I miss my carefree days of summer “unplugged.” Thanks for writing it down.
    I look forward to visiting you again. ~Marie

  45. I appreciate this very much, Stuart.Retirement has given me this gift of solitude and I love it and try to be a good steward of it.

    Welcome to Spirituality Without Borders. Thank you for the follow.

  46. cremedelauren

    Thanks for visiting my blog. 🙂 I enjoyed this piece, as it reminded me of the peace I felt during my hike in the woods last weekend. I packed a lunch and spent a few hours in solitude. I so love those times for personal reflection. Nature is the best medicine.

  47. Stuart, you have a wonderful way with words. Your narrative took me right back to the small log cabin I visited twice on Bryant Lake in upstate New York. The highlight was grinding coffee beans by hand, lighting a wood burning stove, and brewing a pot of coffee, then drinking it on the dock at sunrise. We too did without phones and television for a week. It was so fabulous that I almost wish I wasn’t divorced from the person who traveled with me to her friend’s property. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  48. Pingback: Premio Dardos Award | Myths of the Mirror

  49. This is a great reminder of the peace and contentment solitude in nature can bring. Thanks for writing and for stopping by my blog.

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