Last week my son and I spent a couple of nice, leisurely days at the Oregon Coast with my mom and sister, who were visiting from out of town. I’m always amazing by how recharging even a short time away from work, emails, phone calls, and social networking can be.
In the last few months, I’ve started powering down every Sunday – leaving the computer, email, and phone off and hanging out with my family. Sometimes we go on a hike, go swimming, or walk to the park. Sometimes we hang out at home and linger over breakfast, read the newspaper, and work in the backyard. I usually take a nap with my son in the afternoon or read a novel.
At first taking a day off just felt strange. Between taking care of my son and the house and working on this blog and my writing business, I’m used to toiling nearly every waking moment. Sundays just felt entirely non-productive, even wasteful. But as the weeks pass, I find myself looking forward to my family’s slow, quiet, non-electronic Sundays.
Moreover, I’m realizing that a day of rest is actually productive. It gives me time to think and reflect, which are necessary elements to the writing life. And I don’t find myself wasting time, procrastinating, or avoiding work as much on the other days of the week, because I know I’ll get a chance to rest and recharge on Sunday.
Many have long understood the importance of a weekly day of rest. Followers of Judaism observe Shabbat from sundown on Friday until Saturday night. They are freed from the regular daily labor, can spend time with family, and can contemplate the spiritual aspects of life. Traditionally Jewish people also observed a Shemitah Year every seventh year, when they left the fields fallow to give the land and society time to rest. All debts were also canceled during that year, so they could begin anew again.
Many Christians observe a day of rest on Sunday. Some Muslims take a day or half day of rest on Friday. And there’s a new movement growing called Secular Sabbath. Marc Bittman wrote about it in the New York Times a couple of years ago, when he came to terms with his addiction to being plugged in. He discovered what I and probably many others have in our always-on society – forcing yourself to unplug can be surprisingly difficult:
I woke up nervous, eager for my laptop. That forbidden, I reached for the phone. No, not that either. Send a text message? No. I quickly realized that I was feeling the same way I do when the electricity goes out and, finding one appliance nonfunctional, I go immediately to the next. I was jumpy, twitchy, uneven.
Like me, Bittman eventually adjusted and came to look forward to his days off:
Once I moved beyond the fear of being unavailable and what it might cost me, I experienced what, if I wasn’t such a skeptic, I would call a lightness of being. I felt connected to myself rather than my computer. I had time to think, and distance from normal demands. I got to stop.
Do you take a day of rest each week? How do you spend it?