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Remembering the Sabbath Is Easier Said Than Done

Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day.  Six days a week are for your daily duties and regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your G_d.  On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves…or your cattle or your house guests.  Exodus 20: 8-11; Living Bible version

Defending the midcentury American Sunday against those who felt oppressed by [blue laws], [Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter] said that a commonly kept day of rest promoted the orderliness of a society and the health of its people by providing “a release from the daily grind, a preserve of mental peace … a time during which the mind and body are released from the demands and distractions of an increasingly mechanized and competition-driven society. “Never Off the Clock” by Judith Shulevitz, Los Angeles Times, May 2, 2010 (Page A36)

I had my “to do” list for yesterday all written out.  It was filled with “catch-up” items.   It was kind of long.  And it was a source of stress.  How was I going to get it all done?

And then, while eating breakfast and reading the Los Angeles Times’ Sunday paper, I read Judith Shulevitz’s piece entitled “Never Off The Clock” about keeping Sabbath.   Ms. Shulevitz writes that the American Sabbath once meant a collective day of rest.  She also acknowledges that taking that day of rest in modern times is almost impossible these days.

Of course, the article hit me square between the eyes.  Did I not mention in my last post the importance of self-care during times of busy-ness?  The article reminded me of when I was younger and Sunday was truly a day of rest (if you don’t count the meal preparation and clean-up).  My grandfather, CR, was adamant about not doing business on Sundays.  I remember a time when his paper boy came to collect the subscription payment on a Sunday.  My grandfather sent him away without paying him but told the paperboy that he would get his money when he stopped by the next day.  I think I even remember a little lecture about it being Sunday, but I’m not sure.  My grandfather’s example, though, really made an impression upon me and I really did try to “remember the Sabbath.”  But, as I got older, it became easier and easier to stop in at the grocery store or the mall on my way home from church.  And then, when I was working a million hours a week, Sundays were the days I finished up what didn’t get done on Saturday.

As I read the article yesterday, I decided I was going to honor Sabbath as a day of rest and reflection.  And I discovered that it is easier said than done.  Just like I tell my clients that they have to block out time for writing or research and not give it away to anyone (with the phrase “I’m not available at that time”), I have to block out a time to rest and reflect.  I have to make my self-nurturing time “sacred.”

I crossed everything that was work or school related off of the “to do” list.  I checked my bills’ due dates and confirmed that I could wait until today to take care of our money management.  I did do a load of laundry, but it felt restorative to do so.

My new game plan was to read, write in my journal, and (eventually) sew.  I cooked and baked.  I read.  I reflected–without writing anything. And then I felt like sewing.  Last night, My Honey and I watched the Clark Gable version (1935) of “The Call of the Wild” (which really just takes the name from Jack London’s book and not much else).

I woke up this morning feeling completely rested.  And I’ve almost completed the “to do” lists for yesterday and today without the feeling of overwhelm and stress that has been so pervasive these past few months.

Go figure, eh? *smile*

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  1. Thanks for the reminder, Dr. J-A. Such a wholesome policy. For me, sewing is good because it is recreational.

  2. Another thoughtful post that says something about how life has changed since “grandma’s day.” There was an old adage — something about every stitch taken on Sunday would have to be removed with your nose in the afterlife. My grandfather delighted in telling me that when he saw me sewing on Sunday.

    Sunday was a family-oriented day when I was growing up — a day to leave cares behind and pursue quiet interests. As I recall, when I lived in Boston in the early 1970s, the “Blue Laws” were still in effect and most stores were closed on Sunday. You would have to anticipate your Sunday needs — say, sewing notions — and buy in advance. No running to Jo-Ann’s on Sunday.

    Nowadays, working people need their off days as much for personal and household organization as much as for recreation. And of course, some people have to work Sunday.

  3. Excellent article!

    I’ve been working on a series regarding the days of the week and how the housewife of the past assigned their responsibilities accordingly. I have finished through Saturday and I was pondering about the Day of Rest and what to write.

    You said it so well!

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