What Ever Happened to the Day of Rest?

By Christina Katz

How many of us can remember the sleepy Saturdays and Sundays of our youth? The days when shops kept shorter hours and time spread slow and thick across the day like maple syrup across our special weekend pancakes. Whether or not we attended a church or synagogue, weekends were the time for rediscovering the delights of home, family, friends and pets. It was a time when recuperation from weeklong activities was our primary purpose.

So, what ever happened to the day of rest?

Editor Lisa Laskey shares, "I think weekends are for rest but my busy life seems to interfere. The week spills over into the weekend and I end up playing catch up -- household chores, cooking, kid play, home paperwork -- before I know it, it's Sunday night and I'm frustrated, tired and anxious because there was no down time."

Lawyer Barbara Klein agrees, "Working moms with small children don't get a day of rest. I work four days a week, so I have three days 'off,' but usually those days are more tiring than the days I work!"

Direct Mail Marketing President Judith Knapp confirms, "My weekends are as busy as my week days, just a different kind of busy."

If the above statements describe your frenetic weekend pace, then you are probably craving a day -- or at least an hour -- of rest and relaxation with your family. Initially, this concept may seem impossible, but by enlisting the support of your partner and children sanctity can be restored to your weekends.

Remembering the Sabbath
According to Wayne Muller in his book, "Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight In Our Busy Lives", "In the relentless busyness of modern life, we have lost the rhythm between work and rest. While many of us are tremendously weary, we have come to associate tremendous guilt and shame with taking time to rest. Sabbath gives us permission; it commands us to stop."

The word Sabbath is derived from the Hebrew verb shavat meaning to rest or cease. The Sabbath has long been a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition. We are reminded of it in the Fourth of the Ten Commandments, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." And contrary to popular belief, celebrating the Sabbath is not only for those who are affiliated with a particular religion.

For Susan Harris and her family celebrating a personalized version of the traditional Shabbat dinner has become a cherished family tradition. "In the Jewish tradition, Shabbat marks the Sabbath, which begins Friday night and ends Saturday night. Shabbat is not only a religious celebration, but also a recognition of the importance of family. We have three children under the age of five, who especially love the rituals of lighting the candles, breaking the bread, and toasting with wine and juice. Even our two year old tries to mumble the Hebrew blessings. It's amazing how quickly they've picked up on what's going on -- to the point where our four year old will orchestrate the process to be sure we don't forget anything. He's even started a new tradition of 'toasting' the bread! Our Friday nights have become an extra-special time for us."

Taking time to rest may be easier than we think. According to Muller, "The Sabbath does not require us to leave home, change jobs, go on retreat or leave the world of ordinary life. We do not have to change clothes or purchase any expensive spiritual equipment."

For families who favor a more formal religious observance, the Sabbath is also a sacred time. Urban planner Teresa Murphy has been attending Catholic Mass all her life. "Sunday is a day I cherish because there is more family time, a time to reconnect and to ground ourselves before we face a busy week. We have a more elaborate dinner a little earlier than usual. We have more conversation, find out what's going on with each other and take stock on the week. It's important for me to share Sundays with my husband and son, because during the week it's easy to lose sight of the bigger reasons why we're here on earth. It's too easy to get caught up in the material side of life and our chaotic schedules."

Creating A Personalized Sabbath
Like the Harris and Murphy families, our celebration may echo a religious tradition, or it may be completely spontaneous and family-chosen. According to writer Juliette Swanson, "My husband and I carve out sacred family time through a variety of weekend outings. We might walk in the park and feed the ducks, go sledding or even enjoy the cuisine at a local family-friendly restaurant. What's important is to enjoy each other and relax from our overbooked schedules."

Here are some suggestions for carving out sacred family time during your busy weekend:

  • Prepare a special dinner together. Light candles, break bread and toast with wine and juice to celebrate the end of the workweek. Include one favorite dinner food for each family member.

  • Spend an hour of family time in total silence. Turn off any televisions, stereos or noisy appliances. Encourage family members to meditate, read or simply nap.

  • Go for a long walk in a local natural setting together. Allow your pace to be slow and meandering. Appreciate your surroundings and any natural objects or phenomenon you notice along the way.

  • Acknowledge and surrender any lingering worries from the previous week. Take time during dinner to discuss all that you feel grateful for. Share stories and lessons from the previous week.

  • Indulge in a playful activity such as bowling, picnicking or seeing an afternoon matinee. Try to find an activity that everyone can agree upon or rotate responsibility for choosing to a different family member each week.

  • Open your doors for a few hours to family and friends for dinner, tea or refreshments. Try rotating the hosting responsibility once a month so that preparation and clean up don't become a burden. Emphasize relaxing and enjoying each other's company over making a big fuss.

The Sabbath has been celebrated for thousands of years, but sanctity will not enter our weekend without our explicit invitation. Ultimately, it's up to us to welcome the spirit of rest back into our busy weekends so that we will feel refreshed and experience greater delight in all our endeavors.

Also see:
The art of making time for yourself
Finding work and family balance
The power of writing

Recommended Reading:
Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight In Our Busy Lives

Christina Katz is a speaker, author, and writing coach from Wilsonville, Oregon. Christina offers presentations on the topics of making time for yourself and writing and publishing nonfiction articles. She coaches writers, artists, and professionals to compose authentic, compelling communications and offers manuscript and copy evaluations. To subscribe to her free newsletter "Writers on the Rise," email christinakatz@earthlink.net. Christina's next book is "The Art of Making Time for Yourself," based on her article of the same name. For more information, please visit http://www.christinakatz.com.