Why You Should Really Take a Day Off

(Fifth in the series, “Working At Home Survival Guide”)

Imagine your favorite piece of music. Whether it’s  Mozart or Beyonce, it wouldn’t work without rests. Imagine that tune, slightly speeded up, with no breaks, pauses, silences of transition. It becomes an irritating and unsustainable exercise.Related image

That’s how some of us are trying to live. We’re trying to cram every day of every week, feeling worth more because we do more, earn more, see more people, go more places. But speed it all up too much and it’s blur without meaning.

It’s especially easy to skip taking days off when you work for yourself. It’s all up to us, and anxiety over making a living can make a day off seem impossible.

In Julia Cameron’s self-help book for creatives, she insists on the necessity of the weekly ‘artist date’ where we take at least two hours off to do nothing but care for our creativity, not doing what someone else wants, but what our deepest self is drawn to.

This book was one of the more important I’ve ever read (and worked through.) I wouldn’t have found it if I had not realized that my sanity depended on getting away from my three little kids for a chunk of time every week. The first time I did, I sat exhausted on a bookstore bench, and prayed that God would lead me to something that would restore my sanity. “The Artist’s Way” fairly jumped off the shelf.

What Cameron learned through hard experience, was that if she didn’t stop working to refuel, the well dried up. You don’t have to be a writer or a painter for the creative well to dry up. You can be the IT guy who starts to resist change because it takes such huge effort. You can be the chef who starts to find every dish a bore. You can be the pastor who flinches with irritation when the phone rings. You can be the mom at home with little kids who can’t make herself sit on the floor and play one more game.

It takes a day off a week and longer seasonal breaks, to be renewed.

For a long time, I took Sundays off, going to church, going to lunch with my husband and boys, then all of us doing what we liked. The day took on a luscious quality of timelessness and work was far from my thoughts.

Then one of my jobs started to require that I run a program on Sunday nights. This went on for a school year, and threw a shadow on my day off, making it hard to relax even in the hours before it that were still free. I couldn’t see a way to find another day off in the rhythm of family life. At the end of it, I was depleted.  My schedule was far less hectic than many others’, but still I am aware of how that absence of a whole chunk of time off wearied me. I felt like I had to squeeze the last drop of energy from my heart to start a task, it was harder to focus on what I was doing and I was blocked as a writer.

Lesson learned. Not only is it wise to work less than 50 hours a week (see the last post) but there is real magic in keeping one day clear of work.

Now I don’t have time to work on my day off.

 

The Sabbath Reboot (Why Even Go To Church Part IX)

I used to feel utterly trapped by life until I got the hang of Sabbath. It’s not just a day off; it’s a different zone.

Shabbat Shalom by Lavott

Pastor and Author, Lynne Baab, learned the rythms of the Sabbath in the middle east, and brought them back to our crazed, work-idolizing culture. In “Sabbath Keeping,” she writes, “We need to refocus. Our rapid pace of life bears too much resemblance to a treadmill: constant activity that goes nowhere. We need to explore our motivations and goals. A day each week with built in reflection time goes a long way toward reclaiming our sense of direction…the more we practice it, the greater a privilege it becomes, the more essential it feels…”

Going to church is part of this rhythm; doing something that is all about God and nothing about our advancement is the first step in a weekly reboot that renews us. “Reboot” is defined as the process of shutting down and restarting a computer, for the purpose of discovering errors and reinitializing drivers and devices. Whenever I get into tech trouble and ask my husband, the IT guy, for help, he asks me if I’ve tried rebooting the computer. I would argue that humans need a reboot every week to prevent and fix our many malfunctions. It is, after all, built into the creation process, and included in the first set of instructions God gave people.

So why go to church on the Sabbath? Why not just stay in bed and eat cold pop tarts? Apparently the Sabbath only does its magic when we keep it ‘holy’, that is, separate in order to draw near to God. Church is enormously helpful with this. It does at least three things to help us with the reboot we so desperately need.

First, it gives us rest. I was never more aware of the restorative powers of a church service than when I had three little kids. I would check them into the church nursery, and stride, arms free, into church. I would sit in one place, uninterrupted, for over an hour, reveling in the quiet relief of not being needed. Years later, it is still good to sit down for a rest, if only from my own self-focus.

Second, it helps to ground us in gratitude. Whole books have been written on the power of gratitude. The practice of singing praise and worship songs gets us off ourselves and into a posture of thankfulness to God for all things good and true. So, all week long I’m thinking about what needs to be cleaned and organized in my house and yard, but on Sunday, I sit in a comfy chair and thank God that I have a house with furniture and a yard with flowers. I just enjoy them, and realize what a huge gift they are.

Third, a church service helps us to take in energy. Many of us spend most of our lives pouring out energy, in jobs, in caregiving, in maintaining our stuff. In a church service, we’re on the receiving end of truth and beauty and inspiration. (If not, find another church.) We need that so much. It renews us to a point where we can spend the rest of the Sabbath well. It gives us a beginning for reflection, for prayer, for further study.

Ironically, I think I’m more productive in these years since I’ve kept a Sabbath. Every week there is new insight, new energy, new faith and new love. And I always know that in six days or less, I can reboot again!