In case it’s not obvious to those who read this, I work a lot. I have a day job which consumes at least 40 hours per week, more if I end up hacking on something really cool again and lose track of time, which happens a lot. Then I have volunteer work I do with Partimus and various projects and events within the Ubuntu and Xubuntu communities.
These past several months I’ve also had the added challenges of planning a wedding and adjusting to a new job. I’ve tried hard to handle this all in stride, reminding myself I’m young and don’t yet have children so I should really take advantage of all the free time I have now to get work done. It’s also been rewarding, I get to work with a lot of really smart and inspiring people and reap the benefits of being a prominent person in communities I represent.
If you asked me a year ago to consider any sort of weekly “day of rest” I would have written it off without a second thought, “I have things to do! More than 7 days worth of things! And you want me to drop that down to 6?”
What I didn’t realize is that I’m not a machine. As I continued to optimize my time to get everything done I realized how exhausted I was becoming. It wasn’t just daily tired either, I’ve been very tired for months. I started ending up with evenings where I’d just crash after work and spend all evening watching TV, exhausted with no breaks in sight. I also noticed that things were upsetting me more quickly than usual and I was letting more get to me, this is no good!
A couple months ago in my studies into Judaism I came upon an article about observance of the Shabbat, the weekly Jewish observation of the Sabbath. My first thought was “what an interesting observance, maybe we should do that” and my second thought was “What, am I crazy? I already have NO TIME!” But it’s stayed in the back of my mind. I’ve since learned that the “Day of Rest” is not something exclusive to Abrahamic religions, Buddhists have the Uposatha day of observance, which, while focused on observance is very similar to the tenants observed by many of the Abrahamic religions (the Sabbath is a day Christians go to Church, and many Jews go to the synagogue for study). I’ve also recently read some secular reports of the health benefits of taking a day off, primarily linked to calming down (lower stress) and being able to make healthier choices when we’re not running around all the time.
At the Intro to Judaism class I’m taking we learned about Shabbat a couple weeks ago, which is when MJ and I started talking more serious about some kind of observance of a day of rest. In the class it was recognized that many don’t observe it and there are a few initiatives out there to encourage more people to, like the Sabbath Manifesto which gives a bullet-point modern interpretation of observance. Going through this list was an interesting exercise, but not everything resonated with me. Even so, we decided to give it a try and work out the details as we go along, we bought some Shabbat candles a couple weeks ago and have now observed for two Saturdays.
So, how have those two Saturdays gone?
It’s not easy. Both days I ended up working on some Ubuntu stuff for a few hours because I haven’t adjusted my schedule enough to avoid some commitments that land on Saturday. This is particularly more acute since I work with other community members who have Monday-Friday day jobs not directly related to their work in Ubuntu, weekends are an important time for getting things done. I also noticed that it ended up making my Sunday pretty chaotic both weekends as I squeezed in a lot of things I didn’t do on Saturday.
But some of it is great! I was able to take time to continue my reading of the Hebrew Bible and take my time in doing the readings for our Intro to Judaism class (which is on Sundays). On the first Saturday MJ and I went to services at the synagogue and then spent a nice lunch together where we just enjoyed each other’s company and didn’t talk about work or wedding planning all that much. On the second Saturday I took public transit to the zoo and then spent some time reading on the beach. Finally finding some down time that’s not the 15 minutes before I fall asleep to read has been a huge win.
I wouldn’t say it has cured my exhaustion, part of that is certainly that I need a proper vacation (honeymoon in 3 weeks!), but I have noticed that it’s starting to help. Having a full 24 hours where I can spend time with MJ, do some reading, spend some time outside and not focus on work is quite a refreshing break.
It’s also been interesting to explore what I define as “work” on this day. I began by making a quantitative list and then was struggling with some of the things I put on it, study of Judaism is fine, but writing is an important part of my learning process, can I still write? Should I put limitations on what I should write? Maybe I shouldn’t write for work or formal published articles, but how about a personal blog post that keeps getting put off because I have so much work? What about catching up on personal email? On one blog tackling the subject of secular day of rest the author simply claimed he would reflect on each thing and use the nebulous bar of “if it feels like work, it’s work.” During my second Saturday this ended up being a good measurement, if I realized that stress or strong sense of obligation was driving my activity, I’d stop and leave it for a Sunday.
It’s hard to say how this will turn out in the long term, but for now it’s been a fascinating experiment that has given me the pause I’ve needed these past few months.