It was a lovely, sunny Sunday in early May, one of the first truly nice Sundays we’d had of spring. I’d finished with all my obligations for the day, so what was left but to do but relax and enjoy the perfect weather with all the windows in the house open to let in the slight breeze, the birds chirping, the neighborhood kids laughing and playing, the distant chatter of a nearby family having a cookout, the lawnmowers, the string trimmers, the leaf blowers—cue that screeching record sound you always hear in commercials when they tell you something unexpected.
Maybe it’s the grumpy old man in me, but one of the most maddening ways in which our culture has changed has been the way we now glorify being busy. We do it to the point that taking a day to rest and recreate is almost seen as sacrilege. Yes, our culture has started to put emphasis on finding jobs that are more than jobs—we’re trying to change the world through our work. That’s an admirable thing. And yes, we work hard to make sure our children are doing worthwhile things, from playing sports to participating in other co-curricular and extracurricular activities to doing service work. Also admirable. But we seem to have let the idea slide that, every once in a while, the best thing to do is nothing.
For people of many faiths, it’s actually codified. The ancient Jews were given a rule that on the seventh day they were to rest and worship. It was called Shabbat, or as we call it, Sabbath. Same with Muslims. Christians too, only they moved it from Saturday to Sunday. Every major religion has some concept of setting aside time in one way or another for recharging our minds and souls, reconnecting with the divine by taking time to rest and relax and listen. But I’m not trying to say we need a day of rest because of my faith. I’m saying we need to slow down once in a while and relax because it makes sense. It helps us become better people. It makes us happier. And yes, it even makes us more productive people the rest of the time.
But we seem to have almost made a religion of being busy. And I think all this noise on Sunday afternoons is a symptom of that. Folks work long days, six days a week and run their kids to lessons and games and practices and activities six days a week and so what do they do on the seventh? Do they enjoy a cookout or a get-together with loved ones? Do they get lost in a good book? No, they do all the household chores they didn’t have time to do the other six days. And then collapse into bed exhausted, just to get up the very next morning and start all over again.
So am I proposing a return to the days of old, with strict laws against businesses being open on Sundays? Not at all. I’m simply saying that if you have so many things going on that you can’t stop and take a breath one day a week—or at least part of one day—then you may want to take a step back and evaluate whether some of the stuff you’re busy with is really so important that it’s worth driving yourself into the ground mentally, physically, and spiritually. Is it worth giving up time with your loved ones? And I’m talking about good quality time that doesn’t involve rushing here and there and watching them play soccer while you do work.
Let’s say you’ve read this little editorial of mine and you agree with its concepts. But you can’t figure out how to do anything about it. What do you do? If you’re part of a family, make yourself temporarily busier by calling a family meeting. Sit down together and decide as a group that down time is a priority, which means making the tough decision to let go of some things. It may mean giving up one sport or one activity. It may mean committing not to bring work home from the office at least once or twice a week so that you can get that darn yard mowed on Friday evening. And it may mean, paradoxically, scheduling time to relax and recreate together. Put it on the calendar. Because when it’s on the calendar, it’s official. I’m sorry, I can’t help with that because I’m already booked. You don’t have to say you’re booked to make s’mores and play Monopoly with the wife and kids. Or, even better, say it proudly.