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Emails to my Therapist

Sabbath Day Backlash

Sabbath day

From bridge onto Emerald Isle            Photo by Vladimirnoskov

Dear Nicholas, It has been seven weeks now since I began my Sabbath day observance experiment, Sundays of rest, reflection, fun, and no work. Week Three was a revelation: a feeling of timelessness overtook me, an astonishing freedom.

These last two weeks, though? Well, I feel I have a deadline to finish every imaginable task by bedtime on Saturday night. Worse, on Sunday, I feel deprived of doing work I want to do.

Altering Altaring

I’m continuing with this observance, however. I knew at the start that I might need to make modifications, maybe even change days of observance. I’m not to the point of doing that.

Although as I write, it’s Saturday and I woke up thinking: Hmm, today might make a good Sabbath day. I felt tired from the many intense events of the week: a wonderful writers retreat at the beach

Sabbath observance

Pelicans of Pine Knoll Shores


in which I got a startling amount of work done, finishing another draft of my novel (the day after my return), finishing a critique of a 600+ page novel, partying with dear writer friends, a lot of driving, etc.


One change in my observance would be to make my Sabbath day more focused on meditation, God, spiritual life, the overriding big picture, the underlying important stuff. I did have that in mind at the start, but somehow have let that slip. My emphasis has been on gardening, reading, and letting dishes pile up instead of unloading the dishwasher.

Sabbath day observance

This morning’s mock orange, false buckeye, and (real) irises

Getting myself to shift to a more spiritual focus–and doing it without feeling that I’m being ruled and restricted–would likely be the answer to this Sabbath day restlessness and minor chafing.

The novel I’ve just finished writing for the dozenth time is, after all, about a life lived half in a spirit world.

Of Course, There’s Always…

An obvious option: go to church. But I don’t want to. I want to stay far out in the serene Chatham County woods where I live.

Well, it was bound to come, this feeling of jumpiness about the whole idea. And I toy with changes that I know are no good: doing on the Sabbath day only work I want to do, or having two hours on and two hours off, etc.  All of that sort of thing defeats the purpose.

What’s A Sabbath Day All About?

Maybe I need to consider what my purpose really is.

Do you, Nicholas and others, observe the Sabbath? How?



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  • Kenju
    April 28, 2018 at 8:09 pm Reply

    I have not done so in the last four years, but before that, I went for ten years straight. In some ways I miss it, but not enough to start going again. I do pray everyday.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 28, 2018 at 10:31 pm Reply

      Praying counts, I’m pretty sure, Kenju! And ten years is a pretty good run.

  • Carolyn Handy
    April 28, 2018 at 9:35 pm Reply

    It might help if you knew you were observing the Sabbath from the Bible which begins at sundown on Friday and ends on sundown on Saturday. Some people use Friday as a preparation day – cleaning, errands, fixing casseroles so food doesn’t need to be prepared. What’s work for some people might be a joy for others. Some people would enjoy a little gardening or a nature walk on the Sabbath, reminding them of the creation, while a farmer would think of that as work. Know inside if you are refraining from work or not. Observing the real Sabbath frees you to start the work week on Sunday (or Saturday after sundown) after a day of rest.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 28, 2018 at 10:30 pm Reply

      You’re sure right, Carolyn Handy, that one person’s hobby is another person’s work. And I do consider going to a Saturday Shabbat schedule. Growing up Methodist, though, Sunday is deeply ingrained. As a kid, I went to church that day and was never allowed to do homework on a Sunday.

  • April 29, 2018 at 3:05 am Reply

    No, no particular day of rest – I just don’t work unless I have to or want to. Your garden is Very beautiful and colorful.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 29, 2018 at 3:09 am Reply

      Sounds like eat-when-you’re-hungry-sleep-when-you’re-tired wisdom, Bob. Easier said than done for me. Glad you like the flowers.

  • Jane Andrews
    May 7, 2018 at 6:59 pm Reply

    I sometimes go to the Kadampa Center in Raleigh on Sunday mornings for Buddhist meditation. I’m Catholic, but I find the silence nourishing and the presence of others (known and unknown) provides a sense of community. I pray, but I also just talk to God all the time, not unlike the way I talk to my cats, dog, and turtle. Sometimes I get a response and sometimes I don’t. I think faith is ideally worked out in a balance of action and stillness. And paying attention. Always paying attention.

    • Peggy Payne
      May 29, 2018 at 11:21 pm Reply

      Would have replied sooner to this very thoughtful comment, Jane, but have been off-line for a bit. I do admire your constant conversation with God. Far better than a constant arguing with one’s-self. I’m curious about paying attention. What is your focus when you do that?

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