On the 7th Day Dog Rested - but We Worked. Shifting our Perspective on Rest.
Long ago two kids sat watching Saturday morning cartoons on a TV with 2 channels and
rabbit ear antenna. Between the anvil dropping birds, learning limited canids, stuttering roosters, and rascally rabbits there were commercials. You know those things that gave you time to arrange a bowl of sugar laden cereal that changed the color of your milk (to which you added more sugar of course), and a glass of brightly Kool colored flavoured sugar water on your TV tray. Well among those commercials was one for a cold medication, and their slogan went something like ‘so you can get some rest and get better’.
Fast forward to today. Saturday morning cartoons have given way to the endless scroll of tablets. The rabbit ear antennae have been replaced by high-speed internet. The kool refreshing summer beverage has been taken over by energy drinks. And the sugar laden cereal? Well, those I suspect are still around in a few houses. But what I have really noticed has changed is the slogans for cold medications. No longer is the message ‘so you can get some rest and get better’. It has changed. Now the messages revolve around pushing through, and ‘so you can get on with your day, because your work/job/parenting etc. never stops’.
So, what changed?
A generation ago only convenience stores were open on Sundays. In fact 7-11 was originally named that because it was open from 7:00 to 11:00 every day. This was a dramatic extension of hours from the usual 9-5 of the other stores in its time. Banks, shopping, professionals, even gas stations closed one day a week. And on that day people rested. For some it was a religious observance. For others it was a cultural norm. They might attend church services, spend time with family, enjoy friends, or simply relax and recuperate from the work week.
A generation before that, rest on the 7th day of the week was deeply socially embedded. People might travel by horse and buggy to church, saw family, played music or cards, read, listened to their radio, and spent time together. They did minimal chores to sustain themselves and their animals, but the focus of the day was reflection and rest.
A day of rest is a consistent theme among many faiths and cultures throughout the world even today. In some it is an absolute. In some it is a religious edict. For the bible states that on the 7th day of creation God rested. In many cultures it is emphasised and normalized as a way of life. In still others it is institutionalized through legislation and tradition.
So, what the heck happened to us?
The only one resting in my home on the 7th day is the dog!
I work my 7th day. And if I don’t work I have a list so long that I feel like I could clone myself and still never reach its end. Fix this, clean that, plant this, harvest that, study this, write that, pay this, file that, and on and on. I do not rest. But I have a theory on how this happened because once upon a time I did. Long ago I trailed my mother to mass in my Sunday best.
Then we saw family, or read books or played games, or spent time at the park, or in our yard. We skated or swam. Meals were shared but usually simple. We sometimes even enjoyed a big bucket of KFC (otherwise known as mom isn’t cooking today). Time was spent together but not in pursuit of projects. We didn’t work. We rested.
I have a hypothesis on when, if not how, this perspective on work life balance and criticism of rest shifted.
Somewhere in the 80s a few rebellious retailers began to challenge the status quo of 7-11 being the only Sunday shopping available. These mavericks began to buck tradition and open for limited hours on Sundays. There was controversy with arguments for and against this new development. Some communities tried to prohibit Sunday shopping with bylaws. Plebiscites were held. Boycotts were promoted. All in support of a day of rest…or not. But one way or another Sunday shopping expanded and became normalized. These days Sunday shopping, services, and access to pretty much anything is commonplace. Even some banks provide in person service on Sundays. Some stores are literally open 24/7.
So, I ask again what changed?
Is it religiosity in society? Maybe?
Is it economic need? Maybe?
Is it consumer demand? Maybe.
Whatever the reason I believe there is one extremely significant and dangerous repercussion of this shift in perspective from a 7th rest to a 7th day of work.
Like the cold medication slogan, we have changed from an emphasis on the importance of rest and recovery to one of the work never stopping so you have to push through and get on with it.
Let me ask you this. When was the last time you said to yourself or someone else that on a certain day or for a certain period of time you “did nothing, were just lazy, or just rested”?
I bet you have said that, or some version of it, more recently and more often that you realize.
REST IS A VERB!
The Oxford languages dictionary definition of verb describes:
“a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence”.
Verbs are action words.
If rest is an action, then it would be impossible for you to be doing nothing when you are resting.
The Oxford languages dictionary defines rest as to;
The Merriam- Webster dictionary definition of rest includes;
“a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities,
freedom from activity or labor
a state of motionlessness or inactivity
peace of mind or spirit
something used for support”.
So, the word rest is a verb meaning when you rest you are actually taking action and doing something. What you are in fact doing is the important activity of resting.
You just happen to be doing something aimed at recovering strength, peace of mind or spirit, with freedom from labour and minimal functional activities, to refresh and relax yourself. It is just that you are ceasing your usual activities and undertaking the new activity of regeneration and rejuvenation.
Rest is not lazy.
Rest is critical!
Rest is not doing nothing.
It is you being busy resting!
So why are we so self-critical about resting?
Why do we not just give ourselves permission to rest?
Afterall for centuries, across cultures, and faiths, rest was considered normal, vital, essential, even sacred.
We are not machines. We need to recharge. Heck even if we were machines we would need rest. Our computers force reboots. Our phones, tools, and even cars need to be recharged and refueled. You wouldn’t expect any of these items to function well ,or even at all, if not given the appropriate time to rest and recharge. We accept this as normal and necessary.
We are far more complex and delicate than any of these and yet we resist the idea that we need rest too. But we do. We really do. We need to rest to allow our bodies and minds to recharge, to heal, to rejuvenate. Rest is critical to our well-being. Without rest we don’t function well, our bodies don’t recover, heal, rejuvenate and recuperate. If we go long enough without rest our performance suffers, our health deteriorates, and it we continue to extremes we can even die.
So, stop treating yourself worse than you would treat your laptop, phone, car or anything/one else. Start making rest a priority.
Give yourself permission to rest.
When you are sick go home and rest. Recuperate.
When you are tired stop and rest. Reenergize.
When you are depleted stop and rest. Recharge.
When you are weak rest. Recover.
When you find life too much rest. Regroup.
When you are distressed rest. Find peace.
For the love of dog ...... just give yourself permission and rest!
Ok with that I’m all worded out so I am going to find where my dog is and join him.
If you need us we will be very busy resting.
Footnote: no dogs were disturbed in the writing of this post, and all love and respect was wrapped into the play on works from the biblical original, so please know I have the utmost respect for those who observe a day of rest as a faith based belief. Thank you.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Rest. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rest
Oxford University Press. (n.d.) Verb. Oxford English dictionary. Retrieved November 25, 2019, from https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/