If everyday is Saturday for a retired person, how do you catch a break? How do you get a day off from the day off? Lately I’ve found myself bone dog tired from not getting to bed on time. The daily routine has become its own grind. Even though I’m not getting up for work, I am getting up to walk the dogs who won’t let me sleep in for their whining and panting. An hour of cleaning the barn comes after some time reading Facebook and watching the news. Then the day opens before me with too much time reading more Facebook because there are no deadlines and the dream driving me to write has been washed out when I published my novel.
I am working on replacing that Facebook time with Morning Prayer from Mission St. Clair, a wonderful, free app that takes you through the daily office. (These are readings from the Bible that run on a two year cycle. I simply searched for the app for my phone. The website offers downloads that include noon and compline for Nook and Kindle.) The app offers hymns and chants as well as prayers that point a person to praise and to God. In this season of Ordinary Time there’s a lot of light in the collects and chants even though the readings from the book of Job and Psalms point to the idea that even if you practice being good, suffering will come.
A year into retirement I miss that rhythm of work and rest, though during the school year I pretty much edited papers through the weekends. My rest has become my work. It’s work to feed the cat his pill and clean his litter box and administer his inhaler twice a day. It’s work to clean the barn day after day. Riding the horse becomes a decision to go out there, put the saddle on, ride. I sometimes have to breathe through my fear. Like me Tessie would prefer to go back to the barn. But we both need the exercise.
I miss feeling useful like I did when I taught composition to young people who needed me. My gifts helped. But I didn’t know how tired I was until I volunteered to edit my friend’s book and just could not open it. (Thank goodness she forgave me. The book was turned into marvelous coloring books about horses.) This time of green pastures and still waters has been good, very good, but still there is a routine, a grind that sets up day by day.
A recent reading for Sunday said that we should honor the Sabbath, that we would prosper if we took the day off. (It also talked about how helping the oppressed and the poor will make us like watered gardens.) Another reading talked about how Jesus straightened a bent woman and the Pharisees were not happy that he healed her on the Sabbath. Well, they wouldn’t be happy. The Jewish people were sent to Babylon because they did not give the land its time off or take a rest themselves. They did not care for the poor and they worshipped other gods. Besides “Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy” is the fourth commandment. They learned a death grip on those rules until Jesus challenged them saying, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”
Somehow I think making one day out of the week different, geared towards something fun might be helpful. I long to take a Sunday afternoon to read The Perfect Horse or The Bones of Paradise or Bewilderments or How Jesus Saves the World From Us not the internet. But beautiful weather rebukes my desire to curl up with these books. (I’m one of those people who likes rainy days.)
When the driving season started Bruce wasn’t happy with Morgen’s stopping to look hard at the neighbor’s cows. He’d have to get out of the carriage and coax her to move forward, but he became unhappier when she called at the gate, demanding, “Pick me, please pick me.”
Driving Morgen has become more relaxing than not. Bruce sits behind me and she walks down the road. Bruce and I talk and look over the fields that roll subtly in the light. I tell Morgen what a good pony she is. These quiet walks have brought us more confidence. I can turn them out together now without their trying to kill each other.
Another thing that has been refreshing is taking a nap instead of more caffeine. I call Bruce over to look at the praying mantis. The last few nights the moon as been achingly beautiful as it drops toward the horizon, slowly getting fatter. And spider webs have tilted along the road in the early morning light. I have been learning to turn off NPR so I can listen to our barn and door yard as they breathe in the wind. The birds answer with song. Yesterday I listened to rain falling on the corn as it came toward me. I even startled when a flock of starlings lifted off our elm tree, sounding like a sheet blowing on the clothesline.
Bruce and I have opened talks about how to redesign our day off. Right now I weigh in at Weight Watchers, and we go grocery shopping and then work on bills and the check book. The rest of the afternoon we spend doing small projects around the house or driving Morgen. I might ride Tessie if she hasn’t been worked much. Sometimes I talk to one of my dearest friends on the phone. Then it’s time for chores, dinner and 60 Minutes. Neither one of us is good at leisure.
We attend church on Saturday nights. I know in the Jewish tradition Sabbath begins in the evening and ends the following evening. In fact one of my favorite passages from the Psalms goes like this: In the evening, in the morning and at noonday I will complain and lament. The Lord will hear me. He who is enthroned of old will deliver me.”
Something about how the day starts in the evening in these words catches me every time. A friend’s daughter practices Sabbath. She and her husband turn off all electronics and play games or go for walks. She might play the piano. They spend time with friends or extended family but meals are cooked beforehand and they leave the lights on so they don’t have to turn them on or off. They do not drive. I can feel myself relax when I hear this description, especially the part about being out of touch with social media for a whole day.
Eugene Peterson talks about the Deuteronomy version of the Fourth Commandment which says people should give themselves, their slaves, and even their animals a day off in Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. “Everyone is given a day to recover the simple dignity of being himself, herself, in the community without regard to use or function or status. Even the dogs and cats are included” (256). He asks why is it so hard to do this?
At any rate, until we’ve figured this out, I’m going to take my rest by sinking into the present, letting it be a present by noticing how my feet sound as I walk across the barn yard, and how Morgen calls for me to bring dinner or the harness and how the moon settles her bottom on the horizon. There’s a rest when Chicken Number Three re-appears after disappearing for a few days. We thought the feathers scattered by the bush was hers. She is brooding and there is a slight promise of another chick. And a rest when the other chicken’s baby stands on the fence rail and chirps.
How do you design your day of so that it becomes a true rest?