Religious life

Why I keep Shabbes (or Why I am Shomer Shabbat)

Simply put, it keeps me sane.

I kind of have a wild brain that sometimes finds it difficult to rest.

I also have just a tiny little workaholic side to me that finds it difficult to take a rest when I start working on something.

Let me give you an example:

This is nothing that I can be proud of, but I tend not to start working on papers until the very last minute. In fact, it is usually past the very last minute evidenced by the fact that I almost always need to ask for an extension of the deadline–and not only once, but twice, and sometimes even more. So what happens? I pull an all-nighter. But not any all-nighter. A really long continuous one that usually lasts over three days and three nights. That's right; three days and three nights.

I sleep about eight hours total during that time, mostly taken in the form of short cat naps of about twenty minutes to two hours at a time. Then, when the three days and nights have passed and I can no longer stand it, I crash for about eight hours, I get up, and the whole cycle starts again. That's my pattern.

The scary part (for others) might be that I don't do this with reliance on any drugs such as caffeine or sugar, I do it all on my own–it's sheer brain power. It might be small wonder than, that sometimes I lose control over this powerful engine in my brain that allows me to pull these all-nighters on very short notice and sometimes I find it hard to fall asleep. Especially when I am excessively anxiety ridden or over-stimulated, or sometimes, just out of the blue.

I am told that I should meditate. But, that is a great challenge for me. Meditating, as much as I can see its obvious benefits for me is very hard.

What works for me well instead, is the existence of this body of law that mandates that I cannot work at certain times, like on Shabbat, and on Chagim. The best part about Shabbat is that it comes around every week so I have this great excuse to take off and be incommunicado for an entire day unless you come just knock on my door.

I can't tell you how many times Shabbat has kept me sane.

First was when I was writing my senior thesis when I was in college. –The end of my college career was rolling around and a lot of very unfortunate things (on a materialistic level) happened that made the logistics of being in school a little difficult. Writing my senior thesis was painful and difficult (writing in English was certainly NOT my forte) and I had the added stress of other things like finishing the damned thing.

That was the first time I almost broke Shabbat for serious work. But Shabbat was rolling in. The time for candle lighting had ticked on my computer screen. There was a voice in my head saying, "What are you going to do!? Is it really worth breaking Shabbes? Can you really break Shabbat for this??" and I shut my computer.

And that was it.

I savored my break from my maddening hard work that was driving me the whole week and I took a rest for 25 hours. I felt like I was on the verge of going crazy, but I didn't. Instead, I kept Shabbes. That was when I decided that I would never break Shabbes. It was the only thing that could keep me from going insane.

Lately, I had been finding it difficult to figure out what it was that I needed to do, and how to get into it. I thought I loved reading and talking about it, but I was find it hard to concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing. Instead, I kept focusing on theminial things that I didn't need to do. My sense of guilt was growing and I was eventually becoming paralyzed.

Then came Pesach. This year with two Yom Tovs and Shabbat it was a full three-day rest. This combo usually makes incredibly lethargic and restless, but this time, this was exactly what I needed. I was able to regain my focus while I had to refrain from writing or typing anything and while the only thing I could really do was to sit and muse about things, talk, or quietly sit and read whatever happened to be around. In other words, it forces someone like me, who is a complete extrovert to spend an extended amount of time as an introvert. It's a good exercise that I benefit from a lot.


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