Timeless Advice on Resting (from the 1800s)

from 1898– Our life is so active, so filled with excitement, that we are much too little given in these days to quiet thought…there are very few of us who would not be the better for sitting down every day for a half-hour, with folded hands, simply for the purpose of thinking, or of letting the mind lie fallow without much effort at consecutive meditation.

I know how many women will smile when they read this, and will say, “This writer does not know what she is talking about” but indeed I do. I have led for many years an intensely occupied life myself, and I never the world would you have gotten through one-half or one-quarter of the necessary things if I had not made a point of quite often sitting down, folding my hands, and doing just nothing at all

from 1896– A day in which no breathing-space has been found is a wicked day. Not only is it our duty to the bodies which God has given to care properly for them, but it is, moreover, a positive duty to our fellow-man. 

from 1879– People do not know how to divide between the needful and the needless; they forget how minutes of rest lessen the total of the day’s fatigue; how little needless motions, liftings, frettings, increase it.

I often find that 24 hours a day just isn’t enough in the summer, especially when I try to squeeze some sleep into it. (Sleep? How unproductive is that?!?) Yard work, home-maintenance projects, gardening, farmer’s market, and of course, all the fun stuff–camping, barbecues, weddings, and the vacations we pack into the 3 month window called summer. “Lazy summer days” are a thing of unrealistic nostalgia.

Maybe they did have maids and hired help to help out with the housework way back when. But, these women were not English aristocracy with a live-in staff, they were American housewives who freely admitted they worked hard and often struggled to pay for help.

Even with help, these women lived in an era with no electricity, internet, washers, dryers, cell phones… And let’s not forget that most blessed of modern conveniences, running water. They had to trot outside to the outhouse several times a day and there was no such thing as a quick shower daily or a leisurely hot bath mid-week.

If they could manage to fit in some rest, I should think it would be much easier for me to do the same. How rare is it to rest and not do anything? How would that change our perspective toward the rest of our day?  This brings up another question, though. If we don’t have enough time to fit in rest, are we doing things that we shouldn’t be doing or things that don’t need to be done?

Sifting through that thought sounds exhausting. Another post for another day.

5 Replies on “Timeless Advice on Resting (from the 1800s)

  1. My grandma set the example for me. No house was cleaner, no garden prettier, and her meals were top notch. (I lived with the grands for several years.). Yes, she got up at 4am, worked hard all morning, etc. But after lunch? She napped for about 30 minutes, then got a cup of coffee and nested into her favorite chair for an hour or so to do some handiwork and watch her stories…soap operas! Then she’d start dinner and go take a leisurely bath and put on fresh clothes for my grandpa. Clean up, watch Walter Cronkite, chat with my grandpa a bit, and off to bed. For the record, I loved this schedule as a child. I never complained about going to bed, taking naps, or getting up early. I’m sure it was especially nice for her when I was in school!!

    I adopted a similar schedule as an adult. Hard work in the morning, an early afternoon break, and handwork in the afternoons. But I don’t watch soaps or Walter lol! I listen to audiobooks. Rest is a good thing. And I sleep much better àt night than if I’m running full out.

  2. I definitely agree with the no running water part. When I had no running water in the mountains, I would go get water from the big barrels around the old cabin and under other shelters to catch rainwater, or from the ‘crik’ about a hundred yards away. Carrying two five gallon buckets filled with water certainly makes you appreciate running water! I think these days people, especially women, have been brainwashed into thinking that rest is an evil, that if you aren’t running to events or ‘power hour’ cleaning your home, you are just lazy. I do a LOT each day, yet I make sure that I have tie to just sit and read, or meditate, pray, whatever. I may just go into the tv room and watch a movie. Oh, and when I had no running water–I still made sure I got a long hot soak in a tub once a week. It just took a lot of work, but it was soooooo worth it.

    1. “brainwashed into thinking that rest is an evil” You are so right! My eyes start to cross when I watch youtube videos of women’s planners and listen to them talk about their jammed-packed days but there is pressure to measure up to those super-productive examples, whether it’s accurate or not.

  3. Your topic is a hot one with me! I recently read a book about the “Art of Doing Nothing” or something like that. You just can’t keep moving if you don’t recharge and you certainly miss the gifts around you if you are too busy to notice.

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