I dreaded Sundays when I was a child. It probably began after my father left. My mother wanted to keep our church attendance normal, but the Catholic Church in those days wasn’t keen on divorce. The priest kindly nudged my mother out of the congregation (even though she didn’t leave the marriage); however, my brother and I were welcome. I was only nine, but it didn’t seem right for us to go to church without her.
My father took us for visits every other Sunday, but we knew his heart wasn’t into parenting or giving up his weekends after a long work week in the corporate world. When my mom remarried, Sundays were blended family days; motivating six kids to enjoy the same outing was never going to happen. It wasn’t until high school that I had the freedom to spend Sundays my way: surfing with my boyfriend or time spent with friends. This was a temporary respite from the Sunday blues.
My normal, upbeat personality wasn’t particularly changed as a result of these childhood events; however, at the outset of my twenties, my anxiety level skyrocketed on Sundays. I’m not a person who has ever battled depression, but the Sundays of my youth found me nervous, queasy, and fearful. I couldn’t wait for the day to be over, no matter what I had planned. I was in school full-time and worked 25 to 30 hours a week as a waitress to support myself through college. I didn’t have time to pee, let alone worry about Sundays. I even scheduled work hours and intense study sessions on Sundays as a way to assuage the jitters. I mean, Sunday was a just another day in my busy life, right? Wrong. Somehow, the insecurities of my childhood etched a groove in my psyche too great to fill by sheer will alone.
I often wondered if this was a common condition, but never thought about researching it. Then, in the late seventies, I came upon an article in the metro section of the Los Angeles Times that addressed the psychology of Sunday. I couldn’t read it fast enough. I learned that I wasn’t alone in my dread for Sunday; and, if memory serves, I learned some rather interesting perspectives that seem to apply all these years later.
Sundays remind us of unmet goals. Americans work hard to attain goals and achieve success. The weekend is a time to realize goals that may help us gain respect from the boss on the following Monday. The guilt that accompanies unmet goals hits us hard on Sunday night.
Sundays remind us of monumental workloads waiting for us on Monday. When I began my teaching career, I worked in the classroom late evenings and all day on Saturdays. I spent Sundays fretting about the week to come and wondering if I would be good enough for the children. (I still work late days and on the weekends, but experience has given me a healthy perspective. I have been more than good enough. I work the late hours now because good teaching is a never-ending commitment.)
Sundays carry high expectations about family. Sundays for broken families are especially hard. In my case, they were a constant reminder that I would never have my nuclear family back in one piece for church, special events and/or family gatherings that are usually reserved for Sundays. I was always spread between two families, even if it wasn’t what I ever wanted. Unfortunately, half of American families share this same reality.
Sundays are a day of spiritual reflection. Most religions reserve Sunday as a day of prayerful devotion. If one doesn’t feel worthy of God’s blessings, Sunday can be one arduously long day.
Sundays mark the end of the weekend. We can all relate to the elation of Fridays at 5 p.m. Whether we have big party plans or look forward to snuggling in for a movie night at home, Friday ushers us into our two glorious days off. Now contrast that Friday feeling to the feeling that comes over us on Sunday at 5 p.m., “Ugh, we have to go back to work tomorrow.”
Do I still have Sunday anxiety? Yes, it will always be there on some level, but maturity has taught me well. As quickly as the anxiety shows up in my mind upon waking on Sunday morning, I only have to say to myself, “I know you’re there, anxiety, but I am going to make this a good day with or without you.” It works for me.