I have a birthday this month, which puts me far enough into my forties to know that 40 is not the new 30. I definitely feel different than I did in my thirties. If I don’t work out for one week, it will be markedly harder the next time I exercise. If I over-indulge while on vacation, the scale will reflect that—and unlike when I was younger, things don’t go back to normal after cutting back for a few days. I hate to admit it, but I even find myself holding my phone at arm’s length to read small fonts.
Image credit: Liz West
When I was just out of college, I thought my faith life would be easier when I had settled the questions of what career path to follow and whom to marry. I thought that age and time would sort out difficult family relationships. There were times that I had decisions to make, and I prayed like crazy, fasting or spending hours journaling, hoping for a clear sign from God to guide my way. And I was often disappointed because the answers weren’t clear—or immediate.
In my current season of life, I feel grateful to be blessed in many ways, including a sense of stability. I have a loving marriage and two wonderful kids who are growing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve found a career path I could have only dreamed of in my thirties, when I was a full-time mom who wondered if anyone would ever find my intellectual abilities employable.
Yet, in many ways, my spiritual life is still challenging. Instead of being on cruise control, this phase of my life has revved up into a higher gear I never knew existed. Even though my children can tie their own shoes and go to the bathroom, there is homework to supervise and practices to drive them to, and events that won’t go on without an army of volunteers. I often feel too anxious to take a day off (whether it be from household or career labor) for a weekly Sabbath. Yet I know better than I did in my twenties or thirties how fragile our lives are and how things we think are really pressing one day could become meaningless in an instant.
Sometimes I look around and feel like I live in the clichéd world of suburban midlife, with its divorces, financial stress, aging bodies, and occasionally, tragedies. On the last day of 2014, I learned that a friend had suddenly passed away. I had seen her just a few weeks earlier at her fiftieth birthday party. I’ve reflected on her death often in the past few months, not out of fear or morbidity, but to challenge myself to ask, Am I living the life I should be living?
Too often I find that question is posed in a way that leads to either an eat-dessert-first attitude or a succeed-at-all-costs mentality. I like enjoyment and achievement, but the thing that strikes me most is the need to take care of my soul and live in a balanced way. I want to be able to seek God but also soldier on when necessary as I wait for the next steps—or the wisdom to know that what I think is the next thing is not the right one at all.
Just as my body needs consistent habits as I get older, I’m learning that my spirit does too. As I look toward the next year, I’m setting the priority of taking better care of myself… including my soul.
Grace Hwang Lynch is a freelance writer and editor and full-time mom. You can find more of her musings on raising a mixed-race Asian family, as well as some great family recipes, at HapaMama.com.