Thirty-something, Part 2
A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about the "Tired Thirties" and gave a few reasons why us thirty-somethings can get overwhelmed with life. Today, the long-awaited suggestions for surviving....
1) Don't live your life in isolation. Another post of mine highlighted how integral and important my community was to me when my husband was in the hospital for only a few days. You need people in your life who can give you advice, keep your kids when you have a doctor's appointment, and cry with you when it all gets to be too much. Don't neglect your friendships when life gets overwhelming; aren't they what gives meaning to the whole thing afterall? (And ok, I can't not say it: Community serves a much wider and deeper theological purpose than just helping us through life's craziness, but that's a whole 'nother post and I'm trying really hard to stick to my theme here!)
2) Give yourself a break--literally. Sharifa mentioned vacations, no matter how simple or short, as a great way to re-energize yourself. And what about a "stay-cation"? Stay at home one weekend and don't do ANYTHING. Don't clean your garage or your closet. Don't bring home any work to finish. Just play and rest.
3) Give yourself a break--metaphorically. Don't beat yourself up about what you think you are not doing. Look at all the things you accomplish in one day rather than enumerating all the things you left undone. Be realistic about your goals.
4) Know your limits and learn how to say "no" wisely. I have come a long way in learning the art of saying "no," some might even claim that it is my spiritual gift! Knowing when to say no involves having intentional and thought-out priorities, knowing the limits those priorities set and accepting the sacrifices that those priorities may require. When I first started working on my Phd, I knew that my two main "things" would be my studies and my family, especially my kids. Thus, every opportunity or responsibility has to be weighed against the time and energy I need for those two primary areas of my life. I never agree to anything until I have thought through these issues and sometimes it means that some aspect of one of these priorities is sacrificed for the other. I may not work in my kids' classes at church or might limit the number of extra-curricular activities in which they are allowed to participate in order to ensure I have the time and energy required for my studies. On the other hand, I may skip most academic conferences or turn down grading or TA opportunities to guard my time at home with my kids. It really is all about time management, but you can't manage your time until you've got a clear picture in your head of your priorities. It is alot easier to say a guilt-free "no" when you know that a "yes" would infringe upon important things to which you've already made a firm commitment.
So there's my two cents on surviving the thirties and some insight into how I'm getting by. I certainly feel inadequate to give advice since many days I feel like my innertube has hole in it, the rapids are getting dangerous, and I'm barely keeping my head above water! Please feel free to add your advice to mine in the comments section.
And one final note: I'm fully aware as I write this that most of my exhaustion comes from choices I have freely made, choices available to me because of my station in life, choices available to me because of the grace and mercy of God in my life. Other women (and men) in their thirties are exhausted because they are working 2-3 jobs just so they can pay the rent and feed their families. These thirty-somethings don't need my advice about time management; they need help with childcare costs, groceries, and gas bills. They need a night out with their spouse without having to pay a babysitter or an advocate to help them navigate the system to get governmental help. In whatever ministry or church you attend or help lead, let's make sure their voices are heard and their needs are being met by the body of Christ.