I recently finished reading Ada Calhoun’s book Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis. It was pretty on-the-nose about how I feel these days – stretched thin, anxious, and simmering with low-grade rage most of the time. Calhoun points out the myriad reasons why many women of my generation feel this way. Among them are having so many more career possibilities (expectations, even) without much additional support for parenting and managing a household, coming of age professionally during financial crises that ultimately let to fewer and lower-paying job opportunities, being dismissed by much of the medical community around peri/menopause symptoms, and caring for young kids and aging parents simultaneously.
And yet, as many memes have been reminding me lately, Gen Xers are uniquely qualified to manage in a pandemic. Our expectations are low, partly because we’re used to being invisible to others. We’re able to entertain and take care of ourselves. We’ve partaken of our fair share of dystopian films and novels, so not much surprises us.
I think that Gen X clergywomen in particular are suited to this moment in time. No, the pressures common to our generation have not lifted. But we have the Gen X survival skills paired with the grit, wisdom, faithfulness, and creativity that come from having to make our own way in the church world. (Yes, we owe much to the clergywomen who came before for blazing the path. We have the benefit/challenge, though, of figuring out how to lead and be valued in ways authentic to us, not just imitating the guys like our forebears had to do.)
And so I would remind you that you are likely crushing it, even when you don’t feel like it, and urge you to tend to the three steps Ada Calhoun recommends:
Get support. Don’t go it alone. Lean on your laypeople to share the congregational care load and seek out clergy with whom you can vent and share best practices.
Reframe the situation. What’s another narrative you can lift out of the current crisis, for yourself and others? What expectations do you need to lower since we’re all feeling our way along?
Wait. The pandemic won’t last forever, just like middle age won’t. Life will be different on the other side.
If I can support, resource, or encourage you in this time – of pandemic, of season of life – please drop me a line.