40

Here I am with my mother and my mother’s mother. I am okay with these genes.

Today, I turn 40.

I don’t particularly remember the year I turned 10, though if I were slightly less lazy, I’d go out to the garage, pull out my childhood diaries, and reflect on the similarities and differences of adult and child Sarah.

The year I turned 20, I was deeply depressed. The year I turned 30, I had a newborn. So this is the first “0” birthday in a while in which I have felt clear-headed and capable of reflection.

Turning 40 was supposed to be a really big deal. This was the last-stop year my high-school friend Matt and I picked as the one we’d get married if neither of us had done that by now (we both have). I thought I should mark the occasion with a 40 day trip, or 4 ten-day trips, maybe to Europe and South America, to cities and countries I’ve longed to visit but have never quite been able to get to.

But this was the year my kid needed braces. And the year I started spending more money taking care of myself on a regular basis. And the year I realized two of our animals are getting pretty old. So, an extravagant trip was out of the question.

This was also the year I took a real break from work, a five-week vacation, after decades of never taking more than a week or two off at a time (and those not being exactly restorative). It’s been the year of re-discovering how much I like my nuclear family, after fifteen years of living across a continent from them. It’s been the year of watching my kid start to develop into the kind of human who will love God and others, set and meet goals, and take brave risks. It’s been the year of seeing my husband build a business and a livelihood on his own terms. And it’s been the year that three people, three peers, who we were close to at different times of our lives, have died…far too early.

We grew food this year. We met with an accountant and our financial advisor. We kept up with laundry and dishes and meal planning and appointments. We had family dinners, morning coffee and chats with my dad; took a road trip to see my grandmother, uncle, and sister in Boise; showed Giehl’s parents the coast and mountains of Oregon. Went on hikes and bike rides and for swims. It’s been a year of pretty ordinary things, which I am finally starting to see as extraordinary.

I’ll mark the actual day of my fortieth birthday (today) by drinking coffee, doing the Sunday crossword (it’s a board game theme! so fun!), going to the gym, and playing piano at tonight’s worship service. This would have been my Grandpa Clyde’s 99th birthday, had he not also died way too young. So, I’ll also spend some time feeling grateful for the family who made me. It’ll be a pretty mundane day without much by way of orchestrated pomp. No breakfast-in-bed or fancy dinners or elaborate surprises.

But that’s okay. Everyday is okay. Mundane is hard and extraordinary and beautiful, if we let it be.

For a long time, I think I carried a lot of anxiety about my life, about its impact. I wanted to do good in the world, to make the world a better place, to make a difference. I’ve written books and am helping to start a nonprofit┬áthat may fundamentally change the way the church thinks about animal creatures. I think I was afraid that me, just being me, wasn’t enough, wasn’t good enough. And truthfully, this is still a daily struggle. But it’s changing. Easing. Being replaced with a (slightly…ohsoslightly) increased ability to breathe.

I don’t know what the next decade will hold. I’m still determined to backpack around the world for months on end. And I’m still determined to do what I can to foster a world “on earth, as it is in heaven.” But I’m starting to realize that one of the most powerful ways I can do that, and one of the most rewarding, is to simply try to love the people and other creatures around me well, to do what OA tried to teach me so long ago: “what I can, when I can.”

I’m going to fail a lot at that, so apologies in advance for the days and weeks I anxiously steamroll over whatever obstacle is in my path.

Here’s some good advice for this decade from Walt (Whitman, not Disney), courtesy of the wise and wonderful abby:

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem…”

Amen.

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a prayer for tonight

dear god,

thank you for five years in Philadelphia

thank you for Bradley and Friendly, who joined our family in Philadelphia and thank you for Max and Emma, who left us during our time here (please tell them we love them and miss them still)

thank you for the friends we made in Philadelphia. thank you especially for that one special family who stopped in Fernhill Park one of our first weeks in town to chat with us. out of that one act of kindness and warmth, a deep love grew

thank you for our church community, for running and hiking friends, for friends at the shop and amazing colleagues at ESA, for vegan friends, and for neighbors who know our names, love our family through their generous actions, and always say hello

thank you for the beautiful wissahickon, where we were able to breathe deeply, sweat profusely, and sometimes just sit in awe

thank you for the opportunity to be closer to some of our family and old friends in Eugene and help us honor that new possibility by prioritizing relationship over productivity

god, we feel sad. we also feel joy and possibility

god, please help us to feel our sad feelings well, to not push them away but to embrace and work through them; to not dwell on them but to remember that you are preparing friends and community for us in Eugene even while we grieve the pain of uprooting from Philadelphia.

help us to see these new friends the way that you do. help us find our place there, and help us know if it’s ever time for us to leave again

help us to remember that you love us dearly

help us to remember that we love one another

help us to live the reality of both of those truths, and this one, too: grief and praise are sisters

and remind us in this huge and scary and welcomed and fortunate transition, god, that some things will be better, some things will be worse, some things may just be different, but that everything will be okay

we love you, we praise you, please help us hear you

amen

that moment

That moment when you realize that the…

  • aches and pains
  • bone-crushing exhaustion
  • total inertia
  • mood swings
  • hiding from people
  • flaking out on responsibilities

Might not be PMS or jet lag.

And you’re already getting pharmaceutical help.

So, there’s some shit you really actually need to deal with, like for real.

Pushing it down with food isn’t working.

Ignoring it isn’t making it go away.

And you don’t really know where to start.

Well, you do.

Well, I do.

But prayers turn to sawdust on my tongue. Tangle in my brain.

If I’m tired of my own voice, surely God is, too.

Tired of the same questions, the same doubts, the same struggle.

So tired.