On hope and waiting

It’s been a long month.

To me the difficulties we experience aren’t as hard as holding onto hope that the difficult situation won’t last forever.

You don’t realize how essential hope is until you can’t find it.

What if things really don’t get better? What if I need to be okay with everything that is now and stop thinking my situation will change? What if what I dearly want and dreamed of isn’t attainable?

To me this is the scariest, most overwhelming and defeating thought pattern that ensnares my mind while experiencing a hard time. It’s like sitting in the darkness of night and considering the possibility that the sun may not rise again.

Hope is such a cornerstone of the human life; we simply can’t live without it. Sometimes I think we take for granted how difficult it can be to have genuine hope, to really believe that this isn’t it, that there is more to come, that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ll admit that hope has been hard to come by these days. There’s just so much disappointment and uncertainty that I can’t wrap my head around it all; much less believe that everything will somehow be resolved.

How? When? How do I know?

My analytical and skeptical mind is dissatisfied with hope. It wants more. It wants certainty. It wants a timeline. It wants specifics.

My mind really is my worst enemy sometimes.

There have been times where hopelessness has enveloped me, and it’s something I hope you never experience.

The reason I have hope today is because I know I can’t live without it. And although I couldn’t tell you what hope really is (a thought pattern? mindset? disposition?), I can say that a choice is involved. We have to choose it, and we have to keep choosing it.

We have to look past every frustrating and painful circumstance facing us, we have to shut down the voices in our mind screaming that we are being naive, we have to ignore the relentless surge of questions (How? When? Are you sure? What if—?), we have to stop comparing our stories to the snippets of others, and we have to just embrace our inner childlikeness, we have to simply choose to believe: it will be okay.

This isn’t it. It’s just not. And I can’t say why or how I know that, but it’s the hope I’m choosing to hold onto. And once we choose hope, we can look around to see what we can do about our situation. We stop focusing on all the things beyond our control and simply take stock of what is right in front of us and how our hope can make it better.

I don’t have any of the practical answers, I can’t tell you the logistics of the ‘better’, but I know it exists. At least I hope it does. And for now, hope is enough.

I want to be the person that when things finally do turn around, can jubilantly say, “I knew it.”

Sometimes it’s just really hard to be that person.

Most of the time it’s a lot easier to succumb to all the what-if’s and I-don’t-know’s and the cold, hard facts which convince us that there is nothing else.

Our present reality is not the only reality.

We have to stop searching inside of ourselves for answers. We have to return to our childhood and, quite simply, look up.

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On Little Resurrections

I’m not exactly sure how the term came about, but I remember we were talking about the difficulties we were experiencing (some self-imposed, some out of our control) and how much we were desperately looking forward to Easter. My friend Grace and I were on one of our many coffee runs to escape from the office and the phrase ‘Little Resurrections’ was born.

When I look at the big picture of my life, very little is going how I would like it to, how I planned.

I’m in a weird season of waiting and hoping and getting kind of tired of waiting and hoping. I feel like I’ve been here a while, starting last year with everything that happened—losing someone I loved dearly —right up to today, where I currently am far away from home and having lost the job I came here for after only a mere nine months.

In a sense I do feel like these big areas of my life are lying in a tomb, I’m waiting for them to be resurrected but unsure of when/if that will take place.

It’s dark in there.

However, the reason ‘Little Resurrections’ was coined, is because even while experiencing times of uncertainty, times of difficulty and times of suffering, there is goodness. There are lights that shine, lights that can only give their light because of the darkness. Lights that otherwise would go unseen, unlit.

I’ll give some examples.

I experienced a Little Resurrection when I found a beautiful place to live in, within my price range and close to work and the city.

I experienced a Little Resurrection when I explored a part of the country I had never been before, and found that it, too, had it’s beauty to offer.

I experienced a Little Resurrection when I was reunited with one of my childhood friends in Niagara Falls.

I experienced a Little Resurrection when I became dear friends with my roommate whom I had never met before.

I experienced a Little Resurrection when I had people over for the first time in my new apartment.

I experienced a Little Resurrection every time someone reached out to me in the aftermath of the layoffs, expressing the condolences and giving me their encouragement.

All of these aren’t Big Deals. They won’t go on my resume or on wedding invitations. But they are essential to my life all the same. They were sources of life that sustained me even while I watched other, bigger things lie stubbornly still in their tombs. You see, these things all took place in the middle of suffering/uncertainty/difficulty. As I experienced the pain of the breakup, the loneliness of moving to a new place, the rejection of being laid off . . . these Little Resurrections continuously crept up, broke through the darkness and allowed me the chance to rejoice when the Big Picture was overwhelmingly bleak.

Easter is a grand occasion and the most deserving one of all the joy in the world. Not only joy for what has happened, joy for what we celebrate today, but joy because of the hope it inspires. Easter is the most important and meaningful resurrection in the course of human history. And it has implications which should make us jump up and down with glee. One of them being, the resurrection is real for us. It was real 2000 years ago and it will continue to occur in our lives every time we face death or loss over the course of our lives.

No matter what ‘death’ you are in the middle of, this isn’t it. Because of today we know that this isn’t it. There is more to the story than the page we are currently stuck on. And in the meantime, even as we continue to wait for the resurrection we want the most, there are Little Resurrections. Countless small, bright lights reminding us that death and darkness never have the last word.


When life gives you lemons

I wish I had some profound truth about life to share with you right now. Something that was incredibly wise and relatable that would help you make sense of whatever experience you’re having that is hard or confusing or frustrating or all of the above.

I don’t, is the thing.

I am currently immersed in a hard, confusing, frustrating situation that I can’t make sense of and am coming up blank when it comes to helpful/wise advice.

I moved here nine months ago almost exactly. I came because I was asked if I would come to write for what appeared to be an incredible mission, while being well-paid for it.

Of course my response was a resounding ‘yes,’ followed by a nine hour drive to a different part of the country where I began the arduous process of starting from scratch in a new place. This included getting lost more often than not, many, many, many introductions followed by cheery small talk, and much more alone time than I was used to.

But I adjusted. I made my apartment relatively homey, I found my way around (generally speaking), and I made some truly incredible friends.

And then I lost my job.

The job that I came here for, the company that sought me out, laid off a quarter of the company, proclaiming a ‘reorganization’ and asked us to clear out our offices by 3:15.

Ah, the joys of adulthood.

Honestly, the job part is kind of whatever to me at this point. Although I do feel awful for those who have families to support.

It became apparent after only a few months that this wasn’t the ‘dream job’ I had imagined. It didn’t take long for me to realize I couldn’t be really happy there. ‘But it’s a job’, I told myself sternly, a comfortable one—and I had just started, I wasn’t going to quit just because things weren’t as rosy as the picture that had been painted.

I honestly didn’t imagine that this would happen, not so soon. Not after they asked me to move across the country to work for them.

In any case, as I said, the job part isn’t what most concerns me. Financially, I know I’ll figure it out.

Days after the layoffs took place I found a job working at a bookshop, and since then I’ve started with a couple of tutoring students, too.

To me, the bigger, more pressing, and kind of terrifying question is that of, ‘what now?’

You see, any plans I have made thus far have turned out laughably, and I’ve realized that more than another plan that will inevitably fall flat and leave my reeling, what I really want is a mission.

I want a purpose. I want to know why I’m here and what I’m meant to do with this precious and entirely unpredictable thing we call life.

I don’t have to control, I don’t need to call the shots, I just want to know what my marching orders are.

Because the things I thought would give my life meaning, I thought would reveal my purpose, didn’t.

And now I’m back to square one, except it doesn’t even feel like I’m on square one, it feels like I’m floating in outer space wondering which galaxy the squares are even on.

And friends and family—as much as they want and try to—they can’t fix it for me. They can’t possibly provide the answer I’m looking for, they don’t have it.

I don’t know. I don’t understand. But I’m also not despairing. I think it’s just a time of in-between-ness, a time of waiting, and a time of hope. I don’t know how things will work out, I don’t understand where I am or where I’m going, I’m just here. But I think somehow they will. And I think that sometimes not knowing is okay, it’s part of our creatureliness. I think that ‘Aslan is on the move’, even when we can’t see or hear or even feel Him. I think there’s something important happening even at this very instant. That growth is taking place in this very time and place. That somewhere down the road this will make sense.

This isn’t it. I know that much.

I’m going to try. I really am trying to make the best of this. I’m not happy about it, this isn’t what I wanted, this was not part of the plan. But I don’t think it’s for nothing, just because I can’t see the purpose doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Every moment of life is a gift and I’m really going to try to live it that way.

When life gives you lemons you revel in how bright and yellow they are, right?

But anyway, what’s new with you?

Life is hard & other observations

You know how you can picture something in your mind, like a daydream about a person, job, or just the future in general? And you know how great it seems, and how convincing it can be—the idea that when/if you have that thing/experience/person . . . everything will be great?

I think we all do that. We hope, we dream, we anticipate. And yet, how often do our expectations fall short? How often is it that we get there and it’s just. . . okay? Or it’s downright bad? How often are we disappointed by these little ‘glimpses’ into the future?

If you’re anything like me, it’s too often.

I’m an idealist. I see everything as it could be, which makes it dangerously easy for me not to accept things as they are. It makes it incredibly tempting to always think about what’s next. Because whatever is next will be better. Until it’s not. And then I just anticipate the next thing, and so on.

Until eventually, disappointment gets the best of me. I am overwhelmed by the weight and number of my failed visions; hopes that were hung out to dry.

When I was unhappy a few years ago, I just wanted to meet someone. I was convinced that it would ‘fix’ me. And then I did, but somehow—as beautiful as it was—it was also much more difficult than I had anticipated. I kept hoping it would get better. I kept assuring myself that we would make it, until we didn’t.

And then when we broke up and I was offered what felt like the dream job. I imagined what it would be like to live in that city, to meet the people there, to work at such a great organization.

And then I got there. And it turns out that people here are just as human as people everywhere else; frustrating and broken. It turns out that your workout routine doesn’t miraculously improve just because you moved to a different state. And it turns out that work is still work, and that no matter how great a company may seem—they will have no qualms about laying you off after nine months along with 30 other people because of a reorganization.

I’ve learned that no amount of dreaming and scheming and planning and preparing will protect you from a hard truth about the human experience: life is hard.

And it’s messy, and it’s heartbreaking, and it’s beautiful and worthwhile.

But it’s hard.

And the future won’t not be hard. It may be different, it may bring good things, but it isn’t all a long walk on the beach either. Life is just difficult. Suffering is real and bad things happen all the time.

I say this as someone who over the last year or so has experienced a lot of disappointment, too much. But also as someone who doesn’t want to lose the goodness of the present because of the ‘glimpses’ into the future. I mean, hope is good. We should hope and dream—hopes and dreams are indicative of our desires, and desires are really important. But we shouldn’t dream so much that we’re missing out on the now. Because even if the now is hard— and right now it really is— it’s still good. There is still goodness here. It may not feel good. it may not look good. But it is.

I believe this partially because of hindsight. There are times I can look back on and understand that even in the midst of suffering, there were graces taking place in that time. Of course I don’t see this in all times of suffering, not yet at least. But certainly some. And I say this too, because of the comfort I have been offered during my most acute times of distress. Just the number of people offering support, in one small way or another, is enough for me to see how suffering brings us together and allows us to give and receive love in a way that doesn’t always take place when things are fine and good.

Suffering evokes compassion and empathy, two of the greatest traits a person can have and act upon. These acts or dispositions rarely fix the problem. They don’t eliminate suffering. But they do help alleviate the pain, even if just a little. Because they serve as a reminder that we are loved.

That’s why it is so important that, in spite of our hopes and dreams for the future, we remain rooted in the present. Because otherwise a) your life will pass you by while you were waiting for things to get better, and b) you just never know who needs some empathy and compassion right now.

Life is hard, it just is. There’s no point pretending—as we try so desperately to on social media—that this isn’t the case.

But maybe the future isn’t the right place to look for happiness. Maybe it’s amidst the difficulty, in the middle of the challenge, within the heartbreaks and crushing disappointments.

Now it’s all we’ve got. So we can look for the good and beauty in it, or we can give it up as a bad job, understanding that we are sacrificing living for dreaming.

I’m going to look for the good, I’m going to try.

A new beginning

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“New year, new you.”

Wouldn’t that be nice?

The idea of a blank page is definitely enticing.

Over the years I’ve become more wary of the New Year’s Resolutions concept. It seems that, more often than not, these lofty goals we set for ourselves in light of the new year fall flat by mid-February – if not before.

At the same time, I can’t deny that the idea is incredibly pervasive and attractive.

I think that’s because we do long for that – a new beginning.

We crave change, growth, newness.

We long for things to be better: our finances, our health, our relationships… New Year’s Resolutions are – I think – simply the most popular manifestation of this universal desire for a new beginning – a resurrection.

The challenge is that human nature is unhelpfully stubborn. Any change we accomplish is typically hard-earned over quite a bit of time.

Looking back over this year I wonder if I changed. It’s hard to say, really.

I went through a lot – externally there was a plenty of change.

But a new leaf isn’t as easy as moving to a different state. Especially when I reflect on the mistakes I made, the things I did that I’m not proud of (to say the least), the hurt I experienced… and caused.

Those things are hard to shake.

However, I think it is necessary that we do so. While I don’t think we should try to run away from our past or pretend it never happened, I think it is important that we don’t let it define us, that we see the potential for change and growth in ourselves.

Man have I messed up, big time. I’ve dropped the ball, loudly, and watched it fall a long, long way down.

I’ve hurt people I love, myself, I’ve said things I regret and can’t take back, I’ve done things that can’t be undone. I guess that’s the reality, you can’t really undo much once you’ve done it.

“It is finished.”

Do I want to? My instinct is yes of course, but then who am I to say all I’ve done isn’t somehow part of the plan? I think what I’ve done and all that I will do – good and bad – has already been accounted for.

“Everything is grace.”

I’m not sure. I don’t know if to be sorry for something is the same thing as regretting it.

Being sorry demands an apology.

What does regret demand? Taking it back… but you can’t.

I know that much. I also know we’re not bound by our past, by what has happened to us, by who we were last year or even yesterday. The seasons themselves prove that change is possible; just like the trees shed their leaves and then bloom again months later, so too, I think, we can let go of the past and begin anew. The only really necessary thing, is hope…and time.

I know I’m probably not dramatically changed from last year – but I think it’s impossible to look back and say I’m exactly the same. I think – if we allow it – our experiences are constantly teaching us, and we are continuously given opportunities to be even slightly different than who we were before… better.

We are made new.

In essence we remain the same, just like a tree doesn’t stop being a tree. But our choices, accompanied by the trappings of grace, can change us – over time.

I can’t look back and say I’m remotely proud of all I’ve done, and I’m sure there are people who would agree wholeheartedly that I have made poor choices – choices that affected others as much as myself.

But I also cannot be chained to them. I can, with Help, change the course and choose one that will help me arrive at my destination – a more loving, whole, and repentant person.

So, yes, I will make New Years resolutions – even though it is highly possible they be forgotten in a few weeks. But even more importantly, I do hope to grow more in 2019: to give more, to forgive more, to love more.

It is a new beginning. Not because it’s New Year’s but because any day can be one if you let the past be just that – the past, and accept the possibility that the path before you has not been set; rather, it is being made as you go, and you can change directions by simply moving your feet or asking for a little help if they get stuck.

I know I have made mistakes, and that I will continue to make them, but that won’t stop me from continuing on my crooked path, not knowing where it will lead me but trusting all the same.

Hold on Loosely: What I learned in 2018

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2018 was a year of limp hands.

Fists clenched so tightly, were forced open – forced to let go.

While a painful lesson, there is a lot of freedom that comes from losing what you thought you couldn’t live without. Because I now know that I can – in fact – live without it. And I can, now, love more freely.

With palms open, not only can we receive much more than when they are closed, we can also allow what should no longer be there – to leave.

Goodbye stranger, goodbye stranger, I wish you all the best.

Ultimately, nothing really belongs to us. Life itself is a gift – something we received through no fault of our own – and something which can be taken from us at any moment; and will be gone inevitably, eventually.

Therefore, each day is a gift. Each day we are allowed to breathe and smile and cry and laugh, is something given to us and something we cannot hold on to too tightly….because it really wasn’t ours to begin with.

We are not our own. We didn’t have a say in when or how we got here and we won’t have a say in when or how we go.

Just as we are not our own, others – even more so – are not ours for the taking.

I learned that to those we come to know, we come to love, our hearts are much like our homes.

We can open the door and let them in, we can show them around and make them feel welcome. Some may stay only momentarily, so when they leave it is easy to go back to business as usual. Some, however, may stay for a while. Make themselves comfortable and become at home in ours.

We may become accustomed to their presence, attached to it. And even in those moments, we have to remember that most people will leave, eventually. Very few people come into our homes to stay forever. And even those who make themselves at home, who leave an imprint during their extended stay, will most likely show themselves out, at some point.

Down the highways, and the byways, may something bring you rest.

Their emptiness will be noted – we may grieve our loss for a while – look around at the house and find that it is not the same, maybe that it doesn’t even feel like home anymore. We may notice a scratch here or spill there caused by them at some point – and while we may resent it now that they are gone, this imperfection is proof that our house was lived in – that it was a home.

We cannot undo their visit, nor should we, as it is an important part of the history – and ultimately – identity of the place. A place that is not merely our own, a place that we had the courage to share with someone else – knowing that they could likely cause damage, that they would make it different by their presence – we are changed because of it.

You see, we could close off our homes to outsiders. We could lock the door and remain inside for the duration of our lives. We could glance out the window from time to time and wonder what it would be like if we threw the door open, but never take the risk.

However, to me an empty home is very dissatisfactory. Not a home, really. I think a home is at it’s best when full. To be a ‘home’ requires that someone be ‘at home’ there. And that is what I think our hearts are…homes.

And so, we can close the blinds and lock the doors – refusing anyone entrance for the sake of our own safety; or we can open the door to whomever knocks, and enjoy their stay – however long – seeing it as a gift, an opportunity to love without reservation or expectation of something in return.

So 2018 was a year of learning this hard-earned lesson. Of realizing that just because you let someone in, doesn’t mean they will stay. And just because they don’t stay, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have let them in.

I ain’t easy, but I ain’t cold

Come back my way if you’re feelin’ low.

Goodbye stranger

AB

2018 was a year of limp hands.

My hope for 2019 is that it will be a year of receptivity. A year of open hands, ready to receive whatever lands in them.

Whether it be for a brief visit, or an extended stay, or even a guest who decides to make my home theirs, I hope to be open and responsive to whomever shows up at my doorstep.

If this life is a gift – I think it is a gift that is best shared with others. Otherwise it ceases to be a gift and instead turns into a mere act of self-preservation.

This song, ‘Hold on Loosely’ was introduced to me months back while I was still grappling with my clenched fists. While at first it didn’t quite sink in, I have come to realize the wisdom that these lyrics hold.

It’s a song about the understanding that your loved ones are not an extension of yourself. They are ‘other’ and deserve to be treated as such. We can respect differences, admire their person and leave them plenty of room to breathe; room to choose us – freely.

I hope, in 2019, to have the courage to open the door. To make my home beautiful and keep it so, not for my own sake, but for the person who seeks rest and refuge there some day.

Because otherwise my home will be an empty one, which really isn’t a home at all, only a house.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

C.S. LEWIS

2018 had definitive highs and lows. But I guess that is life, and really how we grow. ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.’

2019 is to be a year of hope. It’s a new beginning, a new chapter. We must be emptied before we can be filled, and in 2018 my hands were emptied.

There are good things ahead, dear friends.

What did you learn in 2018? And what are your dreams for 2019?

Hopefully,

Miranda 

Being at peace right where you are

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I think we probably all have dreams. At least I hope we all do.

Dreaming is an integral part of our humanity, as far as I can tell. In fact I think it’s one of our strongest assets. I don’t think we would have accomplished half the things we have as a race if we couldn’t dream.

Beautiful churches, music, technological advances, delicious food, a well-organized home, cities, books and stylish clothing…all of it requires some sort of vision first; these things don’t happen by chance, they require intention and forethought to be put into action.

Dreaming may seem to be something of a luxury – for those with too much time on their hands and not enough practicality, but I would argue that it is a necessary part of life.

I think dreams don’t necessarily come out of nowhere, I think in a very real way we receive dreams. When we have the time and patience to sit still for long enough, something comes to us that lights a fire inside of our hearts. Suddenly we feel excited, hopeful, motivated, inspired.

It’s easy as we get older to dismiss dreams as not ‘realistic’ or even childish, but I don’t think Martin Luther King Jr was being outlandish or immature when he wrote his “I have a Dream” speech.

Even someone like JK Rowling or JRR Tolkien, in a way their dreams were outlandish and childish but they brought their dreams to life in the perfect way and we all have benefited as a result.

I think dreams are part of our identity, from them we glean a better understanding of what we are called to do, of our purpose, our mission. You see, while dreams are dreams for a time, they are not meant to stay dreams.

Dreams give us direction, inspiration to act. The kind of life we want to live, the things we want to accomplish – big or small – the relationships we want to have…they stem from our ability to envision something and then bring it to life. 

Our ability to dream is one of our greatest gifts.

On the other hand, it doesn’t do to dwell on our dreams and not enjoy the now. The present moment is also a gift, one we would not do well to let slip through our fingers.

Something I greatly resent about technology – as wonderful as it is in many other ways – is how it robs us of the present moment. How many times I’ve looked up to see my friends looking at their screens, or have caught myself responding to a text instead of to the person I’m physically with.

Sometimes I get caught up in the vision I have of how things could be and give up on the time I’m given as a bad job.

This isn’t really fair as while dreams are beautiful, wonderful and necessary, they can only come to reality one moment at a time. We have to learn to be completely immersed in present moment awareness – reveling in the goodness and realness of it all – to then enjoy the dreams that later may come to fruition.

Being at peace with exactly where we are is a skill that will bring so much joy and ease of being to our lives. Of course it is also a hard-earned one since anxieties, frustrations, and doubts creep into our minds at any given moment. It seems that if I’m not being plagued by potential, dreadful ‘what-if’s’, I’m wallowing in the ‘should be’s’ and wishing away my current time and place.

It is not our dreams that are unrealistic, rather it is these unhelpful and unhealthy trains of thought which are far removed from reality. Our brains are hardwired to do, to race and summon thoughts unceasingly. This interferes with our more important call to be.

If we have any desire to live a good life and to realize our dreams, we must first learn to be content with where and how we are, now. While we may be suffering, while there may be difficulty and imperfection, the present moment is how and where life happens, and if we miss it, we miss our own beautiful and important lives.

It can be difficult to reconcile our ability to dream with the real, present moment, but I find that this can be helped by setting aside time to to dream. I realize this may not lie high on your priority list, but I think without this clarity of where we want to go and who we want to be, we run the risk of letting our lives pass us by, instead of seizing them and living them fully.

When we take time to dream, we can then spend the rest of the time fully present to our current reality. We can cherish the moments in front of us and search for the goodness and beauty which unquestionably lie inside of them. We can take concrete steps toward achieving our dreams which we have intentionally set upon. Dreaming is the beginning of living life as it is: an adventure.

Having been off of it a month now, I can also say that stepping back from social media has helped immensely in my quest to live a more authentic, present life. As much as I do recognize the good in it – I think it may be time for us to weigh the pros and cons of social media and consider greatly moderating our time on it – if not ridding ourselves of it completely.

Social media can often intensify our idea of what life should be, rather than how it is, and interfere with the very specific, personal dreams we are meant to embark on…as opposed to those others have set for themselves.

As we get closer to Christmas and then a new year, I encourage you to set aside time to let your imagination run wild: what do you want to do, who do you want to be, what do you want your life to consist of? These are questions we are meant to ask. I have a feeling if we consistently take time to do so, these questions will be answered and the answers will take us on a beautiful, incredible journey.

I also challenge you to be present: to where you are and who you are with. There will be upsets, there will be imperfection…but there will be goodness and you can find it if you decide to do so and embrace fully the gift of now.

Here’s to a dreamy, lively end to 2018.

With love,

Miranda

Year 23 (things I learned)

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Friday (Pearl Habour Day) I turned 24. Not sure if I’m ready to be in my mid-twenties…on the other hand I feel as though I’m finally aging into my personality; ‘born middle-aged,’ this one.

Plus my sister says I dress like a 70-year-old detective…or like a detective from the seventies (can’t recall which). So I’m getting closer to that – at least the former – being acceptable…not sure if it ever will be okay to dress like a detective from the seventies.

Much happened this year, I always think I learn a lot and then realize how little I actually know. But I like to think that between one thing and another this past year, I did learn something. 

The move, ‘starting over’, taught me how dependent we really are – even as adults. We like to think that as we get older and take on more responsibility we become independent, but my move to Cincinnati showed me that we’re always going to need other people. 

Whether it’s for simple things like moving a mattress upstairs (thank you, Grace), or to start your car when the battery dies (Sean), or getting around when your car isn’t working (SB), or for help hanging pictures on the wall (Bridgette & Carrie)…there are so many things I simply couldn’t do on my own. And then there are the bigger, less obvious things, like a laugh or consoling word, a good hug or encouraging text, a home-cooked meal…friendship, community – we need it. And I can’t help but be completely in awe of how that has manifested itself in my life – without any merit on my behalf. The kindness and generosity others have shown me is quite humbling.

This brings up the fact that our weakness is truly a beautiful thing. I mean yes, it is painful and inconvenient and frustrating, but this dependence we have on each other is what allows vulnerability to exist and us the opportunity to respond with love. Often it isn’t until someone shows themselves to be weak, to be vulnerable, that we soften our hearts to them. Often it isn’t until we ourselves feel weak and vulnerable that we allow others to ‘come in’.

I always feel tempted to do things alone, to withdraw and ‘proceed with caution’, but really there isn’t much to life without the goodness and challenge that ‘others’ present. And are they really all that ‘other-ly’, anyway? We’re all one body, ultimately. But I forget that, often. For some reason there is a glamour of an ‘independent life’ to me, a siren’s call, I’m sure. My weakness is a good wake-up call when I get far down the rabbit hole of self-centered existence.

And yet, while I rely quite heavily on others, I have come to see how important it is that we spend time alone. I used to dread being alone for any period of time, I avoided it as much as I could. And when I was alone I played some sort of entertainment in the background, constantly. I still do this. But I also have times where there isn’t anything…just life – as it is, unfiltered, unedited and without distraction. I really want to step into the fullness of the present moment without always needing something to add – whether that be a show or music or podcast or a phone call.

I think this is important because in order to receive we need first to be emptied. We’re so eager to overflow our lives with noise and I think this gets in the way of being able to receive – insight, healing, self-knowledge, love… in order to become ‘whole’ we must first not be – and not think we are – which can only happen in true moments of attention and awareness, not distracted or encumbered by things.

In this vein, I’ve fallen in love (again) with a simpler time. When I was young I read the American Girl stories about different heroines from various periods of time. I loved learning about these girls who lived in the 1800s, the early 1900’s the 30’s and 40’s…

I am not quite sure why I am so drawn to the ‘olden days’, but I think there are certainly things we can learn from previous generations. Things like just doing one thing at a time, even if it just means sitting to listen to a beautiful song instead of playing it in the background while doing something else. Or being present to those you are with instead of jumping between them and people you’re texting or that you follow on social media. Things like reading good books, instead of only watching television. Or thinking in the car instead of scrolling through Instagram at every red light.

Reading more has been a great habit for my life, as well as listening to classical music – something I hadn’t done in years – and staying off Instagram.

There are good things about technology and certainly about the age we live in – don’t get me wrong. I also think there are things – a charm and a loveliness – to times before us, things I’d like to re-enact in my own life.

I guess this takes me into what I’d like for 24. I want 24 to be a year of pulling back in many ways. I want to focus on the few people I’m close to and not the 200 people I vaguely know. I want to finish the books I’m working on and start new ones soon. I want to write more letters and spend less time texting. I want to spend more time alone so that the time I spend with others is not something I take for granted. I want to be okay with silence and not forcing small talk. I want to ask more questions instead of talking about myself. I want to listen to music and do nothing else. I want to write more – and about things that matter.

I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful about 24. I have no clue where life will take me from here but if there’s anything I got better at during 23, it’s trusting. I no longer have excuses not to. All the good that has taken place this past year is more than sufficient evidence that things will be well.

Even when you don’t know how, even when it doesn’t feel like it…they will.

What did you learn at 23?

With love,

Miranda

An attitude of gratitude

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How different things are now.

To be independent – at least to the extent a human can be. I’m no longer looking to someone else, for money, security – of any kind…

I used to be unable to stand a second alone, now I find myself craving time away from others.

My anxious thoughts are still there; they continue to harass me, yet I’m able to dismiss them more easily.

I feel a deeper sense of ‘peace’, even in the midst of uncertainty and disruptions. I have become more and more convinced of the importance of a deep interior life. We’re so focused on the material and give little thought to our inner selves. This week as I went to the gym and regretfully acknowledged some weight gain, I wondered what would happen if we gave the same attention we do our physical lives to our spiritual lives.

There are so, so many ‘things’ – classes, exercises, techniques, books, machines – dedicated to this passing flesh and bones. Yet finding ten minutes for me to sit in silence and restore my soul feels like nothing short of herculean. It’s all integrated – what affects one aspect necessarily affects another – and so to give less importance to or completely dismiss a part of our person is to deny our most ‘whole’ self.

I want to be healthy – in every sense of the word. And I want to always give my interior life at least the equal amount of care as I do my physical one.

Something to work on, I guess.

I’ve become more and more enchanted with the ‘days of old’. The style, the manner of being (polite), the interactions between men and women, and between family members, the traditions and simplicity. I’m idealizing it all of course (it’s what I do), but I want to recreate some of that in my life.

I’m trying to text less, as well as take a step back from social media (I deleted my dearly beloved Instagram app for the time being). It has been – in a word – freeing. To live my life without regards to how it looks or how I can make it seem better…I want to accept my life as it is, not only as what I want others to think of it.

What’s next?

I have no idea. For the first time in a long while, this week I was overwhelmed with the familiar sense of loneliness. More than that even, it’s the fear, a question I rarely care to dwell on; most of the time it sits nice and quiet beneath the noise I create to distract myself.

Can I love? Can I be loved?

Looking back there are so many times I failed entirely to love in my previous relationship. I wonder if I’ll be given another chance, and if I’ll be able to stop myself from falling into old habits. Most of that relationship – the difficulty, its acrimonious ending – points to a resounding ‘no.’

Maybe it’s me idealizing again, but it seems hard to believe there’s someone out there who is ‘better’.

I feel like I missed my shot.

And often I feel like I don’t even want another chance. I’m okay, I’m comfortable, I’m skeptical.

And then part of me yearns to know someone the way only marriage allows. To belong to someone entirely and live a life of continuous surrender to each other.

It’s just hard to imagine, at this point.

Whether or not it will ever happen isn’t up to me. Learning to embrace this, to trust where I am and hope for where I’m headed…it is very difficult indeed.

But to me it’s a lot easier than the alternative; to despair, give up and resent. There are good things in my life right now. I am truly grateful for the friends I have, the place I live and the work I get to do. I’m grateful for quiet mornings and good books and blankets. I’m grateful for brunch with friends, beer, pretty things and beautiful music. I’m grateful for family and the time I have with them. I’m grateful for the person I have become – with very little credit to myself – and the countless opportunities for continued growth. I’m grateful for the seasons, especially this one, and all the cheer ahead.

I am grateful.

With love,

Miranda Kate

 

 

Monday Five: Okay-ness & other things I’m excited about this week

I sat down to write this last night and found myself unable to. Then the other post just…came out. So, I’m trying this again.

It was a good weekend. My roommate (hi SB) was in town for the first time in a while and she humored me with an all day roomie outing. She got her hair done, we went to the mall (turns out I’m not a mall person), we saw Gosnell…that was a doozy. And ate soup at one of my favorite bars in Cincinnati, The Blind Lemon.

Yesterday we went to Mass and then had some girls over for a Fall indoor ‘picnic’ (the weather was gross) which was cozy.

We also went to Trader Joe’s for the first time since I moved here (it’s a bit out of the way) – I forgot how much I love that place. It’s such a lovely shopping experience and their products are so fun! We got #alltheFallthings for our picnic (I think my favorite were the pumpkin biscotti) + truffle cheese which is incredible.

Anyway, it was a good weekend.

It’s a bit difficult to muster up much excitement early on a Monday morning but I know if I’m struggling chances are you may be too so hopefully we can get through this together – #teamwork.

Here are five things I’m excited about on this dreary Monday morning.

Cold weather

If I had a dollar for every time someone had warned me about the Ohio winter….I’d be sitting ‘somewhere on a beach’ right now (as Dierks Bentely would say). It nonetheless came as a shock when suddenly I woke up one morning to 50 degree weather – it’s in the 80’s right now in Charleston. Additionally, it stays pretty gray here, which has possibly been more of an adjustment than the cold. Regardless, I’m attempting to embrace this change. I want to make the most of it. It’s been fun trying different ‘Fall’ foods (there is such a thing as Pumpkin Spice popcorn), lighting alllll the candles, wearing big sweaters,  listening to indie music and cozying it up with blankets and a book. I’m not necessarily thrilled about this shift but I think there are ways to make it pleasant and even to have fun with it, and I’m determined to do just that.

Indie/folk music

I’m not sure if it is just the rain or what, but recently I have been listening to a lot more indie and folk music and have found it soothing and meaningful. In the past I didn’t really have time for this genre, I didn’t have the patience to discern the meaning behind their lyrics or to get past some of the dissonance they tend to use. I preferred songs that were less subtle and more harmonious. Yet through various playlists (and a little help from my friends) I’ve come across several songs that I really love. Some of my favorites are:

Meaningful Market

Something I’ve tried to do with our apartment is to be really intentional about decorating it. There are a lot of cute things out there to choose from (so so many), but I wanted to choose things that meant something to me. This brand helped me do just that. I bought one of their prints and framed it to put over the mantle. It’s one of my favorite parts of our home and has so grateful for shops that make products that are thoughtful and beautiful.

Okay-ness

The past couple of years have provided many a trial for me. It honestly felt for a long time that I was barely surviving, it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve started to feel okay. I realize ‘okay’ isn’t exactly a high standard to have for well-being but I think ‘okay’ is a good place for growth. Once out of survival mode – but still keenly aware of all the room for improvement – we can actually start to take steps toward betterment –  instead of just getting by. I know I have a long ways to go in so many areas of my life, but I finally have a profound sense of peace with exactly where I am. It’s a peace that coexists with anxiety, because it’s deeper than the fears that like to follow me around. There is distress but it’s overwhelmed by a confidence that I am where I need to be and that all will be well. For the first time in a while I can say ‘I’m okay’ and it feels good.

This Quote

“The beauty that will save the world is the love that shares the pain.”

I’m not sure who said it, Alanna quoted the line in this video and I realized that it is something I have suspected for so long without being able to articulate it; finally these words brought a newfound clarity.

All this time I understood this at a level I wasn’t consciously aware of: the reality that  empathy and sharing in the suffering of others brings an incredible amount of healing. That’s why I write what I do. It’s hard, honestly. As much as ‘vulnerability’ online may feel like a joke, it is difficult to share thoughts and feelings that are so close to me. I do it because the hope is that someone, somewhere will be affected by what they read in a way that brings about understanding to their own thoughts and feelings. This understanding may help with alleviating some pain, too. Every once in a while I’ll get a comment or message in which someone shares that what I wrote deeply resonated with them, it is these few instances that bring meaning to what I do and encourage me to keep doing it. Because of one person is helped in some regard by this, then of course it is worth it.

Well it’s still Monday and it’s still dreary but at least you have a few songs to listen to now, have a good week!

xo
Miranda Kate