Monday 5: Obedience & other things I’m excited about this week

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This weekend included the first lazy Saturday I’ve had in a while and it was amazing. We also got drinks with friends Friday evening, I had my first bachelorette party Saturday night and yesterday we paddle boarded all the way to Shem Creek! It took us a couple of hours, between the ride there, the drink we got there and our ride back. But it was so cool paddleboarding at night under the stars! Nicholas admitted he was worried about sharks for the last bit, but we made it safely without running into any finned friends.

We also decided to try Husk Sunday evening, one of the more well known upscale restaurants in Charleston but backed out at the last minute (it was so fancy) and decided to just try the bar food instead (like the peasants that we are). We ordered a basket of 6 pieces of fried chicken (which ended up being double of what we needed) and a side of lima bean salad. It was very good and we both enjoyed the outdoor patio scene, but it wasn’t amazing. Next time we’ll have to try the real deal and see if it’s actually worth the hype.

In any case, it was a great weekend and I feel a lot more well rested than I have in a while, and that is definitely something to be excited about! In addition to that, here are five more things I’m excited about this week.

Family visiting

Nicholas’ mother, sister and brother arrive here tonight! We are so excited (Nicholas especially, obviously) to see them and to show them around Charleston. We spent a fair amount of time yesterday afternoon putting together a tentative schedule of fun things to do while they are here! Additionally, my sister comes back from school for her Fall break Wednesday, and my dad will be here this weekend! I love when family gets together, especially when you live in a place that has so many opportunities for outings. The weather is supposed to be a little cooler too, so that is exciting!!

Meditation

Anxiety can be super tricky. It creeps up on us and convinces us that are worst fears are becoming reality. It also becomes habitual, making it harder and harder to see things clearly. Our bodies become addicted to the chemicals released by the sympathetic nervous system when we feel fearful. This complicates matters further when we want to overcome anxiety because our bodies crave that rush of norepinephrine and adrenaline. There are medications out there I know are helpful for dealing with this, however I’m really trying to avoid that by relying on meditation instead. Mindfulness meditations have been shown to be successful in healing people of anxiety and increasing health and well-being. While I initially hated making time to do even just an 8 minute meditation, I’ve grown to really appreciate that time to just be and I’m hopeful that it is helping me make progress in my goal of being a calm, peaceful person. If you struggle with anxiety at all or are remotely interested in this, I highly recommend reading this book and doing the guided meditations that come with it.

This gyro recipe

Nicholas and I have been talking for a while about trying some Greek recipes, and last week we finally did! I loved this recipe for chicken gyros, it was simple and delicious. I will say gyros involve several steps, it was great doing it together but I know if I had done it alone I would have needed more time, so just a heads up. But it was so good! And a cool variation from our typical meals. I doubled the recipe for the five of us (three of which were men) and there were leftovers, which is always exciting. I plan on trying more recipes from this site soon!

Obedience

As adults, obedience may not be something we think about often. After all, we’re adults, we do what we want…isn’t that the point? We don’t have to listen to teachers, parents, or older siblings who want to tell us what to do! However, I think obedience is actually still highly relevant even as we get older, especially in relationships. This article gave some interesting perspective on obedience in marriage and how it actually helps us to love more. It’s not about being a doormat or being walked all over, but it is about sacrifice and gift of self. Mutual obedience can actually lead to a deeper, more beautiful love than if we are constantly trying to push our own agendas…who would have thought?!

This quote

A couple whose family I spent vast amounts of time with for a few years in my childhood recently celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary. I love this family, not only for inviting me into their home, but also because of the example they set for marriage and parenthood. They were very well known in our community, partly because with 6 kids they were hard to miss, but also just because of their strength as a family unit. It was awesome to see a family so involved and so fun. I think there is such stigma with ‘settling down,’ but this family showed us that family life is supposed to be just the beginning of an amazing adventure, not what you resort to when you’ve checked everything else off your bucket list. For their 23rd anniversary, the wife posted this quote which I thought was so beautiful and so true! Something to think about as we move forward this week.

“We all bring our ‘garbage’ into this union, but if we have the courage and the heart to love even the weakest parts of each other, well, what happens is nothing short of miraculous!”

xo

Miranda

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‘Promises’: Demi Lovato & what I wish I had known about my parents’ divorce

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For at least a month (up until last week) I was driving around with no radio. I know…the horror. My car radio (intelligently) locked me out after I had the battery replaced and even though I looked and looked, could not find the code for it. I finally called Honda a few weeks ago and they attempted to help but after a little bit on the phone were also unsuccessful.

Resigned to the worst, I was preparing myself to visit the Honda dealership in person when Nicholas rode with me one day and – as I was telling him the radio malfunction saga – he pressed a button that miraculously turned on the radio for the first time in weeks.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, but things like that happen to him all the time…and I’m not bitter about it at all.

Having had a fair break from the current radio stations, I was eager to catch up on the latest releases. One that stuck out to me was by Demi Lovato called ‘Promises.’ The gist of the song is that love is difficult and so even though I care about you, ‘promise me no promises.’

I was a little disappointed at this message, especially because it’s not the first or second or tenth time that I’ve heard it spoken to me from various sources recently. I think my generation has become very guarded and as I’ve gotten older I’m starting to understand why.

From 1960 to 1980, after the no-fault divorce bill was passed (saying that you could get a divorce without proving spousal wrongdoing), the divorce rate more than doubled.

A lot of us millennials and some from those in the previous generation (gen x) were born to those parents.

Ex: my mother and myself. We were both born into families whose parents went on to get divorced.

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What has occurred as a result of this breakdown in the family, is that we are terrified of making a promise that could later on be broken. What we have learned is that a vow doesn’t mean anything, it is unsafe. I can say ‘I love you’ and still walk away. Marriage, therefore, has lost it’s place in society as an outdated and ineffective tradition.

We treat relationships lightly and avoid getting attached at all costs.

The problem with this, is that family is the foundation of society. We learn to love in the home. The best example we’ll ever have of love is that which our parents show us through their love for each other. That is why we are falling short today, we don’t know how to love.  It is something we have to learn, we are not born on an island; our ability to love, our identity and sense of self are all things we develop in relation to others.

I wish I had known all of this earlier; my dating relationships have been made dramatically more difficult because of my own experience of what happens when we fail to keep our marital vows. We make a vow for a reason, it is not meant to be broken. Not merely because of the heartbreak that happens to the individuals who were married, but because of the damage it does to the children affected and society at large. The children of divorce live with that for the rest of their lives.

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Distrust, skepticism, and overwhelming fear often get the best of me, leading to strife between myself and the person I love. These thoughts and feelings aren’t things that come from nowhere, they are leftover from the reality that I’ve seen what happens when our love falls short and the pain that it causes. It honestly has gotten between us over and over again. I am constantly battling the voices in my head telling me to run…I am wary of being hurt and willing to do just about anything to avoid it. At times it is excruciating, exhausting and entirely discouraging for both me and my s/o. Experience and the fear it causes are powerful forces, more than I’d like to admit, however it is evident in myself and the culture around us.

This secondhand effect of divorce is rampant in people my age who refuse to ‘settle down’ and avoid family life altogether. We have, instead, become concerned with career achievement and having a good time. While these are good things, they are not the best things. The most convincing lie out there today is that you can’t have a good job, have fun and be married with children. It is either one or the other. If that were true, then I wouldn’t blame anyone for not ever wanting to get married, that sounds awful!

The reality, however, is that family life doesn’t steal our joy, it increases it. The studies concerning singles vs. married couples shows us that married couples tend to be happier.

This makes sense, because we are made to be in relation to others. We are born into families for a reason. Our deepest joy doesn’t come from getting drinks with friends (again, not a bad thing), it comes from loving and being loved deeply.

I know how discouraging it can be when people left and right are leaving their marriages. I know what it’s like to grow up convinced that family life is for the sitcoms and love doesn’t work. I know how hard it is to love when all you know is what happens when we don’t love.

However, Nicholas reminded me in a moment of frustration that hope is a virtue because it only makes sense in the context of hopelessness. If things are just fine, we have no need for hope. We need it when we are most tempted to despair.

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As millennials get older, I hope we realize the absolute necessity for family life. I hope we’re brave enough to give it our all, even if we’ve seen others who haven’t. I hope we learn to prioritize what is truly important and to overcome the fear that tells us to run the other way…because if we don’t, I guess I’m not sure who will.

It’s up to us to undo the cycle of broken promises and give the generations after us the opportunity to be learn what it means to love and to love others themselves.

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Monday 5: Togetherness & other things I’m excited about this week

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Baby breath flowers

I bought these for the first time yesterday and was blown away at how much I loved how they looked. They remind me of flowers you would pick on a field and add such a simple elegance to any room. Fresh flowers are one of those simple pleasures that can make a big difference and make me smile every time I look at them. Baby breath reminds us that you don’t have to be fancy to be beautiful.

This Hawaiian Chicken and Pineapple skewers recipe

I tried this recipe over the weekend and definitely plan on doing a repeat. It’s a relatively simple process and they were still good even without cooking them on the grill. I like that it includes protein and vegetables and fruit in one yummy dish. It’s also easy enough to double and make for several people; good for hosting or bringing to an event!

Sailing

This weekend we were able to go sailing around the Charleston harbor with the other first year pediatric residents (rough life, right?). It had been quite a while since I had been out on the water and it felt incredible. There’s something so simple and mindful about sailing; there aren’t really a lot of things to distract you from the beauty of the ocean and the people you’re with. It’s not something I get to do very often but I hope to do a little more in the years to come here in Charleston; it seems like such a good way to take advantage of the surrounding water.

Togetherness

Being in the same place as Nicholas has been such a treat for the past few weeks. While long distance was fruitful in it’s own way, being together has helped us grow more and face various challenges head on that were easier to avoid when we were apart. It’s tempting to get caught in the trap of thinking that relationships should be easy – and if they aren’t it’s wrong. But good things require effort; that’s what makes them good…and not just easy. One thing that has been great is being able to do so much more together than we could before. Things like going swimming or running, getting drinks with friends, having people over, cooking, going to Mass, praying, salsa dancing [or attempting to], even just working…it has been truly wonderful. Chores like grocery shopping are a lot more fun when you’re with people you love. Today we place a lot of emphasis on the individual and our independence; but I think there’s a lot of beauty on sharing your life with someone and working toward something together (even if it’s a little more inconvenient sometimes).

This quote

Love between two people is unthinkable without some common good to bind them together. – Saint John Paul the Great

I listened to a good podcast this weekend about love and how it’s more than just ‘I like you, you like me.’ While that is certainly an important part of it, we have to remember that there’s something bigger taking place. The speaker on the podcast gave the example of a professional sports team: they are a group of men or women working toward something great. That is what separates them from just a group of men or women kicking a ball around. They aren’t just there for their personal enjoyment; they’re working toward a higher good – winning. The same applies for couples. It’s not just about the pleasure or even joy that we get out of it (and that will come and go anyway); it’s more importantly about growing together and serving each other and your friends and family. In other words, it’s about being fruitful. We want to be better people and help others; those are the goals we strive for and that is what keeps us together when being alone seems more appealing.

Hope your Monday is enjoyable and fruitful (even if you’re like me and feeling a little sleepy).

xo

Miranda

 

Serena Williams & faithfulness: Why it isn’t always what we think it is.

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You may have heard that Serena Williams recently won the Australian Open…while pregnant.

#nbd

I can’t even stay on the court long enough to make it through one point…and I’m not pregnant.

Recently I listened to a TED talk podcast where Serena was interviewed about being a mom and on her recent win in Australia.

Serena is obviously super talented. But she’ll tell you (at least she said it in the interview) that her success isn’t due to the fact that she’s gifted…it’s the time and effort that she has put into her craft over years and years.

If you’re like me, when you think of being faithful you probably think of fidelity within a relationship, or being faithful to certain religious beliefs. These are certainly important contexts for faithfulness, but I think it can be extended outside of just those two instances.

I think a lot of us struggle today with being pulled in several different directions. From a young age we’re encouraged to be ‘well-rounded’ and as we get older we work hard to balance a career, a social life, our health, our family and any other activities or groups we’re a part of. I know it’s not uncommon for me to feel overwhelmed trying to balance various commitments.

While I think it is good to be apt at more than one thing, I think there’s something to be said about doing a few things well – as opposed to several things half-way. I know I tend to be more of the type of person who likes to do a lot; but I also have come to appreciate the idea of doing my best at fewer things and not trying to do everything and falling short.

Being faithful is showing up – but not just being physically present, also emotionally and intellectually. In other words, being present to your commitments wholeheartedly. I think this has especially become difficult because of our phones. I know it’s hard for me to focus on anything without being distracted by a text or other alert every few minutes.

The benefit of faithfulness is it allows you to value what is important to you. When we choose family dinner over a night out or homework over Netflix, we are faithful to what is more essential to us. Obviously going out and watching Netflix aren’t bad things, but we can’t do it all…all the time. In practicing faithfulness we demonstrate where our priorities lie, which largely determine the person we are.

If you value health and fitness you probably are faithful to your weekly workouts; if you you value good grades you are most likely faithful to your study time…our lives are largely determined by our choices, which show you and others what is really important to you.

We can’t be 100% faithful to a million different things…that’s why it matters. If you could be everywhere and do everything then you wouldn’t have the opportunity to demonstrate that something is important to you. It is because of our scarcity that our time is so valuable.

Serena obviously learned this lesson pretty early on. She says that she wants “to be the best” and I know she didn’t do that without much sacrifice. The world knows tennis is important to Serena because of the fruit of her hard work (namely winning pretty much everything tennis related). Similarly, our lives reflect what we value…what we are faithful to.

That’s not to say that we can’t value more than one thing; we can have several priorities like our family, our friends, our work…but these priorities are only reflected to the extent that we show up to and are fully present to them.

Serena also has a strong appreciation of family. She repeatedly talks about how close she is to her sisters and how excited she is to be a mom (instead of seeing it as a burden or threat to her career). Her family of origin and now her new family are clearly things she very much values as well and I’m sure her time also reflects that…if not so publicly as with her tennis.

The point is, we don’t have to do everything. Inevitably there will be a party we can’t go to, a skill we won’t have, a book we don’t finish, an outing we can’t make…but as long as we know what we really care about and are faithful to those things, we can live at peace knowing our lives reflect where are hearts truly lie.

So if you drop everything else and win a tennis championship after this, feel free to give me a shout out during your TED talk interview. 😉

xo

Miranda

*Image via The Odyssey Online

The ‘safe space’ we actually need

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As I mentioned in this week’s Monday five, I went to the University of South Carolina on Saturday to attend a chamber music competition. Beforehand, we were exploring the music department and came across a room that was labeled as a ‘safe space.’

While I had read and heard of these before, it felt a somewhat surreal to come across one in real life; it took seeing one in person to realize that this is something that is really happening…not just a story the media is making up. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I think the concept of ‘safe spaces’ is a little silly. Not because anxiety or stress isn’t real or trivial, but because of the idea that somehow a room – like the one we found at USC – can somehow fix our emotional or psychological distress.

How is that room different from any other? Because no one can challenge you or tease you? Because it is a designated space where you can break down? How is that helpful?

If we think that four walls that protect us from the outside world will solve our problems, we are sadly mistaken.

We shouldn’t need an office at our school to hide from our problems…which are most likely not caused by our peers anyway.

The fact is though, we are distressed. More and more of us are starting to take medications for anxiety and depression. The fact that a ‘safe space’ is becoming commonplace on college campuses is indicative of how our generation is feeling.

The reality is, we do need a safe space. But it isn’t a room in the music department of a college campus with bad lighting and gray carpet…it’s our home; it’s our family.

Mothers and fathers (or other primary caretakers) play an irreplaceable role in not only teaching us good habits, but also our temperament, our ability to be in relationships with others, our proficiency at interacting with the outside world and our emotional and psychological health.

This has become more and more clear to me, especially taking a human growth and development class in which these formative relationships are especially emphasized. There is so much evidence which demonstrates that distant relationship between children and their parents is strongly associated with personality disorders (including anxiety), drug and alcohol abuse and delinquency.

The home is where we are formed…physically, emotionally, psychologically and intellectually. When we come from a strong, loving, supportive family, we are able to go out into the world confident in our ability to face the challenges that inevitably will come our way. When we don’t have that stability in our lives early on, our skill to interact with the outside world and develop close relationships with others is stunted…we are immature and therefore unable to deal…hence the need for a ‘safe space.’

When we look at the importance of the family and how many of ours are broken today, it really shouldn’t be surprising that levels of anxiety, depression, alcoholism and drug abuse are increasing more and more. That safe space that a close, loving family provides is essential. Of course even the healthiest of families has it’s problems, the difference is the family that remains close despite them, instead of allowing them to separate or distance them.

I think as Americans we pride ourselves in being independent. We started off as a nation of independent thinkers who strove for freedom. However, the idea of the self-made man just isn’t true…just ask their mother. We were made in, for and to love; and that is something we can’t teach ourselves. How can we possibly love if no one teaches us how or what that looks like? We don’t expect a five year-old to teach themselves how to read…the same logic applies to this. We are born dependent on others and that doesn’t really change as we get older. You may know how to feed yourself (thankyouverymuch) but there is probably nothing more detrimental to the human person than loneliness. We need others and that is not a weakness, it is the beauty of being relational creatures.

We all have dreams and goals that we want to achieve, and that is perfectly healthy. However we have to remember that close relationships with others – love, essentially – is really what gives our lives meaning. That starts at home. Family is where we learn to love and be loved…it is the sanctuary of life. What do you think of when you think of sanctuary? Maybe some place sacred…certainly some place safe, a refuge. Nothing can replace the safety that family provides and we are seeing the consequences of it’s loss with the increasing levels of distress, especially in our young adults (who should be the most lively!).

It isn’t silly that we need a safe space, we do. But a college campus can’t provide it, and the sooner we realize this the better off we’ll be.