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.

Serena Williams

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.