‘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 Marriage, therefore, has lost it’s place in society as an outdated and ineffective tradition.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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If I could write a love song: My response to Maren Morris

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When I was seven or eight, I had an altercation with my BFF (shout out to Maria in NYC!) and decided to write a song to her explaining how I felt.

It didn’t end well. Unlike Mozart or Lil Romeo I was not a young musical genius and so my music writing efforts didn’t result in much.

However, I’ve always enjoyed music and loved expressing myself that way. I played violin through college and have always loved listening to music too. Early on Taylor Swift was my girl (she sings about boys, what else do you care about in middle or high school?). Even now I love coming across a song with lyrics I relate to and a sweet tune.

Recently, country singer Maren Morris’ song ‘I could use a love song’ has been stuck in my head. I think she really hits the nail on the head as to how a lot of us feel today in regard to relationships. Despite overwhelming cynicism in our generation, a part of us longs for romance and the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. As much as we fill our lives with work and friends and hobbies and a date or two, part of us is longing for more.

Having been in a committed relationship for the past few months, I’ve learned a LITTLE bit (just a tiny bit) about what it really means to love someone…and unfortunately it’s not in any of T-sizzle’s catchy tunes. If I could write a love song, Maren Morris, I would. But I can’t because it would be terrible. But if I could, here are some things I would want to say:

Love doesn’t feel good.

Okay, sometimes it does. Sometimes you’re smiling and laughing and feeling warm and fuzzy. But a lot of times it’s a lot less like the Notebook and a lot more like a documentary that’s a little too real or even slightly boring. Loving someone isn’t just a feeling, it’s choice that you make over and over…even when it’s hard. There are times when you’re both really tired and just sitting there next to each other has to be enough. There are times where you go out with their work friends and feel a little awkward and left out. There are times where you disagree on sensitive topics or even really little things like whether gages are cute or not (they’re not…just so we’re clear). There are times where the person will disappoint you; whether it’s something they did now or yesterday or when they were in college…none of those times feel good. But the good news is that love isn’t a feeling. That is good because when these discomforts arise – which they will because we’re HUMAN and not a Hollywood film – we can still choose the other person.

Love takes work.

Somehow movies tend to end when the couple gets together…we never see what happens after the ‘happily ever after.’ Falling in love is just the beginning. A lot of divorces happen because people stop ‘feeling it.’ They slowly move farther and farther apart as they get caught up in other priorities (work, children etc) and neglect their relationship. Regular date nights, reconnecting daily, playing together, sharing in each other’s interests…these are all necessary to maintain a healthy and loving relationship with your significant other. Also things like keeping a lark journal or photo album are helpful. I think it’s easy to get comfortable with the ones we love and then complain when the ‘spark’ is gone. Fortunately the ‘spark’ is something we can work on. It just takes…work. Love needs to be nurtured and protected, not taken for granted.

Love is healing.

We all have wounds from loved ones. Whether it’s our imperfect parents, previous romantic relationships or some traumatic event, we have hurt that stays with us. Love is healing. In healthy and loving relationships we re-learn (or un-learn falsehoods) about what it means to love and be loved. Today a big movement out there is telling us to be independent; as counter cultural as it may seem, I’m saying you’re not and never have been. We’re born reliant on others and though we may learn to provide for ourselves, love is something we can only learn in relation to others. That doesn’t mean it has to be a romantic relationship; we can learn this from family or friends as well, but it does mean we need others. To trust and be trusted, to give and receive, to be vulnerable, to be intimate…these are only things we can learn outside ourselves, regardless of your ability to feed yourself.

Love demands sacrifice.

It just does. Loving someone requires time and energy and effort. You can’t continue to live your life exactly how you want. You begin to take the other person into consideration and think about how your decisions affect them. You think about what makes them happy instead of only what pleases you. You eventually begin to put the other person before you…that is what love does, it makes you selfless. We’re born inherently selfish, (did you as an infant ever think about whether it was convenient for your mom to feed you or not?) out of necessity. Our goal as we grow up is to unlearn that. Loving another person is a wonderful wake up call that can sometimes feel like a slap in the face. We’re no longer just looking out for ourselves and it’s painful. Every instinct tells us to focus on self-preservation, meanwhile we know that we don’t have room for selfishness in relationships. Love is ultimately gift of self, a sacrifice.

Maren Morris could use a love song and I think a lot of us are in that boat. Maybe they aren’t being written as much because we’ve lost sight of what love really looks like. How can we write (or sing) about something we’re not familiar with? Love is hard, and we don’t want that. We’re looking for the easy way out and coming up empty; empty hearts and empty playlists. But we’re missing out, because love is wonderful and absolutely worth fighting for…maybe if someone would come out with a song we would realize that.

xo

Miranda

 

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

 

Why ‘I do’ is bigger than you

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Did you ever wonder what happened to Cinderella’s stepsisters after she married the prince and left to live happily ever after in the castle?

Yeah me either.

Love stories tend to focus only on the people inside them. Which makes sense…it’s a love story, not the Proud Family.

However, to say that relationships don’t affect people outside of them is just not true. This is especially important when it comes to marriage. The idea that marriage is supposed to last forever isn’t a silly fairy tale or a random rule an uptight monk decided would be a good idea; it’s the foundation for family life.

Love is meant to be eternal…not just to last as long as it feels good. The family unit depends on this. The security that comes from a couple that stays together provides their children with the opportunity to learn what it means to love and be loved. Love entails permanency; anything less is insufficient and breaks the most essential player in loving relationships: trust.

This isn’t just my opinion: we know that parental divorce leads to lower trust in future relationships of the children.

In other words, something that is already difficult (entrusting yourself completely to someone else) is made exponentially more challenging.

Trust is everything. Self-gift necessitates a surrender of control that can’t happen without faith in the other person.

When trust is broken in a vital relationship – the one that sets the example for all the relationships to come – we are left impaired for life. This may seem like an exaggeration, I thought so too until I experienced the ramifications in my own relationship.

Facing my trust issues has been one of the biggest hurdles I’ve faced thus far and not one I would wish on my worst enemy. The pain, confusion and helplessness that arises when you feel you can’t trust someone you care deeply about is overwhelming and has often threatened what I know to be a really good thing. When there is betrayal in a formative relationship (as what happens in divorce), our outlook on intimacy and relationships becomes skewed…unnatural.

Despite the normalcy of divorce, I know I’m not the only person suffering it’s severe consequences. The marriage rate in the U.S. is at an all time low. An important reason given for this is the fact  that millennials’ ‘don’t think it’s likely to last.’ (Deseret News, 2015). We are also getting married a lot later in life (at the age of 27 for women and 29 for men compared to the ages of 20 and 23 in 1960, according to Bentley.edu). We are experiencing a ‘cultural retreat’ from marriage…and it is no bueno.

What we’ve resorted to is cohabiting – or living together outside of marriage. We think that this kind of relationship is preferable to making a vow and then breaking it later. While understandable, this idea couldn’t be further from the truth. This type of relationship is dramatically less stable and has a much lower rate of success than those of married couples (Deseret News, 2015). But, we think we’re smart so…here we are.

We also take part in what’s being called ‘serial dating’; where we go on multiple dates with multiple different people over a short span of time. Apps like Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, Hinge, Happn and others are all out there to help us find dates quickly. The convenience of it makes us more detached from the outcome: ‘hey if it doesn’t work out with this person, there are 1,569 other matches I can reach out to.’

There’s nothing wrong with meeting someone over the internet; the problem arises when we treat dating like we’re flipping through TV channels as opposed to what it should be: a genuine effort to discover another person and find out if you can see yourself marrying them.

Marriage and family have been pushed aside in the name of practicality and as a result we’re becoming even more self-centered. The thing is, it’s not just about us. Love is necessarily other focused: the person we marry and the children we have have everything to gain from our unconditional love. We can’t afford to just look out for ourselves; there’s too much at stake.

It’s not glamorous or exciting to think about Cinderella and prince Charming’s children or how their relationship affected their community, but that’s really everything. After all, we can tell a tree by it’s fruit!

What we do in life matters, but nothing matters more than the close relationships we have with the people we love. Love (like trust) is learned and it can’t be learned if we’re focused on just our own needs and desires…it’s bigger than that.

We may say ‘I do’ at the altar, but really it is so much more than just about us; if we take this seriously we can love others fully and allow them to then do the same…and isn’t that quite the privilege?

 

 

 

Monday 5: Teamwork & other things to be excited about this week

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This weekend was a blast. Crazy, poop-filled, lots of screaming…and really fun. Friday evening Nicholas and I biked through old Mount Pleasant (one of my favorite areas of Charleston) and then walked the Ravenel Bridge. I had never been there at night and it was cool to see the water and the city all lit up after dark.

Saturday was the long-awaited wedding of our friends Anthony and Kaitlyn. Nicholas and I were charged with the care of six-month-old baby James for the day. I was there in the morning watching the brides and bridesmaids get ready which was really fun; I had never been on that side of the preparations before and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were a few hair and make-up artists present, Chic-fil-a and champagne…what else do you need?

We had James during the ceremony (which we left after twenty minutes when James decided he no longer could stand it), as well as during the reception afterward. We got to eat good food, dance a little and take a walk around downtown with James when he became frustrated…not a bad gig.

Sunday was more relaxed, Nicholas headed back to Ohio for the final stretch before his move here and I got to catch up on some housework and (much needed) nail painting.

I hope you had a fun weekend, this one was definitely one for the books! And after that suuuper long intro, here is this week’s Monday 5.

Biking

Friday afternoon we biked from Mike’s Bikes in Mount Pleasant over to Sullivan’s Island and then to Isle of Palms. It was truly a gorgeous ride and it made me remember the joy of leisurely biking (no hardcore cycling for me, thank you very much). Even though it was really warm, the breeze made the heat bearable. I love how mindful biking is, you get to enjoy the views without checking your phone or worrying about traffic (although you should be careful with cars). It’s such a simple pleasure, plus you get some exercise. It’s something you can enjoy alone or with someone else, and in a place like Charleston there really is no shortage of beautiful rides to enjoy. I don’t own a bike, but this weekend made me seriously consider investing in one.

Printing photos

Over the past few months, the alert that I am short on storage has showed up about once a day on my phone. As much as I try to keep photo storage to the minimum, delete texts and unnecessary apps, somehow it still adds up. I’ve considered upgrading to a newer phone with more storage, I know I may need to eventually but I am very reluctant to do so while this phone still works perfectly. I decided a good solution (at least for now) is to print more of my pictures and actually put them in photo albums as opposed to keeping them stored in my phone or computer. Pictures can seem overrated with how many we take today, but they really are important. There are so many fun, sweet moments that we experience and pictures are a great way of reminding us of the good times we’ve had and the people we spend them with. That’s why I printed a bunch through Shutterfly (you only have to pay for shipping if you print 4X6) and am looking for the best way to store them this week. I’m excited to have more concrete mementos and to find a cute way of displaying them (ideas welcome!).

Farmer’s Markets

Tuesday evening we made dinner together for my family and we stopped by the Mount Pleasant Farmer’s Market to buy some of the ingredients. It was fun to look around, be outside and enjoy the laid back environment. It’s such a different feel from the sterile grocery store and it gave me an appreciation for local farmers. We got coffee and a few vegetables for our dish; I think our chicken tostadas turned out a lot more fresh-tasting then they would otherwise (PS the avocado sauce is amazing). The Farmer’s Market is a really fun way to spend a little bit of time outside and support our community while getting some delicious goodies.

Wedding celebrations

I can be a little skeptical of the wedding industry as it seems to have become so over the top and almost too elaborate. I definitely feel that it’s about the marriage…not the wedding. However, celebrating with Kaitlyn and Anthony this weekend, I understand a little more now how attention to detail and effort can make for a beautiful celebration of a really important day. Even though it isn’t just about the dress, or the cake, or the flowers, it really is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate something really wonderful (two lives becoming one) with people who love you and led you to where you are today. We had so much fun at the Ragghianti-Elliot wedding and I know it wasn’t without much time, effort, and money that it was able to happen. We loved celebrating the union of these two people and now I understand more why the Big Day is big (although I’m still an advocate of being financially savvy when possible).

Teamwork

This weekend Nicholas and I really had to make a joint effort. While I probably could have made it through the day without him, having him there made a huge difference and made something that could have been really stressful actually enjoyable. I love kids, but taking care of someone else’s child on a really important day that involves a lot of transportation and moving parts isn’t a small matter. At one point James was screaming while I was trying to change him in the back of my car, the heat was making both of us sweat bullets and Nicholas was on the phone trying to figure out where we needed to go for the pictures. While not highly pleasant, both of us were laughing because of how ridiculous it all seemed and knowing it was going to work out. It’s one thing to deal with a situation like that on your own, it’s quite another to have someone there offering help and supporting you. It’s good to remember that we don’t have to do it all alone; and asking for help and approaching things as a unit if often a lot more fruitful.

Career isn’t everything & other takeaways from ‘La La Land’

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As I mentioned in this week’s Monday 5, over the weekend I finally had the opportunity to go see ‘La La Land.’

The music and style (basically her whole wardrobe is #goals) in the film were two of favorite parts, I also enjoyed the cinematography and how different it was from what we typically see today.

The story itself was also good, although I (as probably most viewers) was disappointed by the unsatisfying ending.

*warning* this post includes spoilers!

Of course in every movie and book when there is a couple that includes a or both protagonists, it’s natural to become attached and want them to live happily ever after; and while this may seem cliché or unrealistic, I think there’s something to be said about valuing the relationship we’ve seen flourish throughout the story.

In ‘La La Land’ we see them choose their careers over each other. There is the crucial point where Mia asks Sebastian, ‘What about this? What are we going to do?’ Of course the question is natural considering she may have to go to Paris for an extended period of time if she gets the job she auditioned for. But I think she was hoping (I know I was) that he would respond, ‘we’ll make it work,’ or something along those lines. Instead of his actual response which was essentially we will have to wait and see.

Cool bro.

In fact we see Mia’s disappointment in his words with her empty facial expression and silence.

What person wants to hear that?

We can argue that Sebastian was saying this out of selflessness, he wanted Mia to do well in her career and be able to ‘give it her all’ without their relationship as a distraction. After all, an essential aspect of their relationship was the mutual encouragement to pursue their dreams. And while I do see the value in this, I also think there’s something disordered about Sebastian’s reasoning.

Our dreams of having a successful career, of traveling, of accomplishing, of doing the perfect cartwheel (it’s all I want)… those are super important. To be with someone who nurtures and encourages that is even more so. However, I think there isn’t much in this world that can be more valuable than other people and the relationships we form with them. Especially when it comes to love. Mia and Sebastian clearly loved each other, they were committed to each other and wanted the best for the other. To give that up because of a ‘big break’ seems irresponsible and unnecessary. Couldn’t they still achieve their dreams as a couple? With their mutual encouragement couldn’t they have even potentially have helped each other achieve more?

What is more precious than love? What is more important? And if they had achieved less would they have been unhappy or dissatisfied knowing they had a great love? If that had been the case, that would have been a fault on their part… a disordered desire: success over love.

The ending is not disastrous by any means, we see Mia seemingly happily married and successful and Sebastian is able to achieve his dream of opening the jazz bar. But when we see the alternative ending, what could have been if they had stayed together, we see the great sacrifice they made in choosing what they did.

There was immense joy in their life together and a closeness between them that we don’t see between Mia and her actual husband.

Was it worth it?

I know we’re encouraged to follow our dreams, of course I hope we all do – career is definitely an essential part of our calling and fulfillment in life. But to say that our career is the most important thing I think is just not true.

Loving others and being loved, that is where ultimate joy and completeness is found, not our titles or income.

I mean that and chocolate.

And wine.

And Netflix.

I hope I am able to achieve at least some of the things I work toward in life, I hope my work does impact others in a meaningful way. But most of all, I hope I choose authentic love over anything else.

xo

Miranda