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

 

3 reasons the risk is worth it

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I’m a planner. If I want to see you on the weekend, I’ve typically already reached out by Wednesday night. When I travel, I have a list of places to go, things to do and restaurants to try long before I leave. ‘We’ll play it by ear‘ is one of my least favorite phrases and if I don’t have plans for Friday by Thursday I get a little panicky.

I like to plan because it’s safe. Having a plan means having certainty. I know what I’m doing, where I’m going and (most importantly) who I’m going to be with. Of course, plans change or go awry and I don’t always handle that well, but I’d rather have a plan and have it go wrong than to just not have one…that’s unthinkable.

The flaw in my plan about always having a plan is that there are certain things you can’t plan for.

But honestly, the world we live in today is very conducive to my (slightly) obsessive planning tendencies. Smart phones allow me to check the weather, find directions to my next destination, know how long it’s going to take me to get there, get information on any restaurant or shop I want to go to, message friends instantly, shop, put things in my schedule and invite other people to events, have the lowdown on the happenings near me (and find out who that I know is interested)…it’s a lot of information that leaves little room for ‘what if’s’ and ‘maybe’s’ and especially, ‘I don’t know’s.’

I do know; and I’m very okay with that. We’re very okay with that. As a culture, we don’t like uncertainty…it makes us uncomfortable. We’d rather say ‘no thank you’ than to say ‘yes’ and then be disappointed if it doesn’t go as planned.

The challenge arises with those few but important things in which planning doesn’t work. Namely, relationships of any kind.

The night Nicholas and I met I was not planning on going out. It was a slightly impulsive, very unlike me, last minute decision to meet my friend who was showing him around downtown – instead of going to the weekly dinner I usually go to on Monday nights.

I didn’t know that Nicholas was seriously considering living here when I reached out to interview him for my blog. We weren’t sure where he would be placed for residency when we started dating (he had 1 in 12 chance of landing Charleston). Today, we can’t guarantee that we will continue to choose each other day in and day out…but we move forward despite the uncertainty.

Whether you’re starting a relationship, ending one or have been married ten years, here are some reasons love is worth choosing over and over…despite the risk.

  1. Adventure

    Committed relationships often are associated with ‘settling down;’ we think that after the initial whirlwind is over, that all fun and excitement leaves with it. If that were true I’m not really sure why anyone would want to date someone seriously, much less get married. I don’t think relationships should be boring; in fact,  I would say learning to love someone and sharing your life with them is the ultimate adventure. With the risk involved, the challenges faced and the growth that often results, there isn’t much ‘settling’ involved. Sometimes it doesn’t feel as exciting, and that’s where we are reminded to pursue fun things together and continue to learn about each other since there is always more to discover.

  2. Growth

    Relationships challenge us. No matter how good things are at first, how much you love the other person or how much you consider yourself to be a healthy person…difficulties are inevitable. Sometimes love can be really painful, which is why so many people don’t choose it. But for better or for worse, it is through challenges that we grow. Single life can be tough in it’s own way, but I have found the difficulties faced in relationships to be a lot more trying and a lot more fruitful. Learning to be vulnerable, to trust and to put others before yourself are all important lessons we can only pick up in relation to other people.

  3. Reward

    We’ve all heard the saying, ‘no risk, no reward.’ Risk often leads to failure, failure that can be unbelievably painful. But risk can also result in something more beautiful than we could have imagined. There’s nothing comparable to or more powerful than the love that lasts. If you’re like me and you’re in your twenties, chances are you’ve already been stung by love- or the lack there of. It’s also possible that it happens again, but if we don’t keep trying, we lose it all – the chance to understand why it really is worth it.

    Here’s to embracing uncertainty and the risk that is inevitable in love.

xo

Miranda

What we’ve learned so far

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To say it’s been a learning experience would probably be an understatement. Relationships have a way of challenging us in ways we never would have expected. Suddenly all the insecurities we have, hurts we’ve held on to, perspectives that have gone unchallenged…they all rise to the surface in a somewhat unpleasant and overwhelming manner.

That is why relationships are so important. They help us to grow and teach us to love. While uncomfortable and even painful at times, relationships are where rubber meets the road in terms of our formation. Being nice to friends and even strangers is easy, having a strong disagreement with someone you’re really close to is not. Putting yourself first is easy, letting someone else take priority is not. Relationships are challenging; and because of that they have a lot to teach us.

Here are some of the things we’ve learned from our relationship thus far (Nicholas tried to make it a list of things he’s taught me but I thought I’d spare you the various hipster bands he’s introduced me to):

  1. Ohio isn’t so bad
    Ohio gets a lot of bad rap here in South Carolina, especially in Charleston. I jumped on the bandwagon blindly a few years after I moved here feeling confident that people knew what they were talking about. Turns out the mob mentality isn’t always the wisest; both in Sandusky and Cleveland Nicholas showed me some truly beautiful spots that were a lot of fun to explore.
  2. Assuming the worst isn’t helpful
    This is especially true for texting. Being long distance, texting was huge for us. However sometimes it’s easy to read something and assume the most negative interpretation. While tempting, this is really unhelpful. I don’t think the worst case scenario has ever been the case, and assuming it was just led to unnecessary stress and discontent. More generally, giving people the benefit of the doubt is so important. Yes, they could let you down, but thinking that way won’t protect you and often your loved ones really do have your best interest at heart.
  3. It’s important to celebrate
    We celebrate the day we started dating, the day we went on our first date and the date of our Ask Him Interview Maybe not always with a fancy dinner, but little things like listing ways we appreciate each other, writing in our lark journal and maybe going to a cool spot to spend time together. Really big moments happen rarely, that is why it’s important to make a big deal out of small things.
  4. We can kind of salsa dance
    Learning to dance was something we both have wanted to do. It’s been fun to work on it together. We’re both awkward and I’m especially bad but overcoming the discomfort together has been humbling and brought us closer together. And now we can kind of salsa dance!
  5. It’s not just about us
    A huge lesson for us has been the importance of having a relationship that is open to others (which is different from an open relationship, just fyi). We want it to be a positive thing for our friends, family and the community; not just something we enjoy personally. When we strive to think of others and how we can help them, we feel more at peace with ourselves and the relationship.
  6. Long distance forces you to work on your communication
    Are we glad long distance is over? Um, yeah…yeah you could say that. Are we glad we did it? Yes, yes we are (in Phineas’ voice). What was really helpful about long distance was that we couldn’t do fun things like go out for drinks or swim at the beach; we had to talk. And that’s it. We had to get to know each other strictly through talking and couldn’t break the tension with a game or fun outing. Communicating wasn’t always easy (especially when someone was upset/hurt/tired/frustrated) but we learned that things like honesty, listening and just putting the time in can be really helpful.
  7. Teamwork brings you closer together
    Some of our favorite moments have been taking care of the girls I nanny or babysitting our friend’s kids. When we work together for a larger cause we stop thinking about what we want as individuals and instead about what we can do for the sake of our goal (mainly surviving and keeping the kids alive).
  8. Friendships really do make the best relationships
    For several months we stayed in touch as friends. This made the transition into dating so much smoother and those low-key times helped us to get to know each other in a more relaxed way.
  9. Love is a choice
    When in the face of hardship, love doesn’t feel good. It’s not warm and fuzzy. Day in and day out we choose each other, regardless of how we feel that particular day. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not…but it’s a lot more beautiful because of it. We’re not here because we always felt like it, we’re here because we chose to be…and that is so much more meaningful.
  10. All relationships require a significant level of risk
    In a world where all the information is at our fingertips, uncertainty is not something we’re comfortable with. But in relationships there is none of that. We started dating not knowing where Nicholas would be for the next three years, this could have turned out very differently; and we knew it. But we thought that the risk was worth it and even though we know we have a lot to lose, we still do. No relationship is a sure thing, but if you don’t take a risk you will surely gain nothing.Here’s to learning a lot more in the days to come!

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

 

What the Beast teaches us about our wounds

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Even if you haven’t seen the newest rendition of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens, you’re most likely familiar with the fairy tale that has been around for quite a while.

Fairy tales are powerful, not necessarily because of the beautiful protagonists, singing animals or happy endings but also because of the truths they relate. When a story tells us something about human nature, we know it shouldn’t be discredited (despite other, more unrealistic aspects like fairy godmothers and dancing teapots).

An example that I can think of starts with this quote I came across this week on Instagram via Made in His Image:

The broken will always be able to love harder than most. Once you have been in the dark, you learn to appreciate everything that shines.

– Zachary K. Douglas

These words really struck a chord with me; I’m not sure if it’s completely true (how can you really know something like that) but I think there is a lot of wisdom in it.

I always see traumas, past hurt and lasting wounds as disadvantages. They get in the way of peace, joy and most importantly, love.

For example, the Beast is cursed years before Belle meets him and is still affected by the consequences of the curse. Obviously there are the physical effects – mainly his Beastly-ness – but there is also a deeper hurt caused by a fear that he won’t be loved again. His ability to relate to and become intimate with others is inhibited by his physical disfigurements that resulted from the curse.

Similarly, when we are hurt by a person or situation in a deep way, we become something unnatural…we’re wounded.

The Beast struggles to become close to Belle and has occasional outbursts of anger because his fear of being unloved and unwanted rears it’s ugly head. This then pushes Belle away…causing a vicious cycle.

Going back to the quote, the important takeaway to me from that is the idea that our hurt can be used to make the world a better place. Once in the dark we have a fuller understanding of how good and how important the light is. We can try harder to be in and experience the light which we know is so good and so essential.

We see the Beast use his strength and beastliness to protect Belle; we see him overcome his fear and move closer to her and we see Belle respond lovingly. I wonder if part of the Beast’s ability and choice to cherish Belle comes from intimate experience with crippling loneliness?

I think when bad things happen there are two responses: despondence/apathy or passion.

It’s easier to not care and to withdraw…but it is also unnatural, it goes against the heart of man.

Injustice also has the power to instill great hope and aspiration for how things should be. We know how disordered it can be and we know how important it is so we strive so much more for the ideal. Once we’ve seen the bad we love the good more.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that people who have been hurt deeply are more capable of loving…but it is possible that we try harder. Part of that is out of necessity because of anxiety that has been created which affects our ability to love and be loved…our relationality. But part of it too is out of sheer appreciation of the light. It’s also possible that we don’t try at all, because we don’t think there’s a way out of the darkness.

The Beast could have locked himself away forever and sent Belle home because of fear of rejection…fear that the underlying belief that he was unlovable was true. But he didn’t; and I think (even though it is a fairy tale…I do know that) we should learn from this. Most people won’t leave life unscathed, and while painful, we can use this to build an even stronger world by striving for and being the light. In a way, we have a responsibility to others to avoid putting them through whatever we have been through. If we don’t use our hurt for good then it’s just hurt. If we use it to help ourselves and others it becomes redemption.

I’m probably reading too much into it but…who knew so much could be found in a children’s story, right?

What Coldplay & co. got right in ‘Something Just Like This’

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As I mentioned in this week’s Monday 5, recently I’ve been perusing Aziz Ansari’s ‘Modern Romance.’ I’m only a few chapters in but it has definitely been an interesting read so far. In his funny-but-serious book, Aziz addresses some of the questions and challenges we are facing in today’s dating world.

Aziz starts out by comparing our dating habits to those of the generations before us. He brings up the fact that with our dating apps and the internet and just how much easier traveling has gotten, our pool of options is much greater than that of our parents or grandparents. The funny thing is, despite the plethora of choices, we are taking longer to get married and divorcing a lot more than previous generations.

Aziz attributes this to a few things including the phase of life that has become more important called emerging adulthood and the fact that we are now more picky about our choice of partner.

Aziz goes on to explain that our parents and grandparents largely simply wanted someone to settle down with, whereas we want much more…we want a soulmate.

Because we are looking for true love, it takes us longer to find the right person.

While I am certain that there are people before us who got married for the wrong reasons (financial security, social norms…etc), I don’t think it’s fair to assume that all marriages before us were somehow inferior to our generation’s relationships.

The concept of a soulmate is a tricky one and definitely one I grapple with. Believing there is one right person out there for us can be a comforting thought…but as our generation is discovering, it can also be a daunting one. What if we choose wrong? And how do you know if someone is your soulmate? Is it because they make you laugh? Or you never fight? Is it because you have the same hobbies? Or because you have the same values? Or maybe it’s more of an ‘opposites attract’ thing?

Lot’s of questions.

It’s no wonder we’re being plagued with analysis paralysis. There are so many people at our fingertips and any of them could be the right one…but only one is. Yikes.

I certainly don’t advocate for getting married for reasons other than love. Love is where it starts and should be a primary motivator. However, I do want to challenge the idea that there is only one person we could possibly love for the rest of our lives…that there is only one ‘right’ individual out there that you have to find.

And by this, I am not advocating an open marriage/relationship (love means exclusivity + permanency), however I am saying we can like, chill, a little bit.

We don’t have to find the perfect person.

As Coldplay says in their new song ‘Something Just Like This’ (along with The Chainsmokers). We don’t need a superhero, we don’t need Hercules or Achilles or some other mythical character that somehow completes us. We want someone we have a connection with, someone we’re attracted to and someone who shares our goals (especially that of becoming a better person).

Butterflies are nice, attraction is good, commonalities are good. Ultimately, though, we choose to love someone. Sometimes we’re gonna feel it and sometimes we’re not. The ‘right’ person doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard at times, that there won’t be times we’re not feeling it, that there won’t be hurt or fear.

That is inevitable, unfortunately.

But the good news is that we don’t have to wait for the stars to align to love someone. We can find someone who isn’t quite perfect and love them anyway. Someone we can “turn to”, someone we can miss, someone we can kiss…that is a lot easier to find than someone with the “superhuman gift” of being our perfect match.

I’m not saying to grab the next person off the street and marry them, but I do want to help a generation a little bit by saying it’s okay to not know if someone is your soulmate…I’m not sure if that is a real thing anyway. We’re not lowering our expectations by not looking for that, we’re admitting that love involves choice…not just fate.

Coldplay and the Chainsmokers got something right when they said there is a risk…love by nature is risky. The idea of a soulmate can make it feel less so, however the truth is that ‘perfect’ person could still reject or hurt us.

I challenge the idea Aziz presents that generations before us had it wrong and we know what’s up. I think we just face different challenges than those before us. However what remains the same is love. Love involves gift of self, which involves choice. That much we can always count on and that is what we should remember next time we feel overwhelmed by all the choices out there and the pressure to find the perfect match.

Love is patient, kind and often unglamorous…but it is not perfect; and that is kind of a relief to me.

 

 

 

 

 

What being a nanny has taught me about the power of vulnerability

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Earlier this week, the 11-month-old I nanny somehow cut her thumb badly. I have no idea what caused it and therefore was pretty shocked when I picked her up and found her hand covered in blood.

Of course I immediately assumed she needed stitches and was preparing to head to the emergency room while calling her mom and very seriously telling her what had happened. The mom (very calmly) asked me to first call her husband (who is conveniently a doctor) before leaving. I did so and as it turned out stitches were (thankfully) unnecessary and therefore a trip to the emergency room also unwarranted.

To say I was panicking would be an understatement. While I knew Sally would live, I was horrified at the damage that had been done under my watch and felt overwhelmingly guilty that the child who had done absolutely nothing wrong was hurt without rhyme or reason.

When Sally’s mom got home, calm and cheerful, I broke down in shaky tears and took a few minutes to recover.

Needless to say, I went home and had a beer that evening.

Any mom will tell you that these things happen. Accidents are often inevitable and children will get hurt. The weird thing is, this doesn’t change much as we get older. While we probably won’t crawl over something sharp anytime soon (although it can’t be ruled out), we still get hurt… it is inevitable.

The nature of living in an imperfect world is that you could do everything right your whole life, be the perfect person, and still get hurt.

Mean girls (or guys), unhealthy relationships, illness, death, broken families…at some point or another we come across a situation that doesn’t leave us unscathed, often it can be outside of our control. This breeds fear. Everything we feel is for a reason (whether we are conscious of it or not) and fear generally arises from experience…when we realize that we are vulnerable.

Before this week, I had few qualms about letting Sally crawl around the sun room while I watched sitting on the floor…when I went to work this morning I was hesitant to get her out of her crib, worried of another traumatic incident.

As adults, we often act on fear from past experiences. We have learned that we can get hurt so we avoid situations that remotely imitate a painful past. We want to be invulnerable and stay in our safe ‘crib.’

But if you’ve ever held a baby before, while they are physically adorable, there is also a deeper attraction there that is more subtle. Babies are completely reliant on us. Not to brag, but if there are no other adults around, Sally can’t do much without me. And in that way, she is vulnerable. I could decide to walk out at any moment and leave her without a way to feed herself or change herself or even move around much (Lauren, if you’re reading this, promise I won’t do that). But the fact is that part of what we love about children is their vulnerability…it is inviting and draws out compassion from us that is often left untapped by our peers.

We are so busy trying to cover up anything imperfect or wounded, that we have forgotten that vulnerability is attractive. It is a wonderful and essential part of our humanness.

I’m not saying you should spill your guts out on a first date or write a dramatic Facebook post, but I think we can learn a thing or two from Sally in that she still wants to get out of her crib after being hurt outside of it. And I love her for it.

Sally is not just super cute (she really is), she also relies on me, she is vulnerable, and I see that as a privilege and amazing responsibility. Getting close to others, we will find that they too are vulnerable (even if they do know how to walk and feed themselves), and that becomes our responsibility.

When we close ourselves off from others, we deny them the privilege of truly seeing us and reaching out to us in our imperfection. Just like Sally, sometimes things will happen or people will fail us, and that is painful. But just like Sally, we have the option to get out of the crib again and give people another chance (whether it’s the same person or someone else).

Despite my doubts, I did take Sally out of her crib today, and the cut on her thumb was still there…but she was okay. She was able to bring the same joy to my life that she always has and I was able to care for her as I did before. And I am a better person for it.

Next time you’re feeling a little insecure or worried, remember baby Sally and how endearing vulnerability truly is.

xo

Miranda

 

 

 

 

America’s sweetheart: Why no one wants to be the ‘good girl’

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I’ve listened to Elle King’s ‘America’s Sweetheart‘ more times than I care to admit. It started when the song came on my Pandora station while I was running and I discovered that it had a fantastic beat to run to. After that I included the tune in most, if not all, of my runs – sometimes even more than once.

As I listened more to the lyrics, I loved the irony between the title of the song, ‘America’s Sweetheart,’ and the very clear message: I’m not America’s sweetheart.

Alrighty then.

Ms. King goes on to explain why she’s not America’s sweetheart:

My hands are dirty and my heart is cold

Boys I’ve been with will say I’ve got no soul

When I meet another honey at the bar, I’ll think it’s funny when I break his heart

My kind if medicine is whiskey straight

I got a mouth to put you in your place…

What do you want from me? I’m not America’s sweetheart

Okay, so not that sweet.

Today we glorify this girl. Maybe or maybe not Elle King specifically, but definitely the girl she’s describing.

Careless, unconcerned, unattached…there’s something alluring and exciting about being the girl who is unattainable and indifferent.

I think the alternative – the ‘good girl’ – has become so unattractive. Pearls, headband, pastel colors, sweet but judgmental, uptight…no wonder we don’t like her. I always think of Grace from ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager.’ Her naivety was more irritating than endearing and she seemed just a little too perfect to be real…not someone I was in a hurry to identify with.

I definitely battled with which one of these characters to choose from. Of course, innately, I was completely and unequivocally the good girl. Rule breaking was never an option and anything remotely unethical shocked me. However, as I got older I started to see the appeal of the girl at the other end of the spectrum…I felt being that way was how you got noticed and protected yourself from getting hurt. When I listened to Elle King’s song, there was a part of me that wanted to identify with her. There have been times in my life when I know I did.

Now I can say that personal experience has taught me that there is nothing glamorous about taking part in the self-destructive and self-centered behavior that Elle King describes, and that there is a lot more to be lost than gained from never becoming close to anyone.

Our ability to feel, our openness to love, our vulnerability…that is our strength.

I discovered that there is an alternative to both Grace from ‘Secret Life of the American Teenager’ and Elle King or any other number of ‘rebellious’ characters.

There is more to being good than never cursing or never getting angry. To be naive does not mean you are good. To be good does not necessitate a sweet demeanor or refusal to break any rules, ever. To be good does not mean to say ‘yes’ to every demand or to be a doormat. To be good doesn’t mean to be well-liked. To be good doesn’t mean to have someone’s approval.

Okay, so what does it mean?

When I think of a good woman in media, I think of Sandra Bullock’s character in ‘The Blind Side’ (which if you haven’t seen you need to crawl out from under the rock you live under and check it out!). Based on a true story, we see this woman go against what was considered appropriate for someone like her (sophisticated, upper class, educated) in order do something good to help someone else. She was not taken advantage of nor did she do anything to please anyone else, she did the right thing.

She was not concerned that some of the things she said or how she said them offended others, she was not worried that people were somewhat scandalized by what she did…but she was undeniably good person. And that is attractive. More so than the self-centered litany that Elle King shares with us, more than closing yourself off or looking out only for yourself…goodness is attractive.

When we strive to be brave, and patient, and kind (don’t read nice), and hopeful and faithful…in short when we strive to love more, that is when we are most attractive and have the most to offer.

Maybe striving for goodness leaves more room for hurt and disappointment, love certainly is not without it’s pains, but when we persevere despite that, we achieve more than the ‘bad girl’ ever could. Caring is not a weakness, it opens doors for growth and fulfillment. Living for yourself, making decisions out of fear and hurt, it may sound glamorous when Elle King sings about it but the truth is we sell ourselves short. I want to be more. 

Elle King tells us what not to be: America’s sweetheart. I agree. I also will go a step further by saying what we could be which is more, which is good. More than someone who plays with the hearts of others and gives of themselves to no one.

I am not America’s sweetheart, nor do I want to be, it sounds exhausting. However I do strive to be good, to do good. If that makes me a ‘good girl,’ I can live with that.

Why Elle King shocked with ‘It’s Different for Girls’

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About six years ago I moved to the charming city of Charleston, South Carolina. For those unfamiliar with the area, Charleston has all the enchantment of an old city (cobblestone streets, picturesque buildings, etc.) combined with the beauty of the water (we’re about ten minutes away from the beach) and excellent cuisine (so many good restaurants). However, a significant flaw about the area which I discovered pretty quickly was that every person I knew loved country music.

Not me.

Six years later, I humbly admit (is it actually humble if you say it’s humble?) that I have come to enjoy country music quite a lot and listen to it frequently. I’m not really sure how the conversion happened, but here we are.

A song that came out a few months ago that especially caught my attention was one by Dierks Bentley featuring Elle King called ‘It’s Different for Girls’ (which incidentally was nominated for a Grammy this weekend). The reason why it shocked me is pretty obvious when you listen to the lyrics:

“It’s different for girls, nobody said it was fair: When love disappears, they can’t pretend it was never there.”

The song goes on to describe the differences between how men and women cope with break-ups:

“A guy gets drunk with his friends and he might hook up. Fast forward through the pain, pushing back when the tears come on…it’s different for girls.”

My first thought when I had heard the song was: “this is going to get a lot of backlash.”

In today’s hook-up culture that especially encourages women to put themselves out there and not get too attached, this song contradicts the popular notion that women can and should pursue casual encounters with men, becoming both physically and emotionally intimate without any commitment.

Not only that, but even more surprising was Ms. King agreeing with him, echoing the song’s controversial message with her lines:

“She don’t sleep all day and leave the house a wreck. She don’t have the luxury to let herself go…”

This is coming from the woman who is behind the hits: Ex’s and Oh’s and ‘America’s Sweetheart,’ both of which have very different perspectives from this country tune.

While I certainly am an advocate of all people being created equal, I do see where Dierks is coming from; after all, though men and women are equal, we are also different.

This is especially evident in our relationality (the importance we place on our relationships) and the way closeness with another person affects us deeply. We largely define ourselves by our relationships: with our family, our friends and our boyfriends/husbands.

That is not to say that men are unaffected by intimacy, rather because of the way we are made, even ‘casual’ intimacy (physical or emotional) touches women deeply, whether we want it to or not.

Part of that is due to a chemical called oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’ that is released after having sex, having a baby and even during more casual physical contact. This hormone is called the ‘love hormone’ because it creates a feeling of affection and trust in the person it is attached to.

Think of having a baby, how incredible of a miracle that is, the level of attachment that exists between mother and child. You don’t have to have experienced it personally to know that there is nothing more powerful than the love of a mother for her child. Safe to say, oxytocin is a powerful hormone. And in the right context, it’s an amazing thing. Oxytocin bonds people. So, even when you’re mad at your husband or frustrated with your daughter, there’s a deeper connection that goes beyond how you feel for them at the moment…it’s a chemical, biological bond.

However the trouble starts with the words we hear in Dierks Bentley and Elle King’s song.

We can’t just “fast forward through the pain, pushing back when the tears come on.”

We don’t say “it’s okay, I never loved him anyway.”

We might try; we might go out, drink too much, go home with another guy, max our credit cards, tell our friends we’re ‘over it’…but the truth lies in the tears that come when we’re alone, the unwanted memories, and the longing for the phone to ring.

Not only are we sad the person is gone, we’re frustrated that we aren’t okay about it. Days, weeks, months go by; we should be over it but we’re not. Why? Because we’re physically wired so that intimacy matters; is has a deep impact on our lives.

This is actually a pretty cool thing because we’re made to love and be loved; and love by definition has two components: exclusivity and permanency.

Therefore, anything less than that, for example  a one night stand or a five year marriage that ends in divorce…isn’t going to cut it. It’s not supposed to.

So what does this mean for us?

Emotionally, psychologically and physically we’re made for more…and that is what we should look for. Not a fling, not a rebound, not a guy who doesn’t know what he wants or isn’t ‘ready’ to commit. That is going to end in heartbreak, it’s not what we are made for.

Love is ultimately a gift of self…how can we give ourselves to someone who isn’t going to stick around? It’s similar to pouring money into an investment that is going to fail…not a smart decision.

We have to start expecting more from our relationships. There’s a lot of cynicism out there because of the high divorce rate and fewer and fewer people committing to each other for the long-term…it’s up to us to turn that around.

Romantic love can start from a healthy friendship, it can grow and flourish when we push through the fear and risk encountering someone and becoming close to them, not just using them for a more favorable relationship status or fleeting pleasure. But it starts with our expectations. If we expect a healthy, committed relationship, that is what we will attract. Of course this is harder to come by than a hook up but I think good things are worth waiting for.

As women we should honor ourselves by only accepting the kind of love we were made for…not anything less. I suspect more often than not, men respect that. They may not be able to always come through for us, but one day one will…and that’s all you need.

I know Valentine’s Day can be a sore subject for many of us, but I like to look at it hopefully. True romance is a beautiful gift and when we have the patience and courage to wait for it, we experience firsthand how powerful and wonderful it really is.

After all,

“There is no greater force against evil in the world than the love of a man and woman in marriage.” – Raymond Burke

Elle and Dierks may have caught us off guard with this song. I wouldn’t be surprised if some listeners were offended by their message; but Elle’s contribution adds credibility to what is already scientific fact. She sings from her personal experience as a woman which has taught her that it is different girls. And thank God it is, because our desire for authentic love is what centers us and men and is a reminder of what really matters.

Monday 5: Careless free time & other things I’m excited about

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Happy Monday!! I hope everyone had a relaxing couple of days. On Friday, my dad, who lives in NC, and my sister, who studies at USC, came to visit my brother and me. We had the best time, enjoying the excellent cuisine Charleston has to offer, the beautiful weather and just spending time together. My steadily improving health was also a plus.

I finally got a chance to visit the Angel Oak tree on John’s Island, so cool!

Of course all the excitement left me pretty worn out. Even coming up with this week’s five wasn’t easy! But I definitely felt more energized after than before, so I hope the list helps you with any lethargy you may be experiencing this morning too.

Otherwise coffee is also an option.

Recipe folder

This weekend my mom came back from a conference with a handful of magazines which I quickly went through looking for any recipes I might want to try. As much as I love Pinterest, I’m hoping to step up my cooking game a little and often Pinterest seems to focus on convenience as opposed to high-quality cuisine. While I love quick and easy recipes, I also would like to try something a little more challenging, even if it does take more time (and is more risky). Magazines such as Martha Stewart, Southern Living or Real Simple tend to have great recipes with various levels of difficulty. I’m starting to pull a few when I see one I want to try and am keeping them in my recipe folder to keep track of. It’s just a regular folder (I mean a pretty one, obvi)… labeled ‘MK’s Recipes’ but I’m really excited about it! As I attempt the various dishes I’ll post the good ones (that I don’t mess up).

Health initiative: baby steps

Being sick for so long really took a toll on my exercise and eating habits. Irregular appetite and low energy levels tend to do that. I realized as I started to feel better that getting back into my routine was going to be more challenging than I thought… turns out going to the gym isn’t as fun as I remembered. I therefore have been setting myself tiny goals to slowly improve and get back to where I was. Two weeks ago my goal was to go to the gym twice… which I did not accomplish (*embarrassed emoji*). But this past week I aimed for three workouts and made it! It’s not much, I know, but I’ve found slow, gradual improvements to be more effective and lasting than dramatic changes. There’s nothing like being sick to make you realize how incredibly valuable our health is; learning to nurture it is more of a lifelong journey than a New Year’s resolution, in my opinion. In any case, yay for baby steps!

Careless free time

I came across this term years ago. I remember picking up a book at Barnes & Noble about relationships when I was fifteen or so (I have always been a little too serious for my age) and read about careless free time and the important role it plays in healthy relationships. I have no idea what the title of the book was or who it was by (some psychologist I think) but I do remember vividly the term and it’s meaning… for some reason it came to mind this past week and I’m glad it did! The idea was that for relationships (of any kind) to flourish, careless free time is essential. This means time that isn’t spent watching a screen, a sporting event, or at a dinner party. It’s just time together unencumbered by a time limit or to-do list. For example, this weekend during the time I spent with my family perusing downtown, visiting the Angel Oak tree and walking by the waterfront, we weren’t checking the time, rushing, or watching TV…we were just together. And it was awesome! I think today we have a hard time with this concept as we feel pressured to be productive and to be available via phones 24/7, but the truth is without intentional time together focused on each other, it’s hard for any relationship to flourish.

Covergirl Outlast Stay Brilliant ‘Forever Festive’

On the more material side of things…I came across this nail polish just in time for Valentine’s day! It is a beautiful, deep red and has a thinner brush that is easier to maneuver. I typically don’t like to go with colors that aren’t neutral on my nails, but a good red is definitely the exception- so pretty! And perfect for date night.

Romance

Okay before you get all judgmental on me and say how incredibly cheesy that is, hear me out. Valentine’s day can be seen as a commercial gimmick invented to sell chocolate hearts and expensive flowers. But, Saint Valentine lived around 200 AD and is commemorated for marrying Christian couples (which was a no-no under Claudius in Rome) and converting individuals under persecution. Because it was so long ago, there isn’t too much known about him but I think in any case real romance is something to be celebrated. In today’s cynical ‘no strings attached’ culture, we sometimes forget that good and wholesome relationships are a thing; not using someone to feel better about yourself or avoid loneliness, but authentically encountering another person by developing a friendship that turns into a romantic relationship. Romance can partially be gifts and sweet words, but to me it’s even more so just getting to know the person, spending time with them and making each other a priority. Doing those things is risky (at least more so than hooking up or buying someone flowers) but then so was marrying Christians in 200 AD.