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

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

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

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

Family visiting

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

Meditation

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

This gyro recipe

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

Obedience

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

This quote

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

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

xo

Miranda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What we can learn from the evolution of Taylor Swift

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I still remember where I was when I heard one of Taylor Swift’s songs for the first time. I was riding in the back of a neighbor’s minivan and my friend showed me the CD case of her debut album as we listened to ‘Teardrops on my Guitar.’ I liked her music right away and from then on was an enthusiastic ‘Swiftie (Swifty?).’

Most of Taylor’s early tunes involve her liking someone, longing for them, enjoying and admiring them, or breaking up with them. As a fourteen year old, I related to her thoughts quite a bit. Even as I got older I continued to enjoy her songs and got so excited each time a new single or album was released. I remember freshman year of college gushing about ‘Red’ with my friends and two years later listening to ‘1989’ on repeat.

Over the years, you can definitely notice a shift away from the country style she started out with to a more pop sound. Not only that, but as Taylor got older, her lyrics also lost some of their hopefulness and sweetness that are so prevalent in her early songs like ‘Love Story’ or ‘Fearless’ or ‘Hey Stephen.’

Her song ‘Blank Space’ made this especially evident as she mocks the reputation given to her by the media of being a psycho man eater who preys on a guy any chance she gets. I remember watching the music video in a music class junior year of college and being in awe of the dark humor we hadn’t really seen before.

This change of tone was also clear in her song ‘Bad Blood’ with a threatening music video to accompany it; now the difference is especially vivid with her newest release, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ which would give a younger me nightmares.

Taylor Swift certainly knows what she’s doing as an artist. Everything she does she does very well, she clearly has a vision and carries it out faithfully. Her tunes are catchy and communicate clearly what she wants to say with each song and video…it is admirably intentional. Not only that, but especially the last two albums have been sensational, meaning they have created a sensation. People talk about it, whether you like her, hate her, think she’s overrated…you’ve probably had a conversation about her newest release.

While I admire her work and can enjoy her latest hits, this last album especially has made me nostalgic for the sweet, romantic Taylor we first met. I think growing up in the spotlight has to be really tough, and I think her experiences have made Taylor Swift a lot more jaded. Even behind the scenes you see her joking around, playing it cool, not wanting to take anything too seriously.

Seeing her change you could say that this is what happens to all of us as we get older. We realize that life isn’t always peachy, we get hurt, we learn from it, we become more realistic…we grow up.

Maybe you can say that 27 year old T-Sizzle is a lot more mature than her 16-year-old self, and I’m sure you’re right; but I wouldn’t say that her outlook on life is somehow superior now than it was 10 years ago.

Her songs now express a hurt that has been caused by friends who turned on her, criticisms she’s received and repeated heartbreak. We see this in her lyrics that denounce romance and instead pronounce relationships as little more than games to be played (Are You Ready For it).

I think to an extent we all experience these sort of wounds over the course of our lives, but I guess I’m not sure becoming hard and cynical is the answer. I think as children we’re really good at trusting, we’re highly dependent on others. As we get older we become more independent and often reluctant to rely on others for anything. We have our own dreams, our own goals, our own needs and wants that don’t require someone else’s help. As long as we can get the job, buy the house, run the marathon, travel…we’re satisfied, complete, invulnerable.

I wonder, though, if those ‘acquisitions’ are enough to fulfill our desire for intimacy. I wonder if we let someone in, we could someday prove that the new Taylor Swift isn’t 100% right in denouncing love. I wonder if our dreams and goals are things we can share and work toward with another person. I wonder if maybe the young Taylor had it right and just got a little misguided on her rise to fame. I wonder if that’s what happens to all of us (minus the fame).

Maybe Taylor Swift isn’t as cynical as her new songs imply, I hope that is the case. Being open to loving and being loved by other people is possibly the most important part of our lives, hurt is inevitable but I don’t think we would ever want heartbreak to have the final word.

Recently I’ve been listening a lot to singer/songwriter Alanna Boudreau. In her song ‘I’ll be your Woman’, she says:

“Keep your affection in boxes, keep your heart free, that’s what they told you those sly foxes but that don’t faze me.”

Isn’t that so true though? We are told that, whether it’s by Taylor Swift, media, our friends or family or even our own experiences…we’re told to be on guard and I think that may be causing more harm than good. If we’re always looking out for ourselves we’ll miss the opportunity to experience the joy that comes from deep communion with others, from self-gift and from really knowing and being known by another person.

I may sing along with Taylor Swift’s newest, catchy hits, but I hope I live my life a little more like the teenager who sung about dancing in the rain and eyes that are like the jungle.

 

 

*Picture taken on our way to Sullivan’s Island while listening/singing along to some old school Taylor*

Unprotected: Why contraception isn’t enough

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Today we we’re generally very safety oriented. Speed limits, hand sanitizing stations, screen protectors, phone codes, childlock, birth control…prevention prevention prevention.

All these precautions have the good intention of protecting us from potential danger, and most do this effectively. Birth control is somewhat of an anomaly in that it does prevent (generally) women from getting pregnant, but it doesn’t really protect us. In fact, it actually has the opposite effect.

The reason is that there are ramifications to sex that aren’t pregnancy, or even STD’s, and a pill or condom is simply not enough to cover all the bases.

The weird thing about sex is that even though it’s a physical thing, it very much affects us emotionally and psychologically as well.

The human person is so integrated that it’s impossible to separate the physical from the emotional or the emotional from the psychological. Think about how much better you feel when you are working out regularly and eating well, your mood improves and you think more clearly. When you’re sleep deprived you’re a lot more likely to break down in tears because you feel stressed and overwhelmed than when you’ve had a good night’s rest.

Sex is an excellent example of how united we really are. There is a connection or bond that forms in sex that lasts beyond the act itself – a bond that isn’t merely physical. We know this because it has been studied a fair amount.

In the book that is linked we learn how a campus counselor witnessed the damage ‘safe sex’ is doing to our young women. Intelligent, driven, beautiful women are being overwhelmed by depression and anxiety that is largely due to the attachment resulting from detached sex. Birth control does not provide safety from the pain resulting from the tearing apart a unity made in a sexual act by someone who is not truly committed to that unity.

Just to be clear, the attachment itself is in actuality a very good thing because within marriage, that bond is essential. If we are to be with someone for the rest of our lives we certainly want to be connected to them in an intimate way emotionally and physically. We don’t just want to chat with them the way we share with our girlfriends, it has to be more than that, more complete.

Sex is inherently a wonderful thing, it is also extremely powerful. But like any good thing, it can also be dangerous (similar to a jar of Nutella in the pantry).

The problem arises when we form this bond with someone who is not around for the long term. As a necessary result of sex we can feel intimately connected with someone, and when they are no longer in our lives, we suffer a deep loss as a result. Our judgement can become clouded because we feel so close to someone and will do just about anything to protect that relationship (again, something that is so essential in marriage); without knowing if they will choose us for the rest of our lives or whether we should really be with them.

Birth control makes this attachment outside of marriage a lot more feasible. If we’re not worried about getting pregnant the ‘risk’ of having sex is seemingly minimal. And you may say that people sleep with their boyfriend or girlfriend and break up down the road and survive…no damage done.

Humans have the ability to become desensitized; to weird smells, annoying background noises and even to the powerful effects of sex. And unfortunately, though you may think this solves the problem, it actually creates a different one. The reason is that when someone who has had past attachments repeatedly broken, if they then do get married, that bond which is so necessary in a spousal relationship isn’t as effective. 

If someone makes a promise to you and then breaks it, you’re less likely to believe them the second time around. Similarly, our bodies intelligently form a defense mechanism to protect us from suffering that can result from bonding. Therefore, when we really need that bonding to come into play, we have difficulty forming that deep bond because it has been broken so many times before.

Yes, birth control ‘protects’ us from pregnancy, but it doesn’t prevent us from attaching to someone that maybe we shouldn’t have that level of attachment with. And it doesn’t stop that bond from losing it’s strength when we most need it. Contraception is considered to provide us with ‘safe sex’, but to me the safest sex is the kind that is with the one person you have vowed to be with ’til death do you part.

To most of us the idea of waiting util marriage to have sex is outdated at best and comical at worst. We have become increasingly cynical of marriage and so we resort to sleeping and living together as a pseudo-married life. I wonder what would happen if as as individuals and as a society we started to value sex as something beautiful and necessary, something precious to our families. I wonder if we would have more faith in marriage if more of them lasted because we’re bonded to our spouse in a special way.

I wonder if we saw that contraception just isn’t enough to save us from the risks of something as powerful as sexual intimacy, how we would benefit from treating it as the incredible gift that it is.

Monday 5: Relationships edition

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The first picture I ever posted of Nicholas and me was shortly after our first date when we met up in Raleigh, NC six months ago. It was a great date, especially considering we had only hung out a total of 3 or 4 times before then and hadn’t seen each other in three months.

While cute, the picture didn’t quite depict the whole…picture. On the way to the train station (where the pic was taken) I had broken down into tears when Nicholas told me he was excited about our relationship…#irrational. Moments after we took the pic, I got on the wrong train…oops.

As an avid social media user, I can be the first to admit that our Instagram or Facebook posts can make everything look so peachy and mysteriously leave out the messy or unpleasant parts of our lives. I don’t post photos of my crying when I take something Nicholas says or does the wrong way, there’s no Instagram story of the stony silences that occur when we’re upset with each other, no captions voice the concerns or doubts or disagreements we’ve had.

I say all this not to give the impression that our relationship is actually awful but because it’s real…warts and all (figurative warts of course…we both have perfect skin thankyouverymuch).

In celebration of the past six months, here are the top 5 things I’m excited about regarding our relationship (and relationships in general). Not all of it is ‘Instragram worthy’, but that’s kind of the point.

Forgiveness

At least four or five times a week I have to sincerely apologize to Nicholas for something. Whether it’s being too quick to judge, or not giving the benefit of the doubt, or assuming the worst, or being a little too brutally honest…there have been plenty of occasions for me to gulp down my humble pie and for Nicholas to practice the virtue of forgiveness. Similarly, I have had to forgive Nicholas when he makes a careless comment or hurts my feelings in some fashion which happens frequently since I am the most Sensitive Sally. It’s been cool to see us forgive each other over and over again. Reconciliation has become one of our strong suits and I have a feeling it will come in handy often.

Selflessness

‘You do you’ has become such a common saying today, and despite it’s casual nature, I think it can be a dangerous mindset. We really shouldn’t just do us. If love is willing the good of the other then there isn’t room for us to simply pick what we prefer…someone else’s well-being is at stake. There are so many times that I have to choose what is best for him over what I want in that particular moment. Whether it’s something trivial like talking to him in the car when I really want to just listen to music, or something more serious, I often have to give up what I want for him. As ‘woe is me’ as that may sound, where rubber meets the road in love is sacrifice and self gift…and I know he often has to do the same. I also think it comes more naturally over time…fingers crossed.

Celebrations

Each month Nicholas and I celebrate our ‘monthaversary’ as well as the day we became exclusive without having gone on any dates – we call it Charleston-Cleveland (or CC for short) Alliance Day. On those days we make sure to do something special, whether it’s wearing our Ohio Against the World t-shirts, or going to dinner or just grabbing a beer. I keep pictures of random days we spent together as well as special occasions in a scrapbook to commemorate our good times. I think celebrating these little, seemingly meaningless milestones adds so much joy to our lives and reminds us to focus on the good.

Growth

An important goal for the two of us from the beginning has been that of personal growth. It’s so easy to get comfortable and become complacent in our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual lives; so we try to avoid that by reading stimulating/inspiring books together, exercising, making time for prayer….things that are easy to let slide if we don’t hold each other accountable. When we have this goal that is bigger than ourselves, it adds meaning to our relationship and helps guide our decisions in a healthy way.

Sharing

One of my favorite parts of our relationship is our shared life together (in the context of what’s appropriate for dating). We started texting each other every couple of weeks or so when we first became friends, then texting every week, then almost every day. From there we moved to daily phone calls (often 2-3 a day) and Facetime sessions. Finally we got to visit each other and spend time together for days at a time. Now living in the same town, we aim to see each other every day; whether it’s visiting friends or family, working out, grabbing a beer, eating dinner…we strive to stick together. There are things we can’t do together (coffee dates with my girlfriends, tennis with his buddies) but generally we try to make each other a priority and share in our thoughts, memories, opinions, hopes and experiences.

I feel incredibly grateful for every minute of the past few months (even the painful, crying ones). The photogenic moments of our relationship are vastly outnumbered by the hard, painful, uncomfortable, tense, awkward and boring ones, but it brings me a lot of peace knowing that we are not choosing this because it is easy, but because we both genuinely hope it could be worth it.

Here’s to relationships that aren’t nearly as perfect as the pictures that depict them.

xo

Miranda

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?