The Ache

Someone asked me today if all my posts on social media were an accurate representation of my life.

I had to think about that.

To an extent, yes. I don’t ever lie on there. I just post whatever I’m doing, or sometimes things that relate to how I’m feeling at a particular moment.

I guess the hesitancy about answering the question lies behind the reality that social media only portrays a very small part of the truth.

I couldn’t possibly post everything that was going on all the time, or every little thing I did (I think I would bore people to death), much less all I’m experiencing interiorly.

So to an extent, no. It’s not an accurate representation of my life.

I mean yeah, I do fun things. I am with people, I go new places and spend a lot of time outside. I have a beautiful apartment and live close to a park and enjoy reading…I have a good life.

But what I don’t post, what you can’t see is this constant feeling that follows me around. Wherever I go, whatever I’m doing, it stalks me like an unwanted suitor.

It’s an ache, a longing, a dull pain that never quite goes away. Even while I do the fun things, spend time with good people, work, move from one thing to the next…it never quite goes away.

It’s this mysterious, heavy suspicion that something is missing.

Sometimes it threatens to overwhelm me with pain and frustration; such a horrible feeling. Made even worse by the fact that I do have a good life, that I have nothing (or at least very little) lacking.

What is it?

Some may say it’s depression, or spiritual desolation. Some people would recommend seeing a psychologist (I do), or praying regularly (check).

So why doesn’t anything work? Why does this ache continue to haunt me? Why, when I have friends and family and a fulfilling job and physical health and material wealth and spiritual nourishment – am I still suffering?

I’m not sure, honestly.

I think part of it is just the reality that we’re made for more than this life, and because of that we will never quite be fulfilled here…we’re not supposed to be.

I also think, maybe, possibly, that part of it is longing for my vocation.

I believe we’re called to something. We’re here, not just because we are wanted – willed into existence – but also for a purpose. In other words, we’re here to do something. This something is for our good. Our peace, our joy, our fulfillment.

Again, not complete – not the way we will be After – but to a degree. And the way we know we have a purpose, is that we long for it.

Otherwise, if someone came up to us and said ‘hey you’re supposed to do this,’ we’d probably just reply ‘I’m good.’

Right now, I’m living for myself – and it is wholly unsatisfying, empty. I long to be a gift of self, to live for others in the most meaningful – to me – way. I don’t want to be my own. I want to belong, to serve, to love. I want to have the best friend, the companion to do life with. I want to love them entirely and be known and seen. I want to have a home and to be a home. I want someone to adventure with. I want someone to pray with and to laugh with.

Desire is – at its purest – a good thing.

But it hurts.

Every time I think I’ve gotten a step closer to having this desire met, I’ve been unceremoniously shoved back to where I was. No explanations, no glimpses of what is to come…just hurt and crushing disappointment.

I often get angry. I don’t want to want this. It seems unfair that I have no choice in the matter.

I have to sit, and wait. And I don’t like waiting. I’m incredibly impatient. I like living. I like doing and experiencing. And I desperately want to do all the things I do in peace, without this ache that no number of outings and adventures and fun nights and shopping sprees will ease.

It’s infuriating, and heartbreaking.

I fall into this cycle of attempting to convince myself I’m fine, and then feeling angry that I’m not and then desperately sad because I feel so helpless and confused.

Why why why.

I have to believe it is for a reason. I have to believe that this desire is so strong because it is inevitably going to be fulfilled.

I don’t know when, I don’t know how.

And honestly, I could be wrong.

Maybe I’ll live my whole life waiting for this ache to go away.

But there’s nothing I can do about it. I have to surrender to the reality that I’m a creature, I am not in control of everything.

And I’m not giving up, either.

At least for now, I am holding on to the hope that this ache – this longing – doesn’t exist to make me miserable; it is there as an indicator of why I’m here – a reminder of what I’m meant for: to be loved and known, deeply and intimately.

I doubt this constantly and often talk myself out of this way of thinking, but as of right now I’ve continued to come back to this conclusion.

In any case, I want to make the most of where I’m at, here and now. I know I can’t make this ache go away. But life is still good, it’s still worth living fully.

I think a good antidote to the hopelessness I often feel is gratitude. Overwhelming awe at the fact that I’m here, I’m alive, I’m healthy, I can love, I can laugh and run and cry and sing and travel and read and write.

That’s worth celebrating, I think.

So no, social media isn’t the most accurate representation of my life. It doesn’t show this deep yearning, the stubborn ache I live with or the suffering that accompanies me day in and day out.

But now you know, and I’m still here, I still have a good life. And I think if I can trust that this longing exists to be fulfilled – how beautiful and wonderful it will be when it finally, finally is.

My eyes are open,
My heart is beating,
My lungs are full,
And my body’s breathing.
I’m moving forward.

Dear God, grant me honesty.

xo

Miranda Kate

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

For possibly the first time in over a year, this past Friday night I made zero plans. I went to bed at 9pm and woke up almost twelve hours later. It was amazing. Saturday was also very restful with a tiny bit of productivity mixed in there (yay for errands). My friend Juliana came over and we made empanadas (a Latin American dish similar to enchiladas…but not the same. It’s not the same, people).

We had so much fun catching up (she lives in Connecticut during the school year) and we went dancing after! Nicholas joined us for that which made it even better.

Sunday was fun since my sister was home briefly so the gang was back together for brunch before church. Love love love.

I hope your weekend was fun and restful! Oh! And happy MLK day!!! Hopefully most of you have Monday off and will enjoy that too.

Apart from a long weekend, here are a few other things I’m excited about this week.

Dance classes

I am so glad I can finally talk about this! For weeks I’ve had to keep it a secret and now I can finally share! For Nicholas’ Christmas gift I got us dance classes! We went to our first private lesson Tuesday and Wednesday we had a group class and a ‘social’ afterward. I was a little nervous at how he would react (I don’t think many guys ask Santa for dance classes with their girlfriend) but he was pleased! It was fun (if a little awkward) and super helpful to have someone give us instruction. I think dancing is a good analogy for relationships in general. Sometimes it is awkward and it takes a lot of practice. Learning to navigate the steps with someone is really similar to learning to navigate the ins and out of being in relationship with another person. It is a skill that can be acquired if one is willing to put forth the time and effort necessary; and the result can be beautiful. We have another lesson this week which will be our last, hopefully our increased confidence will encourage us to go and dance more often!

Sleep spray

This may seem a little silly, but one of my Christmas gifts this year was a ‘Deep Sleep Pillow Spray‘ that I’ve been using and love it. It smells soo good! And relaxing. My sleeping recently has gotten a lot better (such a relief) and this spray has made me look forward to bedtime even more. I am a huge advocate of good rest and I think anything that makes it more enjoyable/attainable is a great thing.

Afternoon tea

Mom and I are planning a mother/daughter date to go to high tea! Growing up it was such a treat when we went to one of the nicer hotels that hosted an afternoon tea and I’ve been wanting to do so again for a while now. Dressing up, eating tiny sandwiches and drinking hot tea is such a nice way to spend an afternoon every now and then. I started watching the Crown too which has rekindled my love for everything British..including afternoon tea!

Zumba

A rather humbling experience I had this weekend was attending my first Zumba class. I was so lost 99% of the time but enjoyed it nonetheless! I have basically zero hand/eye coordination but I’m hoping this will help me improve as well as get a better feel for feeling the beat of the music (another eternal struggle). I love the instructor at the class we go to and the Latin music makes it even better. It’s a fun, different way of getting exercise and I’m really excited to keep going Saturday mornings!

Year of Grace

Pope Francis declared 2018 the Year of Grace and I am so grateful. Something I’ve become uncomfortably aware of this past year is how often I need others to extend grace to me. And how often I need to show grace to myself. Making mistakes -sometimes the same ones over and over- is an inevitable part of life. The faster and more lovingly we can forgive ourselves and others, the more we can empathize and show compassion, the more our capacity to love grows. I can do very little without supernatural grace; especially loving myself or others. 2018 is going to be the year for us to practice receiving and sharing the grace that is available to us; something that improved our lives immeasurably.

Here’s to being just a little more grace-full today.

xo

Miranda

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

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Weekends are just the best. Especially ones when you’re not sick and can do things! Friday night I went out with a couple of girlfriends to a spot called Gene’s Haufbrau (oldest bar in Charleston!) and then to a wine and cheese restaurant in West Ashley. We enjoyed some much needed girl time.

Saturday after getting some housework done, Nicholas and I rode bikes to our friend Sara’s house to watch part of the Clemson game. After halftime we left to ride more around Old Village. That night we enjoyed a bonfire on the beach with some friends. Sunday we went to Mass at the cathedral (such a beautiful service!) and then went to a coffee shop called Kudu to get some work done. Sunday evening we helped out with the high school youth group.

It was such a lovely weekend with an extra hour of sleep!! I hope you were able to take advantage and get some rest.

Here is this week’s five, I hope they put some pep into your Monday or at least help you think of your own five!

Gratitude jar

Of course November is a good month to recall all we are grateful for. To make this a little easier, I made a mason jar our ‘gratitude jar’ where we put in post-it notes with what we are grateful for that particular day. At the end of the month we’ll read them out loud to remind us of all that we have to be thankful for!

Hygge

Last week I got to catch up with my friend Bernadette (shout out!) who is living a couple hours away from me with her husband and new baby! One concept she introduced me to is called ‘hygge’, (pronounced huggah) it’s a danish term that means ‘cozy’ or ‘charming’. The idea is to find ways to make your home (or work place) warm and inviting. Whether it’s changing how you arrange your furniture or something as simple as lighting a candle or turning on a lamp, we can make adjustments to bring ‘hygge’ into our everyday lives. I love this concept and am so excited to implement it. I think coziness is such a lovely attribute that brings so much joy and comfort!

Lifestyle changes

For any of you out there who struggle with anxiety, I am right there with you. It really has been tough to battle the distressing thoughts and sometimes overwhelming fears that take over. Nicholas and I have discussed extensively what to do about it and this week we’ve decided to work on making some lifestyle improvements that are supposed to also help with anxiety. Of course, it’s mainly for me but he’s willing to do it with me in order to have some accountability. Some of those changes include getting 8.5 hours of sleep a night, exercising every day (*gulp*) and reducing caffeine intake (!!!). I’m really hoping some of these changes will help and will let you know if they are effective! If anyone has some other tips out there please share!

Boundaries

On the note of anxiety, another helpful tool for me has been the idea of having boundaries with your thoughts. That may seem a little weird, to have boundaries with yourself; but the idea is that when a fear comes to mind, instead of letting it loose and it then wrecking havoc in your head, choosing to set a boundary by simply dismissing the fear altogether. Right off the bat, just saying ‘nope, not gonna go there.’ Shutting down the fear instead of exploring it can be really helpful. The trouble isn’t so much the thoughts themselves as much as what we do with them.

Forgiveness

Something I’m coming to realize more and more is the number of times we have to forgive and be forgiven. It happens so often that I have to let something go, whether I feel like it or not. Even more often is the number of times I have to sincerely apologize for saying or doing something I know I shouldn’t have. Forgiveness is really difficult sometimes, but it’s easier when we remember how many times we have messed up and relied on someone else’s willingness to let it go. This week I want to be me proactive about letting the small things go and giving people the benefit of the doubt, especially since I know the same has been done for me over and over.

xo

Miranda

Monday 5: Being steadfast & other things to be excited about this week.

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Another weekend come and gone! Friday evening my sister came into town for the weekend, we had a nice time exploring Fort Moultrie with a couple of her friends Saturday morning. I love doing the touristy things when people come to visit!

We also went to one of my favorite restaurants here in Mount Pleasant, called Vickery’s which is by the water and has delicious seafood.

This past week was a restful one as I had not one but two days off unexpectedly! Pretty sweet. I could have been a lot more productive with my time off but it was certainly nice to have time that I could make for those things that normally don’t fit in your schedule (like talking to your grandma and attempting homemade bread).

I hope this week is a good one, here are five things I’m excited about that I wanted to share!

Kale and pasta recipe

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to stray (just a little) from my Pinterest tendencies and explore recipes from cookbooks and magazines. This was one I found in the February issue of Bon Appetit and loved it! It’s pretty simple, the main ingredients are a thick pasta and kale with a fair amount of black pepper. I like that it did include kale (which I’m not a huge fan of) and that it used a type of pasta that I hadn’t tried before. I think it’s a great dish for a weekday that you don’t have a lot of time but want something that is yummy and semi-nutritious.

Something I’m good at

Okay I know I put a song in last week’s Monday 5 but I couldn’t help myself…I’m obsessed with Brett Eldredge’s newest release ‘Somethin’ I’m Good At.’ It’s so funny! And catchy and just a happy tune that makes me smile. It’s different from most country songs on the radio right now and I just love how upbeat and happy-go-lucky it is.

Party hats

Last week I went to Old Navy and while waiting in line to pay I saw these adorable party hats by Meri Meri. Hosting a good party is a skill I hope to nurture and develop more over time and I think it is often all about the details. These hats are definitely one of those fun, cutesy things that add more flavor and character to events. The colors are really pretty and I love the sparkle at the bottom! It turns out Meri Meri has some pretty great party favors, definitely worth a look before your next event!

Homemade bread!!!

Okay if the exclamation points didn’t give it away, I’m really excited about this one. A goal I recently set for myself is learning how to make delicious homemade bread. Growing up my grandmother had the best homemade bread and eating it when we went to visit her was an absolute treat. I feel like making bread is one of those lost arts that people don’t make time for anymore and I think it’s too bad. There’s something really rewarding about putting time and effort (kneading is hard!) into something special to share with others. After chatting with my grandmother for about half an hour just about the directions in the recipe she uses, I felt more confident going into my project (wouldn’t it be great if we could do that with Martha Stewart?!). I didn’t have super high expectations but I was really pleased with the results. While not as good as my grandmother’s, the bread I made was yummy and had a great texture. I hope to keep refining this skill and share some of the love with people I know!

Steadfast-ness

So it turns out steadfast isn’t meant to be a noun…just an adjective. But steadfast is such a great word. It means ‘resolutely or dutifully unwavering’ (definition courtesy of Google). I know I can often be driven by a momentary emotion or thought; so for example, if I think in the morning, ‘it would nice to have smoothie today,’ I’ll often go out of my way to get a smoothie, whether I really should or not. Or if I get irritated by something small or feel uncertainty about something, I’ll make my next decision based on what I feel at that moment…as opposed to allowing the feeling to pass before acting. This can become unhealthy especially when it comes to strong emotions like fear and big decisions. I like the idea of being steadfast because I think of it as a more integrated way to be. Instead of acting based on one feeling or thought, you take into consideration the whole picture and use logic in addition to emotion. I guess something I’d like to work on is being more steadfast, allowing a thought to be just a thought and a feeling to be just a feeling before making decisions based on things that aren’t necessarily the whole truth.

Happy Monday!

xo

Miranda

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

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Happy Monday! Today came a little too soon this week but I know writing about the things I’m excited about or looking forward to helps me muster up a little more enthusiasm about the new week.

This weekend I was able to get in my share of social time. I caught up with friends over dinner, at birthday celebrations and during bonfires! Probably my favorite part of the weekend, though, was going out to walk on the beach with my mom. We got some #carelessfreetime in and it was lovely (and a little rebellious).

I hope your weekend was enjoyable and that your Monday isn’t too painful. Here is this week’s five, in case you need a little bit of inspiration today (or just something to distract you from work for five minutes).

All This Time by One Republic

I love this song and have recently been listening to it more frequently. I’ve really enjoyed music from One Republic for several years now and this song by them is probably one of my favorites. The lyrics and tune are so sweet and the message offers a nice alternative to the more cynical songs we hear a lot of today.

 

March!!!

I am so excited that March is starting this week. I absolutely love Spring and it is one of the best times of year to be here in Charleston. Typically the tourists don’t come until early summer but the weather is just beautiful…so we really get the best of both worlds for a little bit. I’m also excited that the time change is this month and the days will really start to get longer! There are so many opportunities to spend time outdoors around here, I’m excited that the weather will be even more conducive to that in the upcoming weeks, #yayspring.

 

Lent

Lent is a period of forty days before Easter when many Christians make a sacrifice as a way of preparing for the upcoming celebration. The idea is that giving something up that may not help you spiritually/emotionally/physically is a good chance for personal growth. I actually really love Lent because it gives me the opportunity to really focus in on something that I may need to work on but haven’t had the time/motivation to before. I’ve always found this time to be a great practice of discipline that continues to be fruitful way after Lent is over.

 

Tennis shoes

So I realize tennis shoes have been back in for a while. But as someone who tends to be a little stuck in my ways, it’s only been more recently that I’ve started wearing them. I now love my white Keds and think it is so fun to pair them with a sundress or skirt! I love that they add a fun, childlike aspect to an outfit without being tacky or inappropriate. So cute!

 

Trustful surrender

Anxiety is a word we hear thrown around a lot and I certainly understand the battle. What I’m slowly (think glacier pace) starting to understand is that anxiety is a result of a lack of trust…a need to control. The  fact is that while we have the gift of free will, there is little else we can control outside the realm of our own actions. At some point we have to come to terms with this and realize we have two options: stress or submit. Certainly there are a million ways things can go wrong and a million more we can get hurt, but anticipating them doesn’t do much other than cause distress prematurely. I have found that a lot of the things I worried would happen…didn’t. And often acting from fear that something will happen, actually causes it to take place, #selffulfillingprophecy. The antidote to this is a letting go, what is called a ‘trustful surrender’ to whatever outcome occurs, hoping for the best and doing what we can to make it happen. I think a lot more good comes from acting from place of trust than doubt. This has been a hard-earned lesson for me and one I continue to struggle with, but I’m excited for the opportunity to grow in trust.

Here’s to another exciting week!

xo

Miranda

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.

 

 

 

Monday 5: Boundaries & other things I’m excited about

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Woohoo it’s Monday!
I’m sure this is exactly what crossed your mind this morning when your alarm rudely interrupted your sleep.
It’s true that Monday’s are not fun; but I think a good attitude can change the most dire of situations…even a serious case of the Monday’s.

Monday’s are a #cleanslate. We start a new day, a new week with new opportunities to grow, change and accomplish our goals. It’s exciting!
I know that excitement can feel a little out of reach this morning…to help out I make a list of 5 things I genuinely feel enthusiastic about. Even though you and I may not be excited about the same things (although if you are, you’re like, really cool) this list may help bring to mind a few things you’re excited about!

  1. Boundaries.

    I love to give. Give my time, give my advice (whether others want it or not), give my energy and encouragement…however, recently I’ve been learning the importance of knowing my own limits: both physical and emotional. An important part of self-care is being aware of and respecting your own limits and working with them; not against or around them. Whether that means saying no to a friend when they want to get coffee so you can have some ‘me’ time, or refusing to let yourself get pulled into someone else’s pity party, or declining to eat cake even though your sweet grandmother is insisting on it…whatever the case may be, it is important to have some boundaries around yourself. You (and no one else) are responsible for taking care of you; and part of that is guarding yourself (your time, your energy, your emotions) from the demands of others. This book is helping me learn to do just that.

  2. These Jacks.

    This was another sweet buy during my shopping trip in Atlanta last weekend. This wonderful re-sale shop called Labels has 3 shops in the same block- one of which is just for shoes. I found these Jack Rodgers there and have absolutely loved them. Cute, comfy and completely versatile, these are definitely a new favorite.

  3. Chocolate banana bread

    My friend introduced me to this recipe for chocolate banana bread this weekend and I can’t wait to try it out. It was super delicious and only a little unhealthy. #yesplease.

  4. sky-gazing.

    We’ve all heard of star-gazing; and if you’re like me, it makes you think of a romantic scene like in Nicholas Spark’s ‘A Walk to Remember’ with a dreamy guy and hot chocolate to accompany the activity. However, a friend of mine introduced the idea (via Instagram) of ‘sky-gazing.’ As the term implies, this consists of  just laying on your back and looking up at the sky. This weekend I tried this at Mepkin Abbey (a monastery about an hour outside Charleston) and immediately was amazed at the therapeutic value of this. There is something miraculously healing about this; of remembering how small we really are and how temporary our problems, our feelings and our fears are. The truth is you are just one person, responsible for your life and no one else’s. Not your friend’s, not your parents’, not your boyfriend’s…just you. All you can do is your best (knowing sometimes we will fail even at this) and accept the high’s and low’s that make life the rich adventure that it is.

  5. Johnny Stecchino.

    One of my favorite parts about college was taking Italian for 4 semesters. I love learning about different cultures, and Italy certainly has a satisfyingly rich one to accompany it’s beautiful language. As part of the classes, the Italian department at Clemson (go Tigers) would put on Italian movies throughout the semester for us to watch and discuss. One of these was Johnny Stecchino. One of my absolute favorites, there are few things that have made me laugh as hard as this Robert Benigni film. Last night, after several months of pleading, my family watched it with me; definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already (just make sure you get a version with subtitles).

Hope these things help brighten up your Monday, or at least make you think of things that do. Here’s to a fresh start!

xo

Miranda

The most important commitment you’ll ever make

man on hillToday we hear a lot about young adults and our fear of commitment. As a generation, millennials tend to switch jobs more often, wait longer to get married and to buy a home. Various sources list different reasons for this. Some say it’s because we value lifestyle over economic stability (i.e. we’d rather be able to have a job that allows us more flexibility than get paid more), others say that we simply can’t afford to get married, or buy a car or a home (potentially due to our emphasis on flexibility > pay). And then there’s those who say it all comes down to our fear of commitment itself.

As a millennial who knows a lot of other millennials, I would say that each of these reasons may factor in to an extent. And while the fact that we may have a fear of committing- especially to other people- is slightly concerning, there is another commitment I’ve come to learn is actually more important.

Commitment to ourselves.

Ooooohhh, what’s that?

I’ll tell you.

As an avid reader myself, one of my favorite online publications is called Verily Magazine. All about lifestyle, relationships & health. I love how the contributors offer refreshing perspectives on today’s various issues and challenges and how we can face them with grace and a good attitude.

A few months ago, I emailed one of the Verily contributors named Zach Brittle. For a while I read Zach’s column called Intentional Marriage. I love his style and the great advice he offers as a marriage counselor. Even though I am not married, I  have always found relationships fascinating and love learning about what makes for a healthy marriage (#goals, amiright).

I decided to email Zach because I had recently entered into my first relationship and had a question that  I felt required a more experienced perspective. My question was this:
How can I be more selfish?

I know that may seem like an odd question – it kind of is – but it is also one that I feel is highly relevant and valid. When we start dating someone, I think a lot of us have a tendency to make the other person a priority over pretty much everything else…including ourselves. Family, friends, extra-curricular activities and self-care take the backseat as we focus on this new person who we want to learn more about – which requires a fair amount of time and energy.

The thing is, you can’t expect to enter into a relationship with someone and not expect your life to change. So where do you draw the line? How do you ensure you’re being fair to the other person and your relationship while also staying true to who you are and what you need. We can’t expect to be fulfilled by the other person; to do so would be a) not possible and b) unfair to the other person – so essentially incredibly unhealthy and a recipe for disaster.

nbd

Zach’s response was both very wise and very generous- not to mention super helpful. His main point was this:
Before you can commit to someone else, you have to be committed to yourself.

What does this mean?

In his words: ‘Crafting a plan for how to take care of your mind, your body, your heart, your soul.’

Genius, right?

How are you committing to yourself? What is your plan to challenge yourself intellectually, your plan to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually? A plan that you make and stick to. A commitment you make to and for yourself- not for anyone else.

Zach emphasized that really my question was about self-care, which is NOT selfish because it allows us to love the other person without any strings attached. 

You’re no longer looking to the other person to feel confident or to make you happy (again, not possible), but rather appreciating them simply for who they are. After all, isn’t that what we want, too?

We don’t want to be needed, we want to be wanted.

This topic is supremely important to me and a challenge I’ve decided to accept whole-heartedly. I hope you’ll consider doing the same, as your future (or current) s/o will thank you. I may even post this plan at a later date- please feel free to share any commitments you make for yourself! I’d love to hear about it.

Yes, our generation may face a fear of commitment, but that won’t end until we learn to commit to ourselves first.

Thanks, Zach.

Lizzie McGuire and what she got right about our thoughts

What are you thinking about right now?

I’m sure part of you is focused on this article and wondering where this is going. You may also be simultaneously asking yourself if you’re hungry enough to eat the rest of your breakfast, or if you should stop reading this and do something more productive (definitely not), or regretting not going to the gym this morning, or worrying about work/school/your family…

My point is you’re probably not just thinking one thing at any point in time. Our thoughts tend to jump around from one thing to the next so quickly and often overlap so that we can do one thing while thinking about at least one other thing that is completely unrelated.

If you grew up in the 90’s, you most likely came across a show called Lizzie McGuire. Just your typical teen girl, Lizzie struggled with all the things normal teen girls go through like buying your first bra, the dreamy (but sadly oblivious) guy and the mean girl who somehow was super popular despite her mean-ness.

In the show, Lizzie had a cartoon counterpart- we’ll call her Cartoon Lizzie. So when Lizzie was in the middle of a conversation or event we would get insight into what was really going on in her head through Cartoon Lizzie’s (much more honest) reaction.

Often I feel that I have my own Cartoon Lizzie living in my head who talks and reacts relentlessly. In fact sometimes I feel more in tune to my inner voice than what is going on around me.

I became more aware of this tendency recently when I started reading ‘Mindfulness: An 8-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world‘ (highly recommend it, btw). I’ve increasingly noticed my ability (or vice) to be having a conversation with someone while thinking about something or someone else entirely.

While this may seem harmless (if slightly rude), the chaotic stream of thoughts is what often causes the anxiety and uneasiness we experience in our day-to-day lives. Instead of focusing on what is currently happening we live inside our heads, controlled by a constant, frantic stream of thoughts that is often unrelated to reality.

As hard as it may be to wrap our heads around, our thoughts are not truth. And you are not what you think. This is crucial to grasp because I think too often we accept our thoughts as matters of fact instead of what they really are: just thoughts.

This can be dangerous when you have thoughts like…

I look like crap right now.

I’m not good enough for him.

I shouldn’t feel this way…why do I feel this way

I shouldn’t have eaten that

She’s prettier than I am

This is not going to go well

Whether they’re anything like these or completely different, we often have thoughts that are pessimistic and self-defeating that we quickly accept without question.

Thoughts ≠ Truth

If we don’t learn to live in the present moment and forgo the constant stream of thoughts, we leave ourselves to the mercy of something that will never serve us or allow us to enjoy our lives.

While Cartoon Lizzie certainly added humor and even some honesty to Lizzie McGuire, I don’t think we should let our inner cartoon run our lives. Staying grounded to (the often less dramatic) reality and living the moment instead of thinking about it is definitely something I want to learn through mindfulness.

After all, I’d rather live my life than just think about it. Wouldn’t you?

xoxo

Miranda

 

Finding balance

A few months ago, I wrote an article for Best Kept Self about what I had learned from my eating disorder.

The therapist I saw to help me work through this told me that recovery for eating disorders is typically 5-7 years. Initially, I found this statistic discouraging and felt a little hopeless every time I thought about it. 5-7 years? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

However I will say I’m glad she told me this for a couple reasons: firstly, when I feel like I move forward and then two steps back, it helps to know that relapses are normal and part of the recovery process. And secondly because I know that every new day I have the opportunity to work on it and continue to learn to find balance.

Balance is tricky. We hear often ‘everything in moderation.’ I think this is a great motto to live by, but I also think what Oscar Wilde says about moderation is important too:

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Moderation can easily be turned into a pursuit of perfection. Trying to find the exact amount of fruits, veggies, grains…but also indulging…it can be easy to get caught up in attaining the absolute perfect balance, something that is just as real as the Tooth Fairy (hope I’m not offending any believers out there).

Keeping this in mind, I will say I’m a lot closer to healthy and balanced eating than I was before. Here are a few things that have helped me:

1. Exercising.

I know, you’ve all heard this a million times before. The thing is, you hear it so often because it’s true. When you exercise you do something good for yourself. This act prompts you to do more good things for you. It’s like Newton’s Law of Motion: an object at rest will stay at rest, an object in motion will stay in motion. (I know, look at me, bringing in science and stuff). But this law really applies to us as well. The effort and time you give to and for yourself makes it easier to make good decisions that also serve you thoughout the day. I worked out off and on during college, but since I joined (and started paying for) the gym here in Charleston, I’ve gone 5-6 times a week almost every week. And this has helped me to 1- allow myself to indulge on my own terms without feeling guilty and 2- do more good things for myself. There are so many benefits to exercising regularly, I know you know what they are. But in case you need another one, remember Newton’s First Law of Motion.

2. Finding enjoyment in eating healthy foods.

One of my pitfalls in college was trying so hard to eat healthy without worrying about how it tasted. The thing is, whether we want to admit it or not, we have taste buds. And I think we have them for a reason and we should honor them. Instead of forcing ourselves to eat broccoli if we hate it, or beets or okra (we call it no-kra in our family), eat foods that you actually like to eat. Yes, this may mean adding dressing or butter or salt or even spending $6 on a deliciously overpriced green smoothie, but it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Depriving yourself will only work for so long, I promise. Try new foods and new recipes, healthy eating doesn’t just happen. It requires thought and effort, but there definitely is a way to eat well and enjoy it (cue Hannah  Montana’s Best of Both Worlds).

3. Control the thought spiral.

If it were possible to have a PhD in downward spiral thinking, I would have it. One small, potentially negative thing happens and suddenly everything’s a mess, I’m the worst, I hate everyone and the world is ending. When I realized I had this tendency to immediately run to the worst possible (and often highly illogical) conclusion, I was able to see how self-destructive and generally unhelpful it is. If you get a note on something you could improve on from your boss, that doesn’t mean you’re getting fired. Likewise, one unhealthy meal, or even a week of meals does not mean ‘everything’s ruined’ and that you need to compensate for it by only eating rice cakes for the next month. Now when something upsets me, I stop and think about why I’m actually upset (being hungry/tired/stressed doesn’t help) and how this can be fixed if it really needs to be. I like to think about some of the things I’m grateful for in that moment too. The truth is, our initial emotional reaction to an event or decision, often prompted by the ‘lizard brain,’ is far from the reality of the situation.

I think it’s important to note that balanced eating isn’t really something you achieve once and then you’re done (sadly). It’s a way of thinking and decision-making that happens daily. The more we are able to make healthy (do not read perfect) choices for ourselves, the easier and more habitual it becomes.

And if you ever get discouraged about where you are in your search for balance, just tell yourself this:

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