Hold on Loosely: What I learned in 2018

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2018 was a year of limp hands.

Fists clenched so tightly, were forced open – forced to let go.

While a painful lesson, there is a lot of freedom that comes from losing what you thought you couldn’t live without. Because I now know that I can – in fact – live without it. And I can, now, love more freely.

With palms open, not only can we receive much more than when they are closed, we can also allow what should no longer be there – to leave.

Goodbye stranger, goodbye stranger, I wish you all the best.

Ultimately, nothing really belongs to us. Life itself is a gift – something we received through no fault of our own – and something which can be taken from us at any moment; and will be gone inevitably, eventually.

Therefore, each day is a gift. Each day we are allowed to breathe and smile and cry and laugh, is something given to us and something we cannot hold on to too tightly….because it really wasn’t ours to begin with.

We are not our own. We didn’t have a say in when or how we got here and we won’t have a say in when or how we go.

Just as we are not our own, others – even more so – are not ours for the taking.

I learned that to those we come to know, we come to love, our hearts are much like our homes.

We can open the door and let them in, we can show them around and make them feel welcome. Some may stay only momentarily, so when they leave it is easy to go back to business as usual. Some, however, may stay for a while. Make themselves comfortable and become at home in ours.

We may become accustomed to their presence, attached to it. And even in those moments, we have to remember that most people will leave, eventually. Very few people come into our homes to stay forever. And even those who make themselves at home, who leave an imprint during their extended stay, will most likely show themselves out, at some point.

Down the highways, and the byways, may something bring you rest.

Their emptiness will be noted – we may grieve our loss for a while – look around at the house and find that it is not the same, maybe that it doesn’t even feel like home anymore. We may notice a scratch here or spill there caused by them at some point – and while we may resent it now that they are gone, this imperfection is proof that our house was lived in – that it was a home.

We cannot undo their visit, nor should we, as it is an important part of the history – and ultimately – identity of the place. A place that is not merely our own, a place that we had the courage to share with someone else – knowing that they could likely cause damage, that they would make it different by their presence – we are changed because of it.

You see, we could close off our homes to outsiders. We could lock the door and remain inside for the duration of our lives. We could glance out the window from time to time and wonder what it would be like if we threw the door open, but never take the risk.

However, to me an empty home is very dissatisfactory. Not a home, really. I think a home is at it’s best when full. To be a ‘home’ requires that someone be ‘at home’ there. And that is what I think our hearts are…homes.

And so, we can close the blinds and lock the doors – refusing anyone entrance for the sake of our own safety; or we can open the door to whomever knocks, and enjoy their stay – however long – seeing it as a gift, an opportunity to love without reservation or expectation of something in return.

So 2018 was a year of learning this hard-earned lesson. Of realizing that just because you let someone in, doesn’t mean they will stay. And just because they don’t stay, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have let them in.

I ain’t easy, but I ain’t cold

Come back my way if you’re feelin’ low.

Goodbye stranger

AB

2018 was a year of limp hands.

My hope for 2019 is that it will be a year of receptivity. A year of open hands, ready to receive whatever lands in them.

Whether it be for a brief visit, or an extended stay, or even a guest who decides to make my home theirs, I hope to be open and responsive to whomever shows up at my doorstep.

If this life is a gift – I think it is a gift that is best shared with others. Otherwise it ceases to be a gift and instead turns into a mere act of self-preservation.

This song, ‘Hold on Loosely’ was introduced to me months back while I was still grappling with my clenched fists. While at first it didn’t quite sink in, I have come to realize the wisdom that these lyrics hold.

It’s a song about the understanding that your loved ones are not an extension of yourself. They are ‘other’ and deserve to be treated as such. We can respect differences, admire their person and leave them plenty of room to breathe; room to choose us – freely.

I hope, in 2019, to have the courage to open the door. To make my home beautiful and keep it so, not for my own sake, but for the person who seeks rest and refuge there some day.

Because otherwise my home will be an empty one, which really isn’t a home at all, only a house.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

C.S. LEWIS

2018 had definitive highs and lows. But I guess that is life, and really how we grow. ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.’

2019 is to be a year of hope. It’s a new beginning, a new chapter. We must be emptied before we can be filled, and in 2018 my hands were emptied.

There are good things ahead, dear friends.

What did you learn in 2018? And what are your dreams for 2019?

Hopefully,

Miranda 

The comeback kid

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My mom loves to remind me of the day I learned to ride a bike. There was a big hula balloo because the Rodriguez siblings had gotten new bikes! Oh, happy day! My new bike was sans training wheels which only added to my excitement.

Unfortunately, as six-year-old Miranda soon realized, learning to ride a bike is like…learning to ride a bike; it’s difficult at first. So, long after the initial eagerness had faded and my brother and sister had gone inside, I could be found in the driveway, angry and frustrated but resolutely determined to figure the darn thing out, now.

I fell over and over, tears brimming in my eyes, my hands and knees stinging from scraping the pavement – yet I kept getting back on.

You can probably guess how this story ends…fifteen years later I still don’t know how to ride a bike.

Jk Jk

Of course, the reason my mom loves that story is because my “determination” – aka stubbornness – came to my aid, I didn’t give up.

Those of you who have been following my blog to some extent can guess that it has been a tough year for me – even more difficult than learning to ride a bike with only two wheels (if you can imagine).

This past year I fell in love with a man that surpassed my (very high) expectations. It was wonderful – like a chapter out of someone else’s life. We had so many lovely, sweet, fun, beautiful times it often felt surreal to me.

Obviously that wasn’t the difficult part. The difficult part was all the fear that accompanied this relationship. It was absolutely impossible to understand why I had such a difficult time trusting someone so good – someone who clearly cared about me. It was incredibly painful to constantly question him and his love. It was torture to be bombarded by doubts and insecurities about the relationship every day. Together or apart, no matter what he said or what I told myself or what others shared, fear plagued me as I struggled to love and trust someone and be loved by them for the first time in my adult life.

The joy of finding someone that until that point I had only dreamed of was tainted by my deeply rooted fears – fears that came true when Nicholas finally bowed out in February.

“I told you.”

That awful voice in my head which so often had urged me to make a run for it rang in my ears months after the fact.

It was right.

This year was also dramatically humbling. Amidst my turmoil and angst I came to the startling conclusion that I am one of the least qualified people to speak on the topics of love, relationships or familyThe fact that this has been my main source of content is almost laughable.

Almost.

Who am I to speak on the subject of love? When I fail so often to practice the thing in my own life. I am still the obstinate girl who falls over and over again – broken and bruised – only now the fall is emotional, spiritual and psychological, in addition to physical.

I barely understand what love is really meant to be – if anything I know better what it is not meant to be.

I guess that’s something.

The thing is – much like myself all those years ago – I have a streak of stubbornness that refuses to give up.

This became especially clear to me on this break, my mini sabbatical from publishing. It was a lovely and painful time. I did some travel (nowhere exotic but still fun), lots of bike riding/exploring, took lots of pictures, caught up on some reading and spent a good bit of time just reflecting. Even though I enjoyed all of this, it was difficult to face the reality of losing someone I had cared about so deeply. A reality not made any easier by our regular crossing of paths. Every day I had to accept all over again my loss and look ahead at the murky future with only wisps of hope to hang on to. 

On a particularly difficult day during this time I grappled with the tough question of why the heck am I doing this?

What’s the point? Loving only leads to bitter disappointment. People are too imperfect, too broken and too difficult to love (most especially myself). Why bother? I could be content doing my own thing; traveling, writing, enjoying casual friendships and relationships without commitment or difficulty. 

I had my chance and I blew it, who’s to say there will be another one?

Yet here I am.

I guess the reason for that is the reality that everyone else at some point in their life has also been faced with this question. If you haven’t yet, you will be. And the people I most look up to, I’m most inspired by and desire to be like, they chose to love. Not because it was easy, not because they didn’t get hurt, not because it always felt wonderful or rewarding, but (I think) ultimately because at the core of their being, they felt it was worth it. It was a calling too beautiful, too precious, too valuable to turn down.

Love makes us better people, it challenges us to grow and change in the most beautiful of ways. It heals and gives us strength to move forward, day in and day out.

Love is why we are here and what makes this treacherous, incredible, awesome life worth living. It’s an adventure in and of itself; the most fulfilling and challenging one. 

There is still a part of me – the wounded, guarded, angry part that taunted me after Nicholas and I broke up – that doesn’t believe a word of this. But I’m hoping to prove this side of me wrong in time.

I’ve fallen down, and I will continue to do so. But I won’t give up. I’m back and I’m in it for the long haul.

Here’s to the kid who got back on the bike one too many times, and to everyone who has dared to choose love – even when it hurts. 


On another note, there are two, more practical things I’d like to share with you.

  1. I’m changing the setup of this site just a little so that it can become more of a community and less of me ‘talking’ at you. To help me make it more collaborative, Some incredibly talented people agreed to write for you here and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Keep an eye out for some contributor articles coming soon.
  2. As of last week I have agreed to take a position as content lead at Dynamic Catholic. I will be moving to Cincinnati, Ohio this summer!

I want to sincerely thank all of you who have prayed for me and encouraged me during these past few months – it has done more than you can know.

And of course, to my readers..this wouldn’t mean much without you.

xo

Miranda Kate

“For what is life without love?”
Pedro Silva