by Miranda Meadows

The Good Enough Balancing Act

Balance.  It’s the key to so many things, is it not?  Riding a bike…  tightrope walking… surfing… being a woman in today's world of busyness and relationships and opportunities and priorities.

Exhibit A: Surfing is about balance.  I learned the hard way.

Exhibit A: Surfing is about balance.  I learned the hard way.

For the past few years, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of achieving and maintaining balance.  But finding that blissful balance "sweet spot" is a challenge.  Can I get an amen?  I don’t know about y’all, but I’m an “all or nothin’” kind of gal.  I want to give everything 110% (and more, if possible).  However, if I can’t give my "everything" to a task, do you know what happens?  Well, I begin to hear a little whisper (or maybe a loud shout) about who I am. Whispers like...

 I am useless.

I am unworthy.

I am a failure. 

I am not enough. 

Notice the extremes and absolutes here… definitely not balanced beliefs about myself… and also, these are not true facts about who I am.  (Although, tell that to my brain when I'm in the middle of one of these negative thought patterns...)

Lately, I haven’t written a blog post.  At first, that was because I was trying to do anything and everything all at once and all at 110%.  I have been up to my nose in graduate school life… dissertation stress and postdoctoral job applications and the everyday adventures of being a therapist.  To top it off?  I became sick and was forced to miss work and to simply rest.  I began to hear those absolutes in my head and my heart, telling me that I was failing to be more than enough… I even heard those voices of shame about not posting on this blog. 

And then something shifted. I began to see how unbalanced everything in my life was.  I was sitting on the seesaw, yet my balance was thrown with the absolutes.  The 110% or not at all attitude.  There was too much weight or too little being placed on the balancing scales, depending on the moment.  

I eventually found some balance on the surfboard...

I eventually found some balance on the surfboard...

In the midst of this shift, I remembered when a dear professor told me "Miranda, it's okay to just be good enough."  These words.  Oh how they still bring a peace to my soul. 

So what have I done about it?  I've tried to find grace for the good enough.  And I've reminded myself that I am enough. 

You want to hear the biggest surprise about what happened next??  

Instead of all of a sudden having more time to do EVERYTHING, balance freed up the space within myself to make choices.  I even made a choice to postpone writing on this blog for a little while longer.  In truth,  I thought restoring balance would mean I could do more… and maybe, in some way, I can.  But the more meaningful reality for me was that I could say no to some tasks, all the while meeting myself with grace.

If we are always striving to be more than enough, we are throwing life off balance.   You can't walk a tightrope without understanding how to balance realistically.  Can you imagine how many circuses would be ruined if tightrope walkers tried to take too much extra weight with them onto the rope?  

Lovely one, there is no need for your rope to snap.  Maybe it's time to leave some things behind on the platform.  

Because you are worthy. You are valued.  You are enough.

When it snows, it pours.

Having grown up in the South, I developed a view of snow that probably borders on reverence.  Any Southerners out there know what I’m talking about? Snow has always been this magical, gentle, quiet, glorious, wonderland that I have often longed for more than anything.  (Plus, any remote threat of snow meant no school in the South, so there’s that too…) And when it does snow in the South, you have to make the most of it because you know it won’t last long.  You’ve got an hour or two of solid sledding on your cardboard box or plastic lid from a bin (this worked really well in college) in the patchy, thin, wetness that Southerners believe is real snow.

Well, let me tell you, folks… I REALLY know all about snow now (Go ahead and laugh at me, native Northern/Midwestern folk!).  After living in Chicagoland for 5 years, and now living in Maine for about 6 months, I’m going to own the fact that I have an understanding of sorts of the white expanse outside my door.  In fact, this seems like a reasonable time to point out that I am currently in the midst of what appears to be record breaking snowfall in Maine (since January 24th alone, I’ve witnessed over 40 inches of snowfall.)

One thing I’ve noticed in the past two weeks, is that it has snowed A LOT (see aforementioned statistic).  And I don’t mean to be Captain Obvious about it, but it’s kind of surreal.  And it’s made even more surreal to me by the fact that it has somehow become my new normal.  There is quite literally waist deep snow in my backyard, it it’s kind of hard to remember what life was like without all the extra challenges that snow brings. 

And in the past two weeks, when there has been only a day or two between several snowstorms that brought at least a foot or so of snow each (if not far more, right Juno?), I have felt a confusing mix of being overwhelmed and being resigned.  Some days, it feels like the snow will never end.  I wonder if it’s so heavy on my roof that it’s eventually going to cave in on top of me.  Physically when I am in this cold snowiness, there is a literal numbness once the pain from the cold sets in and I begin to lose feeling in my extremities.  And then, there’s a break from snowfall for about 24 hours, and it feels like I hardly have time to come up for air before the snow starts pouring down again.

Lady Darcy of Pemberley greets storm Juno at our door

Lady Darcy of Pemberley greets storm Juno at our door

Ironically, all this snow has been pouring down around me at a time when I’ve also felt a bit overwhelmed and numb and stuck under the heavy weight of life.  I can’t help but smile right now just thinking about how sometimes these seasons of weather can mirror our own seasons of life.  Here are a few things that this metaphor reminded me, about the snow and life, once I opened my eyes and heart to it:

1… In the midst of storms, I often need the anchoring support of others. 

I wake up every morning earlier and earlier, sometimes spending an hour outside simply to uncover my car in the snow and then to attempt to leave my driveway (the ultimate challenge, since it is a snow covered hill).  More often than I would like, I cannot for the life of me get up that hill.  My wheels can't get traction on the slippery slope.  And I am learning how to reach out for help.  I am learning that I really and truly need people.  I am learning that I can hold on to my stubbornness all day long, but that doesn't (always) get me out of my driveway.  Sometimes, the snow is simply too deep.  Honestly, without the help of others, I very often wouldn't make it to work each day. And that's okay.  In this season of deep snow, I just need help.  It makes sense.  And in the middle of life's storms, help makes sense, too.  It's a lovely (yet daunting) thing to reach up to others, and it's even lovelier to feel them reach down to me, supporting me with grace and care.  

2… It’s hard to see what’s ahead when so much is in front of your face.

In the midst of a blizzard, it can be a bit dangerous to go out into it.  When the snow is swirling around you, all you see is white.  It’s easy to get lost, and even easier to be terrified by the fact that you can’t see.  It’s times like this that I can become paralyzed in fear.  I want to know that the ground is still there under my feet.  I want to see if there is anything good and safe and beautiful in front of me.  But when I’m scared, I really can’t look past the whiteness that surrounds me.  In the midst of the chaos, I can’t see or even imagine that the storm will soon fade and that I may be left with something beautiful and pure and refining when the storm is over. Yet, no storm, in snow or in life, can last forever.  The sun will always rise, and the season will thaw.  From the cold winter will come the new warmth and life of spring.  Next time I’m feeling frozen in place and can’t see in front of me, I hope I can remind myself that there is hope. 

3… Beauty and peace exist, even in the eye of a storm, if I can reach for the warmth of gratitude.

Not only is there hope that awaits on the other side of the storm, but it can even be found within the storm.  I don't want to be so frozen in the fear and pain that I become numb to the beauty around me… the beauty that exists even in the hassle and the struggle.  Because when I take time to appreciate and to truly feel grateful, I find the inner warmth that wards off the numbness and clears the pain, if even for a moment.  Gratitude is like a mitten for the heart.  When I can look at the storm swirling around my head, and see the crystalline snowflakes and hear the quietness of it all and feel the sacredness of my stillness in the storm, I can find joy.  

And once the storm has cleared, maybe I can even find that long lost piece of myself that saw the world, and especially snow, as an adventure.  And then I'll hop on my improvised cardboard box sled and ride over the hill into the valley.   

 

The Messy Dance of Grace

I learned a long time ago that it is never a good idea for me to tell myself that I'm going to commit to do something every day.  You see, I'm what I like to call a "recovering perfectionist," and the key word here is recovering.  I have learned that a part of my recovery process is giving myself space to set the bar lower than perfectionistic Miranda may desire.

Or at least I thought I learned that...

Enter the New Year 2015.

A week or two before the New Year, I began to think about what my goals and resolutions would be.  I picked my "mantra" for the year (maybe that will come up in another post!), and also decided on some of my goals, big and small.  And then…I did the unthinkable.  

I decided I wanted to dance every day.

You heard me, folks!  I said EVERY. DAY.  Perfectionistic Miranda was delighted by this high bar, while recovering perfectionist Miranda rationalized "Meh!  It's dancing!  It's the most fun resolution ever!  I CAN do this every day!"

Fast forward 2 weeks into the New Year… I am in that in-between stage right before I fall into a blissful, deep sleep, when all of a sudden, I sit up... wide awake.

I had forgotten to dance.

Immediately, I was scrambling to get out of bed and to do a few shimmies and jazz hands by my bedside table.  Forget the fact that I was exhausted and had an early morning ahead. (When perfectionism is in charge, you can forget about sanity, obviously.)

Yet, as I was scrambling with the perfectionist voice screaming loudly, I somehow managed to catch a hold of the whisper of my far messier, far truer self: choose grace.

With this soft whisper, I stilled.  The perfectionist whimpered in the face of possible failure. But the recovering perfectionist rejoiced at the chance for freedom… the chance for failure, and the chance to embrace grace and mess and authentic living.  

Perfection binds and constrains, while grace frees and dances.  I don't know about you, but I want freedom.  I want my heart to dance, even when my feet cannot.  I even want my messiness to leak out of the constraints, because that's where I can feel the grace that's waiting for me. 

This morning when I woke up, this post was basically already written.  But then this happened....

This sky, y'all.  Glorious.

This sky, y'all.  Glorious.

When I saw this, my eyes filled with tears at the newness and beauty of it all… all the colors imperfectly leaking and blending with each other.  The epitome of messy grace is a glorious sunrise.

 This may be a New Year, but every day is a new day. 

A new day filled with new chances. 

A new day to dance. 

A new day to make mistakes. 

A new day to make memories.

And always, a new day for grace. 

In the words of one of my favorite literary characters, Anne Shirley (I couldn't just let the nerdiness end with Elizabeth's Wicked post, now, could I?):

"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"

Why, Anne Shirley, it is nice to think that!  And because I know that tomorrow isn't messy yet, I hope that can give me space to embrace my mess a little more today.  

In case you are wondering, I didn't dance that night.  And honestly?  It was hard not to.  It was hard to choose grace.  But I decided that grace was the braver choice for me in that moment, even with something so silly as dancing.  Grace was what I needed then, and it's what I need now, and it's what I'll need tomorrow and the next day and the next.  I want to always choose grace, even when I choose to dance.

Friends, let's choose to fill our new days of this New Year with messiness, beauty, dancing, and a whole lot of grace. 

 

A Hobbit, A Girl, and A New Year

Can you believe the last time I posted was all the way in last year?! Happy 2015 to all!  I am feeling incredibly grateful for the chance to end 2014 and begin 2015 in my childhood home in Mississippi, which I was unable to visit for the past year.  Fortunately for me, the log cabin remains reasonably unchanged and cozy, the stars still shine over the farm, the swing in the oak tree still makes me feel like I can fly, and my sister and I still geek out over Lord of the Rings.

And I do mean GEEK out.  If nothing else is stable in my life, I’m 99.9% positive that my sister and I will always have the stability of our love of Middle-Earth.  For any non-LOTR or Hobbit people, allow me to inform you of something huge that just happened for us nerdy nerds: the FINAL MOVIE in The Hobbit series is in theaters (which, by the way, it hurts my heart to think that you could possibly not be in love with these stories… but I’ll try to forgive you if that’s the case).  And y’all?  It’s THE LAST MOVIE IN MIDDLE EARTH.  I am not happy about it.  Not at all.  (see photo below)

As a way for my sister and I to prepare to “visit” Middle Earth for the last time, we watched the first two Hobbit films (and put together a Hobbit puzzle, just to be super hobbity).   While watching the first movie, my eyes became teary with the following exchange between Bilbo, the hobbit, and Gandalf, the wizard, who has invited Bilbo to come on an adventure:

Bilbo: “Can you promise that I will come back?”
Gandalf: “No…and if you do, you will not be the same.” 

Have truer words ever been spoken?  I believe it is impossible NOT to change in this life, even if you are fighting it.   It is even more likely that change will happen if you become an adventurer.   And to be completely honest?  Change isn’t typically what I'd call "fun."  Those things I love about going home to Mississippi?  Well… they won’t always be the same… my log cabin may not be there forever, skies may fill with clouds that cover the stars, and I may learn to fly without my special swing in the oak tree (I wish!).

Looking back on the past few years, I see so much change that has happened in my life, and I wonder if I’m even recognizable at times.   I’ve said yes to a few life-changing adventures, but I've also had a few adventures simply happen upon me.  Some adventures seemed pleasant, and some adventures?  Well, I would have rather avoided them.  In each case, I quite fearfully took the necessary steps outside of my comfortable hobbit hole. 

But with each step, I am finding out the truth… The truth that I am one step closer to my inner truth.  My adventures, as scary and challenging and anxiety provoking and fun as they may be, are revealing what I’m truly meant to be. 

With all the changes that are possible in this new year, I’m choosing to see life as an adventure.  I’m choosing to look at the obstacles differently.  I hope to remember the feeling of pride that comes when I’ve accomplished some difficult adventure (I’m looking at you, dissertation!) instead of wallowing in the shame and fear and “should haves” of my insecurity.  I hope that if I can't go back to who I was, that I can embrace who I am.  I hope that I can see the beauty in the sameness and the changes.  

The truth is, we can’t always choose the adventure that happens to us, nor can we always choose the coming changes… but we can make choices within the adventure.  When Gandalf comes to our door and tells us the adventure is happening, we can grab our breakfast (and second breakfast) and hop on our pony for the ride.  We can even stay at home, which may be the adventure we need most.  No matter what, we have a choice.  A choice to stay.  A choice to leave.

 A choice to fight to find our inner truth of who we were made to be. 

Whatever choices I make along the way… I hope that Gandalf would say this about me too: 

“There is a lot more in her than you guess, and a deal more than she has any idea herself.” 

I like thinking that there’s more within me than I even know yet, and I hope change and growth and newness and adventure can help me find some of this “more” that’s in me.

Remember, precious ones, that "adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine" (words straight from The Hobbit!), but it will be worth it to be an adventurer refined by your own two feet walking a new path and the April showers bringing to life the Spring.

Sacred Moments | The Giving Series

Merry almost-Christmas, friends!  Today, I would like to tell you a story.  (I know, I know… I think every blog post I’ve written so far has had a story in it… nothing new here.) 

Here it goes...

Recently, my sweet Mama reminded me of a little Christmas miracle that happened over a decade ago in our family. Before I start the story, I must say… I am blessed to have a mother who has so often shown me the beauty of giving, even if it feels like there is not much to give.  I can think of many moments of my childhood in which my mom taught my sister and me the joy of serving others, and I am so thankful for this gift she has given me. 

One of the ways that she demonstrated giving was through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program.  Participating in this program has always been one of my favorite Christmas memories from childhood.  We usually picked at least two children, and often, we would pick little girls similar in age to my sister and me.  It was quite humbling, but also joyous, for me to think about giving to someone who may not have much… someone who was a little girl like me, who needed to experience happiness and fun… and maybe someone who liked dolls and bows and teddy bears with a similar passion to my own. 

Months prior to this particular Christmas season, my mom volunteered to help families fill out their applications for the Angel Tree.  My mom remembers that she helped many, many families complete the forms that day, but one precious woman stood out to her.  This woman told my mom all about her family, even showing pictures of her little girls.  The woman’s story and her strength in the face of trials touched my mother deeply, giving her perspective regarding our own life circumstances at the time. 

Months later, the Christmas season was upon us and it was time to pick out our Angel Tree children.  Instead of taking ones straight from the tree, my mom asked the Salvation Army for two little girls that were “leftover” after all the cards were returned to the Salvation Army.  The forgotten cards, but not forgotten children.   Can you guess what happened??  My mom was handed the cards for two little girls, sisters from the same family… and the daughters of the woman my mom had helped months before.   

This is one of those sacred moments that when I reflect on it, even to this day, time stands still and joy overflows with the tears.  Through the giving and the strength of two mothers'… two sets of sisters were drawn into the sacredness. 

In this holiday season, where the greatest sacred Gift is celebrated, take time to give, but also to notice.  Because it is in the giving that sacred moments are found, but these moments may be lost if not noticed.

Sacred moments like...

…giving a gift thoughtfully and bringing happiness to someone.

…giving love to a family member who may be hard to love.

…giving yourself grace for the absence of perfection. 

…giving a smile, and receiving one in return.

…giving time to something you believe in, or to someone who needs your presence.

…giving Christmas cookies to neighbors, and Christmas cheer and warmth to hearts. 

Notice.  

Notice the sacred all around you as we walk together in this crazy, broken world.  

Notice the gifts and the giving.  

Notice the beauty that exists to redeem the pain.  Give the sacred, and receive the sacred, too.