Mount Washington

It’s cold and beautiful tonight in Pittsburgh and I have a case of tunnel vision. I realize this as I’m holding my breath, forgetting to make a wish underneath the Main Street bridge. It’s 20 below on a Tuesday around 8pm, and Mount Washington is silent; the city glowing in all of its twilight glory. Sitting here in my car, contemplating my next move, I can at least be grateful that the quietness of this bridge has allowed my heart to slow its pace, emulating the still winter night that lies outside.

But then I catch my breath; the frustration rolls back in me like a tidal wave. Crashing into my heart, the ocean burning in the corners of my eyes. I’m so angry at myself I feel it looming inside and outside of me. Like a storm cloud, God himself preparing to rain down his disapproval over me. I look up from the light of my phone to see the Red Cross glaring from the church across the street. And the tiny white crosses that hang on the spindles a few feet further…I instantly feel god everywhere. Angry, and glaring, and distant…yet if I get out of my car, and walkdown the street, and enter into those massive cathedral doors, I would be right inside his home. I would get on my knees behind one of the dark mahogany pews, and I would cry. No talking, no praying, no thinking.

It’s been so long since I’ve been in the presence of the lord, that I imagine my soul would take on a physical reaction. Throwing my mortality into the hands of my maker; showing my pity, my ragged emptiness. And if God happened to be home on this particular Tuesday night at 8pm in frigid Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…what would he say to me?
‘My child, you’ve tried, albeit poorly, to find your own way in this world. Although you had the best of intentions, how long did you think you would make it without me on your side? I have seen your pain and your loneliness, and most importantly I have seen with each passing day just how increasingly lost you have become.’
At this point, I imagine the tears would stop. The tide would recede, the storm cloud would drift away, and my hands would, most likely, fall to my knees.
‘I was just trying to do what was best for me. I was trying to follow my heart.’
After this admission of utter truth, my chin would slope down to my neck, my eyes would fall to the hands at my knees, and I would wait.
…and wait. And the cathedral would fall under an eery silence. And eventually I would look up, thinking god was still there.
But it seems as though he had left. And after much thought and meditation on my knees behind the pew in the house of the Lord, I could only come to the conclusion that he left because he had nothing left to say.

Risks and life are synonymous. Like waves, like the wind; they roll through us as if one minute they did not exist, and the next they were as high and as deep and as swift as if they had been in front of us all along. People live their lives clinging to other people, afraid of what might happen if they blow away with the wind. I want to live in a world where people float by easy, like a breeze. Like a risk that I want to take.

I want a comfortable house in a city that I love, with a fenced in backyard and a dog named Sam, or Duke, or Buddy. I want a husband and a cute little girl with blonde hair and a perfect mix of mine and his’ faces. I want her to always be laughing. I want a career that gives me purpose, a job that fills me everyday. I want to be settled in this life. I want a Subaru…you know, the sporty looking station wagon kind; forest green with a simple beige interior, and a bike rack. Everybody needs a bike rack.

I want.

I want stability, a clear path, a known future.

I want the house to be white, somewhere on the North-Eastern coast. I want to learn how to sail. I want to go on runs with my golden retriever in the morning, swim in the ocean in the late afternoon, sit on my porch and watch the stars at night.

Every once in a while, I want to go somewhere and see something new. Scuba diving in Thailand or Bali, work with orphans in India, spend a week exploring Glaciers in Chile. Every once in a while, I want to be shaken. And then I want to come back home.

I want.

I want to believe in my own future. I want to believe that my goals are real, that my dreams aren’t just dreams. I’ve dreamt of a lot of things… but these things I’ve just mentioned, petty things like cars and homes, real things like family and purpose, they are all things that I want.

But, what do I need?

 

A Prayer


I usually stop listening when I hear the name of God. It’s an instantaneous physical reaction, like kicking out when a doctor taps your knee with a reflex hammer or closing your eyes during a gruesome scene in Grey’s. I have conditioned myself to a life without faith. Maybe because I felt I didn’t need it anymore, maybe because I didn’t agree with worn out stories and rules and their implications on good people, maybe because I believed, like I always have, that I could take care of myself. 

What I’ve found lately though, is that without some type of prayer, without someone else to look up to, I keep falling short. I am a person who is consumed with jealousy, filled with fear and doubt, fueled by anger  of wrongs I cannot seem to right, envious of those who are winning in the arenas of life that I am losing in. And at my very, very worst — I am hateful. Rageful and vindictive. My words are like venom spewed out against the friends and family that I love. 

Without faith in my life, I am hopeless. I am nothing but a walking, breathing, talking version of all the worst parts of our humanity. I am less than human. 

Mother Teresa prayed this prayer (commonly known as the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi) at the beginning of her acceptance speech for winning the Nobel Prize. I heard it while watching a movie documenting her life and works, and it struck me hard in its simplicity. It’s counteraction of everything I feel that I have become (doubtful, hateful, and despairing). The first few lines:

Lord, Make me a channel of Thy Peace. 

Why is that so hard to be? Peaceful. When I am caught up in myself and envy and anger and fear — of course, it is impossible to be at peace. And sometimes even harder to be that channel of peace to the people around you. When fear takes over, I wear my anger like armor. The world is no match for the walls that I can build and the ammo that my words can fire. 

What would I give to be an instrument of Peace? Mother Teresa sacrificed comfortability, and a relationship, and fame, and fortune, and even her good name all in the pursuit of bringing light to the people who were most deeply in the dark. She restored faith to those who had all but lost it. 

Where must I go, what must I do, who must I love, to find that faith again? 

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted. To understand than to be understood. To love than to be loved; For it is by forgetting self that one finds; it is by forgiving that one is forgiven;

It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life. 

Silver Chains

The best part of my day — a hard day — was dissecting a forgotten necklace on the ground with a small Indian girl eating at my restaurant. No more than 5, she was bursting with life. Real, untainted joy. This treasure of nothing more than a broken sterling silver chain was her goldmine. But instead of taking it when I tried to place it in her hands, she asked, “Who’s is this? We should give it back to them.”

It was a tiny silver chain, severed in half, with small clasps on each end. Whoever had lost it probably did so on purpose, I assured her. So broken it couldn’t possibly be fixed.

I walked away from her when her brother, not much older than her, burst through the bathroom door. “Ready!” He screamed, as he paraded into her tiny shoulder-blade. I left the silver chain in the little girl’s right fist, and walked away to continue the cycle of waiting — that is, on my tables (but ironic if compared to my current job/life situation)

The girl and the silver chain were forgotten into the wreckage that was another day, another dollar, another pain. But as I sat down at my computer tonight, feeling the urge to write for the first time in months, the little girl’s face-up palms, dangling, tangled silver chain, and scrunchy smile popped back into my mind.

How I long for that joy. Something so pure as to find a treasure; lost.

How I ache to be the person who would want to find whoever lost their broken, silver chain… Instead of instantaneously thinking: how much is this worth? or, mine. mine. mine.

I love children because they see the things that we so often miss. The things that we have forgotten are important, that somehow our status as “adult” makes it easier to forget. And what is it about getting older that makes us need to drug ourselves to experience happiness?

“Everything is an adventure when you’re high.” they all say, convicted.

How do we go from discovering lost necklaces in crowded restaurants like Indiana Jones uncovering the Holy Grail to needing a drink just to connect with our own friends? Getting high just to enjoy our own lives.

“Whoever lost it, she promised, it was probably on purpose. It’s broken, see? as she held it out for her shiny, black galactic eyes to take in. It can’t be fixed.”

.

Call Me Nicholas Sparks.

Of allĀ  the girls in all the world, I’ve never met one quite like you, he said to her, watching her fondly skirt across the room. I’ll give you the world, Marianne. Diamonds. Rubies. The universe is an oyster, the moon its pearl, I’ll soar through its depths, open its jaws, and bring its light down for you. Tell me what you want dear girl,

and its yours.

Marianne danced around the tables in the ballroom, her lace skirt-tails brushing the chair legs as if an ocean wave rolling onto the shore. The room had cleared out so quickly, she thought. Although it was probably the booze, and the dancing, and the time — 4:00am, to be exact, she heard the clock strike against the door nearest the exit. So what is it, Mari? He asked. What can I do to make you mine.

By now, she had reached the window overlooking the plains. Although it was dark, she could hear night bugs chirping and caught the faintest glimpse of a light in the distance — Jack McCall’s place. Jack oversaw the property, as his daddy did before him, and his daddy’s father and so on. A quiet man, he never made appearances at the mansion on the property that he worked. Mari thought of the one time she did see him recently… It was a late fall afternoon, about a month ago. The sun was setting over the green and she had spent all day schmoozing with her mother and father’s friends; only the bartender (who had been slipping her extra wine underneath the table) knew of her boredom, and the only cure that could fix it. After she had enough of small talk, she decided to go for a stroll alone. Taking off her heels to let her feet breathe on the lawn, she must have walked from the party for a half hour before she collapsed beneath a tree, taking in the sunset, massaging one of her worn feet in the palm of her hand.

Tough crowd? A voice called over her shoulder, as she jumped in shock.

I’m sorry to startle you, miss. Jack apologized. I just saw you sitting there with your shoulders hunched and your toes aching and well, I figured you might need a break– you know, from all of those folk. Someone different to talk to.

And you’re not like one of those folks? She questioned him with discernment in her voice.

Not even close, Jack thought. Instead he replied with, I sure hope not, miss. As he picked up another log and piled it into his ongoing stack of firewood, she guessed it was for the big house he rarely made it up to. She saw a flash of yellow as a long-haired golden retriever came flying up a nearby hill. That there rascal is Tre, Jack exclaimed. And I’m Jack, Jack McCall.

I know who you are, Mari replied. I’ve been coming here since before I could walk. I’ve seen you a thousand times, yet you seem to go out of your way to avoid the main house.

My dad worked here my whole life, I followed in his footsteps because its the only life I’ve ever known. I wouldn’t say we belong amongst your kind though.

Oh, so now they’re MY kind? She exclaimed. I thought just a minute ago I was trying to get away from those people, but now here I am, one of them. I guess I should go back to where I came from. She began to stand as he neared closer to the tree. His stride was much more of a glide than an average mans walk, and before she knew it, one hand of his was resting on the tree trunk while the other was sitting lightly, but firmly on her shoulder. She looked up at first with indignation, and then a much weaker haze overcame her.

I like your eyes, Mari. Green like the plains, and yet as blue and deep as the Mississippi. He paused for as long as it took her to take a silent breath, and gold right in the center, like the flames circling that setting sun. He released her shoulder and said, I’m sorry I said that about you, you’re obviously different from that bunch up there. Why else would you have run from it? He walked back to his pile and hauled Tre and a few remaining logs in the back of his truck.

It took her a minute longer of staring before she realized, he knew her name without her telling him. As he began to climb in the truck, she raced to its side. So you know who I am? She asked, with more hope lingering in her voice than she think she’d ever heard in herself before.

Well of course, Misses Donahue. You’re not the only one who’s been here since before they could walk. Plus, those eyes of yours, that fire inside of them…kind of hard to forget.

As his blue Chevy began to pull away, Mari caught the glimpse of a distant memory in the dust of his tracks. Something ancient, and yet gut-wrenching. Child-like. She smelled burning wood, she sensed dancing flames rippling across her skin.

Mari. MARI. She snapped back from another memory, Jack McCall feeling more present in the distant cabin light than the man standing right next to her in the ballroom. Are you ok, Mari? So, what do you say?

She turned around to Chuck Barnett on one knee. The sight of a gaudy rock, encased in black velvet in one hand, her calf in the other. But her senses were dead…except for the smell of heat, again; she couldn’t shake it. That’s when she saw smoke rising from the staircase down the hall, and Jack and Tre racing up the steps behind it.

 

 

Joy to the World

“There is no justice, but there is mercy. That is what we can give to each other.”

Justice is fairness. 

Mercy; forgiveness. 

The world is not fair, but we must forgive. Why? Why should I pass around compassion like bread to the needy? A virus amongst the afflicted. Why should I do anything I don’t want to do. It’s Christmas Day, my favorite day of the year, and you know what I want more than anything to do at this very moment? I want to find the shittiest dive bar, with the greasiest burgers and the cheapest beer. I want to inhale that burger until it tastes like  “forgiveness.” Drink enough cheap beer until this world seems “fair.”

You want me to keep giving mercy without justice, you say? Fuck that. I’ll fight you to the grave before I pass around fake joy to the world.