Sunday, May 23, 2010

highland park

have no doubt about it, i will one day live in highland park again. it is the greatest, prettiest, most wonderful neighborhood in the city of pittsburgh and i don't think i'm just saying that because i've spent all of my life living there - except for my few years living here in bloomfield/lawrenceville. also steve's graduation pictures that i like.

Monday, May 17, 2010

if only for one last hope / i wanted my time with to be over

home. alone. mark kozelek's haunting, beautiful, awkward voice. dim lights. looking out on friendship avenue.

i am alone.

i am selfish. and i'm not convinced that anyone else matters more to me than i matter to me. it feels good to let those words come out of my hands onto the screen. i said it. i meant it.

the two people i spend the most time with are gone for a while. the warm, comforting independence feels fuzzy on my skin. no one is calling me. no one is expecting me. no one is wanting me. and i'm not wanting them either. it feels so good not to want. not to expect. not to desire people. i don't need you. i forgot. but i don't. i still love you, though.

i'm not convinced about death to self. or compromise. or sacrifice.
i do not follow the teachings of christ.
i'm not sure that i believe the teachings of christ.

what if happiness matters more to me than anything else? what if i've got one life and what i want more than anything is my self. i want her. wild, alive, free.

[is there freedom in love? i know there is. i know i've felt it.]
[remember how good it feels to be known.]
[remember how much you love making them happy.]

Saturday, May 15, 2010

new york

i remember when i was in the grand canyon laurie went to new york. she sent me a picture on her cell phone of the manhattan skyline. i hated the picture - i think i felt sickened by it. when i was driving into manhattan and i saw the buildings, i felt a sort of crushing overwhelming anxiousness knowing i'd be going into the concrete jungle.

it's not just the amount of people. or how tall the buildings are. or that there is no horizon. does the sun set in new york? do people see sunsets? or do they just watch the sun hide behind buildings? it's this other thing that's sort of indescribable to me. but it has to do with what it means to be a black kid growing up in harlem. i wonder how different the view of your self, your culture (whatever it is), your family, your history is when you are living in a community that has such deep roots? or what it means to be living in new york city as the wealthy elite? or what it means to be a starving artist? or a hipster, even, living in brooklyn. or a jew living in williamsburg. for each people group - this is the epicenter for their culture. i just think that must change you. and maybe it intimidates me.

lately i've been comparing pittsburgh to natural wonders of the world. in this competition, pittsburgh loses, time and time again. no trip to frick park, beechwood farms, highland park will ever compare to the west. i haven't visited new york since my freshman year of college, besides a trip or two to see a show outside of the city. i was in chicago for 1 night. there were a few trips to boston in college, too. some trips to the phoenix airport (by the way, i think phoenix is the closest to hell i've ever been). but it's been a while since i've been able to compare pittsburgh to another city. fortunately, in this competition, pittsburgh always wins.

i spent some time with lacy in harlem. and then spent some time in brooklyn with laurie. these are some pictures. i think new york has really nice bridges.

everytime i've been to new york i've taken this picture on my way out through china town and into the holland tunnel.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

thoughts on community on a spring night

i woke up, rushed out the door, went to the coffee shop, ran into a friend from church, read a book, drank my hot chocolate and left. i walked out of the coffee shop, searched around in my purse and realized that i'd forgotten my keys. laurie, jon, paul, steve, krystal, bishop, jenn . . . they're all busy, or can't, for various reasons, help me. i'm locked out of my apartment. laurie is in new york city - i have no way back into the apartment. i remember that i've left a spare key with my mom. my mom is out of town for the weekend though and so i'm left without a ride to highland park.

my life has been fractured for many years now. my life as a christian and my life as a normal person. this life as a spiritual person, who prays and sings and desires intimacy with a creator, who sees the birds and the clouds as indications of a loving father, who believes in redemption and second chances and forgiveness. who is overwhelmed by the mystery and beauty of christianity, jesus, the bible and a kingdom where the last is first and the poor are rich and broken are made whole - has felt distant from the rest of my life. my life as a normal person who loves her friends, who is loved deeply by her friends, who is loyal, loud, crude and sometimes mean. who is honest, proud, broken, hurt, jealous and envious. who drinks, listens to good music and reads good books. who struggles deeply with issues of faith, who used to be something that she isn't anymore, who used to believe things she doesn't anymore. these lives feel so divided - and the canyon is only getting larger. the first person seems to now be an illusion. i turn around and try to grab for that old me and all that's left in my hand is dust and ashes. and all that's left is a mess - but at least it's an honest mess.

in college, i became a "christian." i grew very close to the community at school - intimately close. we ate together, prayed together, laughed and cried and grew and changed together. i was indebted to them. i was loved by them better than i'd ever been loved. and then some things got tough. and i looked around and all i saw were sarah and pete. after four years of complete devotion to this community, there were two people left standing next to me, holding me as i cried the hottest, hardest tears i've ever cried.

so, i'm stuck. without keys to my apartment. without a ride to the spare keys. all of my friends are busy - my non-jesus friends can't help. and i know they would if they could, but they can't. and i realize that there are all of these people who i spend sunday with, who i go to studies with, who i go on retreats with, i even go over to their houses and share food with them - and for 10 minutes i debate whether or not i should call them. in the coffee shop still sits one of my church friends. and i'm frozen. i think, "do i really want to need them?"

yesterday i woke up. sat down. and the thought flashed across my mind, "i resent christian community and i do not trust it." and it seems the more i become part of a community, the less i like myself. i'm supposed to be someone, to be better than i am - i find myself resenting more, judging more, comparing more, gossiping more - and doing it all in the name of "jesus." i see myself get close to my unbelieving friends, or my used-to-be-believing friends, or my used-to-be-but-starting-to-believe-again-friends and i just find myself . . . loved. and i find myself trusting them. and they love me, not because the bible makes them, but because they just do. i find myself sitting in dimly lit rooms, with beer and jeff buckley videos feeling calm, known, understood, respected, adored. because given the same circumstance, when i cried those hot, hard tears, they were all there. close to me. standing beside me. because they could. they were allowed to be honest, to be loyal, to be on my side, to love me.

it makes me wonder what it means to be a christian. what it means to follow jesus, or know him. so many things i did to be "loving" as a "christian" were so selfish, so self-serving, so disgustingly proud. every day, i find myself further away from my old definition. every day, i find less of that spiritual me. i wonder when i'll be able to find a new identity as a spiritual person that feels true. i find myself more paranoid at church and in community settings. i know i'm not who you thought i was. and i know that it's only going to get worse - i'm only going to be less and less than you think i am. for a year, i found myself on this spiritual mountain of sunsets and butterflies and intimacy and knowledge and closeness and the audible voice of God. and one day, i put my shoes on, turned my back towards the sun and descended the mountain.

i don't know where i'm going to end up. who i'll be in 5 years, 1 year, or even tomorrow. i don't know what's next. but i know that i had to go back down that mountain. and i know that i want friends who come with me. who hold my hand as i go down. who are standing at the bottom with a look that just makes me feel okay. i believe in a descending God. and i want a descending community.

renee gave me this quote. i keep it in my car.
“Suppose the only God that exists is the descending God. Suppose the only way we can know God is to go down, to go to the bottom… If God is going down and we are going up, it is obvious that we are going in different directions. And we will not know him. We will be evading God and missing the whole purpose of our existence.”