Navigating Life

I sat in a window seat of my Grad School building waiting for a ride from Adam. The sun had sunk so far into the horizon that the timid stars began to return from hiding.

It was a night like this, two weeks ago, that I got the call that John had died. I heave a sigh and wait.

Adam comes and we drive in his car to my parking garage. You could say I’m lazy not to walk the four blocks on my own. Or you could say I’d rather take advantage of a friend with a car than to brave the dark cold streets of Indianapolis.

Tonight in class we discussed the number of deaths from bicycle accidents in Indianapolis and how the city could try and lower the death rate.

Is it a coincidence? All I can think of is the dark road John was riding on when a car took his life. I tell Adam and he silently listens. For some reason his response is refreshing. I don’t feel choked up. I don’t feel panicked. I don’t feel the cloud that usually descends when I mention John’s name. But then again, I didn’t actually say his name. For to say his name makes it all the more real.

Adam tells me he’s looking for a church where he belongs. He asks if I ever feel like I can’t find community in the church.

Yes. I did a year ago. But that’s not where my mind goes.

I remember standing in the parking lot after a soccer game. It was not a month before Johnny died. He wanted to talk, so I stuck around even though my feet were swollen and hurting. Drops of sweat rolled down his face as he twisted an empty water bottle in his hands.

He told me he was searching for where God wanted him to be. So I told him to ask God to give him a sign. He took my advice with a slow nod, and I was surprised at his openness. Usually he was so guarded around me.

We talked for maybe an hour and when I left I hugged him, maybe, I don’t remember. I just recall how precious that moment was as the sky behind him was painted with orange and pink colors, as the kids in the park punted soccer balls into the goals, as we stood, the two of us, friends since childhood, trying to figure out life together.

My mind returns to the intersection with Adam and he’s asking me which street to turn down. I say go left, and we laugh because I’m pointing to the right.

I feel as if every guy or girl in their early twenties is searching for a place to belong.

Johnny, like Adam, was searching. In his life I worried for him, I wanted him to find that place. In his death I know God had him where he was supposed to be. I write these words to myself as well. In this life we are always searching, but let us not be distraught. God has our days numbered. We will all soon expire. Let’s make the most and live fully in the days to which we are assigned.

 

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The Tall People Blog Tour

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I recently published a short story. You can find it on Amazon, combined with other short stories by various writers into a beautiful anthology.

I’m not sure how the idea for the story came to me. I just remember sitting in the lounge of my sister’s Manhattan townhouse, typing away.

I suppose it was initially inspired by an article my dad told me about as he drove me to the train station the night before.

The article reported a mother who drove her van full of kids into the Atlantic ocean. So I took the perspective of a life guard and fictionalized the story. Then I saturated it with the question of how valuable is a human life?  I’ve never written a story with such determination. It was almost as if the story was telling itself, coaxing my fingers to type it out.

***

How did I get it published? I follow a blogger named Ethan Renoe. What drew me to his work was an article on singleness he wrote in Relevant Magazine. I guess I was surprised to see a man writing on singleness. What? I thought singleness was a topic only women wrote about, me included.

So I became a regular reader of Ethan’s blog and one day he asked people to contribute to his anthology.

I scrolled through my google docs and came across this piece I wrote in college for a fiction writing class. The story is full of suspense and emotion. Ethan asked me to change the narrator to a female because,  as he put it, “It was very emotional in a way that most guys don’t think.” Makes sense.

The book is now on a blog tour and will appear across various blogs in the bloggersphere — yeah that’s not a word.

See more on this book tour from Geoffery Wolfe’s blog.

 

 

La Vie En Rose

Grieving the death of a friend: Sadness

Yesterday I let myself be sad. 😦

Today I don’t know what I’m going to do.

My friends reached out to me yesterday and we ate lunch at City Market. On my way over I kept seeing people carrying bouquets of flowers. There where two women on Monument Circle handing out bouquets. When I passed them they called out, saying I looked like I could use some flowers. No, I looked like death. My face was a brownish grey and my hair was undone.

They handed me two bouquets and said I had to take one and give one to a friend. I sighed and took them. Down Market Street I carried them and saw the homeless woman who sits outside of Starbucks. Someone had already given her one.

I crossed Pennsylvania Street and saw a homeless man in a wheelchair. What could he do with a bouquet of flowers? Perhaps my friends at City Market would want them. After all they were grieving Johnny’s death too. So I continued down Market Street until I heard the music of a saxophone coming from the street corner. A man in a long sweater was playing a gentle melody. As I drew near he stopped and began to warm his hands.

I looked up as I passed him, “Thank you,” I said, “that is so beautiful.”

His face lit up as he told me,”Your smile is so beautiful.” I didn’t blush or feel embarrassed. I nodded and continued walking, cradling the two bouquets that were growing heavy in my hands. I crossed Delaware street and thought to myself, Life is okay. I will never again see the world through rose colored glasses, because this world has death in it. But, la vie en rose is a world without death, a place where pink clouds sail on the shores of eternity.

Grieving Sucks

Processing the death of a friend: Depression

There is no hope in death, not on this side of heaven. I don’t want to admit my sadness, but it’s there. I suppressed it for the first week after Johnny died, but it’s like an inner tube that you push down into the pool. No matter how long you hold it down it’ll eventually come up.

So today I’m accepting the sadness. Admitting the feeling that says “I hate this. There is no hope, there is no joy, and at many times there are no words.”

No words? For a writer who can always express how she’s feeling through the twenty-six letters on her keyboard, this is uncomfortable. Yes, no words.

My eyes are heavy.

My heart sinks.

Grieving sucks.

The Night You Died

Processing the Death of a Friend: Reflection

I close my eyes and see your mother’s face. It breaks me. Her lips are trembling, her eyes well with tears. We walk into the hospital room and I sit down. I try to keep it together as my parents console yours’. I think of your body that’s in the other room, and your soul that’s up in heaven. Can you see us?

I close my eyes and cry.

I see my mother sobbing. She breaks down, cupping a hand over her mouth. I cannot watch. Your parents leave the hospital with your wallet in a ziplock bag. My heart sinks, my breath grows short. I cannot bear it.

Your father is looking up at the stars as we stand outside the hospital. The sides of his mouth are turned up as his searching eyes behold the heavens above. I feel calmed.

There is pain in the death of a friend. Pain in seeing the grief of others. But I find comfort in the truth that God knows our deepest needs and how to fulfill them. I cannot comfort everyone who is hurting. I rest in the knowledge that God can comfort them.

 

 

The Other Side of Heaven

Processing the death of a friend: Hope

I know where you are.  In this I take comfort.

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A photo he took when we went boating this summer

I sat on the back deck of my house this morning, looking up at the sky. I’d come out to read my bible and journal, but all I could do was just be. It was divinely beautiful to see the sun coming up and the clouds scattered over the wide open sky.

There is peace in the death of a friend. Peace that comes from the knowledge that he is okay. For so long I was concerned about his well being probably since we graduated high school, or was it when we started high school, or maybe before that when I realized he took it upon himself to look out for me. Now, those concerns are put to rest as he is put to rest.

We are all searching souls on this earth, looking for satisfaction that cannot be obtained. Not until we part with this world do we experience true fulfillment, completion, and satisfaction. I use to think that knowing Christ was the ultimate fulfillment, but as Christians we still have to deal with this world and all of its problems. On this earth we will always, always yearn for more.

I wrote about this longing a few weeks ago. And now that a close friend has reached the other side, I feel like heaven is that much closer. Not only will I think of heaven when I see the sunsets or the clouds above me, I will think of heaven when I think of Johnny and how I long to be there with him.

There is peace in death, for death has been defeated.

Processing the death of a friend: Part 2

I remember stopping by his coffee shop after I’d graduated college. It was the first time I’d seen him since probably Christmas. I told him I was looking for a job and he said they were hiring.

I ordered a strawberry smoothie and he walked me to my car. We walked slowly down the avenue and I asked how he was doing. He said he was at a point in life where he’d done everything he wanted to do, except for beating his dad at golf. I stood there astonished. Could he really be serious? At twenty-two he’d done it all?

Meanwhile I felt I was just getting started. Finally done with school and free to start looking for jobs, I was ready to start living. Finally home in Indianapolis I wasready to reconnect with old friends. We walked up the damp stairs of the parking garage and I remember thinking how glad I was he’d walked me out, especially when I saw the homeless man sleeping beneath the stairs.  Looking over the edge of the lot we saw the iconic Saint Elmo’s Steakhouse, an historical Indy restaurant. He said we should hang out more often and that he’d vouch for me if I applied to be a barista too.

***

A year later we happened upon that same spot. Overlooking the streets near the Saint Elmo’s Steakhouse. We’d gone out for my birthday and the night was over. Our legs had carried us all over town and somehow brought us back to that spot.

“Johnny,” I said, in disbelief. “Can you believe where we are now?”

“Yeah,” he breathed in a gentle laugh.  “I was just thinking about that.” He was sporting an enormous mustache, something I attributed to his coffee shop life.

In just a year things had really changed. He’d landed a barista job at his favorite coffee shop, Quills — a place known for its distinct latte art. And I was working a salary job as a writer.

***

Memories are a gift in these devastating times

 

 

 

Processing the death of a friend

Words are my muse.

If you’ve read my blog before, you understand that I process life through writing.

Less is more.

It’s what they teach you in school. It’s what they teach you in the professional world of marketing and communications.

I never knew my life could change forever with the utterance of two words.

I’d been praying for him. I prayed that he wouldn’t be afraid. The car was off. I answered the phone and all she uttered was those two life changing, painfully scary, unreal words.

“John Died.”

I felt nothing but pain. Red, hot, flashing pain in my head as I sat in the driver’s seat of my Toyota Corolla weeping so horribly loud. The words made no sense. Those two should never be put together.

Not John. Not my friend John who just a moment before was said to be in the ICU.

So sudden. So final.  So unreal.

How can two words change everything?

400 words on contrast

I like to walk through the city on my lunch. Yeah I’m sort of a loner sometimes.

It’s only lonely if I consider what other people think of my lonely self. But usually I enjoy the silence and let my thoughts take off to interesting places.

I was thinking today about the diversity in my city. Not just racially, but the sheer contrast of different types of people.  My inner cinematographer wanted to capture it on film and play it to some hip hop music with a person rapping about the differences in humanity.

Oh, if I’d only studied film.

In art school they teach you that one of the key elements of design is contrast. If art is beautiful, and design produces art, then contrast is beautiful . . .  even in humanity. Design is a combination of lines, shapes, colors, textures, repetition, and . . . yes, contrast.

Contrast is my favorite element of design, because it appears in variations.

Today I saw the concept of contrast from a sociological aspect. Humans contrasted with humans. This indeed is diversity. And this is good.

So, I sometimes struggle with understanding why diversity is good. More ingredients make the soup taste better right? But sometimes those ingredients just don’t go together.

I would say the root of a lot of societal issues comes from diverse people groups cohabiting. There’s a reason Toads and Tortoises swim in different seas. Of course there’s the truth that all people are inherently bad, and from a Christian perspective, need saving. But how do you explain the comfort that comes from like-mindedness?

I use to write about diversifying friend groups. I pushed for more variety, saying people should mix with other ethnicities, in other words stop hanging out with people who resemble you. Then I began to see how hard this really is. I realized that I myself didn’t feel comfortable around certain people. I started to wonder if people of the same ethnicity, background, and language, should just stay together.

Different is never comfortable.

But wherein lies the beauty of contrast when all the same birds flock together?

I think it helps me, as an artist (who feels emotions to the tenth degree and struggles to maintain even the simplest feelings) to see diversity as human contrast. There is a beauty in this, especially when no one is domineering the other, when both are valued and equal.

Enough said.

This Side of Heaven

Longing for more

A golden sun gleamed through the passing buildings this morning. The pink pastel clouds on the horizon smiled as the sun touched them softly.  It was the type of morning that is somehow sacred, set apart and simply beautiful.

 

I imagined being a photographer and crouching down in the weeds of a roadside park to capture the brilliant sunbeams shooting through the city. Yeah, my fantasy photographer self is much more adventuress than my actual self.  But anyways, I thought about how a photographer can capture a morning like this but she can never create one. You know how the weather guys can predict the forecast and the hipster young people in my neighborhood can dress for it. Well, who is the one that sets the sun in the sky? Who calls it from its slumber to slowly rise?

 

Yeah, you’re following my drift. So why was I thinking about God?

 

I read a blog post from my friend Ana Harris. She’s a blogger recovering from chronic pain. Ana often writes about her body and something she mentioned recently was about our bodies on This Side of Heaven.

 

It may sound silly but when I saw the beautiful sunrise this morning, I felt this indescribable feeling. Was it happiness? Was it joy? Was it sadness? Was it fear? Was it . . . . . . yes. It was that.

 

Longing.    Yearning.    Wanting.    Waiting.    Wishing.    Hoping.

 

What I saw seemed like a glimpse of the other side. I know the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Even now we live in the presence of God. But the frustrating thing about life is that there are so many bad things going on around us. And we are both the instigators and the victims of these grievances.

 

A word on feelings. When I was fighting depression a few months ago, I withdrew from reality. I stopped feeling emotions and simply lost the desire to exist. I remember forcing myself to smile, hoping to trigger that thing called dopamine in my brain that, so I’m told, is really what makes me feel happy.

 

When I wasn’t forcing a smile, I remember somehow enjoying a state of mind that pulled me out of reality. I liked it there, for reality was nothing but fear, anxiety, and sadness.

 

To feel nothing seemed a better alternative.

 

Now that I’ve come through those dark months, I still have that sense of longing. But it’s a healthy longing. One that says “I know I’m here for a time and a purpose, but still I can’t wait to be there.”

By the time I got to work the sunrise was already losing its magic. I crossed the street from my parking garage to my office and wanted to stop for a moment and look out into the horizon at the rising sun. I wanted everything to freeze right where it was. The warm air, the sun beams, the crowds, the cars.

How long must we be on this side of heaven?