beauty out of sorrow

I stood in a coffee shop in lower Manhattan this morning people watching as I waited for a colleague. Lower Manhattan is an interesting place to people watch. The crowd is diverse but they have one thing in common – everyone is in a rush.

This morning there was one exception.

A young lady, nicely dressed, obviously on her way to her nearby job. Except at the moment she looked like she couldn’t care less about her job or anything else except the very intense phone conversation she was having.

At first, she spoke in an urgent whisper, but after a couple of minutes she gave up on subtlety. But even if she hadn’t it was obvious from her slumped shoulders, her downcast eyes and her defeated body language that she was distraught. A relationship was over, and she was on the phone pleading her case. Honestly, I felt like a creep watching her, but even if I hadn’t I would have known, I would have felt the pain and the despair that permeated the whole place. My heart went out to her, and I silently sent good vibes her way as I looked away, hoping her love would reconsider and take her back.

My colleague arrived at the coffee shop shortly after and as I walked out with him I overheard her say one thing.

“Don’t leave me. Please.”

I walked outside, but as I left I stole one last look at the young lady. Her conversation was over and she stood, phone in hand, crushed and crying openly, her shoulders bowed in grief.

I felt her pain, and I know I will be haunted by the look of loss on her face for years to come. Why? Because I am a writer.

As writers, we are blessed and we are cursed.

Cursed because we feel deeply. Cursed because we dig deep into not only our feelings but also into those of the ones who love us and who hurt us. Sometimes, we dig into the hurt of people we don’t even know. We hold onto those feelings like a Terrier with a bone until they are worn and ragged and chewed up. Until WE are worn and ragged and chewed up.

Blessed, because we take the curse, the feelings, the pain, the intense longing and heartbreak and we turn them into something else. We sweat and we bleed and we push and we give birth to the child of our pain.

I wrote my first book, Willows, overcome with grief and heartbreak. It’s about a man who’s lost his love and feels he has nothing left. I felt the same way and I put it all on the page. It won’t win any prizes, it’s not my best work by a long shot but I’m damned if it isn’t my most heartfelt.

It was my first, emotional, imperfect child.

And then, I took that child and turned her out into the world. I handed her to you, the reader, hoping that you would feel some of my pain and wish me well. I handed her to you and hoped that you understood, as you turned the page, that I know what you feel but you will survive. You will come out on the other side okay.

I’m still sad for that young lady. At this moment, I imagine she is at her desk trying holding back tears. She will attend meetings today and talk on the phone and hand in reports with her tears still drying on them. She will take the train home later, trying not to cry. Maybe she’ll succeed, maybe she won’t, but either way the floodgates are sure to open as soon as she closes her door behind her. She will have no appetite but she might force down a lonely meal and then lay in bed and sob, later to fall asleep clutching something that reminds her of her lost love.

Tomorrow will be awful. So damn bad. So will the next day, and the next and the one after that. But soon, there will be a day that won’t be quite as bad, then another then another. Soon, she will see the sun again and taste food again. She will pet puppies, laugh at silly jokes, and go out with her friends again. Her lost love will always be an ache in her heart but an ache that grows duller with each day. Then, if she is very, very, fortunate she will meet someone who makes the ache a distant memory.

Or maybe, if the world is lucky, she will write about it.




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