beauty out of sorrow

beauty out of sorrow

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.

 

 

Candyland

Click the button below to get Hugh’s latest thriller – Candyland, from Amazon, or click HERE to download an excerpt.

 

 

Big and Tall

Big and Tall

Big and Tall

I recently lost a bunch of weight, a little over thirty pounds in the last few months.

Strange things happen when you go through a transformation like that. You THINK you will be able to handle the changes and you THINK you will be ecstatic about them, and for the most part you are. But, there is a part of you (well, of me) that can’t get quite get fully adjusted to this new person.

For years I’ve shopped in the Big and Tall department of a local store that generally had pretty nice stuff for us Big Guys. All of my clothes, especially pants, are now way too big, so the other day I walked in there, daughter in tow, and did what I always do in that store. I walked over to the big and tall section, picked out a couple of pairs of pants then made my way to the dressing rooms. I tried on the items and they were huge on me.

Duh … dude, you lost weight. You’ve changed.

Strangely enough, instead of being happy, I felt a little anxious. All my life I’ve been a big guy. I still am, I will never be small, but I’m smaller than I was. In that moment, I felt as if part of my identity, the thing that made me who I am, was slowly slipping away.

Scary.

“You didn’t like them dad?” My daughter asked when I emerged from the dressing room with the pants back on their respective hangers.

“No honey, they’re too big.”

I returned the items to the Big and Tall section then looked across the aisle to the “normal” sized section. It would have taken only a step or two to get over there, but venturing into new territory was intimidating. I eventually did and started browsing, a stranger in a strange land. After a few minutes, without even realizing it, I crossed the aisle into the Big and Tall section again.

“Dad, what are you doing over there?” My daughter asked.

I didn’t know what to say, I had wandered back across the aisle by sheer force of habit. Or, more likely, the part of me fearful of losing myself had brought me back into familiar territory.

She took my hand.

“You don’t belong over there, you have to stay over here now,” she said, as she pulled me across the aisle.

She didn’t mean anything deep by her statement, she was bored and just wanted me to stop wasting time so we could get the heck outta there, but I found her words profound nonetheless. I stayed put in the regular section although my eye still wandered over to Big and Tall occasionally. Eventually, I found some stuff that fit my new proportions. They looked good and I was happy to be able to fit into the smaller size, but there was a small part of me that still mourned the loss.

Change is scary. Even a change that you’ve planned for. I guess the key is not to wander back into the aisle of the familiar and comfortable. The new place that you’ve worked hard to get to is well…new but it’s where you should be. It’s where you NEED to be.

You don’t belong over there. You have to stay over here now.

Candyland

Click the button below to get Hugh’s latest thriller – Candyland, from Amazon, or click HERE to download an excerpt.

 

 

Gratitude

Gratitude

The basement of my house is my favorite writing space even though It’s not always the most comfortable. It’s cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and I share it with the spiders who can’t seem to stay away. Artificial light doesn’t do well in the basement, the illumination from bulbs only penetrate so far, giving the room a timeless quality that can play tricks on an overactive imagination, especially when I’m facing an empty page that I can’t seem to fill. I sit in the circle of light, looking out into the semi-darkness and it’s easy to envision a grandmother down here filling shelves with jars of homemade preserves or kids playing hide and seek while the rest of the family is upstairs gathered around a huge transistor radio.

So, more often than not, I turn out the lights when I’m working so the only illumination is from the monitor with the empty page I’m trying to fill. Sometimes the words are there and sometimes they aren’t, like the ten times I sat down to write this post about gratitude. I took walks to think about it, I spoke with a friend about it, I read my favorite books to inspire me, but the grand and eloquent words I wanted to use to express my profound thanks at the many blessings I had been given proved elusive.

So, I sat and let my mind wander, and soon I noticed the sounds.

Water running through pipes.

The rumble of the clothes dryer.

Thump, thumping of my daughter dancing upstairs.

I refocused and tried to concentrate. I have many things to be thankful for and I didn’t want this to be an ordinary post. I wanted the reader to feel the profound feelings that I felt. It needed to be special. But try as I might, the words failed me again and before very long I turned away from the screen and let my mind wander again.

Sounds.

Water running through pipes.

The rumble of the clothes dryer.

Thump, thumping of my daughter dancing upstairs.

I gathered my thoughts and refocused (again) and began to write. About thirty minutes and a frustrating page and a half later, I stopped to read what I’d produced.

Garbage. It was forced and not at all genuine. I was trying way too hard. I deleted the whole thing and leaned back in my chair.

Sounds again, or rather, only one sound. There was no water running and the dryer had completed its cycle.

Thump, thumping of my daughter dancing.

Then the thumping stopped and I heard footsteps running through the kitchen then down the stairs and into the basement where the empty page and I kept each other company.

“Look at this Dad,” she said.

I spend the next ten minutes watching her proudly show me the progress she’d made on the move she was practicing upstairs and discussing the difficulties of handstands and bridges and back walkovers. When she was done, she hugged me and ran back upstairs. In a moment, the thump thumping began again as she’s started to practice the next move.

As I listen to her dance, I realize that I’ve been going about this all wrong. I was like a bull in a china shop, stomping around and looking outwardly for the thing I only needed to be still to find. I would have heard it, the thump, thump, thumping that means that my daughter is dancing. As long as she is dancing everything is fine.

Gratitude.

I am thankful for many things. For health and strength, for Sunshine in the morning, for you reading his post.

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