♫ Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Fleetwood Mac The Chain
 The Police Every Breath You Take
 Matthew Wilder Break My Stride
It recently occurred to me that I didn’t start my year with the customary written resolution. Should you have been dipping into the rivers for some time now, then you may be familiar with these annual signals of intent and, for anyone new to the grue, 2014: Year of The Grue and 2015: Rise of The Grueheads will offer all the enlightenment you need. This year was different as I stumbled into 2016 without the faintest clue as to where I was headed and was in the midst of something of a personal crisis. Identity was the issue or, more accurately, lack of it. For whatever reason, I misplaced my mojo and found myself in territory both uncharted and most unappealing. This wasn’t just a dash of writer’s block as my output was still as consistent as ever. However, I no longer felt like Keeper. This was a most unsettling period of transition for me as I had no doubt that I was very much Richard Charles Stevens. But the pseudonym that I selected back in 2013 was suddenly conspicuously absent. Appraisals bailed me out as, of all my pursuits, they are by far the most effortless. But something was evidently missing.
I am the first to admit that the last year has consisted of numerous spirited comebacks followed shortly after by fade-out. Understandably certain quarters have become exasperated by my erratic presence and I’ve been every bit as discombobulated believe me. In October 2015 my financial situation changed for the better and, while this would appear to be nothing but positive, it didn’t address the real problem I was tackling. Said headache has entailed locating inner resolution and accepting certain painful truths that had plagued me incessantly since my life’s momentum initially shifted. Depression was an ever-present when I commenced my pilgrimage and writing presented my only bankable form of therapy. Back then I referred to each article as a bleed and this was a vital part of the process with regards to identifying my true purpose. Through my darkest hours (of which there were a multitude), I took considerable comfort from knowing that my readership related to my plight and even greater consolation from assisting them in tackling their own through any common ground shared.
I was blighted with immense culpability for the abrupt breakdown of my marriage, particularly given that a child was involved and one in a critical stage of his development. Of all my lifetime achievements, none come even vaguely close to becoming a father as my own had been and forever will be my number one personal hero. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when I was far too young to have a grasp on its repercussions and, while my childhood was an emphatically happy affair, the trauma of this turn of events was inescapable. However, while his case was on the more severe end of the spectrum, and entailed nearly twenty-five years of steady decline to an independence he had previously prided himself on, he never once threw in the towel. This is a man who was on the cusp of a career as a professional footballer before opting to join the navy. He could dismantle a car engine at breakfast and have it reassembled before lunch and had pledged to pass this knowledge on when the time come. It never did.
However, he wasn’t about to allow his head to drop and I’m convinced that his disease would have progressed faster had he not maintained a positive mindset. Needless to say, this taught me something more invaluable than how to change a set of spark plugs and I owe so much of my outlook to his refusal to alter his stance on account of something out of his control. I was the only boy in a four-strong brood and had arrived at the last throw of the biological dice for my parents. Thus, the family name could only continue under my jurisdiction and his one stipulation was that I present him with a grandson. No pressure then. By the time Jacob Nathaniel Stevens shot across the gurney like the world’s most adorable bullet and landed in the midwife’s catcher mitt, my father was no longer present, at least, not in a physical sense. I now take great comfort from the knowledge that he was very much present at the birth and owe that to deciphering my true purpose in life. Being Keeper convinced me of his ever-presence.
Anyhoots, failing as a father (which is the only way I could see this), tore me up on a level I cannot even begin to adequately express. I had been Richard Charles Stevens for nearly forty years and, for the next three years, became the Keeper of The Crimson Quill. This is where the problem arose as, while my fortunes changed in October, I had to find a way of becoming both in unison. Updating my Facebook profile to incorporate both birth right and pseudonym was the first and most simple of numerous steps but the tail end of last year required me to apply this on a far more intimate level. I craved an audience, not because I’m some megalomaniac, but because it meant that I was never alone. When you consider how much of my waking life I spend in solitude, you can see why this was so vital at this point in my transference. Searching for validation is commonly considered a thankless and pointless endeavor but that opinion is two things to me – black and white. I make no secret that I check the statistics on my site daily and also that reading supportive and encouraging comments, wherever they materialize, is my most cherished pastime. I do need that validation but perhaps validation isn’t the word here. Motivation more like.
So here is where I was faltering. Through repeated instances of vaporizing publicly, some started to question their faith in me and I not only accept this but appreciate it also. Considering how little faith I had in myself at this juncture, how could anybody else be expected not to doubt their own faith in me? As I slid down my own slippery slope, out of earshot to anyone who could halt my slide, the term Gruehead lost some of its lustre. This, in turn, had me pondering whether I was still the Keeper of anything. Sure, I was feeling much more like Richard, but quizzed whether that meant ditching my pseudonym and accepting that I wasn’t destined to spend my life sharing my insight through prose. Unless I struck some kind of balance, chances were, I would end up being neither. You see, a surreptitious desire for self-termination has been my most significant demon and I was hurtling towards it full pelt. Even now, I crucify my body daily, and this coming weekend will be placing myself in the catcher mitt of my oldest friend in the world. I plan to arrive with a plan, discuss this plan in spiritual fashion with the most intuitive guy I know, then vacate with said plan already in motion.
Long story short, I haven’t been at this place until now. As 2015 slackened its sphincter and shat out 2016, I was still hunting high and low for my own catcher mitt. There were no resolutions, no game plan, no identity either – just quietude. However, this is where we come to the all-important kicker, The Rose Trail marked me a route. I have mentioned this on occasion and this represents relocating my true center. There have been healing hands and without them I would not be sat here now. When my identity appeared to be at its most compromised, I knew I had to give it one last shot. I did that and suddenly the clouds began to dissipate above me. What I did was to write for myself and forget I even had a readership. It had to be this way as the answers to my conundrum were ultimately inside me. Through doing so, I located the ideal plateau as a writer, and in no time found myself back amongst my beloved friends. I will always write for an audience but have now learned how to prioritize this. As every word comes from the soul, it has to be an organic process, and involves focusing initially on me. But every gift is ultimately fashioned for the Grueheads.
I’ll never cease thriving for an audience, statistics will always provide payment, support and love will never get old. That is just me, I receive absolutely no fiscal remuneration for what I plough 60 hours a week into, and it isn’t my driving force. Let’s not get it twisted, I need to find a way of milking the cash cow at some point, but only enough to stir into my morning tea. However the moment when you read a comment such as the following: “I’ve never known anyone with the caliber of talent, creativity, imagination that you are. And it’s not something you have. It’s something you are.” is one that money just can’t buy. I have learned how to be both Richard and Keeper, reached a place where I’m actually truly comfortable with both. Moreover, I need both to keep refining through art. I can always give more and my oath is to do so until my pilot light ultimately flickers. When that time comes, my soul is in the public domain, as my prose will still remain.
Hopefully it will now make a little more sense why I have left it until almost a third of the way through the year to drop my annual proposal. This time had to be different, no rousing battle cry or setting anyone up for failure, myself inclusive. Wherever the year ultimately leads is a pilgrimage we can undertake together and just enjoy its anonymity. For me, January through April have been largely about finding. Finding my true self, finding a voice I had begun to misplace, speaking through dual tongues but with the need for only a solitary end product. By cracking this nut I have sussed out the relevance of keeping. You see, I plan never again to misplace Richard and, by the same token, have Keeper chained up in the attic. I feed him daily and he feeds me in return. Then I feed you lot and you feed me right back. It becomes one big all you can eat buffet and we all end up queueing for the restroom. It’s about that time that I flash my junk, just because I’m Keeper. Fret not, as Richard is now on hand to zip the mischievous little fellow straight back in and make any apologies.
2016 has been a wretched year with regards to celebrity deaths, as I touched on only recently in more depth than I propose to here, but it can still be a glorious event. Where it leads is anybody’s guess and I always did love me a good mystery. However one thing is crystal clear – I’ll be alongside the Grueheads for every step of the way, in whatever capacity that may be. Unquestionably through prose, as much as feasible socially, and most critically always personally. That is what I propose each time the Crimson Quill touches parchment; something intimate to each and every one of you for your own personal reasons and mine too. Should a bout of sickness loom as is likely in the coming weeks as I shape up for my next physical skirmish then I shall attempt to remain ever-visible. That’s so much easier when you truly feel like you’re home again. It’s about time I invest in a diary methinks, at least it won’t cost me the earth now. You see, always forward thinking. Thank you for every last second and third chance, for not fashioning voodoo dolls and subjecting me to a thorough perforation, or committing either of my two names to dirt. My return gift is everything I am and in every conceivable manner. Suddenly 2016 appears to be going somewhere after all. Surely that’s worth raising a glass to right?
I can’t turn back time or extinguish the pain
I can’t prevent tragedy striking again
I can’t promise you life will always be kind
I can’t provide sight for those who are blind
I can’t ride a camel or play the jazz flute
You could hand me a gun but I can’t make it shoot
For I can’t take a life, couldn’t live with the guilt
I can’t destroy something that someone else built
I can’t take a bath in water this shallow
I can’t forge a path through a walkway this narrow
I can’t take back all of the things I have said
I can’t perform magic to bring back the dead
I can’t fall asleep after all that I’ve seen
I can’t guarantee that I’ll wake from this dream
I can’t walk on water or swim on dry land
I can’t run away when entrenched in quicksand
I can halt the slide though can wrench myself free
I can become who I’m intended to be
I can rise above like a Phoenix from flames
I can still kick ass and I can still take names
I can spread the love and I can extend kindness
In some respects that in itself cures the blindness
I can be your rock if such you allow
I can defy odds and honor my vow
I can walk on water at least in my heart
I can save my life by existing through art
I can make you smile and I can make you fear
I can raise my voice and I can raise a tear
You can feel my touch you can see my light
You can feel secure as I’m squeezing you tight
You can trust your gut, let go, take that leap
As I can break your fall, no matter how steep
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2016