There are two reasons why I have decided to write this piece today. The first is born out of need. While I pride myself on always being 100% honest in my prose, I also only tend to share what I’m comfortable with. In recent times, that has generally entailed my beloved horror as I’ve been desperate to make some headway in my chosen field. However, every once in a while, it’s necessary for me to release the valve so to speak and talk about what is really going on in my life. Thus the primary reason for this exercise is actually pretty selfish. It’s not that I like the sound of my own voice, so much as I just need to hear it right now. Writing is my channel you see. Ordinarily I can use this tool to entertain and enlighten, regardless of what might be going on in my personal life at the time. Currently, I need to cleanse myself of all manner of negative energy buzzing around within me and the best way to approach this appears to be tackling myself head on.
The second reason is actually far less introverted. Everyone has problems and I’m quite aware that many dwarf mine right now. I’m the last person to believe that my hardships are more significant than anyone else’s but the process I am about to go through may help just one other person to get their own worries and fears off their chest and that’s more than good enough for me. Given that I’m a positive soul, it’s always about searching for those upsides; not digging myself deeper into the void. If any of what you read here appears defeatist then, rest assured, that’s precisely why I’m naming it and shaming it. Better out than in, right? While it swirls about inside me, I can’t seem to get a hold on it. Once it’s here on the page, I can then raise objection. I guess that logic could come across as somewhat odd, but I’d also calculate that someone perusing this will spot the method in my madness. This is the one place I can truly express myself. It’s also the very best way I can connect.
Please allow me to paint you a picture. I’m currently on the very cusp of forty-three-years-old, have been married and divorced twice, and have the most heaven sent gift of a son any father could possibly wish for. Back in 2013, the ass got ripped straight out of my universe, and the future I thought was cast in stone was no longer applicable. Literally overnight my world changed and this had a profound effect on my psyche. Mercifully, this coincided with my discovery that there was an artist inside of me, screaming to be let out. For decades I’d suppressed this passion; resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t unique in any way, shape or form. Suddenly I had nothing left to lose and that translates to the exact opposite in gain. At the time, I was all kinds of compromised, so I conjured up the pseudonym Keeper of the Crimson Quill to lick my wounds behind. Then it dawned on me, hiding evidently hadn’t panned out for me previously, and this was my one opportunity to step out of the blue funk and embrace my true self, imperfections and all.
My darkest hour came and passed and I endured the long, cold winter of 2013 by the skin of my teeth; thanks to two dear friends who steadied me once my knees began to buckle. However, for my very best attempts at psychological healing, it was my body that started to pay the penance. I come from good stock, have never broken a bone, and there’s a strong heart beating in my chest. Had this not been the case, then I swear blind I wouldn’t be sitting here now, and anyone who knows me should be more than aware that I’m not one to say shit simply for effect. Sooner or later, I’d find a place in my mind that was serene, my reflective nature would see to that. But, all the while, my body was taking an absolute pounding. That’s four years of negligence my weary shell has been forced to abide and only recently have I begun to make it anything like a priority. Needless to say, my body ain’t best pleased.
Back in the spring, my oldest friend in the world died tragically and totally unexpectedly, and I was left no choice but to face up to the fickleness of mortality. This has only been possible because the hard work in my mind has been done and I no longer feel obliged to place it under such intense scrutiny. I guess you could say that I’m finally fully comfortable in my skin and that should be cause for celebration, right? Before we go breaking out the glockenspiel, it would appear that my skin isn’t quite so contented. For the past month or so, I’ve been severely lethargic, the every tendon aching variety, and my formerly ferocious appetite has completely vacated me. I find myself craving carbs and sugars 24/7, but little else besides. Anything with the slightest bit of nutritional value holds little to no appeal and bingeing has become my new favored pastime.
On average, I consume around a litre of energy drinks daily, chuff around forty smokes, and that’s just what I obtain over-the-counter. When I write, I invariably do so in my office, which doubles up rather delightfully as a poky garden shed, complete with flimsy asbestos roofing that doesn’t fare well once the rains come. No photocopier, no fax machine, no sexy-as-all-hell secretary; just me, a handful of garden implements and the occasional wayward slug for company. I spend the majority of my time in my workplace with woefully limited internet capabilities, thus remain effectively disconnected from the world outside for up to ten hours every day. This time is spent pouring myself into prose in whatever way feels most organic and it would be fair to assume that my productivity levels greatly inform my general state-of-mind. Granted, I’m generally at ease with myself and not teetering over a chasm at all times. But I simply have to create, just to truly feel a part of something.
The problem is that I distinctly recall pressing the self-destruct button back in 2013 and forty-eight months is rather a long stint for it to remain depressed. While I know my mind best, I’m also mindful of my body and the effect such abandon has had on my inner workings during the interim. The bottom line is that I’m in fucking lousy condition and can’t remove a tree root from my 73-year-old mother’s garden without my goodwill resulting in hyperventilation. That’s not right. A full twelve months ago, I visited my local surgery and the nurse there suggested a blood test and chest x-ray to identify the beast lurking within. Thanks to the cantankerous chimp in my limbic HQ, I chose not to follow this up and all services were swiftly resumed. Fast forward to now and déjà vu is the dish of the day. Only this time phase two of this process has been completed.
Making that decision to get myself checked out was not one I undertook lightly. But failure to do so would’ve had catastrophic results, I’m sure, and it’s time I faced up to whatever blight is causing this inertia, regardless of whether or not a solution can be presented. A close friend of mine is currently right in the thick of the fight of her life and it leaves me speechless how she remains such an affirmative light to others, when faced with the very real threat that looms over her. Whatever news greets me when I make that call to the doctor’s office that I’m currently sweating on, I feel prepared for largely as a result of her unwavering courage under fire. We all have different ways of gearing ourselves up for battle and mine just so happens to mean entertaining the very worst, as heartbreaking a prospect as that is. However, this is no self-fulfilling prophecy I’m talking about here. I’m just praying for a pleasant surprise. Should the tidings be grim, then I’ll deal with that accordingly. Be they upbeat, then I may just dance an Irish jig and rename myself Shamus O’Reilly via deed pole.
So here’s where I’m at. For the next six days it is just me, myself and I; not ideal given the magnitude of what potentially lies in wait. In the past, this would have played right into my chimp’s hands as he loves nothing more than to rendezvous away from prying eyes. However, I’ve put in the legwork already. All that is required now is a solitary phone call and my fate should be decided, one way or another. To those who care about me (and I’m blessed to report no dearth of glorious souls who do), think of me as a friendly little bunny right now, looking to pop my head out of the warren whenever it feels safe to do so. I may be a tad more easily startled than is commonplace as I’m hyper-alert to any prominent hazard. I’ll continue to do my thing, dreaded myxomatosis or not, and any carrots of kindness dangled my way will be gratefully received, I assure you.
Sharing this piece today has been downright necessary as, for all my jovial output, it’s imperative that I court reality momentarily and take the medicine I’ve denied myself for far too long now. I pledged from the offset to leave my heart and soul on the page every time I picked up my quill and that is not exclusive to creating works of fiction or waxing movies like the shameless cinephile that I am. It also means channeling any inner turmoil I may be feeling into something transferable that can hopefully cast a ray of light or three for others. Whatever your own personal hardship, I wish you all Godspeed and will be rooting for a positive outcome. As for me, well I’m feeling pretty aired after getting that little load off my chest. The rabbit hole awaits and no longer appears quite so gnarled as before. Besides, I always was a sucker for adventure.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill