Featured art by Chiara Bautista. Click title image to visit her studio.
No drama. Such never has and never will be my way. I wish nobody harm. Simply not the way I’m wired. One of the human traits that I find hardest to stomach is our ability to lash out when we feel as though we have been wronged. It matters not the other side of the story as we are not prepared to entertain it. Instead we act out of unkindness, often passively aggressive, and this calls to mind schoolyard bullying to me. Should others decide against responding to our cutting remarks, then it is deemed as cowardice and further leads us to believe we hold the upper hand. Thus, we continue to press until such time as we feel as though we have claimed a victory. And perhaps we have in our own minds, at least. But at which cost?
Anyone who has taken the time to get to know me over the past six years should be more than aware that I’m allergic to dramatics. Never more so than since identifying that Complex PTSD is very much the tree at my window. I’m a peaceful creature, with no intention to harm, no sigils to burn, no cutting words to impart. Should such ever be perceived through my art, then I invite the reader to remove any context or personal feeling from the piece in question, read free of embedded prejudice, and search for the deeper message within. With me, it is almost certainly a journey from dark through to light, with the hope to empower positive change to anyone who dresses the same shadows as I.
I possess a grand total of zero enemies in life as this would contradict my own personal mantra entirely. Ill feeling is catch and release to me now as I know that it ultimately benefits neither party involved and generates a negative energy that serves no one well in the long run. Time and again I write about self-improvement, not because I am self-possessed (one of the most habitual misgivings about me), but because I have found peace within myself and have faith that others can find the same. Being required to effectively rewire one’s mind (which is what the past half a decade has been about) entails coming to a number of realizations over negative behavioural patterns that halt us from progressing. Should I happen across an epiphany of sorts, then I pay this forward, in kind. Such is the nature of the beast.
I struggle with remaining present on social networks. And here, in a nutshell, is why. As anyone affected by anxiety will attest, it is all about finding a safe place. When we click on whatever is trending that day, it doesn’t take a great stretch to work out that a great many use these platforms to form snap assumptions of the characters of others, with only the facts they are prepared or positioned to comprehend. Effectively these are the new-age playgrounds of yesteryear. A place where we can use the freedom of speech we are entitled to, with precious little fear of repercussion. Not the safest of havens then. A snake pit more like. I liken navigating the home feed to walking barefoot through a field of broken glass. Our good days can be transformed into bad at the solitary click of a scroll bar. And again, I guess this is the nature of the beast.
So what of those among us a little more outwardly introverted who wish to escape from the rigmarole of everyday life for a few precious minutes each day and share a few smiles with those who make the whole experience worthwhile? We take one for the team I guess, repeatedly find ourselves backed into a corner; while justifying decisions that may have been made simply for self-preservation purposes. I have a duty to myself to protect myself, before I wreck my health. There’s nothing stealth about my movements, I quite plainly fall back when the heat rises as I am only too aware of my triggers and how my “sickness” manifests. Therefore, I choose not to engage in slanging matches and all the mudslinging they necessitate. If we, as humans, could only utilize our time focusing less on what we hate about others and more on what we love about ourselves, then our race would be in a far more charmed position moving forwards.
I’m a sensitive soul. The kind who believes that swords should never once be raised in a place we wish to refer to as home. In a respect, we true artists are very much like children. Take one look at the likes of David Bowie and such should be very much evident. The journeymen and women amongst us are required to reconnect with our inner child; in order to release the deepest art from within. When Bowie was diagnozed with terminal liver cancer three months prior to his mortal passing, he chose not to make this public knowledge. Instead, he headed to his safe place. The recording studio. Hub of his exceptional creation. And Blackstar was born. While deeply saddened by his death, it actually gave me tremendous peace to know that he had orchestrated his own final bow on his own poetic terms. Before returning to the night skies to sparkle forevermore. Bless his divine soul.
He was a child at heart, you see. And there are those among the masses rewired in the very same manner. We have no inclination towards scurrying through the labyrinth and never happening across an exit. We live and we learn. We hope and we dream. Art is our paintbrush to set desired scene. Safety for us does not come in numbers; for as much as we wish the many to locate the diamonds within our creation. It is having places accessible to us at all times where nothing whatsoever is subject to change that matters most to our personal wellbeing. Hearsay is out of our control, but in these locales, free of unforeseen blades, we feel secure that our character will not be questioned. That, to an artist, is the ultimate bastard sword to be plunged.
Others tend to walk away from us. Not the other way around. When they do, bitterness and resentment soon or eventually follows. Said ill-feeling becomes distorted on a one-way scale. And, more often than not, blitzkrieg ensues. This is such a needless endeavour. Benefitting nobody. I love those who have wronged me unconditionally. Wish nothing but peace, belief and enlightenment to all. No exception. But that doesn’t mean I feel obliged to deflect attacks that need not be exacted in the first place. I cannot surround myself with conflict, or else I am done for in my own quest for peace, belief and enlightenment. It’s quite simple. Safe places are my home places. Here I can be childlike in my enthusiasm, constant in my sunny outlook, and create the kind of art I always dreamed one day I would.
There are many pieces of literature I have been required recently to remove from Rivers of Grue before my annual subscription expired. Not due to oneupmanship. Such is and never will be my style. Space has become an issue to me now, so much so that I have deleted a number of my own treasured works to enable my fresh output the air to breathe. Artists generally have to make financial sacrifices to pursue their passion. Mine is that I cannot afford to further upgrade my account, much as I would love to. I have to be then selective. And I do so with not a solitary bad bone to splinter. There is a sound reason why I choose the skin of a lion as my metaphysical gown of choice. Brave and strong they may be, but they are never more content than when lounging in the shade. Peacefully. This is simply my preferred way. My ultimate form, as such. That of a lion. My favourite outfit.
I wish no harm or foul on anyone. Should others wish either or both for me, then I genuinely hope for a peaceful resolution to their displeasure. I have met a number of glorious souls during my tenure as a scribe, but I have had to accept the fact that I cannot fix others. Empower them to fight their own demons – yes. But I cannot take away hurts that are ultimately out of my jurisdiction. Take the time to peruse the archives and you will see I am consistent, whenever writing introspectively, to the same basic belief and nature that amounts to the “All of Me” I present day in, day out. It’s right there, spread far and wide across my journal pages. How my art is perceived is out of my ballpark, such is the beauty of creation and, sadly often, beast of interpretation. But I can say one thing with hand on bloody heart. I am true. I am real. I am sincere. And I am never less than crystalline clear.
Complex PTSD is a part of me I am bloody-minded will not define me. For this to ever be the case, I need to feel safe. On social networks where however many billion subscribers vye for their say, it can feel curiously like being tossed into a lion’s den. And therein lies the sweetest of ironies. My name is Richard Charles Stevens. I am a wild lion-hearted artist brave to those who truly see me. With a lustrous mane when provided safe place. I protect my pride fiercely, nay ferociously. But I also have a duty to protect myself. Should a sword be raised, then I could stand and fight to the death to satisfy the bloodlust of others. Or I could simply turn and walk the other way. Return to the tree beneath which I find my shade. And very simply be. For this is my way. No drama. No battles or brawls. Just a child with the universe in his eyes. And blind faith that, one fine day, others will seek their own prize.
Love to all—to all, Do love
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill