The Last Blog…#423

EA Murphree – Author – Blogger

First, thank all of you for following “The Last Chapter.” No, this is not my last blog. I am a blogger sharing many thoughts, opinions, and theories with my readers. I write daily, creating poetry, short stories, and novellas. The title states my last blog; no, it is not me that I speak; it is my son, a published writer, mental health speaker, and the most mindful individual I know. He has written a piece called the last blog. I repost his work on my blog because I believe he has touched the hearts and minds of many as a writer, speaker, and special educator. Many have read these posts and “liked them,” while others comment on his writing. This is not his last blog; he is just taking a retreat. I always say if writers are knowledgeable in the needs of others, if only reaching one, much has been accomplished. When he returns from this well-deserved retreat and posts another blog, I will repost it in The Last Chapter. I hope many have followed him and will continue to do so.



Chuck Murphree – Published Writer – Mental Health Speaker – Special Education Teacher

This is it, the last blog. It’s not because I have nothing to say, but I have spent the past several months deeply reflecting. Let me explain.

I have been transparent about depression, anxiety, and trauma for several years. I share my stories and experiences and am vulnerable because I want to help others navigate their darkness. However, time has told me I am uncertain if anyone is listening. The silence tells me the stigmas I want to destroy that surround mental illness are alive and well, and I have now become exhausted from trying. I even sent out a quick survey recently, and the feedback was overwhelmingly people telling me they are not interested in hearing or reading stories about mental health. So, it is time for respite, to look further inward, and spend my energy on something different. Maybe I just need to give others a break from me. Give them a break from seeing my advocacy around mental health, which is led by personal experience and the traumas I have faced. Maybe it is too much. Maybe I am too much, so we all deserve a break.

The past year was one of the hardest I have had to date. I wrote about it often. I don’t regret sharing, but many did not read the writing. Again, I hope that if I shared my experiences with suicidal ideation, stress, depression, panic, anxiety, and trauma, others would connect.

My new novel was released on April 12, and my life went into a tailspin that night. I wrote about it in my blog, “Turning The Key.” I sort of put the novel aside, and so did the readers. My first novel was well received and still is, but the second was not so much. I was recently told by a bookstore manager that my first novel was selling well for them, but the second was not. She went on to say it is because people do not like reading novels in verse because they think it is poetry. I guess they missed the point. I actually think my second novel, the one in verse, is better than the first.

Then, another reality hit me recently. I realized that I have “friends” and family that have never even read or purchased my books. This stings a little, especially when they want me to help support them in their pursuits. They also have not bothered to read my blogs, so I ask myself, “Why bother? Why bother with any of it, and sometimes, why bother with them?” If people who say they care about me are not reading my stuff, why would anyone else?

None of this is meant to sound self-deprecating. I am not being critical of my values or my writing. I am not giving up. I will write every day like I always do. However, those musings will stay with me for now. In fact, I have written a third book and am currently in the editing process. Do people realize how much work, thought, and vulnerability goes into writing a novel? Sharing your deepest thoughts and your art is no easy feat. You put yourself in front of the firing squad for criticism and judgment. I sometimes realize what Vincent Van Gogh must have felt. People didn’t understand his message and what he was trying to tell them until he was dead. I get that. Though, I won’t be cutting my ear off anytime soon.

I have also experienced many people contacting me, asking me to meet with them or talk to them and help them. They expect me to have some great insight into their mental health. I have found they do not mind taking my time and do not stop for a moment to realize that several people ask me to meet them on a consistent basis, and if I met with them all, I would have no time for anything else. I feel bad for saying “no,” but I have no choice. That is why I share my writing. It is all there in words, paragraphs, blogs, and books. It’s there to be absorbed, and I have had people as far as New Zealand reach out and tell me my writing has helped them with their mental illness. Yet, most people who want me to meet with them have never read a word I wrote.

I have come to realize that I have always written my stories, fiction and non, for myself. I write for myself and what I want to get out of my mind and soul. I write because I need to. I have never wanted to write for a market, to simply sell books. So, my blogs have been a tool I have used to learn more about myself and my thoughts and feelings about life. My hope was that maybe others would gather something: a thought, feeling, action, or a moment of desperation, where they connected with what I had written.

I have not really been marketing my books as much as I once did. It took the joy from my writing. When I told this to my therapist, he said, “Chuck, you have always talked about how much you enjoy writing and sharing your stories with others. You have never mentioned that you wanted to be a marketer or promoter.” He, like he often is, was right. I despise marketing, selling myself, and constantly trying to promote my work. It’s too much pressure. Yes, it may hurt my sales, but if people find my books and actually read them, I believe they will like them and connect. Perhaps, like one young woman told me, “Your book saved my life, and I know I am not alone.” My older blogs will remain on my website. If people find them, then I hope it helps them. I wrote them so they would not feel alone. If it’s meant to be, it will be.

The funny thing is, I am writing this as my last blog, and maybe about ten people will read it. I appreciate the consistent ten for those that have read them. Perhaps, I am just tired or in need of a break. Maybe I am in need of a break from myself, and maybe you need a break from my ramblings too.

For now, I am going into a time of being mindful. I need time to reflect a little deeper on my life and where I am heading. I need to relook at my priorities and the direction I am going on this dusty road I am traveling. I need to take a glimpse into where I have been so that mistakes are not repeated. I need a journey, a pilgrimage, where I return wiser, older, and ready to inform others of what I learned along the way. I will be back, but I am now going into my own silent retreat. It’s time for renewal.

Again, this is not a pity writing. It is not a plea. It is speaking my truth as I always do through my words. Those words will now lay dormant for a while.

If you are reading this, and you are the loyal ones, the dreamers and drifters, the wanderers and soul seekers, and the survivors who are trying to build resilience and navigate your own darkness, please keep moving through your life mindfully, full of laughter, and remember you cannot have joy without suffering. Both are necessary.

Time has told me that my smile will return. It always does on to better things.

Until next time.

Chuck Murphree


Flying with Broken Wings…#422

EA Murphree

Flying with Broken Wings: The Life Story of Charlotte Jean Murphree

by Elizabeth Ann Johnson-Murphree


$15.00  NOW -74%  off  SELLING AT   $3.91

Flying with Broken Wings is about the life of Charlotte Jean Murphree. Charlotte was not a famous person, in fact, not too many people knew her, but those that did knew there were many facets to her life. the book tells of fifty-two years of daily testing of her will to carry on and the misfortune she faced. As a baby and young girl, she was made fun of by schoolchildren, her progress was slow, but she never gave up the fight to overcome her disabilities. As an adult, she fought Cerebral Palsy, Living with Bipolar, Depression, and Schizophrenia disorders. Charlotte lived not only with herself, but she endured the “Voices” that lived within her for over thirty years. This book is about the beginning, her middle, and end of her life.



The Boy I Sit Next To Is Myself…#421

EA Murphree – The Last Chapter

The Boy I Sit Next To Is Myself by Chuck Murphree

Chuck Murphree

I think about him often. His wavy brown hair and blue eyes, with dimples that cave into an innocent face. Typically, when we talk, we are walking in the woods or sitting next to an old tree examining acorns, thinking it’s the most wonderful thing in the world.

I sometimes see the panic in the little boy’s eyes. His seven-year-old self longing for when he was six. It’s when it started, the abuse. I ask the boy to breathe with me and relax his thoughts as we mindfully walk, hand in hand. I gently offer for him to bring his eyes to the beauty that surrounds him. To sip on water from a bottle, and then reflect on how the water was once a cloud that drifted freely above our heads, through the sky, and never really disappeared, but continues. The thought relaxes him, that everything changes, but also stays the same. It’s a connection that I have with the boy. He was once me and still is.

We change through time. That is a given. If we are lucky our face has the opportunity to wrinkle and our joints become a little stiff through years of experience. Yet, we are also the child we once were. We can return to that child at any time and nurture them, visit, and hold them close, telling them that we survived and are living a life of exhaustive laughter. It’s our moment to show them that their fears of being stuck in the abuse they are enduring will go away; and that you will one day be strong, compassionate, and empathetic adult who leads a good life.

As I look down with loving eyes, I tell the boy that he will not be hurt anymore. He will grow into a man who will love a woman with all his might. As we stop our rambling through the trees, overlooking the horizon, I show him pictures of his mother to let him know that she made it to old age and she experienced laughter. I assure him with a gentle smile that he will make mistakes, and that is okay, but he will become a reflective man, one that truly cares for others and tries to show them through his words and actions. The boy grasps my hand and leans in. I can feel his warmth at my side and he feels secure in my arms. I am the man that he can trust. I survived for him. He has become me.

Who Was That Teacher…#420

EA Murphree

Chuck Murphree and Student

I recently filled out a form that they wanted from new teachers. It’s for the district’s Facebook page. A list of questions to get to know me and then share it with the community. One of the questions asked, “Why did I become a teacher?” As with most questions people ask me, I assume they want the truth, so I told them a story.

My journey into education started with a friend’s death. Well, maybe it started a few years before that, so I will come back to how tragedy made me a teacher. My wife is a teacher. She became one directly out of college. I would watch her write IEPs, plan her lessons late into the night, respond to emails from colleagues and parents, and constantly read books about teaching. It seemed to me like all she did was work, and for a few years, I honestly had to wonder why anyone would do this job? Then, I would hear her stories of how she connected with a student, and we would be invited to get-togethers or staff parties, and I would hear stories from other teachers about their students, some funny and some not. By the way, no one parties like elementary teachers do. They are a fun group of people. Mostly, I sat around in awe of my wife and her knowledge like I usually do, and occasionally the thought would enter my thick head, “Could I be a teacher?” I never had the confidence as a student to do it. Education majors take a lot of classes, and I have never liked going to school. The idea would leave me as soon as I looked at the requirements. Still, I listened intently to my wife, not realizing at the time that she would actually become my greatest mentor in education.

Then, after floundering around in the working world, trying to figure out who the hell I was, interested more in philosophy and writing than doing anything that seemed monotonous and putting money in someone else’s pockets, I ended up working with adults with intellectual disabilities. I felt like I was at least doing something good for the world. I also would work with some amazing people that I always thought had greater insight than the majority of us. I had a woman I worked with who lived in an institution for thirty-six years. She was non-verbal except for repeating her name every so often. She walked with a stagger from clubbed feet and had scar tissue that covered the sides of her eyes from self-abuse. It made her look like a boxer that had fought one too many rounds. She also had all of her teeth removed, more from knocking them out than decay. Yet, when I sat with her in a park, under a tree, the warmth of the spring breeze hitting her face, she would smile and gently take my hand. She seemed to be trying to communicate with me on a deeper level than most people I have ever met. She knew something. Maybe she was just celebrating her freedom and the simple things that life offered. There were times I would show up at her house, struggling from my own darkness and depression, and she would come to me and give me a big hug. It was as if her instinct was to comfort me, even though her paperwork said she had the “Intellectual ability of a two-year-old child.” I’m not so sure about that. Her ability to show compassion and empathy was on a deeper level than most. On this journey that I have been on, I have always kept in mind that people with disabilities typically have greater resilience, insight, and knowledge than we give them credit for. Their abilities rise above most.

Why did I become a teacher? Well, I struggle to call myself that at times. Oh, that’s not a self-deprecating or lack of self-worth type of statement. I sometimes look at myself as more of a guide. I became a teacher because six weeks before my best friend killed himself, in his often blunt way, he said, “What the hell are you doing with your life?” My thought at the time was, “I just picked you up from the hospital’s psychiatric unit for being suicidal, and you ask me that?” However, he was right. What the hell was I doing? I was broken. At the time, I had just turned thirty-four, and I was uncertain about what to do with myself. David continued, “You are good with people. You really should be a teacher or a school counselor. You need to go back to school.” After I dropped him off, I didn’t give much thought to what he said to me, but after his tragic death, and the emotional trauma that took over my very being, I realized my friend was trying to mentor me like he had done so many times before. I was uncertain and still am, if I am good with people. I just like to talk with everyone, listen to their stories, make a connection, and then move on. I wish I could meet everyone in the world just once, have a hike and beer with them and hear about their life, the parts that actually matter.

Through shaky hands and watery eyes, I filled out the application to become a special education teacher at a local college. It seemed like a good choice with my past experience. Mostly, I wanted to become the teacher I needed growing up.

I am unsure if I do this profession justice? There are teachers out there who read every professional book about teaching, and there are many who have done it for a long time and know how to plan a lesson according to their curriculum. There are some who love to teach their content and know it well. Many love to give assessments and others like sitting in resource rooms watching over kids doing their homework. There are some that like to coach sports and others who thrive off of extracurricular activities. There are many teachers that love school and always have. They have their own stories about why they became teachers, and many of those stories are about a teacher they had that inspired them. Most teachers were good, courteous students when they were in school, and they expect the same from their students now. All of these things are valid, and important and often make me feel like an impostor, a pretender, in a profession that “allows” me to be a part of them, to walk the same halls. However, most days I walk into the schoolhouse doors and feel like I am doing something wrong, trespassing in a place I should not be because I never liked school. Actually, I despised it! I have never been a teacher who loves reading professional development books and going to training. I have never been the person who thinks the curriculum is more important than the relationships with the kids.

I have been the intruder. The disrupter. The one who questions the stupid shit I see us piling on students. So, going back to shaky hands and watery eyes, and entering an education program while surfing through the terror of emotions that led to trauma, I went through the monotony of classwork to become a teacher. There is a plethora of stuff they teach in college that truly doesn’t matter and it does not transfer over to working with students. I even went back years later and sat through the mountains of classwork to get my principal license. I would often look around the room and hear the stories of the future leaders and once again wonder about my place among them. They all seemed so well-groomed in their responses. Again, most of the classwork did not transfer over. They don’t tell you in Educational Leadership classes how to handle ten girls fighting in the cafeteria, how to approach a kid who has a knife on him and safely confiscate it, or what to do when a student calls a teacher a “Fucking bitch” and then their mother and other administrators think it’s okay for that kid to return to class without a consequence. They don’t tell you how to handle kids who are wandering the halls, skipping class, and challenging anyone who redirects them, and they don’t tell you about the many students who will sit across from you telling you about their depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. They don’t tell you about responding to the child who has a black eye from getting hit by their father. You are not taught how to comfort a kid while they are having a full-blown panic attack in your office. Education programs do not tell you that you will have a young woman screaming in the hallways, “I want my fucking Cheetos,” hitting lockers and threatening the wide-eyed admin that is looking at her behind locked doors. They don’t teach you how to respond when she tells you she’s starving because her mother was taken to jail three days prior and she hasn’t eaten, and when she came to school late that the cafeteria workers denied her food. They don’t train you how to talk to other teachers when you know they are in the wrong and you now have to advocate for a student because the teacher will not budge about their wonderful assignment that they have regurgitated year after year. They don’t train you how to handle a parent that says they will sue you and take you to the papers because you are giving their kid an appropriate consequence for bringing in nineteen hits of LSD. They also do not teach you how to comfort a parent that is so desperate because their child is falling apart, having anxiety to the point where they are pulling all of their eyebrow hairs in front of their head, and attempted suicide the night before. The parent sits across from you, in need of your help because they are lost as to what to do and their kid mentioned that you were the only one they felt like they could talk to. The reality of what’s actually happening in the schools is not something they focus on.

I became a teacher for my friend. I wonder if he is somewhere looking down on me? Does he see his friend from someplace afar? Maybe a different plane where he is allowed to come and visit in some unrecognizable form, and he sees that I am a teacher like he requested? Is he laughing at my antics with the kids? Does he ever feel proud when he hears a student tell me I have helped them and made them a better person? Does he laugh when I just shake my head at much of the bullshit that happens in the schools and muffle, “It’s just common sense? There doesn’t have to be a whole training on this.” Hopefully, I have made him proud.

What I really hope is that he is smiling at me, knowing that I have done my best. That he knows I love my students, and that I love their families too, and have always tried to make them a part of all I do for their kids. I hope that he sees that I have put my values first and did my best to build relationships with the students that sit before me and that I have made many mistakes along the way, but I am a reflective educator and understand my imperfections. I want him to realize that I often think about him when I am having talks with students and staff about mental health. I want him to realize he had an impact on me and I have had to use the pain from his death to help others. My experiences are part of my lessons to students.

I hope my students, past and present, realize how much I care about them. I recently said to my class, “One day, years from now when you are living your lives, you may sit back and say, ‘Who was that guy who told me to go and live my best life and never let anything or anyone hold me back? Who was that man who kept telling me all of these stories and hoping I would remember the lesson from them? Who was that guy who told me to always believe in myself no matter what and to build passion and resilience for life because it will be needed? Who was that teacher?'”

Chuck Murphree -YA author, Special Education Teacher, Mental Health Speaker

#Mental Health, #Education

Flying with Broken Wings…#419




Elizabeth Ann Johnson Murphree | Barnes & Noble® (



murphree8 – 5 Min. Read

Chuck’s Blog –


Forgiveness is an art form, or at least it should be. It takes on shapes and colors of its own, and it can be a sketch on a post-it note or a painted masterpiece on a canvas that fills the entryway to an old home. Forgiveness is a work in progress and it is often the weight that is carried daily by the masses, shuffling their way through life wondering why they have this heaviness that seems to weigh them down from the moment they awaken to the punching of their pillow and kicking at their sheets at night. Forgiveness is something we say we have found in order to make ourselves feel better, but the truth is that the memories scratch at our brain with a bony finger, reminding us of what happened.

Perhaps, we should reframe the all-or-nothing term of forgiveness to, “I have forgiven as much as I can. It is enough to help me move through my life with a smile, but the pain is still there. It has simply stopped being a sharp knife and has turned into a dull blade that can no longer cut my skin.” I think that is enough to ask of ourselves.

I had to reach deep over the years to forgive a man that caused torment and fear. Some of what he did was in secret, away from the protective comfort of my mother, and hidden from my older brother’s watchful eyes. We didn’t find out what really happened to one another until a few years ago. Pain can often draw you closer, which I think it did for me and my brother. I sometimes wish I would have known his pain when I was in my youth. Maybe I would have continued with my plan of killing the bastard, my father, but then I would have been gone, “Taken away to a reformatory,” like my dad always said would happen, and my brother would have been brotherless and my mom would have had one less son to eventually watch over her. We did. We watched closely with tawny arms, but those arms eventually became strong and then my dad could only cause harm with his words.

I was able to pull out as much forgiveness as I could from my belly. I think that is where it comes from, at least it does for me. Fear often lies in the belly. It causes nausea and churning and because it is at the center of our bodies, it can wreak havoc on our system as a whole. The core is where we hold it all, the tension, stories, turmoil, and anger. It’s the holding area for all the trauma. When I forgave, the churning slowed.

Years ago, I had to find my father’s good pieces. They were there, like shaved flint, but they were there somewhere. They had to be, so I looked deep into my memory. I scattered the pictures from my blue bin on the floor and looked for them. Stories are told from that space in our brain that holds memory, and the reminders, when our memory fails are in photographs. Pictures are sometimes like a life sentence to a crime. They stay with us, often locked up in a dark basement, waiting to be released. I released them. I saw my father holding me as a baby, and my brother looking on with proud eyes. I saw him standing with his arms around us on a boat that crossed Lake Superior from Canada. There was another when we were in a hotel room in South Dakota, my brother, dad, and me in pajamas making funny faces. Another was when I was in high school, a pillow tucked under my shirt to emulate his protruding beer belly that had been years in the making, sitting by him on the couch, both of us laughing. And yet another, where he hugged my mother. She didn’t look sad from the embrace. Then, one more where he served dinner to my girlfriend and me before the homecoming dance, a white towel dangling over his arm like a waiter in a fancy restaurant. The pictures I liked of him the best, the ones that spark my imagination, are of him as a young man. It is my dad posing like James Dean, collar up, cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, or when he was in the Army, handsome, confident, and able-bodied. Actually, much more than able-bodied. He was tough. The stories I heard of his physical feats such as fighting other men, outrunning his platoon with ease, and beating his drill instructors in push-ups, was how I built him up as a child.

I had to find the hero in him. It is something every boy wants from their father. We all need a hero. It’s just that his cape was torn. My father had his own demons. His childhood was spent in poverty, abandoned by his own father, a millionaire, who had enough money to give him a better life. My dad was bitter and I found myself stepping back, away from my own torment, trying to understand why he was the way he was. It doesn’t excuse his abuse, psychotic in its delivery, which is why I often sat in my elementary classroom with sore ribs. Why I watched my mother hide behind sunglasses to conceal swollen eyes, or why I either retreated into my depression or lashed out in anger. There was no excuse, but if we are attempting to forgive those that have harmed us, we must try to understand. It is not an easy journey to take, but I have found that once I looked at him from a different lens, I could understand my dad in a new way. Instead of the seven-year-old child that walked around with shaky skin, or the twenty-five-year-old young man, watching him die and grateful for his last breaths, I saw his pain and even offered him empathy. It came from a place of strength because I realized that if I could offer him my empathy, and I could forgive him as much as I could, I gained back the control and innocence that he stole from me. That is what forgiveness does. It gives you back control. It offers you a great deal of strength that you can keep in your reserves, somewhere deep in your belly and shoulders, for when you will need it again.

Yet, the greatest journey, the lifelong one that will leave you with tired legs and swollen feet, is forgiving yourself. It’s looking at the trauma, the desperation that you have carried your entire life, and thinking that you caused it somehow. Questions rage in your mind: Did you cause your own abuse? Did you cause your best friend to kill himself? Did you help others enough? Have you shown that you love her enough? Then, it’s walking around daily wondering if you are enough, and asking yourself a plethora of questions: Am I a good enough husband? A good enough son? Brother, Friend? And that recent question that tears at my soul, am I a good enough teacher? Am I enough? I just keep repeating these questions over and over until I am exhausted, dehydrated, and with a broken tongue. I will probably carry all of these questions with me to the finish line, and then one day I will be on the other side, hopefully looking back, realizing I was enough. I did my best for the world. I forgave myself.

Chuck’s books are online at; Barnes&; and books stores across the US and Europe.

My Dad – Charles G Murphree 1934 – 1995 Charles R (Chuck) Murphree 1970 –

What I can’t Control/What I can Control…#417

Author Chuck Murphree has written his second YA novel, in verse,

Somewhere Between the Trees and Clouds. His first novel, Everything

That Makes Us Feel, is a YA novel based on a family’s difficulty

facing mental health issues. The second book is also based on a journey

into mental health issues among teenagers.

Chuck writes of physical and mental abuse; his honesty and emotional

self-flows among the pages telling the stories of children, teenagers,

and adults. He writes about rape and the effects it has upon the

victim. You will find yourself caught in his web of truth. He has a

gift for storytelling; his stories are as fresh as the morning air.

Somewhere Between the Trees and Clouds lifts you from the pits of

emotional hell into a world of drugs and death. Finally, you are

brought into a peaceful world, finding love, and planning a life where

one can live with the schemes that your mind has placed you in for

most of your life.

Depression and medication that promises peace place the young teens on

a deadly path in this book.

come up from reading this book with a new look at mental health

Somewhere Between the Trees and Clouds is a must to read. You will

issues. Get yourself a comfortable chair, a quilt that your grandma

made you before she passed, and a box of tissue. Listen to the silence

of your teenager; it could mean changing a life that has not been


Chuck lives in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, with his wife and two

spoiled dogs. When Chuck isn’t writing, he can be found teaching

adolescents, having speaking engagements on mental health, book

signings, and podcasts. He is reading, biking, doing yoga, or taking a

mindful hike deep in the woods or straight up a mountain in his


Congratulations Chuck!

A Lesson…#416

A Lesson – by Chuck Murphree

A young man asked me to talk privately the other day. He started his conversation with, “Chuck, my anxiety and depression are really bad today. I often feel like this will never go away. What should I do? I just want it to stop.” The tired look in his eyes and the darkness that shaded them spoke volumes. I have seen those same eyes staring back at me in the mirror. His pain ran through me.

It was a good day for him to ask this question. The rush of the world of education that absorbs us halted for a moment, or perhaps, I just made it halt because I have the autonomy to do so in my position.

“My advice to you,” I start after we sit at a private table, away from other ears, “Is to learn to accept it fully.”

“I’m confused,” he shuffles himself in an anxious way, his mind clearly racing. “I just need something to make it all go away. I want the fear to go away.”

One thing I have discovered about this young man is he is highly intelligent and highly attuned to his mind and body. That level of awareness can be a blessing and a curse. Being self-aware is key to many things in life, and it is the beginning of self-actualization and reaching your potential as a human. I tell him this to offer him a compliment.

He responds, “I am not sure of my potential. I want to go to college and have a house and a good job, but I don’t feel it will happen to me. My anxiety and depression seem to want to stop me from being happy and reaching my potential.”

“Potential,” I start, “Is not about degrees and the possessions that you have. Your worth is not monetary. Instead, it is about growing as a human, to understand yourself and life on a different level. It is about being able to face disappointment, failure, loss, grieving, and then understanding how to navigate the pain and become resilient. It is about never giving up.” I peaked his interest. “Achieving a good life is about accepting the rough times, the bad things that happen, attempting to understand them, and then being extremely aware of the good things. Those good times are often overlooked.”

“The good things?”

“The stuff that matters. It is usually right in front of us. I have seen many unhappy people who have college degrees, big paychecks, and houses, and drive expensive cars, and yet, they never find what they are looking for because they are chasing after things that do not matter. They always want more, thinking if they had the next thing, the next material item on their list, that they would find happiness. It’s false happiness. What matters is finding love, and experiencing life, which will be good and bad. It’s enjoying sunsets because they are temporary and there will be a limit to how many we see in our lifetime. It is having meaningful conversations with people that you care about, and let go of the things you cannot control. It is about being kind to others when they are not kind to you. It is about being kind to yourself. If you can figure out how to show yourself kindness and grace, that is an achievement that many do not reach.”

“I agree with you, but I am not sure that helps me get rid of my anxiety,” he said.

This young man wanted what many of us do in our lives. He was looking for a quick fix. He was used to having everyone do things for him and try to take his pain away. He had been protected for years and it had shown. He was unsure about himself, and who he is, and now that he was an adult, life frightened him. If he didn’t have his day planned, a list of “Things” to do in front of him, he was lost. Unstructured time scared the hell out of him and so did being disappointed. What we often do to young people is try to conceal them from anything bad. We want them to have the best, not face consequences or understand why they are necessary, go to college, and not feel the pain of life, and all we do is set them up for failure and not understand disappointment and hardship. I understand why this happens. We love our children and want them to always feel joy and happiness, but that is not the reality of life.

“I can give you strategies,” I said. “I can tell you what I do to try to cope, and I can give you advice, but I cannot make it go away. I cannot do the work for you. It is hard taking care of ourselves, and when we have a mental illness, it can seem like we are climbing a mountain of darkness, just to find the sun to give us a ray of light. It can seem daunting. However…”

He interrupted my “however.”

“Did anyone ever tell you that you should be a public speaker?”

I laughed at that and moved on, “However when you overcome your obstacles. When you learn to accept the pain in life, the anxious and dark times, and when you blend with it all instead of being caught in the storm, you come out stronger. You build more resilience for when the next bad thing comes your way. Again, try not to get stuck in the mud of life and be aware of the good things. They are all right there in front of you.”

“Like right now,” he says with a smile.

“Meaning?” I ask.

“Like us sitting here talking about this and you caring about me.”

“Yes,” I said, “You are going to be fine.”

We went on to talk about how to cope. I shared with him what I have termed my “Circle Map.” To me, it is a simple list of strategies and tools that I use to help me cope and build resilience during those dark times. For whatever reason, many have found my map useful and then make their own.

“I am going to go home and make my own map,” he said with enthusiasm that he lacked moments before our conversation started.

“That is what life is about,” I said.

He looked for more.

“Life is about making your own map, your own guide, and then knowing when to change course. What joy would we get from life if it was all laid out, and mapped out before us? What pleasure would we have if it was all easy? My stories come from pain and hardships, and I am stronger for it. The journey is the destination.”

Lesson over.

We Starve for What is Already in Front of Us…#415

By Chuck Murphree

We Starve for What Is Already In Front Of Us.-

As I approached, I paused and looked around, just enough to get my bearings, knowing that I was in the right place along the path, but the clearing had changed. The three trees that provided a place for meditation and contemplating life, were gone. My eyes fell for a moment, looking at the dirt below me and the first leaves that had fallen from the trees as autumn came rushing in. It saddened me, to realize that this place had changed so drastically in just a moment, a single breath in time.

I looked closer at the clearing, and then further into the woods, where I saw the bodies of the trees. They had been moved. After further investigation, I saw the tracks of the vehicle that must have pushed them back further, and for a moment I became angry. I paused at the emotion I felt because anger had never come up in this special place before. I tried to comprehend why they would move the trees further into the woods, so far off the trail, into a mixture of branches and twigs that now encompassed it all. There was no place to simply sit. I let go of my anger, realizing that someone had a reason for moving the trees. Perhaps, it was a forester or someone from the park service that decided it was time for them to be pushed back into the mix of trees and mounds of dirt so that the fallen trees could become part of the earth again at a faster rate. I had to let go, realizing that even my special place could change, and I had no control over it. It too was impermanent, and my anger was from a false attachment to something that was not mine. I walked back to the trees, hovering over them, and for a moment I reflected on what was truly mine? It occurred to me that my body, mind, and thoughts are all that is mine. My actions and emotions, and the energy I bring to the world is all that I own. And then, I understood once again that I too am impermanent and will one day not walk these trails anymore.

I was walking in the woods last week, a familiar trail, one as familiar as my own skin. With each step, I could predict what was around the next curve of the path before me, all but a few downed branches. As I climbed up the rocky, rutted hill, I knew I was close to my favorite part. It is a small clearing, where three large trees have fallen, close in proximity, and their branches laid in such a way that they quickly became part of the soil, leaving the artery of the tree, the core of it, smooth for sitting quietly in the woods. It had become my place for reflection and mindful breathing, or where I would go through a round of body weight exercises and test my balance while in yoga poses on one of the trees that lay in a prone position. It had become my sanctuary, one of the only places where my anxiety would lift instantly and stop the intrusive thoughts that invaded my mind.

I laid a gentle hand on one of the trees, my favorite one, that has a lovely brown and smooth wood where the bark had fallen off. It was the tree that helped me breathe through tough times.  I smiled for a moment knowing that even though it was now further back in the woods, away from the path, and the live trees and foliage would absorb it, the three trees would lay there much longer than my existence, perhaps another 70 years. I would be long gone by then, maybe creeping into someone’s memory who once knew me. Perhaps it would be a former student or niece or nephew, and maybe they will tell a story about me to one of their kids and it will spark a smile on their face. Maybe it will be someone who happens to pick up one of my novels at their local library or bookstore and they will wonder who I was, pulling my name on whatever device they will carry around by then. Either way, we all become a memory, that is if we are fortunate enough to have someone that feels we are worth thinking about.

We often starve for something that is already in front of us. For me, it is the love of my wife, the voice of my mother, and the hounding of my dog. It is the trees that I walk among and the fallen ones that I sit on to contemplate this journey that I am on. It is what I already have, and I know that all of it can change in one heartbeat, one deep breath, and then vanish like a warm breeze.


Somewhere Between the Trees and Clouds
is Chuck Murphree’s second novel. He lives in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, with his wife and spoiled dog. When Chuck isn’t writing, he can be found teaching adolescents, talking to others about mental health, reading, biking, doing yoga, or taking a mindful hike deep in the woods or straight up a mountain.