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.
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.