I’ve discovered writing to be a tremendous tool to analyze my mental health status because I’m forced to describe my actions, explain my beliefs, and articulate my captivating perspectives using creative wordplay and fluid sentence structure. Drifting away with the tide is often sought after and an easy route to isolation. But, writing helps keep me connected to the tangible. I first discovered writing as a tool for a healthy dose of disassociation when I was overboard and drowning in real-time.
Since the towers fell, I’ve been treading water and making my way from one isolated island to the next deserted location in search of a safe harbor and a place to hang up my rifle. Once again, I can see an approaching storm on the horizon. The thunderheads are climbing, and the barometer is falling. Writing is my only outlet to pacify the raging storm above so I can catch my breath and live to write another day. I write with wild fervor and meticulous dedication because every word I type is one more violent kick toward that safe harbor, and out of the monsoon. I’ll write my way to freedom, or I’ll be scuttled along the way. One lesson this journey of struggle has shown me is, great ship captains are not made on calm seas.
When The Havok Journal published my debut article titled “Power of Positive Thought,” I wrote a brief mention of a pivotal year that launched my quest for enlightenment. This was the year I forced an interlude in the storm, caught my breath, and studied the stranger who peered back at me in the mirror. It was the first hard long look at myself since 9/11. I stood defenseless and disturbed by what I saw through the looking glass.
In the summer of 2019, I sold my house and off-loaded most of my possessions. I left a temporary low-wage dead-end job and said goodbye to a handful of people to venture on a minimalist solo off-road motorcycle trip around the world. Stow your envy because this exit endeavor wasn’t a pleasure voyage. It was an emergency-brake last-ditch effort to save myself, purge negativity, and find a life worth living. I was fed up with it all and couldn’t consume one more second of the life I was living.
In 2019, I was a paper-thin 2/75th Army Ranger and Blackwater alumni who set off on an uncomfortable writing experiment because I was desperate to change the direction my life was headed. I knew I’d be dead in a year if my venture was unsuccessful. I was a reclusive misanthrope who did something I’d never done before. I began to write and share my thoughts with the world. It was a purge of seductive rage and provocative storytelling. I wrote as if my life depended on it because every atom in my body knew the dire consequences if I failed to keep my head above the white caps.
At first, I wanted to go dark and disappear behind my iron sherpa. I recognized the warning signs of an out-of-control-high-stress lifestyle accompanied by a decade of unresolved combat trauma. I was desperate to disconnect from the world and unwind the cluttered mess of my mind over thousands of miles of grit and empty horizons. Instead of following my previous ineffective comfort patterns centered on isolation and silence, I did the most uncomfortable thing imaginable. I started a real-time public journal on an adventure motorcycle website and wrote until my fingers bled.
An exert from my public journal, titled “A Ride Without a Destination” reads, “I plan to use this time to write about the sights, experiences, and beauty along the journey. I also plan to write about my life and share stories that shouldn’t be forgotten. I realized I’ve lived a surreal life. Some of you might enjoy reading about it. But mostly, this is for me.
My rigid profession silences free-form expression and fosters isolation because I often find myself in bed with classified, confidential, or sensitive employment endeavors. Stress injuries from 22 trips overseas reinforced feelings of disconnect from the bland vanilla world that surrounds me. I seldom find genuine connection to anything or anyone. Reciprocity of human connection is the illusive singularity of enlightenment.
The dull monotony of a safe ‘normal’ life was a void between my mundane reality and a dangerous life on the edge. My mind has fractured itself between two worlds labeled, ‘here’ and ‘there’. When I’m ‘here’ I want to be ‘there’, and when I’m ‘there’ I want to be ‘here.’ Never settled. Never satisfied. Always struggling to survive the incoming wave and next lustrous attack against my life.
I was isolated on a remote island while I watched cruise ships and pleasure boats sail past my chaotic, stress-filled life. I could see smiling passengers having fun, laughing, and enjoying themselves while they were oblivious to the starving stranger who was stranded off the starboard bow. I wondered if they could see me jumping up and down while I seethed strings of words from my keyboard. Maybe if I started a fire on this remote island they’d shift their gaze for a moment and engage me in genuine heartfelt human-to-human interaction…”
Instead of going dark and disappearing from the world and everything in it, I shined a spotlight into my private life and wrote down my most guarded thoughts while I thrashed my way through choppy seas. As I typed my way to calmer waters, I force-opened a heavy door to let readers taste the frigid saltwater that filled my lungs while I gasped for air.
Because the quantum laws of the Universe require every subatomic particle to achieve balance through supersymmetry, my intimate origin story allowed the reader a transparent view into the world of a hollow Army Ranger who sought to bring his life back to harmonious balance. I wanted to disconnect from the chaos and reconnect with the beauty beyond my meager senses. I’ve since discovered beauty is always present, yet the present isn’t always beautiful. Sometimes it takes a shift in one’s perspective to see the elegant harmony through the minefield of chaos.
During my 2019 writing experiment, I wrote with passion, vigor, and triumph. I transformed my stark-naked thoughts into poetic tales of my lust for life. As I wrote, the storm clouds parted to let the sun warm my face while poetry poured from my fingertips.
Since balance is the universal measuring stick, the opposite effect of my writing holds true. Through forced journaling, I’ve found my fingers fall flat and fill with concrete when I’m safe in my warm bed at night. When there’s no danger, colors that were once vibrant begin to dim and the world around me becomes bland and irrelevant. Conversations stall and words that were once whimsical and lite become abbreviated emotionless jargon.
When I’m in danger or out on an adventure, a deluge of poetry fills the void where darkness once ruled my day. I feel alive when I’m closest to chaos and death. Stress has become my comfort zone. This is the plight of a warrior poet and my tragic quest to paint the right combination of words that lead me to freedom from this nautical pendulum. The source of my inspiration is the stress that keeps me disconnected. You ask, how can one be a warrior and a poet? I answer, how can one be a warrior and not a poet?
Honest journaling, meditation, and critical thinking have illuminated a stark cyclic dichotomy akin to the natural tempestuous rise and fall of waves. When I feel no danger, my brain limits the feedback mechanisms that supply my consciousness with the routine details of the world around me. What does that mean? Right now, do you feel the course texture of your shirt against your skin, or does your brain limit that feedback until you force it to become aware of the texture? The sensation is always present, but our brain decides what information we receive based on the current threat level; or forced awareness. Just as “beauty is always present, yet the present isn’t always beautiful.”
The world becomes lackluster when my brain throttles down the sensory feedback during an intermission in the storm. This cycle of safety and stagnation vs. chaos and danger results in disconnect when the rhythmic wave interference patterns touch the bottom in preparation for an uptick. I often yearn for chaos because it’s a blunt reminder sunsets are, in fact, still stunning. These are simple consequences of Fight or Flight and a lifetime of struggle.
We ‘stress-enhanced veterans’ are not diminished by our injuries. Instead, we’re decorated sheepdogs who are striped with scars and blessed with a renewed appreciation of life. The tragedy arrives when I realize I’ll never feel as alive as I do when I’m closest to death. I chase danger and adventure because it stimulates my writing and connects me to the planet. Chaos and peace. Life and death. Love and hate. It’s impossible to have one without the other because balance rules everything in our closed system.
I cherish the pockets of happiness and moments of clarity before I’m overcome with the crushing anxiety to maintain the irrelevant obligations that dim my world. I’m happiest when my life is simplified because life is streamlined when I’m surrounded by danger.
Consider this article, and future works, as my personal public journal; as I did in 2019. I don’t write for you, a voyeuristic reader with a penchant for raw-life poetry and seductive wordplay. I enjoy writing for the simple sake of painting words on your mental canvas. No accolades or prizes were earned for my efforts. Scribbling thoughts while I paint with emotion because it flows out of my fingers and it’s fun to do. Writing is beautiful fluid therapy that’s yours to digest from the safety of your steady ship.
I will write way out of this cyclic storm and into that safe, calm, harbor where peace replaces chaos for inspiration. There are no half-measures because I see a gargantuan swell inbound. It’s nearly upon us. The placid water has now given way to white cap turbulence once again. The wind is picking up and the storm has no patience for me to prepare.
A coy grin accompanied by a piercing twinkle from my eye welcomes the next round of iridescent hues that begin to fill the sky above. I’ve started to notice the sunsets again. A gentle reminder of the turbulent waters inbound. Sunsets are always the most vibrant when a storm is imminent.
We’re all passengers on this beautiful planet sailing through the same storms together. Some are enjoying the pleasure ships while others are treading water, gasping for air, and struggling to survive. I hope to see you all waiting for me on the peaceful shoreline one day. I’ll meet you there, one word at a time.
Find Chapman at www.ScottChapmanAuthor.com with written and spoken palettes of words. Stay in touch through the final edits of his debut book, “A Ride Without a Destination.”
Scott “Longboard” Chapman served in 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment from 2001-2005. He deployed to Iraq during the 2003 invasion and then to the Afghan theatre 4 times. After the military, Scott worked in the executive protection space and then as an OGA security contractor. Providing security support to the Intelligence community where he deployed 17 times; mostly to the Forward Operating Bases (FOB). He provided security support for Intelligence personnel and operations. Scott continues to work in the contract security area.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.
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