Publisher Letter: January 2022

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Dearest EXPLORE reader,

I often dig through old Publisher letters from time to time as I seek inspiration for my next one. I’ve said for years that writing an article about “nothing” is not very easy. Que the Seinfeld references. But I’ll review some old letters from year’s past and find some topic or situation that kicks my brain into gear and that takes on a life of its own, and – BOOM – I end up knocking out a fresh Publisher’s letter.

I did this same exercise today and was struck by something.

I’ve written these letters every month since 2006. Some I’m proud of, some I find embarrassing. Some I can tell that I was really “feeling it” and some I can tell that I was rushed and distracted. Some make me well up with tears, and some make me sigh loudly and wish they had never seen the light of day. They are momentary glimpses into what’s going on in my head and heart, and I suppose I should give myself grace as we’re all entitled to just sorta “whiff it” every once in a while.

For the past several years, I’ve bounced around with topics from light hearted to very dark and morose, and I get feedback now and again. I’ve laughed for years that I really only get a lot of feedback when people actually do NOT like my letters, not when they’re popular. The one I wrote where I’m just sitting back and boasting that the Pulitzer Price will be sitting on my desk in no time are typically met with crickets. The ones that I really don’t like or touch on some sort of controversial topic are the ones where people will say “Hey, read your letter. It was stupid. Thanks, John Public”. I think it’s just how people work sometimes.

But as I reviewed these old letters, I picked up on a few things from the past few years. One was that I could remember some of the feedback I had received about a particular letter and reminisced at what the critic said. It seems that it was inevitably a message that basically expressed “Damn Ben. That’s dark. I’ll pray for you.” I brushed these responses off and would mutter “You missed the point” which I convinced myself wasn’t a message about my bruised soul, but about my hope to overcome. However, the 2nd thing I noticed is that I never seemed to actually overcome a damn thing.

It was a monthly rant about my aches and pains, my emotional torment, my frustration, my loss, my despair, and my very real depression. So if I was telling myself that I was expressing HOPE, the reader lost that hope when month over month they got the same whiny Publisher Letter.

That’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s the truth.

So I sat down and made a list of the topics I had covered in the past couple of years, and sure enough, this vein of negativity, hopelessness, and depression ran through virtually every one of them. Sigh. Not cool.

So here’s what I’m going to do: As we enter 2022, I’m going to take this opportunity to encourage you (and myself) to take this chance to inventory not only your many blessings, but your………….hope.

My despair seemed to come from a compounding series of situations where I suppose I felt crushed. As soon as I thought I could breathe again, I was crushed harder. Rinse. Repeat. I probably had pretty good reasons to be so whiny, but I also probably shouldn’t have taken the opportunity every 30 days to whine to all of you about it in this column.
So that stops today.

In reviewing my essays, I had a seemingly endless list of frustrating moments and stories and experiences that gave me easy fuel to populate this column. But I suppose I was looking for them. I have a most favorite saying, which is “You will FIND exactly what you SEEK”. Want to feel like shit? You’ll find a good reason. Want to prove your spouse is a knucklehead? It won’t be hard. Want to convince yourself why your boss is a jerk? That your kids are punks? That your mother is vindictive? You’ll be able to convict them pretty easily. You will “find” whatever you’re looking for.

So why would I choose to convince you, dear reader, about why my life is so hard? What did I gain from any of this?

I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe it was an excuse for me to keep complaining? Maybe I wanted you to feel sorry for me? Maybe I wanted an excuse for my hopelessness? I don’t really have an answer but I don’t suppose it matters much.

I found exactly what I was seeking.

So here we sit at the precipice to 2022, and a whole lot of things in my life are happening that I could be thankful for. Much has changed, I have new and different challenges, and have all the potential I could hope for. So THAT is what I must choose to seek. I have to shake off my anchor and finally, FINALLY actually sail forward. Stop focusing on my stressors and the betrayals and my stupid anxiety and all of this endless BS that I allow to orbit my brain…and I simply have to push through it all to find the blessings that surround me.

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Yeah, well it’s not.

I’m sure you can relate. Money troubles. Marriage troubles. Health troubles. General life troubles. It’s so easy to grab hold of the negatives and put them in your backpack and lug them around every single day. They’re familiar to you, you’re used to the weight they add to your life, and out of habit you pick them up every day and carry their burden with you. To not have them would actually feel odd.

That’s what I guess I went through. For a really long time.
But if you sat down with a blank piece of paper and a pencil, how many great things could you list about your life? How long could your list of blessings extend? If you changed what you SEEK, what would you find? We both know that you’d find a list as long as your arm that includes your endless blessings and wonderful parts of your life that you have worked so far to disregard as you sought aggressively to maintain your burdens.
Kind of silly in its simplicity, isn’t it?

I’m tired of being “down” and I can only imagine you are more than sick and tired of reading about it. So here’s to 2022: may you and I both work valiantly to drop our burdens, even the ones that we can’t actually drop. May we push through the garbage that surrounds us and push through until we find the gold in our existence.
And then maybe you’ll write me and tell me about it.

Welcome to January. May you take inventory, may you celebrate the opportunity to enter a new year, and may you EXPLORE all the ways that you can make 2022 your best year yet.

Smiling,

Ben Schooley