A selection from The Ramblings of a Condemned Man
Available now at Amazon.com (Print, Kindle)
I wrote this piece as a preface to try to explain my logic behind the ramblings I have included in this book. Chaos is not a perfect word choice, but it is the best explanation I can supply when I address the inevitable question, “What were you thinking?”
My life is and always has been rife with chaos. Some of the turmoil has been inflicted on me; I am merely a victim. Other times, I’ve been guilty of instigating disarray. There were joint efforts as well, both inflicted and self-instigated. And, of course, chaos is often a simple fact of nature. As to the correct proportions of responsibility, I don’t know, although prudence would split most of the blame between nature and me.
I don’t believe my body experiences a greater share of discord as compared to others. My mind, however, finds it challenging to see beyond chaos, many times to the detriment of the peace and beauty around me. Looking back on my life, the images that most readily come to mind are indeed the chaotic, the horrific, and the burdensome. Many great recollections are there, they just play second fiddle to my demons.
In and of itself, confronting chaos isn’t bad. You can realize a tremendous amount of satisfaction by solving impossible challenges, overcoming overwhelming odds, or righting the wrongs around you; it is the calling of every superhero. But, when or where does it end? At what point will our hero look beyond today’s villain, stop reminiscing over yesterday’s evil, and forgo anticipation of tomorrow’s plight?
It must be nice, taking off the cape to enjoy the day’s treasures. Unfortunately, this freedom is not afforded to condemned men; my sentence is the recurring vision of chaos. The reality of my multiple sclerosis (MS) further antagonizes the turmoil that is already deep inside me. I watch the incessant thrashing my body has undertaken since 1999, when I was first diagnosed. “What’s next?” rattles through my mind with its own dedicated line to every emotion and fear I possess. I am indeed a condemned man, but not for the reasons you might assume. The chaos of my MS falls mostly into the last category: it’s a simple fact of nature. I’m not a victim of my disease; it’s just another obstacle in life. One powerful difference with the chaos of MS is the answer to my question, “When does it end?”
Writing has become my way of loosening the shackles that barrages of chaos, both MS-related and simple facts-of-life, inflict on my mind and body every day. I first started writing stories meant only for my daughter, for her to read when she ultimately receives my journals, when they become hers. In these journals (okay, fine…it’s a diary), I share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about life so that someday Ellie will have a vivid picture of the man her daddy was.
In late 2010, writing became my response to the increasing levels of chaos caused by my MS. The blogs I write are my attempt to express the hope that someday there will be an answer to “When does it end?” One piece in this book is appropriately titled The Completely Inconsequential Ramblings of a Condemned Man. It is adapted from a series of blog posts I wrote in 2017, documenting the damage MS has done and will continue to inflict on me. By confronting the chaos, bearing everything to my readers through the blog, I have been able to raise funds and awareness in our fight against the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis.
More importantly, the more I wrote about the chaos of my MS and shared it with others, the more my own fears lessened. The main subject of the blog series—this Kevin Byrne— now carries the weight, not the author.
If writing helped me cope with my MS, why not try writing about other aspects of my life?
In 2014, I wrote the novella …in abeyance. The main character, Chris Baxter, is the personification of chaos I have carried for far too long. Chris is who I am, was, wanted to be, feared, struggled to overcome, and so much more, wrapped up and scripted into an entirely fictional persona who lives in a fictional world (with a heavy smattering of historical context in this alternate reality). Placing turmoil on the shoulders of this character relaxed the burden on my own.
My revelation was earth-shattering! I wrote stories overflowing with the anxiety of my own unrest. Sometimes an entire saga addressed just one particular struggle I faced. My favorites are those based on the utter confusion in my head that I just can’t quite accurately describe; the alternate fantasy world became a surrogate for the chaos I was unable to express otherwise.
Regardless of why I wrote these stories, sharing my chaos this way has helped me sleep a bit better. Maybe it discounts my fears. Maybe it validates them. However, it is my hope that the therapeutic value I get from writing pales in comparison to the enjoyment you will get from reading my tales. Time will tell.
After my most recent struggles with MS and personal chaos, a harsh campaign lasting nearly two years, I gathered some of my favorite stories and sent them to my editor. They are some of the words I wrote or revisited to help battle my own chaos. In addition to Chaos, …in abeyance, and The Completely Inconsequential Ramblings of a Condemned Man, I have included four short stories. My writings are indeed ramblings because I sometimes feel as if I have little control over what happens in the story.
I am merely a conduit.
About the Book: The Ramblings of a Condemned Man
Kevin Byrne shares unique insight into the world of a man condemned by both his body and mind. In these stories, on loan from his personal collection, chaos becomes a burden that is no longer his—weighted instead onto the characters he has created.
Included in this book:
…in abeyance (a novella)
Christopher Baxter is a man recognized for his accomplishments: West Point graduate, medical doctor, combat veteran. Chris is also a man who struggles with the familiarity of circumstances he has carried his entire life.
Nothing else changes; no mystical stories or tales of fantasy. What would you do if humanity stopped dying? As the world struggles to come to grips with dormancy, is one man–Chris Baxter–just another unwilling participant, the curse, or their salvation?
Five short stories
Chaos: a reflection, confession
Essence: a perspective on the divine
I’ll Never Breathe Again: a contemplation of past fears
Jimmy the Kid: a dark tale of rage (nature)
His Story, His Way: a dark tale of rage (nurture)
The Completely Inconsequential Ramblings of a Condemned Man
Inspired by a blog series first published in 2017, the never-ending struggle with multiple sclerosis is described through the symptoms they inflict on Kevin and his family, friends, and supporters in this ultimate fight.
Published by the NEVER STOP NEVER QUIT charitable foundation, 100% of the revenue earned from each sale will go directly to the fight against multiple sclerosis.
About the Author
Kevin was born and raised in New York City. A 1993 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1999, while serving overseas in command of a US Army Air Cavalry Troop. He is now medically retired and lives in Portland, Oregon with his daughter, Eleanor.
Kevin devotes much of his time and energy towards overcoming the challenges of his own MS, so he can fight for others. He began writing and blogging in 2010, for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National MS Society, and then NEVER STOP NEVER QUIT, a charitable foundation he co-formed to further expand his fundraising and advocacy in the fight against MS.
“…fantastic stories, where I’m limited only by my imagination, not by the confines of this stupid disease.”
NMSS Leadership Conference
Never Stop… Never Quit…®
For more information, please go to: neverstopneverquit.com
To donate to our efforts through Bike MS, please go to: main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/embk