Managing Expectations

Fact: I am a nearly 41 year old woman with serious health issues. One could say my prime left a long time ago.

Another fact: while perhaps somewhat dimished by time, age and illness, I still have a voice worth hearing.

Contrary to some popular belief, I am confident of my ability to sing.  It’s never been in question. I greatly enjoy making music, and it is a wonderful feeling when others appreciate both the gift and hard work that has gone into a performance. The fact that I have had limited success has little to do with talent, and much more to do with wrong place, wrong time and various life situations that kept me from the right connections and being discovered on a bigger scale.

When I was young, I had a dream.  And, I believed that despite all odds and crappiness of life, I would be discovered and have a big musical career.

Decades passed.  Life continued to bombard. But, I also continued developing my craft, and I never stopped making music. Mostly because it is the fabric of who I am. As long as I am forced to live in this world, I will sing and play. And, I will always keep doing it professionally when and where I can. Since moving to the UK, I have been well received, overall. And, I’ve been given opportunities to be heard.  And, in almost every case, as I say, I’ve been very well received and the music has been appreciated.

I’ve done what I could to get the music out there.  Recording a couple of albums for download, and submitting my stuff to places like BBC Introducing.

I was heard by someone from BBC Radio when I played at a meditation centre in Leicester, and he gave me his personal e-mail to send him my stuff, telling me they champion local artists.  I sent him my stuff. Never heard back. Just like I never heard back from the BBC Introducing folks.

This is all to say, I am under no illusions. First, I am under no illusions that I am talented. Bloody well gifted, even. But, when I go on about that too much, I sound conceited.  If, on the other hand. I try to manage expectations about being heard by scouts from The Voice UK and urged to audition for the show, people begin to think I doubt myself. Believe me, I do not. I’m simply being realistic.

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The card I was handed from The Voice scouts.

Since announcing that I had been heard at the Loughborough Acoustic Club by said scouts, and that they told me I have a great voice and they would love me to audition for the show, I have been getting a steady stream of “Oh, I can’t wait to see you on the tele, Autumn; you’ll be great; we’ll vote for you!” comments.

I feel the love, people. And, genuinely, from the depths of my broken heart and contralto pipes, thank you! The support is lovely. Awesome. It makes me feel all warm and shiney. Let’s be clear: I really appreciate it. And, if by some miracle, I make it to the televised voting bit, I’ll hold you all to it.  But, let’s not count our chickens.

There was a time when I would have allowed my hopes to soar. I have learned never to do this again. Not after all these years. Not after all the attempts to “make it”.  Not after the disappointment ravaged my weary soul and left permanent marks I feel every waking moment of every single day.

I’m managing my own expectations, as well as other people’s. It’s all about perspective. Here’s what it is: I sang well (after all, I am good). I was heard and appreciated by a couple of official representitives from The Voice.  I was asked to apply to audition for the 5th series of the show. After giving it some thought (my first being, “this is like 20 years too late for me”), I’ve decided auditioning can’t hurt. Getting a day out in Birmingham and singing to some new people…well, that’s all good.  But, that’s where I expect it will end, as far as the show goes.  Other things may come out of it, or not.  But, I am not even in the slightest going to allow my mind to go to that place where I see myself on that show.  Because, if I do that, and nothing comes of it, it would be another devastating blow to an already destroyed soul.  No, I cannot afford to even entertain the notion.

It’s a day out in Birmingham. I get to sing to new people. And, it’s all good.

This Is What It’s Like

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I want things to be better, I want to get better, and when, instead, things get worse – with my health, with the way I’m feeling – it’s a severe blow. Terrible. It’s life slapping me in the face. Again. It’s pure torment.

“You can choose to be happy and enjoy life.”  What a load of bollocks. You can choose to accept and sit with the pain, as mindfulness teaches. You can choose to escape some of the pain through books, music, sex, other distractions. But, the pain is still there. The struggle is still there. And, it isn’t enjoyable.

On the days that are less intense, I let my hopes rise. But, inevitably, disappointment comes with a vengeance in these times when it’s not only bad, but worse than ever. I let myself think that maybe there could be some freedom outside of death, just to be proven, once again, there is no freedom but death.

Something Akin to Hope

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Coffee and a good book, and, so, the weekend begins. It’s been some time since I blogged…regularity not being one of my strong suits (call it blogging IBS). I’ve thought about blogging, but (continuing the IBS analogy) there’s been no follow through. Ok, this is getting gross. Moving on.

While life continues in its frustrating manner, when battling chronic illness it can be very difficult to have anything close to hope. Hope for a decent future (quality – NOT QUANTITY – being EVERYTHING) just ceases to be. And, trudging on, you wonder how much more you can take, and when the final breaking point will come. Because, it will surely come.

In the midst of this trudge, however, sometimes there are surprise twists…

A musical friend wants to begin performing again and asks you to join with him…

Thus, “String Theory” is born.

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Mark and I have been rehearsing and, on Thursday, we played the Loughborough Acoustic Club.

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We did our set, Mark playing guitar and us both singing. Then, I was also asked to do a couple of solo numbers, accompanying myself on the club’s piano (which rarely gets used and they enjoyed the novelty of someone using it). And, thus, being so well received, I’m thinking Loughborough Acoustic Club is my new home.

I never would’ve gone there on my own, even though I now know that I could’ve shown up there any Thursday night and my music would have been met with acceptance and appreciation.  Well, at least, I know about it now. What a novel thing to have a local musical outlet! And, there was talk that paid gigs might arise from it.

So, I owe Mark a lot.  Now, I’m looking forward to next Thursday…and, looking forward to what might come of this. It’s something akin to hope.

Don’t fret? Apparently so.

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Here’s a picture of frustration for you, and a personal metaphor.

I’ve been considering my inability to play the guitar. In theory, this instrument should not evade me. I should be able to play it. It isn’t like it’s difficult, or a mystery. Except, I just can’t. Like being able (or, rather, not able) to cope and function in life, the guitar remains a source of failure.

It would be nice, helpful, perhaps profitable, if I could play such a portal and versatile instrument.

It would also be fantastic, helpful, etc., if I could make and answer phone calls and face social situations (i.e. going out my door), not either fall apart in or, alternatively, avoid stressful situations (stressful situations = life), not wish with every breath that it’s my last breath.

But, the guitar won’t let me play it…no matter how I’ve tried. And, life is just as contrary and hostile.

I can still make beautiful music, of course. Just as I still have moments of happiness, small victories while, ultimately, losing the war. But, the things out of my reach affect me greatly.

For the musically (or, humorously) challenged, the title of this post is a play on words… the guitar being a fretted instrument.  Don’t fret. Ha! Get it?

Why can’t I make the guitar and life sing for me? Well…it is what it is.

Not sure how to end this one. To stay with the music analogy, this post feels rather open ended and not resolving to the home chord…but, eh, I do that in songwriting all the time. So, yeah…life being as it is, I find it fitting to leave this…

My Brain Hertz (or Musician, Heal Thyself, Part Deux)

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So, this post has two main focuses. One is to introduce you to my newest instrument acquisition and latest addition to my music making and music therapy. Meet Maimie. She’s a 10 string lyre harp. I waited quite a while for her am very pleased to have her home. She arrived on Monday and we have been making music together ever since; I’m enjoying her greatly.

While you may be happy for me finally getting a harp, it’s most likely the second point of this post that will hold much of an interest: I’ve begun experimenting with binaural beats. I have to say, I’ve noticed a difference with my ability concentrate and be alert; it’s also helping with meditation and sleeping, too.

I won’t go into an explanation of what they are here; do a Google search on binaural beats and all the info you need comes up.

I’d love to say that binaural beats are totally sorting my brain out, but that isn’t the case. I’m still spending most of my days in bed, avoiding going out/people as much as possible most of the time and would easily choose death over life, but the little improvement in simple things like focusing better on what I’m reading or watching and being able to get a more decent rest is something worth blogging about.

I recommend an app called “Relax Melodies”. Pay for the full version; it’s worth it – you’ll get all the beats to take your brain on a journey of different, helpful states.

Back to Maimie the harp, she’s the kind of thing that I would have shared with the musical friend I have mentioned in previous posts…the one that I don’t have anymore. I’ve thought a lot about her since getting Maimie, and missing…well, missing the experience I would’ve had in the sharing.

In other news, I’ve been getting together with another musical friend (one I still have, but very different to the one I lost) to work on some stuff and we may just do something with said stuff, be an acoustic duo, perform together. We’re in the early stages. I’ll keep you posted. Ha, posted… yeah, ok, I’m going now.

Musician, Heal Thyself

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I’d love to take credit for the title of this post. Alas, I borrowed it from an episode of NCIS: New Orleans.

I’m failing in getting better, and I’m tired of trying. The trying is exhausting. I am drained, frazzled and frayed. And, disappointment dogs my movements. Discouragement is in massive supply, while hope is scarce.

I know that wishing and hoping to get better isn’t enough, which is why I keep taking the meds and I keep meditating and I…try.

And, then, I try just accepting that this is it; it is what it is. But, while I’d gladly go to bed and never rise again, it’s more difficult to get others to be accepting of that. So…

So…yeah. And, another sigh joins the countless others that have gone before it.

Stronger Than I

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My period of prolific (obsessive) blogging over, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here.
I presently have the flu. It’s hit at a lousy time (is there ever a good one?). It’s half term; the kids are off school. So, rest when I really need it isn’t happening, and fever and congestion isn’t making my ability to function any improved. It’s also more difficult to keep the rage in my head at bay. My fuse gets considerably shorter, less able to cope. All in all, coming down with something always feels like taking several steps back.

I’m weary and worn, but I was weary and worn before, so I’m…yeah, not good. And…now the kids are fighting again… oh joy. No strength…to go play referee.

Back after playing referee, giving out yellow cards (sending them to their rooms, away from each other and my aching head), and now I want to cry, but I have no energy to do so.

Sigh.

What now? It’s all so frustrating and messed up. I count my blessings, I practise meditation, but I’m not holding back the tide…it’s running me over, considerably stronger than I am.

Oh, and as I write this on my phone, it rings…another call I won’t answer. This time from “unknown caller”. Stronger…

Oh yay, they’re (the kids) are whining and talking back to me again. Stronger…

I want to crawl into a hole and go to sleep forever. Stronger…

And, I still want to cry…

So much stronger than I.