Life, You Bastard!

Something happened today to remind me never to get my hopes up.  Life plays these little games of letting me think that maybe I could have a little win…and, then.  Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football. I wish I could learn from this.  But, I’m afraid.  Life will do this again, and it is very tricksy.

I’m just so tired.

Too. Hot. Brain. Not. Work.

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Hot weather seriously impairs my cognitive function and even small physical movements are exhausting. This post will be short.

But, I’ve noticed that many of us who suffer with squishy brains (as a good friend of mine calls mental illness) and other chronic illness have this problem with the heat. It has a debilitating effect. While others are lapping up what they call a lovely day, we’re lying nearly comatose wondering when we’ll be able to move and think at the same time again.

Today is supposed to be the hottest day on record in Britain. And, I’m feeling it. Just writing this post is taxing me greatly…and, I’m in bed with the fan blowing on me at the highest setting. So, I’ll end it here. But, if you’re like me, you’re not alone. You’re right…summer, and this weather, sucks!

This Is Where I Am

I refuse to say,”This is where I’m at.”  I may be very down, very low, and certainly not functioning well, but I still know correct grammar from incorrect, even if it has become socially acceptable to say “where I’m at”.  What does society know anyway?!

This is where I am.wpid-20150630_093436.jpgAnd, now, yes…I’m going to sing to you, here in this place where I am.

Seems I’m always sitting in the waiting room of life
Staring out the window at the world that is outside
Wondering when my time will come – if I’ll ever have my day
Whiling the time away

Doctor, Doctor, can you tell me what is wrong?
Can you fix me with this song?

Seems I can’t get out of here, and the walls are closing in
The pressure in my head is high, and the air, it feels so thin
Will someone call my name, please? Won’t you open up the door?
This room’s more like a prison cell; I can’t take it anymore!

Doctor, Doctor, can you tell me what is wrong?
Can you help me with this song?
Doctor, Doctor, I’ve been waiting here so long
It hurts when I breathe, and all my strength is gone

Feels like I’m gonna die here in this room (still waiting)
Feels like I’ll never get out of this room

Doctor, Doctor, it’s been hurting for so long
Can you help me end this song?

Doctor, Doctor, there are no words left to say
And I have no more chords to play

©Autumn Dawn Leader 2015

Limitations Vs. Boundaries

When existing with a disability or chronic pain and illness, one is constantly aware of one’s limitations. The word ‘limitation’ has a negative connotation. I, suppose, I am perceived as a pretty negative person.

Cynical, perhaps. In a very real way, broken and defeated. But, I’m not what I’d call negative but, rather, realistic. Some might call that delusion. Again, I see it differently. And, I’m beginning to see the hindrances I suffer as boundaries rather than limitations. There. A positive spin.

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The Best Friend Boundary
Other people have “besties”, “BFFs”, whatever. I can’t seem to get and keep one of these. It can bother me. Make me feel like I’m not good or lovable enough to have one of these. I know, intellectually, it’s a problem with life and other people (but, mostly just life being the bastard it is), and not because I’m somehow unworthy to have a best friend. It’s just a boundary, with a high wall that can’t be scaled. No answers. No solutions. It is what it is.

The Success Boundary
If success was measured by producing good music, writing brilliant songs and having a beautiful voice, then I’d be extremely successful. But, we all know, success, when it comes to any talent and art, is measured by fame and money. Here lies the boundary I cannot cross. I take comfort in the beauty and virtue of the music I make. It doesn’t pay my bills, however.

There are other boundaries, of course. The Physical Health Boundary, the Mental Health Boundary. These edges I cannot cross. These confinements I must work within.

I do the best I can. And, any small victory is a huge triumph.

One day, life will stop its twisted game with me…death may be longer in coming than I want it to be, but it will have the last word. Until then…like adventurers before me, I explore the boundaries.

Some Things Fall Under The Category: ‘Because I Can’

wpid-20150624_080214.jpgAllow me to set the stage for you: it’s morning, and I am NOT in any way a morning person (mourning? yes. morning? no! however I think there’s a good reason these words sound alike); my husband brings me a cup of coffee (because he’s amazing like that) and then proceeds to check his Facebook feed on his phone.  This is where he discovers that someone has shared something about a cover of Stairway To Heaven, and he clicks the link and listens to said cover. I won’t go into details.  It’s very good, as covers go, if a bit too much like the original for me (after all we HAVE the original already; I believe in putting your own stamp on a cover, not trying to make a carbon copy; I see no point in that… but I really, really digress, as this is not what this post is about). Then, he finished looking at what he was looking at and prepared to leave for work, leaving me with a cup of coffee and an earworm.

The opening riff of Stairway To Heaven wouldn’t leave me be. On a technical level, this is not a complicated song.  What makes it what it is, is simply the artistry of the performers and, no matter one’s interpretation of the song, or whether you like it or not, that artistry is quite tremendous.  This makes Stairway to Heaven a song that most people consider a guitar classic. A guitar classic that was now stuck in my head.

Sitting on the bed, I gazed down to the floor where my lyre harp sat.  I picked her up and began plucking that opening riff.  And, it sounded pretty.  It sounded light and bright, instead of dark, but still haunting and unmistakably Stairway To Heaven.

I went on to record it on my phone and make it my ringtone.

Why play a guitar riff on a lyre harp?  Answer: because I can. Why make said riff my ringtone? Again, because I can.

See, there are just a whole hell of a lot of things I can’t do, things I am prevented from doing for one reason or another. I find life to be a very great adversary, and most days the uphill, losing battle is extremely obvious.  But, while everyone with a smartphone has the capability to create their own ringtone, not everyone could make one that sounds good. Not everyone can play the lyre harp, and not just anyone would have thought to play Stairway To Heaven on it even if they did know how to play one! All the things I cannot do sometimes feels like a very unfunny joke. Oh, but what I can do seems like a highly amusing one – a laugh in life’s face.

I did it because I could.  And, in a world where I don’t fit and don’t belong, it’s being ABLE to do things like this (and, then actually DOING them), that can bring a feeling of cool accomplishment (and, yeah, that bit of needed laughter).  ‘Yeah, I rock.  Hear my ringtone?  I’m not going to answer my phone, because I suffer from social anxiety and don’t answer or make phone calls, but just listen to that lovely ringtone.  Isn’t it nice?  I played that. Yup. I made that.  Why, yes.  That is Stairway To Heaven. Played upon the lyre harp.  Yes, it is.’

Life is a harsh bastard. So, I take what I can get. And, I give what I can give, as well.  And, I do it….because I bloody well can.

This Is The Sound That I Make

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“This is the sound that I make
These are the words I chose
Sometimes the right thing to say
Just won’t come out” -Matchbox 20

It’s been a while since I posted. I’m not doing well and, even when I have lots to say, it can be too much for me to get over here and write it. And, then, sometimes, when I do, it feels like I’m just listening to the sound of my own voice. And, while I’ve been known to like the sound of my own voice singing, listening to my brokenness sans music can drag me further into a dark place where I am more lonely, more wretched, more pathetic. So, I go long periods without blogging about how and where I am.

I’ve withdrawn, with the exception of going to the Acoustic Club regularly to perform. Music is a drive that won’t relent, me being ill or not. And, at least now I have a place that appreciates not only my voice, but my songs as well. All my original stuff has been well received, and that is an exquisiteness. A delight.

But, yes, I’m struggling…to stay out of bed, to feel anything other than desperation and despair. And, struggling for words to express it all…well, that can just be overwhelming on top of already being overwhelmed. And, yet…here I am…saying something, and nothing at all.

I don’t have access to my proper recording equipment and software at the moment (and, there’s no telling when, or if, I will again) so this morning I simply recorded this cover of Matchbox 20’s song on my phone, using the Soundcloud app. I leave you with it, in the hopes that anyone listening other than myself will hear in it whatever it is I’m trying to say.

 

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.