Kicking Around Ideas

Do you have a bucket list? I’ve never had a formal one. The thing is, when one longs for death, the top of the bucket list is to kick the thing. 

I’ve sort of had ideas of things I’d like to do or accomplish, though. Some of these things – like recording a studio album, performing at The Musician, performing with Melanie Page – I’ve done. Some things I’ve done above and beyond. Like, I used to want to visit the UK. Now I live here and have done for over 12 years. I used to want to put a wild coloured streak in my hair. Now I have coloured it several times in wild, bright colours. Some things I’ve gotten close to, but no cigar… like, I recorded the album, but I still have no physical cds made, and that’s something I really wanted to do.

My informal list has changed since I was young, adjusting to what was possible and what was forever out of reach. When you’re young you can dream crazy dreams of singing a duet with Sting. You later realise that you’re filling your bucket with pipe cleaners when you add something so ridiculous to it. So, singing at Carnegie Hall and the London Philharmonic became singing at the Musician in Leicester. And, winning a Grammy by the age of 16 became just being satisfied with having a regular platform to share my music with others.

I can’t be climbing any mountains or travelling to see Greek ruins. I will never have the energy or the money for those things. A bucket list shouldn’t be full of pipe dreams; otherwise it would be called ‘a wish bucket’…or, a Bottle full of dreams, but that’s another story.ūüėČ

My proverbial bucket looks rather empty. It sits there taunting me…shit, I’m rhyming. No, this isn’t going to be a song. 

Today, I began trying to think of things that I would like to do before I get out of this wretched skin…things that are actually possible.

Some days, when the longing for death is intense, it seems like just dying is impossible. There’s that taunting bucket, not letting me kick it.

Alas, miles to go, and all that. I’m so tired.

But, ok… let’s see. Let’s list some new things to do while I wait – some possibles…but challenging ones.

1.Do a gig (proper gig, not an open mic or folk/acoustic club, but a gig where I’m the featured artist) where I primarily play guitar (rather than keyboard/piano).

2. This edges near impossible, but it isn’t totally out of the realm of happenables, so… I’d like to meet Ryan Gage in person, give him a hug and see that amazing smile up close.

3. Visit Bradgate Park again.

OK. ..well, there’s a start, anywho. Feel free to tell me yours. 

Oh…and here’s a new song… it isn’t about buckets… it’s about longing.

Of Kings and Royal Moments

I need to take more time to post the positives when they happen. I get so worn down – am so worn down – by the negatives and the depression and other chronic illness that it can totally obscure those small – but beautiful – moments that happen. Pardon me, while I relate this story.

I still remember the first fan letter I ever wrote to a celebrity crush when I was a little girl.  It was Ricky Schroder of Silver Spoons (oh, gah, am I ever dating myself now). I was properly obsessed. I think I was hoping for a marriage proposal to come from my letter. I’m sure I would’ve been thrilled with just a response from his management team and a signed picture or something.  I received nothing.

I was disappointed, of course. I continued to crush on other celebs from time to time, but real all out fangirling was something I kept to myself and, as much as was in my control, avoid. Years and years later, and I eventually began to feel that maybe fangirling was a symptom of bpd and my obsessions were not something to encourage. However, sometimes one can’t help themselves.

Then came the emergence of Twitter. And, regular people were actually conversing with actors and artists of all media. I, of course, took my little stabs at being noticed, tweeted at, etc. It was Ricky Schroder all over again.

Now, the thing is, even with only my extremely limited success (read failure) at the music business, I realise that being in the public eye and desirable can be full of pressure. And, there’s the politics of it. You can’t be seen to be favouring one over the other when you’re trying to keep all your fans happy. Sometimes it’s easier just to ignore everyone who messages, mentions, tags, etc. you, rather than taking the chance of offending some by missing them out. And, I’m certain for many celebs who have millions of fans, there simply isn’t the time. One must work and sleep, after all…or the rest of us would have nothing over which to fangirl/boy over. And, believe it or not, they do deserve lives of their own.

There is a point to all this. Please, stay with me.

When the BBC first aired The Musketeers, I was enchanted. Here was swashbuckling adventure and beautiful (and talented) actors and actresses to gaze upon. ‘All for one and one for all’ come alive on the screen. Loyalty and love and gunpowder…and…

The best King Louis has EVER been portrayed, played by the exceptionally talented and simply gorgeous actor Ryan Gage.I tried my damndest to keep Mr Gage and his smile out of my heart and only on my screen. Have I mentioned, I’m good at failure.

But, look how strong I was. I managed to get to the third and final (sigh) season before looking to see if Ryan Gage was on Twitter. I managed to nearly make it to the middle of this last series before tweeting ‘@RyanGage is the best King Louis ever’. I didn’t expect anything at all…I just couldn’t contain my enthusiasm anymore. 

But. I did get a response. One of the writers of the show liked my tweet. Really, just that made my night. It was nice to have the comment noticed and appreciated. Especially by someone who worked so hard to bring us this quality entertainment.

But then, there was the next day. I posted something else Ryan and Louis related…and…  Holy French curly wigs, Batman! … I got a notification on my phone that the man himself had liked it!

I posted a few more things. He liked them, too!

Shit. I mean, it was awesome and it made me smiley. Very smiley. Elated. Ricky Schroder, Neil Gaiman, the entire cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer WHO?! But, it also threw me immediately into full-on fangirl mode.

‘Oh, Autumn, you’re too old for this. You’ll get annoying. You always do. Stop it. For goodness sake, you’re flirting. Surely he gets tired of all this. You’re going to make a nuisance of yourself. He has better people than you to pay any attention to.’ And, then, the running negative track in my mind turned even darker and more tormenting. 

Now we come to the specific moment this post is about. Yesterday, feeling particularly rough with the depression I suffer, my 9 year old daughter, who has a talent for drawing, drew me this picture to try to cheer me up. 

Last night, I posted it on Instagram and tagged Ryan Gage in it. Not only did he like it, but he posted it, too! Now, my little girl suffers from low self esteem a lot of the time. She loves to draw and has an eye for art, but all too often she feels bad about herself and thinks she isn’t good at anything. I got to see the joy in her face when I showed her that Ryan himself had liked and reposted her drawing; I got to see her light up at the comments others made about how good her work was. 

So, while I can’t promise that I won’t get annoying – I hope I don’t; but, I know how I am – what I’ve found is that this gifted actor is as sweet to his fans as he is beautiful to look upon. The time he takes to look at fans’ posts and acknowledge them makes him very rare and special…and even more worth fangirling over. 

So, thank you, Ryan Gage, for being you. And…if I get annoying…just go all Louis on me and have me beheaded…kiss me first, though.

Thoughts Spilled From A Brain Left Ajar

I was inspired by this man and his vlog to try vlogging again.¬† But, sheesh, it takes longer to edit and upload the video than it does just to write a blog post, so while I’ve said this is episode 1 of ‘Thoughts Spilled From A Brain Left Ajar’, who knows when and if there will be an episode two.¬† This is a raw, intimate look at the real me and what I struggle with daily.¬† Anywho, with no further ado…

Musings of a Multi-Instrumentalist 

That title sounds like I’m bragging. I don’t mean to be. I started out a singer. I became a songwriter. I learned piano out of necessity in order to have something to help me write and, then, to be able to accompany myself when no one else was available to do so. Then…many years later, I became a ‘pianist’. It still shocks me when I hear someone refer to me as one. But, I’m digressing before I’ve even started. Yeah, I play multiple instruments…and that makes me cool. So there. 

I’ve come to the guitar late.  I should’ve done it much sooner. I’ll add that to the rest of the regrets in my Bottle. But, I came to it. Drawn, like a thing that gets drawn into another thing. And, the lesson here is:

Learning another instrument will make you a better musician and, specifically, it will make you more skilled with your primary or other instruments.

I had an experience last night to prove this. I had gone to a folk club to play with one of my bands, ‘The Way Out‘. I sing and, primarily, play piano in this band, although occasionally I play the lyre or spirit flute or percussion with them. I had my stage piano there to do my thing. 

At a folk club, generally it’s a sing around.  People take turns sharing songs and if anyone else in the group can ‘grab a note and hang on’ they’re welcome to do so. 

Also…it’s rare to see a piano at one of these places; most of the folkies play guitar or a stringed instrument of one sort or another (it’s common to see lutes, mandolins, along with the non fretted violins and violas, etc. Piano is a novelty). A woman from the group asked the others in the circle to join her and…instead of struggling to pick out what she was playing on the guitar by ear, I watched her fret hand.

I know those guitar chords now. So, all I had to do was watch her hand and I knew what to play on the piano. It was a serendipitous moment. 

I’ve had guitarists and bass players who know enough about the piano to watch my hands and, therefore, be able to spontaneously play with me in a jam session situation. And now I was doing it in reverse. 

Yeah… that’s cool. 

I’m loving playing guitar. It hurts. It’s difficult. I’m not great. I let my voice cover for mediocre playing…but, thankfully, I can do that. It’s therapy.  It’s rather magical. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in years…for many reasons. 

A Non-European Immigrant’s Thoughts

I moved to the UK from America in 2004. My first sight of England filled me with joy.

Then, I faced immigration control.

It’s something that still – 12 years later – makes me sick to think about. The nightmares finally stopped, but the emotional and mental scars are still there.

I was interrogated for over two and a half hours – but it felt more like two and a half years. I was threatened with deportation and not being allowed into the country again. I was made to feel like an invader just because I wanted to be with the man I loved. I was made to feel like I was shit because I wasn’t British.

Later, when I finally made it in to my husband (then fianc√©), he told me that none of that horror would’ve happened to me if I had been from an EU country.

Because, I’m no celebrity.¬† Because, I don’t have money. Because, I don’t have desirable skills. I have nothing to give to the country other than to take away one of its citizen’s loneliness.¬† Thus, we had two more years of living in fear of me being thrown out on any old whim of the Home Office, until I received my precious Indefinite Leave to Remain.

But, at least, I did make it in and was allowed to stay, even if the journey to get here was incredibly hard won.

I remember wishing that it was easy for me, like it was for the immigrants from the EU. But, I certainly didn’t bear those coming over from the EU any ill will.¬† The ease of students (from anywhere) to get in made me angry, but my EU counterparts, that were just looking to settle and make a better life here, didn’t make me mad. I was jealous of them, but not angry with them. I reserved my anger for the Home Office.

This is a tough and sensitive subject. Immigration. People get worked up. But, usually they are worked up for the wrong reasons.

In Canada, Australia and NZ, you have to have enough points to get in. In the US, you need an exceptionally well paid job and financial resources out the wazoo.

It all really comes down to money.  And, we all know the love of that is the root of all nastiness.

So, I have lived in the UK for over a decade now. This is my home. Even though I have not had the finances in order to pay the fees it takes to become a citizen, I feel more British than I do American.¬† Really, I like to say that I identify as a world citizen or an international person. I don’t think there should be borders (now, let’s all sing a rousing rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’…I know it’s not realistic, but I can imagine it). But, now, Europeans, are in the same boat as I was when I first came over, if they want to live here.

Had I been allowed to vote, I would’ve voted to Remain. Because…

I think people should be allowed to choose to live where they fit, allowed to discover their heart home. I think everyone should be given that right.

When the result of the EU Referndum was made known, a friend of mine in the States expressed concern about me; he wondered if it would affect my immigration status.¬† I informed him that it wouldn’t because I have indefinite leave, but that it had never been easy for me or anyone else from a non EU country to emigrate here (unless they were rich and/or famous).

It’s a leveller playing field now. But, I don’t feel any happiness about that. And, I am deeply saddened that bigots and racists are using the result to justify their hatred. Not everyone who voted to leave voted that way because they are bigots; many were hopeful that the money paid into the EU would be redirected to very real needs the country has.¬† Unfortunately, it looks like the politians are going to screw us over on that one.¬† At this point, it looks like the only ones who have won are the haters.¬† I pray that won’t always be the case and that something good will come out of this mess, but right now there’s an open wound that needs healing.

To me, the world would be better without borders. And, the only people I would like to see kicked out are those racists.

I know it’s too simple to say, ‘Can’t we all be friends?’ But, dammit, I wish I could.¬† I know, in a post September 11 world, it isn’t possible…but, I WISH IT WAS! I wish the world was different.

I wish…

I imagine.

The One Thing

The one thing that I like about myself, the one and only thing I am good at, is the one thing I can’t get people to take notice of.

The discouragement is immense.

And, it makes a person question themselves. Terribly.

Yesterday, my youngest daughter (who also suffers from BPD and struggles with controlling her emotions and knowing her worth) came home from school in floods of tears. She was sobbing uncontrollably because she hadn’t received an award for anything when every one else in her group of best friends had received recognition for something. Many of the things the others had got an award for were things I have been told by her teachers are things in which she, herself, highly excels. She came out of the school yard, wailing, ‘I’m rubbish. There’s nothing I’m good at doing.’

I know it isn’t true. But, when everyone else in your circle has been publicly  recognised and you haven’t, one begins to doubt themselves, no matter how many times one has been told how great they are at something.

I took her home and showed her BBC Introducing, where I have submitted many of my best tracks. All of which they have refused to play, while other musicians with equal – or even less – talent get featured by them. I asked my daughter if she thought I was rubbish at singing and writing songs. She responded, ‘No! Of course not, Mummy.’ I pointed out that, by her logic, I must be rubbish. I hadn’t been played on the radio while these others had.

I made my point which ended up with her saying, ‘BBC Introducing is stupid!’

Just because others get the recognition you don’t doesn’t mean you’re not just as deserving, and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t just as good as the others (or, better). Life – and school and bloody BBC fucking Introducing – just isn’t fair. And, it sucks. But it doesn’t mean we’re rubbish.

But, it’s one thing to preach this to someone else and quite another to believe it yourself.

I’m struggling. So, thank you, Life, for once again being a bastard. Thank you, school, for overlooking my daughter’s achievements. Thank you, BBC Introducing, for not actually championing talented and unique independent musicians like you say you do. Thank you, all, for making people feel worse about themselves. You’re doing a great job!

Strings In My Mind

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The guitar was an instrument I was never going to play. But, that being said, at one time I never intended on playing any instrument other than my voice. I was a vocalist. I would sing and others would play. Then, I turned 16 (many years ago) and things for me changed. Suddenly, I wanted to write. I went to the piano because it’s what was there. There was a piano available and I could play it well enough – just about – to use it as a songwriting tool.
 
I’m not sure when it all changed for me – where I got tired of looking for others to accompany me – where I wanted to be free to perform utterly solo – but the change happened. And, from somewhere inside, I heard the piano call to me. I sat down. And. I. Played.
 
I would laugh when people would call me a pianist and when they would speak glowingly of my playing. I’m a vocalist, I would say. I heard the piano giggle, too. We had our secrets. But, I finally realised I wasn’t just a vocalist anymore: I was a proper musician – I’d just taken the long way ’round.
 
What other instruments could I play? I began to pick the odd one up… can I make this sing?
 
The djembe.
The Native American flutes.
The lyre.
 
And, we sang while the old guitar (that belonged to my husband but he didn’t play either) gathered dust and I avoided frets like I avoid making a phone call.
 
Oh, every once in a great while I’d pick it up and ‘try’. But, I wanted it to be easy, of course.¬† And, I didn’t want it to be painful. The guitar is neither easy nor painless.¬† My nails would have to go, too.¬† Fuck this.
But, I’d write guitar songs.¬† I’d write them on the piano and then have a guitarist friend play them.
Then. Earlier this year, a chance invitation from someone had me inexplicably attending a ‘build your own ukulele workshop’.¬† And, in an afternoon, I was playing the ukulele as if I had done all my life.
I thought, ‘Hmmm… I can manage these frets…’ I looked over at the dust covered six stringed beast, just sitting there taunting me.
Understand this, musical instruments have souls. They have personalities. It’s why I name all my instruments.¬† And, I may be crazy, but I’m not off my meds and I’m NOT delusional…¬† musicians know this: instruments have a way of communicating with you. The guitar was smug.¬† It was taunting me.
‘I’m out of your reach, old woman.¬† Can’t teach you a new trick.’
Long story much greatly shortened, we grappled with each other but eventually reached an understanding; a truce was called.  He let me in.  I discovered he needed a bit of help in order to help me play him. So, I had his action lowered and we set off teaching an old girl new tricks after all.
This is the result.
I’m proud of this; I’m excited to share it.¬† And, I’m grateful.¬† Grateful for this musical journey which has done so much more than add versatility to my performance as a musician; it’s gone deep, affecting the very fabric of my being. I’m selling this short EP of acoustic guitar and rich vocal songs for just ¬£2, but to me it’s worth so much more…this experience has been priceless. May you enjoy the fruits of my labour – and my precious friendship – with the guitar.
Lesson: sometimes, some things are worth the pain.