I Finally Made It There, BUT…

…getting lost in Leicester yesterday took its toll.

I try not to go to too many places alone outside the town where I live. I easily get turned around and my sense of direction isn’t what one would call stellar. Plus, suffering from anxiety (both social and general varieties), navigating what feels like hostile terrain without moral and directional support can be terrifying. 

But. Sometimes needs must. 

I had a gig and I had to get to the venue on my own; there was no one else to go with me and play glorified emotional roadie. The first hiccup was I missed my train. So, I was going to be late (even if I hadn’t got lost). This set the stage for me feeling rushed and stressed. Stress makes my brain go on lock down – brain fog becomes total brain cramp; it’s safe to say that I do not thrive under pressure. 

So, I was going to be late and I wouldn’t have the luxury of a slow and gentle walk to the venue. Now I knew this would be a brisk walk which would tire me out. I’d be winded and sweaty by the time I reached the venue.

The place where I was playing is The Musician Pub in Leicester. It’s a venue I’ve played quite a few times. I like playing there as, normally, you get an appreciative and listening audience of true music lovers. I’ve been driven there, and I’ve gone with other people on the train and then on foot, time and again. I really should have had no trouble finding the place on my own. All things being equal, that is. And, all things simply weren’t equal. Chronic illness and anxiety doesn’t keep to logic and it can greatly tip the scales…and NOT in one’s favour! 

I got off the train and made my way out of the station, walking in the direction I needed to go. I was shaken up. Alone in the city, strange purple haired, middle aged woman, in stripy knee socks, rucksack on my back and carrying a guitar. The first wrong turn I made I caught relatively quickly; I righted my directional wrong and carried on.

And, on…  missing the next turn I should’ve taken. Suddenly I realise I don’t recognise what I’m seeing and panic starts to grab me.  

I kept, audibly, telling myself ‘don’t cry’ even as the tears came streaming uncontrollably down my face, while trying not to hyperventilate and hoping my makeup wouldn’t be too smeared up from the tears AND the sweat IF I ever did make it to The Musician Pub to perform. I tried Google Maps, but I was in such a state by the time I realised I had gone the wrong way, that my brain couldn’t make heads or tails of what I was seeing. At some point in my crying, blurred vision madness, some sort of vague sense of direction kicked in…probably one of those primal, evolutionary mechanisms…and, I’m glad it did, because I was seconds from collapsing in a corner with wracking sobs. However, since we’re in England and NOTHING is on a grid work, I still had no idea if I could get there on foot.

But, I did. I made it. I had a Guinness to calm my nerves. And then I had a wonderful time doing what I do. 

In my element. Fear, anxiety and pain miles and miles away. On form.

It was a great afternoon of making music in tribute of Ian Babington, a local singer-songwriter who died very suddenly a couple of months ago, and all proceeds went to the Air Ambulance charity. While it was sad, it was also a very feel-good event, a celebration of Ian and of live music (which was so important to him).  

All in all, the best of times. Unfortunately, however, the prior worst of times had taken its toll upon my body. After the gig finished, the fatigue and aches and sick feeling hit me. Even after a night’s sleep, a weepy and shaky feeling remains. 

This is the reality of living with conditions that make everyday things that don’t phase other people such difficulties. And, it makes you feel so much less. I feel fragile. Weak. Pathetic. 

Fortunately, this episode didn’t negatively affect my performance, for which I am intensely grateful. There were elements of the performance that could’ve gone better, but it had nothing to do with getting lost, and, overall, I was satisfied with the day’s musical endeavours. But, it did affect my frazzled mind and weary body extremely negatively. It’s wounded me. Made me more frightened of the next time I have to go somewhere on my own and more likely to just refuse to go, meaning I end up missing out on opportunities. 

Obviously, the mega-rich and commercially successful musicians out there are never going to have this particular problem; they can afford to be driven to every gig and pay people to accompany them. Alas, I am among the number of talented, professional, working musicians who barely have the funds to buy replacement strings, let alone purchase an entourage! And, my physical and mental disabilities make me even more frustrated at the sore lack of enthusiasm there is for original independent music in this society! I’m not only providing quality music, I’m also fighting an ongoing health battle to bring out this music to others. Having what I do met with apathy makes me both angry and sad beyond articulation. 

There are many times I feel like giving up. But, the idea of no longer doing music is anathema to me, as it is to all true musicians. And, I am good at what I do. It’s not a lack of talent that makes me consider giving up. It’s my physical and mental condition coupled with societal apathy that causes the bouts of despair. 

I’m not sure how to end this piece. I just knew I needed to write it. Many who also suffer with these conditions will identify with my experience in Leicester. And, fellow original independent artists will identify with the pain and frustration of the apathy all too many of us face. But, there really isn’t any END or HOPE in sight for either of these problems until there is more understanding and awareness out there. 

Sigh.

Advertisements

Thoughts Spilling Out of a Brain Left Ajar EPISODE 3

So, I went to see the psychiatrist today… watch how the day went. It was rather surprising. Also, you get to see my cat, Rincewind, acting cute in this vlog post; it’s worth watching just for that.

Why I Just Can’t Do The Semi-Colon Thing

image

The Semi-Colon Project is a good thing. If nothing else, it’s educating people about a much neglected member of the punctuation family. It’s also, of course, bringing awareness to mental health issues. It’s encouraging to many people.

But, I can’t personally do it. Not when I so long for a full stop (or ‘period’, for you Americans). I want an end to my story.

The best I can give you is a question as to how much more I can take.

For Better & Worse (NOT About Marriage)

IMG_5064

This is one of my favourite photos from the recent photoshoot that was done for the new band I’m in with fellow singer/songwriter Steve Cartwright, called ‘The Way Out‘. We travelled out to Charnwood Water and, there, this dreamy, romantic visual of me serenading the ducks was captured.  It’s like something out of faery…and, there I am in the midst of it… The Songmistress, after all. This image fills me with a sense of otherwordliness… and, of melancholy…of longing.

Things are better in so many ways.  I’m making more music now than ever, and it’s being recognised and appreciated, at least to a degree.  No, it’s not nearly as much as I’d like it to be or even NEED it to be in order to contribute to the paying of my own bills and support of my family.  But, whilst still firmly in the Land of Obscurity, there is now a map for people to follow and find me.

Things are worse, however.  I am exhausted.  I wonder how long I can push myself to perform like this, when my body and mind are as weak as they are.  People who would have assumed that I would ‘perk up’ if I was given a few more gigs, were sadly mistaken. My health issues haven’t magically gone away with this limited success.  If anything, I have to fight all the harder…and, sometimes, I am failing miserably in trying to cope.

I’m scared.  Scared that this little taste is all I’ll get before life kicks me in the teeth again with my deteriorating health and leave me unable to even do this little bit of what I’m doing to get my music out there.

To be honest, this would be my ideal:  once every couple of months, have a large, paid gig where I get to perform all my own songs to an appreciative, adoring audience.  The rest of the time being able to rest, write a bit, while having enough fans to support this down time by buying my albums and singles. Go to the ocassional folk club and acoustic open mic, just to stay sharp for those bigger gigs and to socialise with other musician friends.

Sounds lovely.  WAKE UP!  It’s a dream, and the reality is I’m old and sick and tired, and in order to get seen (and, subsequently, heard) I have to go hither and yon and play covers in pubs late at night in order to get paid, because I just can’t seem to reach that fanbase to sell my music.  I know they’re out there…but it’s reaching them. I can’t seem to reach them online.

Oh, what am I sitting here writing this for? I should be in bed resting..or rehearsing.  I feel the weight of futility here.  I’m talking to a wall again.  Oh, to travel to that place, that place of faery, where I AM The Songmistress, and to never more return from there.

 

Searching For You

C.S. Lewis said, ‘We read to know we are not alone.’

This is also why we listen to music. And, ‘if sad songs say so much’, as Elton John has rightly said, then my songs speak volumes.

This post is about me finding the right fan base for my music.  See, I know I’m not alone out there in what I suffer with major depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, chronic pain, suicidal thoughts and everything that goes along with these conditions. In writing this blog, and reading others, I have certain proof that I am not alone. And, yet, we are all uniquely alone in what we individually suffer. My music helps me to express and, in a very magical way, make beauty come from the horrific thing called life/existence. This is my gift. However, in another way, it complicates matters, because, with it, comes the intense frustration, anger, and sadness of not seeming to be able to get my music out there to the people it will most speak to and resonate with.

The thing is, I need a fan base—and I KNOW you’re out there, I’ve even spoken to a good number of you. Now, there are just a whole lot of people who aren’t ever going to like and support my music (even those who rave about my voice and talent), simply because they can’t relate to it.  I need to find those of you who will relate and find some comfort, expression and solidarity in what I do. I know I’m not alone, but I seem to keep pitching my music to the same people who don’t understand what I am going through in my daily life in general. In this way, I need a very specific audience. I know that audience does exist.  And, I truly believe it is an audience that NEEDS a musical voice.

I don’t want this post to just be some advertisement. And, I don’t want it to be me begging for people to check out my music like some sad failed loser of an indie artist. This is simply me putting out a search to see who’s out there in this Blogdom that my music might touch. ‘Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?’

Yes, I know that even for those of us with similar health problems, our musical tastes are not all going to be the same, of course…  but, if you are a music lover, just check my stuff out – if it vibes with you, then great. I do incorporate a wide range of styles in what I write and perform, so there’s a good chance that something I do will hit the spot.

I’ve just released a new studio album for digital download.  No, I am not giving it away for free (giving away my stuff in the past hasn’t helped me gain fans anyway). Musicians have bills to pay, like all craftsmen/craftswomen. I REALLY shouldn’t have to explain this, but in this day and age where musical talent can be faked with software and those of us with real gifts are left in an industry bankrupt and bereft, without a leg to stand on, many of us feel forced to give our lifeblood away in any desperate bid to get noticed. The thing is, most of us literally cannot afford to do it. I cannot afford to do it. Furthermore, it’s worth far more than the modest price I’ve put on it anyway.  I owe it to the other fine musicians and the exceptional producer I worked with to bring this piece of art and labour of love to completion to not just ‘give it away’, as if all our hard work meant nothing. Good music, real music… it costs something.  It costs those of us who make it – it should cost those of you who hear it. It’s part of the deal – it costs us all, but we ALL get so much in return…look at it as an investment. And, finding something you personally can relate to…well, that value cannot be understated or underrated.

So, this album isn’t a freebie, but you can listen to the tracks on bandcamp without paying; however, if you want to own the album and listen whenever and wherever you are, get the special bonus track and extra artwork, as well as support me as an artist (I’ll be eternally grateful), well, then, surely that makes the tiny monetary price a worthy investment.

Thank you for reading and listening. I hope I will hear from you soon.  Most of all, I hope (there’s that four letter word again) my music will reach who will most benefit from hearing it. I’ll finish here and let the songs speak for themselves.

When The Joke Isn’t Funny

image

Life’s a joke. It certainly isn’t funny. But, more specifically, I’ve noticed how pain (mostly physical pain, but emotional pain, as well) affects my sense of humour. It puts a rather large dent in my ability to “take a joke”.

In regards to emotional pain, when there’s a sensitive issue, an insensitive person, believing themselves to be funny, can reduce me to a quivering mass of tears.

Today, I overheard an obtuse and insensitive family member tease my son, joking that he should be sent to National Service until he learns to do as he’s told.

My son’s chronic disobedience is a problem, yes. But, saying this to my 7 year old boy made him very upset. He didn’t find anything funny about it. And, a sensitive and observant person who claims to love my son should know that he fears being “sent away” from home. To him, this was a nightmare, not a joke. So, then, not only was my son terrified by the scenario he couldn’t see as funny, he was then further berated for not being able to take a joke.

Now, if someone looking from the outside only saw this one situation, you might assume my son doesn’t have much of a sense of humour. But, you would be sooooo wrong.

We call him “the funny dude” for a reason. He has had, from a very early age, a grasp on comedy and a highly developed ability to see and share the hilarious. He IS a FUNNY dude. He can make AND take a joke. However, he has a sensitivity (and anxiety) when it comes to the idea that his dad and I wouldn’t be there; a fear that he’s going to be “sent away”. He doesn’t want to contemplate it. There’s no logical reason for him to be scared that we would send him away, but that’s the thing about anxieties and phobias: they don’t follow your bloody reasoning and logic.

The thing is, if there is a raw spot or pain somewhere, the joke (no matter how you see it from your perspective) is not going to be seen as a joke to me or, now I can see, my boy. We will see it as a threat. It is either YOUR threat. Or it is Life’s threat. And, it – Life – has chosen you, you bastard, as its mouthpiece. Life is shit enough without you being an arsehole and causing added trauma.

I believe my boy will grow out of this sensitivity as he gets older and realises that being “sent away” just isn’t going to happen. And, I want him to behave, of course. I want a lot of things for myself in the way of self-improvement. But, your arsehole therapy is NOT going to get us there. Laughter is very good medicine, but it only works to heal us if we’re the ones who are laughing.

Why is there an owl picture with this post? I wanted something cute and cuddly to look at while I ranted.

Kegels and Kindness – a plan for 2016

index

When life gives you lemons it is, then, perfectly acceptable to make lemonade. However, when life kicks you in the teeth, lemonade just isn’t the answer. You find yourself bleeding and missing teeth, the last thing you’re going to feel like doing is make some bloody lemonade.

The problem with these sayings like, ‘Life is what you make of it’ and the ever-detestable (gag, barf) ‘That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, is that they simply aren’t true.

2015 is gone now.  For me, it actually wasn’t a horrendous year. There were some really good bits.  There was a whole lot of hell, too.  But, interspersed in there, there was some truly decent stuff. I made more music and had my music appreciated by more people. I met some cool people and I became closer with a friend who has proven to be a real lifeline in hard times – a fellow battler of mental illness himself, we share a bond over the squishiness of brain and body. I wish he lived closer, but I have long accepted the fact that the best of my friends will always seem to dwell on the other side of the planet from me.

And, here is 2016.  I don’t do resolutions.  They’re stupid. I have some plans, yeah.  But, I have learned to be resolved to nothing. Stuff/life/shit changes too much to be resolved. So, here are the plans:

There are only TWO exercises worth doing: vocal exercises and Kegels (aka pelvic floor exercise). You can waste your time and money in the gym if you want to and stay in competition with society and media’s insane ideals, or you can come to the side of good sense and do what you can instead of what is ridiculous. You can skip the vocal exercises if you aren’t a singer, but I’d still suggest doing them.  They will do you more (longterm) good than any crunch or press up ever would. Why? Just humour me and try it. You’ll see. And, everyone should do Kegels. A strong pelvic floor will guard against incontinence and, as a (BIG) side benefit, increase sexual pleasure.  Plan number one is to do some vocal exercises and Kegels everyday.

Practise mindfulness. This is a form of meditation for everyone that simply helps one appreciate the present more. I’ve practiced mindfulness, off and on, for a couple of years now.  Like most things, it’s difficult to stay consistent; thus the reason resolutions are so pointless. So, I’m setting a reachable goal of just 5-10 minutes a day. That’s plan numero two.

The world is full of hate and sorrow; be kind. Try offering kindness instead of throwing out more hate. Look, I don’t like people very much either.  Humans, as we have concluded, are stupid. But, kindness goes a long way to counteract the great idiocy out there. Why add hate to all the stupidity when there’s another choice? So, that’s number three: looking for ways to show more kindness. I have a strong suspicion that the making of music and the practice of kindness is the cure for many, many of the world’s ills.

Lemonade is fine, if all you’ve got is lemons. But, squirting your lemonade on me isn’t kindness; that shit stings when you’re the walking wounded. Let’s try being real in 2016. Let’s be kind. Let’s be mindful. Let’s do Kegels (then we won’t pee on each other…’cuz if you’re into that, you’re just wrong).

Happy New Year.

 

(And, yes, I’ve done my Kegels today – along with the other stuff, too – have you?)