The Unbelievable Stark Contrast Between Me and…me.

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It’s time I wrote about this.

A few months ago a friend of mine I have known for a few years now came for the first time to see me perform. Her amazement at the difference between the person who makes and performs music and the painfully awkward, strange person she sees almost daily at the schoolyard reminded me of something I need to make clear to those of you who have been avoiding coming out to a gig for years because you just think ‘someone like that couldn’t be very good.’

IMG_20150928_125813[1]I see it all the time, in the people who have seen or talked to me elsewhere and then seen and heard me perform. The shock. The sheer amazement. That not only a singing voice can be so vastly different to a speaking voice, but that I could actually entertain people instead of repel them – it’s one of the many reasons I would like to be a hermit that never darkens the outside world EXCEPT to step on a stage and perform.

Your misinformed preconceived ideas of what consititutes a person who is talented, able to perform well and entertain people, is sorely wrong!

The fact is, many of the most talented people in the world suffer from some form of social anxiety or are neurologically untypical in some way. The great majority of artists (really good artists) draw their inspiration from their pain and difficulties with this ridiculous thing we call life.

Of course, the reverse happens.  People who have seen and heard me sing before getting to know me better are just as flumoxed by my inability to handle what other people just take in their stride as ‘normal’. But, that’s not as bad, because I’ve already won them as fans, and their inability to comprehend my inability to function in ‘everyday life’ is not so much of a problem…except when it is.  I also remember immediately after Robin Williams committed suicide, an uber extroverted positive type friend of mine remarked something along the lines of, “I don’t think he could have actually killed himself – he was so funny and seemed so happy.”  I love this woman, but this statement is pure ignorance.  Depression just doesn’t work like that.  And, more often than not, the great comedians are the ones that struggle the most with severe clinical depression and thoughts of suicide. One who only sees the talent and doesn’t see the struggle is in danger of losing the whole person.

I was also talking to another musical friend of mine last night.  She is very talented.  She is highly educated and intelligent.  She also has Aspergers and suffers from severe anxiety, among other things.  We were both lamenting how we have encountered the attitude (even from health professionals) that ‘we are too intelligent to be mentally ill.’  WTF????!!! This is just ridiculous.  Would you tell a well-educated and articulate person with cancer that they were too intelligent to have cancer?

So yeah, it works both ways…but, what I am mainly focusing on in this post is the former problem of getting people who avoid coming out to hear me because they can’t believe that someone who isn’t capable of making a phone call and struggles to get out of bed in the morning would be able to entertain them from a stage. PLEASE, get rid of the preconceived (ignorant) notion. You’re missing out on some good music.

Now, I realise, I’m probably preaching to the choir here. And, those of you who read my blog have already been won over, while those of you who are thinking ‘someone like that couldn’t be very good’ are also the ones who would never ‘waste your time’ reading my blog.

Do I sound a bit angry?  Sorry/not sorry.  It’s just frustrating.  No one wants to be judged on just one aspect of their personality and ability.  And no one wants to be judged on their DIS-ability.  Yes, I have issues.  Yes, they are a pain in the arse and make life a burden a great deal of the time. NO, they do not stop me from being a talented person worth listening to.

And that goes for everyone who is ‘different’ in some way.

Take your bloody filters off.

Accept both sides of the coin.

We are fucked up (so society would say), but we are also awesome.

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A Foray Into The World of Vlogging

I sing. I write and I sing. I don’t like talking. Talking is too much like, you know, work. It takes a great deal of energy. In writing, I can carefully craft what I want to say and paint pictures with words. In singing, I express myself with the most freedom – no longer reaching for what to say or struggling to get my point across. However…

a friend of mine has told me that, in this day and age (where video has well and truly killed the radio star), I need to TALK in order to connect with the fans (and potential fans) of my music and reach my internet audience better. So, I’ve done it! Eek. My first ‘vlog’. In this, I TALK about my music, in an effort to help people discover and connect to me as an artist. It gives an overview of where my music comes from and what it’s about and who might be interested.

On another note, my friend John watched it and told me I, apparently, have a sexy accent and sexy lips.  So, if you watch it for no other reason than that, you haven’t wasted your time. 😉

Thus, with no further ado…

Music is Therapy. Always.

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The school run rarely runs (no pun intended) smoothly. I struggled, per usual, but I got them there and got myself back to the safe confines of the four walls I live in (I’d have said “my house”, but it’s rented and our financial situation is never going to allow us to own a house…so).

Things with my health have been deteriorating. Go back to the doctor, I hear you say. I’m tired of that. I’ve tried to get better, and just get worse.

I’ve withdrawn. Even more. I avoid Facebook, with the exception of my artist’s page. It’s another outlet. I keep it for that reason; it certainly isn’t good for much else (like promoting my music, which was its original intention).

Facebook. Ugh. Society in general, ugh. But, Facebook? Let’s put all neuroses in a Petri dish, why don’t we? The never ending stream (feed…yeah, and I’m fed up) of depressing human existence. Updates about food and who’s watching what on the telly. And the endless competition for who has the best (and worst) of life’s experiences goes on. It’s fucking overwhelming.

Oh, but you will accuse me of being negative…all the while, the whisper you ignore in the back of your head agrees with me, knows I’m right.

It may surprise you to find out this post is not a rant about Facebook. Where was I?… oh, yeah, the school run was done and I was safe inside the four walls.

After a glass of chocolate milk (with added vitamins), I found myself in front of my piano (it IS mine…not rented, all mine). I couldn’t remember the last time I had played it. I felt I should do something about it. Music is therapy. Always.

I cleared the pile of stuff (clothes, kids’ toys, who knows what else) off the bench. I sat. There was a song I had written (scribbled) in front of me. I played and sang it. My voice is rusty. But, the piano welcomed me like the true friend it is. We touched each other…that’s what musicians and their instruments do. It’s a very intimate thing and surely sounds freaky and pervy to non-musos. Freaky and pervy I can be accused of (I digress), but the relationship between musician and instrument is sacred.

It’s like any other relationship. We let each other down. We please each other when we can. It’s very give and take…on both sides.

After the scribbled song, I played and sang an old favourite. Then, I let the piano play me for a while. Give. Take.

I feel just as wretched and ill as before I sat down, but I feel a little less frazzled; I feel comforted.

Music is therapy. Always.

What’s next? I don’t know. Take it a day at a time. Do what I can…let go what I can’t. And, perhaps, try to play daily, even if only a minute or two. Yeah…it’s a plan.

Even If

As I was saying here

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Today, I had to go for a blood test. It’s a long walk from where we live to where I had to go to get the red stuff drawn. To make matters less appealing, it was a fasting test, so I had to do all that walking on an empty stomach. The good news was that my husband took the day off work to make sure the kids got to school and I made it to my appointment without fainting or anything.

After we were done at the phlebotomist’s, our first port of call was to get me a much needed cup of coffee and something edible. We did that. Then we had time just to wander around town together. If we’d had any money to spend we’d have gone straight into the bookshop.  But, window shopping in a bookshop is, for me, like the height of being teased and left high and dry. It’s a literary blue balls. Yeah, I’m being crude…get over it. You get the point.

So, we decided to go look in a vintage furniture shop. Now, if we couldn’t afford to get me a new book, we certainly couldn’t afford to get any of the cool furniture, but – for me – it’s not nearly so much of a tease; I can look and say, “Yeah, be nice”, but you won’t see me climbing the walls with unfulfilled desire.

Jamie was the one to spot this coaster (it’s a coaster, but I’m keeping it as a plaque on my piano).  He remarked something along the lines that this should be our philosophy and I said, “Yeah…it’s sort of what I was talking about on my blog yesterday.”  He counted out some change in his pocket and bought the coaster/plaque.

Sure, IF more people did care, I’d be able to afford the book and maybe even the really nice furniture. But, they don’t, and there’s nothing I can do to make them.  It is what it is. But, still, I am what I am. Thus, the beautiful things shall continue to be made whilst I have breath.

Sitting there on my piano, it will be a source of comfort and inspiration. It’s also testiment to the love and thoughtfulness of my husband who counted out pennies so that I could have a bit of visual support on those days when people’s great lack of caring is getting to me. That’s love, that is (yeah…he is awesome).

This Is EXACTLY How I Feel

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.” – Vincent van Gogh

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This is exactly how I feel about my music. And, in general, I relate to this incredible artist very much. The anxiety. The bouts with mental illness. Sometimes I wonder if it’s all a part of the brilliantly artistically gifted: you can have the creativity and be able to produce works of marvellous beauty, but the pain, the torment, the feeling that you really don’t belong here, all go along with it. It is very, very sad. But, it is our existence. And, I suppose if you gave me the choice between being “happy” (whatever that is) and my ability to sing and make music, I would choose the latter. But, what I am writing specifically about in this post is this issue of obscurity rather than our shared mental health problems.

According to Wikipedia, during Vincent van Gogh’s life, his work was known only to a handful of people and appreciated by fewer still. Hmm, that certainly sounds all too familliar.

Of course, not all artists are doomed to live in this obscurity, only being appreciated and finding acclaim for their contributions posthumously. Not all of us are alike. There isn’t a great artistic brotherhood (just like there isn’t some great sisterhood of women, either…but, I digress – yes, again! – that’s a post for another time); we aren’t all cut out with cookie cutters. Some of us aren’t tortured as badly as others and some of us do get discovered (and appreciated) whether tortured greatly or not prior to leaving this ill-fitting world. I do wonder what it’s like to be in that category, but that has not been my lot.

Vincent van Gogh was 37 when he died. I am 38, nearly 39. I feel old. I feel passed it. And, my entire life – artistically speaking – has been this quote. When I saw it today, shared on another artist’s Facebook wall, it knocked the wind out of me. I felt like I had been struck. I physically hurt when I read it. Because, I know this experience, and it has been my experience for nearing four decades now.

And, so, this is simply my lament for myself (yes, another pity party for a pitiful nobody of a singer/songwriter), and it is my celebration of van Gogh – who was brilliant and sad and who painted the sky not on canvas only, but on the very fabric of our hearts. His work hangs, no longer belittled or thought of no worth, now admired, acclaimed, sung of, cherished and highly valued. I wonder what it would have been like if his paintings had been considered with such value when he was alive. One thing I can say – back to the mental health thing – it would not have changed his mental state, it would not have chased the demons away, but what it would have done is to provide validation to the living man and put bread on his table; it would have fed both spirit and body. 

How am I so certain of this? Because, that is what it would do for me.

Now, a last note must be made here. To the precious few who do support my music, I want to make sure you know how grateful I am for you. I would never want you to think that I’m ignoring you; I want you to know that you mean a great deal to me – you are a tiny, but beautiful, spark of validation in a black sky that would otherwise be solid darkness; I appreciate you very much. But I needed to write this post because of how this quote affected me. I needed to write it for me, and for him.