Kegels and Kindness – a plan for 2016

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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?)

 

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.

Watch “Is It Me You’re Looking For? (The answer-phone message for those of us whom phone calls make ill)” on YouTube

I’m not really sure if my inability to cope with phone calls is more to do with the avoidant personality disorder or with the social anxiety. Whichever or both, I don’t do phone calls. And so…this is my new answerphone/voicemail message.

Highs and Lows (and, How Time Can Make Things Worse Instead of Better)

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Mark and I arrived at the Festival excited and looking forward to performing. To abbreviate a long story, things didn’t go as planned. A rough crowd and a worse sound system ensured failure regardless of our talent and performance. Needless to say, it was a bummer. However, last night, when it happened, I handled it with objectivity and humour; instead of throwing a tantrum and dissolving into a torrent of tears and ragings against the bastard that is life, I was calm and positive. “Hey, it happens to the best. This wasn’t our night or our crowd. There will be other/better gigs.” I consoled my friend and music partner, even regaling him with one of my mother’s favourite gig horror stories. I wasn’t even faking it. I was disappointed, but I didn’t feel despairing.

But, that was last night. Time is supposed to help things. This is a myth. It rarely helps. It often makes worse.

When I woke up this morning, the despair sat waiting to pounce on me. I’ve been drowning in it since.

Last Sunday was such a massive high, and it’s difficult not to get hopeful from such experiences.

Life plays this cruel cat and mouse game. And, I’m sad and angry. And, so tired.

Tomorrow, I have a very overdue appointment with Mental Health. I wonder what new exercise in futility it will be. The Dr. I had previously seen is no longer there, then I missed an appointment back in May because I had forgotten the date and was too ill to get out of the house and deal with it. Now, there’s someone new to have to deal with. And, I have no hope to spare for the appointment. Perhaps, I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but it’s most likely going to be a waste of time.

Did I mention, I’m tired? When I say I’m tired, I mean that every aching bone in my body is crying out with weariness.

I am still very thankful for those rare good times, of course. And, a little good is better than no good at all. But, those times always make me want and expect more. I get hopeful. I start visualising success (which “they” say is the thing to do).  And, then, the kick in the teeth comes…and, it’s overwhelming, gut-aching sorrow.

And, yeah, maybe there will be some more good coming…there will be the last Sundays. But, then, there will be the last nights and the tomorrows, too. And, I’m just so fucking tired.

I’ll leave you with this… because it’s what I do, and this song seems fitting…and, who doesn’t love some Mumford & Sons? And, because, I’m still pathetic fool enough to hope.

Life Goes On

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“Life goes on.” Don’t you just hate this saying? It’s right up there with “snap out of it” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (gag). The problem is, unlike those latter sayings, “life goes on” is true.

I recently watched an episode of a tv programme I like. In this episode, one of the characters has lost his wife to cancer. He looks out the window and laments that the view is the same. The love of his life is gone from him and so the view shouldn’t be the same.

I agree.

When there is grief, or when life just generally fucks you over, or when the complications that are a part of chronic illness happen, the world should stop. Life shouldn’t go on. But, it does. Relentlessly. Maddeningly. It just keeps going on. And on. And on. It’s wrong, on soooooo many levels.

And we wear our fake smiles and masks and try our best to appear normal because people we encounter are going to tell us “life goes on”. Human compassion has its limits, and they don’t have the capacity to deal with our pain (another reason life should not go on). So, we prepare our lies for when they ask us how we are. “I’m fine.”

I’ve often said this:

Life goes on. And that, my friends, is the tragedy.

It isn’t the loss, or the unfairness of life, or the issues that arise because of our illness – those things are bad enough, but they aren’t the tragedy. The tragedy is that life goes on…when it shouldn’t.

And, so, with all this in mind, I wrote this song and created the artwork for the video.

No, not everyone will get it or like it. But, there will be many who will. It will resonate with anyone who has ever suffered a significant loss, and it will resonate with my fellow squishy brainers. We’re the ones who know what the tragedy actually is.

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.

 

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.