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.

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This Is What It’s Like

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I want things to be better, I want to get better, and when, instead, things get worse – with my health, with the way I’m feeling – it’s a severe blow. Terrible. It’s life slapping me in the face. Again. It’s pure torment.

“You can choose to be happy and enjoy life.”  What a load of bollocks. You can choose to accept and sit with the pain, as mindfulness teaches. You can choose to escape some of the pain through books, music, sex, other distractions. But, the pain is still there. The struggle is still there. And, it isn’t enjoyable.

On the days that are less intense, I let my hopes rise. But, inevitably, disappointment comes with a vengeance in these times when it’s not only bad, but worse than ever. I let myself think that maybe there could be some freedom outside of death, just to be proven, once again, there is no freedom but death.

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.

It’s Getting Harder

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I’m deteriorating. I want things to improve. I want to be getting better. But, it’s just not happening that way. It’s getting worse, more difficult…looking more and more hopeless and desperate, relief nowhere in sight.

Little Improvement

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But, improvement is still improvement even if it is only little. I should be pleased with my progress so far, and not beat myself up for the slow going nature of said progress.

I’m speaking of my accent, of course. If you’ve been following my recent posts you will have read of my obsession to rid myself of my native American accent, and replacing it with the tone of my residence. Living in the UK for over a decade now, I had hoped – assumed – that my accent would naturally soften and, by osmosis, I would gradually, but surely, lose the harsh American sound to my speaking voice. Like in so many other things, I’ve been woefully disappointed. After so many years with so little softening, I’ve come to the conclusion that hard work and retraining is the only way to get what I want. But, hard work is what it is. Very hard work.

I have undertaken elocution exercises. And, I am finding, like all physical exercise, it causes me a great deal of pain. My whole head aches with the effort.

Today, after the school run, I decided I would record some of this baby step yet painful progress, with the idea to share it here. I went to the computer…

I haven’t recorded anything since we got a new computer and everything was different. My recording software, the operating system. Different now. I’ve been avoiding recording anything lately because… well, I didn’t have anything desperately pressing on me to record (people still aren’t beating down my door for my music), but more because of the changes to what I was used to and could use well.

The new computer was given to us…and, I’m not ungrateful…but, it hadn’t really been given with helping me out in mind, but more for my husband and the children. Granted our old one was on its last circuity legs, but I was on firm footing with it and it was only that familiarity that allowed me to use it to record two albums and all my singles. It was a crap piece of machinery, but I did do true wonders with it.

So, school run done, I approached the new with trepidation, and…

Autism reared its head and I found myself unable to navigate the changes.

Frustrated and in tears, I walked away from the strange and hostile hardware and software. Talk about your technical difficulties.

Now, I have a voice recorder on my phone, but I can’t, for whatever reason, upload what I record there. I can share it via whatsapp message, but it won’t go anywhere else.

I resorted to downloading the soundcloud app on my phone, so I could use my existing soundcloud account.

After several attempts at getting it right, the above recording is what I settled with sharing here.

What I recorded yesterday, on my phone voice recorder, sounds better…truer. But, this is what I could manage today. It’s one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and one that particularly resonates with me.

Shakespeare is a benchmark, a starting point. The language and rhythm is helpful to mastering the necessary cadence. I know, I’m far from mastering anything here. And, there I go, beat beat beat, smash, hate myself for…

all my inability.

Can I go to bed now, wretched world?  No. Now, it’s nearly time to pick the kids back up from school.

I’ve wasted a whole day. My God, how miserable.

But, even pain sounds better in an English accent. Too bad my pain is simply and acutely painful and doesn’t yet – and might never – have that “better” thing going for it.

I leave you with the Bard and my imperfect voicing of his brilliant words.

Living in Hope

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I don’t clear out my phone often enough; messages sit there for months, years even. Call me a sentimental fool. I hold up my hand and confess.

Today, wrapped in a blanket, feeling physically unwell (as I have for some time), I decide to do a tidy up on my phone. With relative emotional ease, I deleted messages in order to clear space.

Then, I went back into my contacts in order to send a message to my husband. There, in my contacts, was my old friend who no longer wants me in her life.

Awhile back I had deleted her messages, so they weren’t a constant reminder of her absence from my life. But, at the time, and again today, I couldn’t bring myself to delete her from my contacts.

Realistically, I know she might have changed her number by now, but to delete her name out of my phone the way she deleted me from her life… I can’t do it yet. Not today. I still hope that one day she might say hello, might think of the friendship we had…might let go of judgements and assumptions…might just want to laugh and make music with another funny musical soul.

She doesn’t need me anymore. I was surplus. Complicated. And, I became uncomfortable (to her) when I began saying how I really feel and think.

My friend is gone, but I remember and I hope.

Hope is a bitch.

Friends

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Not the sitcom, of which I was never a big fan. Don’t get me wrong, there were times that I caught it and was mildly amused. There were even times that, being forced to watch it, I had a good laugh (Smelly Cat comes to mind) but, overall, it was never going to be one of my fave shows. But, I digress.

Friends. This is a tough one for me because of the few times in my life I felt like I had found that lifelong friend, only to end up deserted.

Now, to put this into perspective, I’m talking about someone local, someone I can see and hug and hang out with. I do have (have managed to maintain) at least one dear close friendship (someone who knows EVERYTHING about me and still loves me and wants to be my friend), but this is a long distance thing. To find (and keep) a friend to trust, who lives close enough to visit regularly and do stuff with, this is another story.

Of recent times, it was a young woman with whom I shared the passion for making music. There were other things in common (like an off the wall sense of humour and an absolute obsession for all things Tolkien). And, whenever she needed someone to talk to, I made myself available. I became very attached.

My friend and I performed musically together. For me, strengthening the bond. And, at least once a week we got together for a walk in the park or a chat and cuppa.

But, when I became more open, more myself, sharing more of how I was really feeling about the mental illness and sharing my real opinions on life in general, she went away. I could’ve kept her as my friend had I not been myself…but.

I miss her. But, I wish her well. Sometimes, I still post something funny (that reminds me of some private joke we had) on her Facebook wall, not to get her to come back into my life, but just to acknowledge and give thanks for those good times. No longer will I beg for friendship, crying, “Why’d you leave me?”

But, this sort of thing makes a person cautious, scared of friendship in general. Especially to a person who gives their all in a relationship.

Maintaining a certain level of detachment, while sharing your soul with someone you feel a connection to, is difficult. I fall for my friends. I fall hard.

So, lately, it’s been odd when friendship – not just one, but PLURAL – has arrived at my (literal front) door (one under very unusual circumstances) and I feel that falling feeling again.

Of the most unorthodox of the meetings (actually, because of the unorthodox nature of our meeting), we have found someone we can trust to talk about EVERYTHING with. No need to hide aspects. And, amazingly, she lives a few streets over from me.

So, here I am, finding myself with a friend (more than one even) again, and even a social life! This is odd. For me.

And, it’s very scary, too. Lovely. But scary because of its loveliness, its preciousness.

I think I will always miss that musical friend, even though I know she has very much moved on, but, I have to admit, being able to truly be oneself with someone is more important than making music together. Because the friendship where you can be yourself is where real harmony is found. And, if that’s the only music I get from this, I will take it and be grateful.

So, here I go…I think this is lifelong friendship here. But, I’ve thought that before. I just don’t want to mess it up by being me…but, apparently, I can’t help being me. Sigh.

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