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).

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Life Blows… Blow Back!

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Or, we could say, “Life hits hard; hit back harder!”

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Music is powerful. Music is influential. No matter what you tell yourself and your parents when you’re a teenager; the music you listen to affects you, in a very real way. Science now supports all this. Thank God for the invention of brain scans, ay? What you listen to will affect mood, ideas; it will influence you in subtle and significant ways. Deny it if you want to, but music is a spiritual force.

I’m not hear to preach at you. I am simply in awe of, well, the awesomeness of music. As a musician, it’s an honour and responsibility to use the “power” wisely (with great power, yeah, yada yada yada…Spiderman has nothing on us musos…we’re the real superheros and, dare I say it, villians). Music is a gift to us all and a helpful medication in the struggle to cope with life.

I am a huge supporter and believer in music therapy and the more I find it helping myself and my mental health difficulties, the more I want to share the therapeutic benefits with everyone who will, well…listen.

Listening is where we start. Not a passive listening, but listening with awareness. Music is meditative in quality, and right there lies so much of its healing power.  The Latin word for meditation is mederi, which means “heal, cure, remedy, assauge, comfort, amend” (see, you learn something reading my blog).

What is listening with awareness or meditative listening? 

Sitting or lying comfortably, choose a piece of music to listen to (for this “exercise” I recommend going for an instrumental piece so you can focus more on the music and avoid the temptation to get caught up following the story of the lyrics and how THEY play on your emotions or what they cause you to remember, think about, etc.). If it is a piece you are familliar with already, approach this listening session as if it’s the first time you’ve heard the piece. Or, you could choose something new to you. The idea is to approach the music with curiosity, as if hearing – not only music, but hearing itself – for the first time.  You are cultivating a sense of curiosity and wonder. You are cultivating a sense of gratitude for the ability to hear and for the gift of music itself.

Perhaps you’ve been taught that meditation is some Eastern mystisism that you wish to avoid. Lately my view has been quite challened on this subject. The medical and scientific proofs of the benefit of meditation on the brain is not to be sniffed at! You need not sit and chant weird words and it’s not about reaching some altered state of consciousness. It’s about becoming AWARE, about getting off the autopilot most of us are run by day in and day out, and grounding yourself in the present moment. It’s about taking time out of all your busy DOING to simply BE.

Ok…now, back to the music…

Actively listen. Don’t judge what you hear. Just follow along with the “travel” of the changing notes, follow the rythym and, as you listen, shift your attention to your body and see how the sound is affecting you. What do you feel? (This is why it’s better to try this with music sans lyrics because we are discovering the raw effect, the sensations, in the body – how the music effects the body, and working with those feelings rather than with emotions. And (now this is important) if (and when) the mind wanders (it’s what minds do), gently escort your attention back to following the music, right where it is. The mind may wander several times – that’s natural,  but every time it does,  gently (without beating yourself up about it) bring your awareness back to the music.

When the piece of music finishes, you could sit quietly for a little longer, focusing on your breathing, staying aware of the present.

Taking the therapy beyond listening.

Making the music takes this therapy a leap beyond listening. This gets you actively involved with making and using the gift of music. Some might even call it true magic.  The problem is, not everyone is musically gifted and so they can feel left out of anything more than the listening. Sure, having some kind of natural talent helps (greatly), but you can still benefit from something like joining a drumming circle and getting involved with making the healing sounds. Drumming with a hand drum (like the African djembe which I am playing in the second picture up there), helps with blood flow and circulation. And, if you have any kind of rythym at all, you can play – it’s a very “user-friendly” instrument.

You don’t have to play complicated rythyms. Experiment. The idea here isn’t to play to entertain others, or even to “entertain” yourself. This is for YOU. Time for you to beat the demons away. Time for you to personally take the power of music and let it IMPACT you. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t judge the sounds, just play them. Imagine you’re one of those X-Factor contestants that really think they can sing but are tone deaf and couldn’t carry a tune if a bucket was strapped to them to carry one in! Just play.

Like anything, it takes a bit of practice, but it’s worth it. I challenge you to play the djembe for 15 minutes and tell me how you feel afterwards? It’s invigorating. Much better than a gym workout, in my opinion – one, because you don’t have to be a super-athlete to do it, and both body and MIND get the benefit.

See, meditation doesn’t have to be freaky hippie stuff – it can be cool musician stuff (I know, sometimes, it’s the same thing…but yeah… I encourage you; give it a go).

Anywho, hand drumming is a great place to start your music therapy journey. And, you don’t have to join a circle (that just gives an added social/community type thing to it – it is fun to make music with others) – just get yourself a hand drum (again, I highly recommend the djembe) and begin. I am certain you will feel the benefit straightaway.

To comfort…to assuage (mederi).

If you follow my blog, you know I am a professional musician and have been singing since the age of 4. I am now nearly, coughcoughcough, shuddershudder, 40.  Throughout the whole of my existence, music has always been a great comfort to me. I have used my voice and the piano (mostly) to express myself, to express my emotions, my pain…to be the voice of my soul. Now, I am learning a new way to use music.

While I have always known music to be powerful and therapeutic, I am now using it in a specific and meditative (mederi) way and this has led me to expand from my comfort zone of voice and strings hit with hammers.

I am presently embarking on learning what I call “my second voice”.  This week, a dear friend of mine (another person I met because of this here series of books) sent me the exceptionally special gift of two Native American style wooden flutes.  And, when I play them, they speak to something deep within me and they become the voice of my soul, in that moment.  The sound resonates and clears my head.

Music therapy.  Awesome stuff.

Life blows.

I also had an appointment with a doctor this week who finally seemed to listen to me and see how badly I was struggling – crippled and not really living – because of my mental health. It was nice to hear someone who knows what they are talking about say that you can’t just choose to be happy; it’s a chemical thing. It was also nice to hear that she was going to get me properly diagnosed and see I eventually get some more specific help for my case. Refreshing. It won’t happen overnight; I still have to jump through some nhs hoops, but…there might be some hope, and that’s a big something. What do I do in the meantime?

Blow back! Oh, and I’m a musician, I welcome all your blowing jokes, innuendo, and double entendres…be my guest. Blow it, beat it, finger it, baby! 😉 It’s all good.

Yeah, it was nice to finally say to someone, “Really, there’s never a time I’d choose life (existing) over death…I’d always prefer to die,” and not have them give me some stupid, high and mighty response made in some effort to shame me into appreciating the “gift of life”. No, she listened, she understood, she promised to help. Now we see. And, for the moment… I play on.

Support my music. You can help me while I "play on".

Support my music. You can help me while I “play on”.

A Great Promise to Begin a New Year On

Today, when I should have been listening to what the pastor was saying in his message, God re-showed me a beautiful promise for those – like I – who suffer with depression (so, you decide if I really, technically, should’ve been listening or not…after all, I heard what God wanted me to hear, what I needed to hear).

2 Corinthians 7:6 AMP says:

But God, Who comforts and encourages and refreshes and cheers the depressed and the sinking, comforted and encouraged and refreshed and cheered us by the arrival of Titus.

 

In the KJV it says that He ‘comforteth those that are cast down’. Being ‘cast down’ is an accurate (short) definition of severe depression. But, I love the way the Amplified Bible amplifies this verse; it tells us that God comforts, encourages, refreshes and cheers the depressed and sinking.This tells us God’s nature and desire. This is such a brilliant promise.

I’m on Twitter and I noticed that Spotify (internet radio, MP3 service, etc) are asking people what song best represents their 2012. Well, there’s been a lot of music that touched and help define my 2012 – my own music and other peoples’, as well. I answered their question with one of my songs – my first single release, ‘Hope Breathing (A Lullaby)’, because, one, it was my first single release (a pretty big deal, to me…well, and to a few others who count themselves among my fanbase – it was a defining moment which took me from struggling/starving singer/songwriter to recording artist proper) and because there is a lot about the song that speaks of 2012 for me (and, because, I’ll admit it, I was trying to plug my own music…shameless plugging, yep)…but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there are two more songs that, together, sum up 2012 even more than ‘Hope Breathing’ does. Read on…

I recently wrote and recorded a song that highlights a lot of what it’s like to suffer with severe depression: the sinking, the sorrow, the overwhelming nature of it. That song is ‘Waterfall’ (if you follow my blog at all, you might have read about this seriously morose song here). I experience and struggle with this on a regular basis. But, in these times, if I stop and ask God to help me, He is always faithful to ‘help the sinking’. Some days are better than others. But, I can honestly say that God’s comfort is real, and I couldn’t make it without the comfort God gives.

In this verse in 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about how God used another person – Titus – to comfort and cheer him. And, indeed, there are times when I’ve had a message or a phone call or a visit from a friend that has made all the difference to my darker days. The difference between total despair and coping. Sometimes the comfort comes from taking a moment to quiet myself before the Lord and allow Him to minister grace to my aching heart and troubled mind…

Yes, I ended up this year writing a song that accutely describes the depths of depression and the agony thereof,  but earlier in the year I wrote and recorded another song – ‘My Salvation (Ageless One)’– that is all about how God can help the depressed – indeed, how He often helps me personally. It was based greatly on Psalm 27. Today, using 2 Corinthians 7:6, God reminded me (He is so good) that it is always His desire to comfort the hurting and broken, the overwhelmed, the SINKING!  With this verse, God is ending my year with hope for the new year ahead…and, well, that was definitely worth blogging about (as well, I think, ‘interrupting’ the pastor’s message).

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(AMEN!)

 

A Bra By Any Other Name… (would still be a pain…or, perhaps, not so much of one…read on)

Forgive me for getting a bit girly in this post.  I know, that’s really not like me, so – I don’t know – for some of my readers, the change might actually be refreshing (I tend to avoid a lot of what I think is female nonsense unless I am griping about the female nonsense). But, this is like a serious issue.

 

Let’s talk bras!

 

For me, a good fitting bra is sort of like a good pair of shoes.  I will wait until the shoes are falling off my feet, the sole worn out and letting water in, before I will consider getting a new pair of shoes.  First, we need to make sure if we can pay the rent and get food on the table, and then, if there’s anything left over, I will go and find the cheapest pair I can get that feels ok and looks decent and will go with a variety of outfits (I have to admit a total brain-tilt when it comes to those women who have a pair of shoes for nearly every outfit.  Seriously, even if I had the money to frivolously purchase such things, I would spend it on other stuff…  like, I don’t know, a grand piano…or, less grand (no pun really intended…ok, yeah, of course there was), maybe a nice steak dinner now and then, maybe some nice leather furniture, and lots and lots of books (real books – I am not talking Kindle nonsense), oh, yeah, and a new computer… I could really use one of them, that would be actually useful… but 86 pairs of shoes that all cost over £40 a pop… nope, I just DO NOT GET IT… but, hey, man, have I digressed…seems I can’t help but gripe over female nonsense…oh, well…) Back to our regularly scheduled bra, already unfastened. 🙂

Bras. Good ones, that fit well? They are an expense – a luxury – that other necessities usually come a long way before. But, I may be beginning to see that a proper fitting brassiere is more of a necessary thing than I have previously wanted to consider.

It makes so much of a difference. In comfort, in the way your boobs, girls, knockers, rack (whatever you want to call those mammary glands) are supported.

Before yesterday, the last time I had purchased a new bra was sometime late 2010 maybe, or early 2011…clearly, I forget.  It was one of those desperate things.  All my old bras didn’t fit me anymore. The cups were either too big (because I had been breastfeeding and, therefore, I had been naturally more busty when I got them) or they were too small around (because I had gained weight). So, I went and bought me a couple of cheapies ( black one and a white one, to cover all my clothing bases) in a discount clothing shop.  I don’t know what happened to the white one…it’s bound to be around the house somewhere…I wore it whenever I couldn’t get away with wearing the black one.  The black one went with almost everything I wear, so I just kept wearing it.  It didn’t fit particularly well, but it wasn’t the worst fit in the world either.  I had not been measured when I bought it. Obviously, it wasn’t that sort of a place where you would get a proper fitting. You just grab the thing off the rack, maybe try it on in the changing room (which, at least, I did do…ugh, I hate changing rooms… but, that’s another blog for another day), pay your £8, and get the heck out of there.

 

So…  yesterday came, and I mentioned to my husband that the time was arriving. I could really not put off getting a new bra any longer.  My cheapy was not only looking ratty, but it couldn’t support a fly anymore.  Now, I have rather punier bazoomas than I would like to have… but, they do, fortunately, have more substance to them than does a fly.

 

My amazing husband had an idea.  He wanted to go and get me a proper, good fitting bra – something that would be comfortable and do what it is supposed to. He took his mum’s satnav, which we inherited when she died, and he sold it at a cash-converters (pawnshop type dealydo)…then he took me to a place called Bare Essentials – a lovely privately owned lingerie shop – where I got properly measured (something that a woman needs to do on a regular basis, because, well, we just don’t stay the same shape/size up there, even IF we stay the same dress size (which I haven’t…so, all the more reason I needed to be measured)… stuff shifts and changes and adjustments need to be made for comfort and support’s sake). Then the sales assistant /lingerie advisor type lady gave me a selection of bras to try on and helped me to choose one that properly fit me.

 

Whoa… I nearly feel like a new woman!  What a major difference.  It’s made me realise that, perhaps, now and then, maybe I should make it a priority to find a way to save some pennies here and there so I am able to get a proper bra when I need to.

 

I encourage you ladies out there; if you haven’t been measured in a while, go do it.  You might be surprised.  I know, you might be depressed by your measurements, as well. But, you don’t have to share that info with anyone else.  You will FEEL so much better wearing something that fits correctly!

 

So, with happy boobs, I bid you all good day, God bless and happy bra wearing (or, in the case of the men who may have stuck with this post long enough, bra unfastening). And, thanks, Mum…still taking care of me, even now.  And, thank you, Jamie.. for, well, being you.

 

Oh, yeah… no one is ever going to convince me differently about the shoe thing! 😛