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.

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.

Compulsion, Obsession and Despair

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I am totally weary to the point of crying. My body aches, my eyes sting and I can’t swallow the lump in my throat. Life sucks and I hate it.

I should just sleep as much as I can, but I am compelled to get out of bed and try – in vain – to promote my music. Again.

Try this. That didn’t work, so try this instead. Try this again. Keep trying.

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Self-promotion is soul destroying. We are encouraged to “get ourselves out there and make it clear we’re here to do business” but, when we do, we’re made to feel like we are harassing our friends and family; we can’t win. We are told to ask for help by people like Amanda Palmer who have successfully crowdfunded their projects. We are told that if they can do it so can we. But, we find the cold truth that some people are simply charmed; they ask and get help, while the rest if us ask and receive nothing.

And here I am now, throwing more rose petals to the wind, ranting to the air in a blog post, feeling desperation and despair.

“I cannot sleep for all these dreams” – Marillion

I know now that I’m not alone in my woe.  I am acquainted with plenty other (excellent) artists in my sad, sinking boat. And, I also know that this situation is NOT an indicator of talent. The world misses out on some of the greatest artists of all time simply because some of those with the most massive talent weren’t blessed with the massive break they deserved.

I sit here in turmoil. Should I spend the energy uploading my stuff to this and that again, in hope that this time my efforts will be worth it? Or, do I take a deep breath and accept that nothing I ever do will work and go back to bed and, at the least, have sleep to show for it?

Gah!

I’m going to be a long time dead. Now is when I have bills to pay and children to feed. I have tried to comfort myself with knowledge that, by recording my music, I have left a legacy for after I’m gone. My kids can say, “Listen! My mum sounded like THIS”. My voice will still be able to be heard. And, on my gravestone they can write, “She tried. She failed. At last, she’s at rest.”

Because, I did try (and masochistically keep on trying); I did ask (and I keep asking) for help; I keep knocking, only to find success behind a locked and bolted door. Excluded. Discriminated against. “This isn’t for you!”

And, I want to not care anymore. I want to accept failure. I want to quit feeling this obsession to keep, sadistically, trying. But, the burning tears running down my face right now prove I’m not close to being in that gloriously apathetic place.

One more time, sitting here, I deliberate over uploading some new stuff to bbc introducing (maybe this time will be different) or just going to the toilet and heading back to bed. At this point, I don’t know which I’ll do. I’ll get back to you on it…or not.

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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.

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…

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.