Life, You Bastard!

Something happened today to remind me never to get my hopes up.  Life plays these little games of letting me think that maybe I could have a little win…and, then.  Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football. I wish I could learn from this.  But, I’m afraid.  Life will do this again, and it is very tricksy.

I’m just so tired.

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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.

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.

Frosty

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Thank you to all of you who are reading my blog. It’s nice…it’s nice to have you here.

Today is a frosty day. The sun is shining, but I’m not going out into the cold (except for the obligatory school runs, of course; today I don’t feel like going out voluntarily). My body hurts with joint and muscular pain, my head isn’t up to the challenge of battling both physical pain and mental anxiety. Thus, here I sit, writing another post.

I appear to be on a roll here, blogging wise. Don’t expect one tomorrow, however. I wasn’t going to write about this, but I have an appointment tomorrow in Leicester (which means getting the train and probably a bus, but my husband is going with me, so I won’t panic…oh, I still might panic or meltdown, but he’ll be there to pick up my pieces). It’s a psychotherapy evaluation. Not a psychotherapy appointment, but an appointment to see if they think psychotherapy would help me. Anywho, yeah…even if I end up wanting to write about the experience, a trip to Leicester will drain me and it isn’t likely I’ll have the energy to post tomorrow.

But, today I have followed “the plan”: get the kids to school and then engage in some music therapy. I began with vocal exercises and then proceeded to play and sing, even looking up the music to some new songs, so as to give the brain something fresh to work on.

I’m not looking forward to tomorrow. Every night, as I go to sleep, I pray I won’t wake up. Every morning I am disappointed when I’m faced with another day. Couldn’t this time been it? Just fall asleep and have done with it. Rest. But, no… and it rushes at me, bombarding me. Nowhere for me to take cover. This is everyday. But, it’s especially  when I know a day will definitely contain added struggle and suffering.

Perhaps tonight will be the night. I’m always hopeful (which is why I’m always disappointed). But, yeah…not likely. Tomorrow there will be more than frost to face.

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.

Meanwhile… (I sang live on the Beeb)

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At short notice on Thursday, I was invited by the Brahma Kumaris Meditation Centre that I often provide music for, to come sing at their new large Leicester centre on Friday (yesterday). That really wouldn’t be that much short notice to me (I try to stay practiced up and prepared for musical opportunities) except that then I was told I’d be being covered by BBC Radio Leicester.

Normally, I’d have been running around like the proverbial chicken sans head, thinking, “OMG! RADIO. LIVE RADIO. LIVE POPULAR RADIO.” However, they’ve recently changed my meds from duloxetine to venlafaxine and I was more like, “Nice. About time. Eh, what should I wear to be on radio?” (an ironic, but serious, question).

My friend Vee came with me and played roadie. Before going live, the man from the station came to talk to me. I introduced myself by name and said I was a local artist from Loughborough. He replied, “Excellent! We champion local artists; you should send us some of your stuff.” I retorted with, “I have done. For years now. I’ve never heard back from anyone.” He said, “I’ll give you my details and email; send it to me.”

This was/is worth getting excited over. Still, the venlafaxine is holding me in check from getting my hopes too high. And, yet, the hopes are still there. He seemed genuine.

We went live, I was interviewed (being American came into it), and then asked to “give a burst” of a song, I “bursted” decently, he got my name wrong when it went back to him, but he corrected himself so no harm was done. Then, while the show went back to the studio, he handed me a piece of paper with his details on it. He handed me a shred of hope.

Here’s the link to the podcast of the show.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p024wyv4 Skip to 1:13:37 to listen to my interview and “burst”. Shame about the stupid noise my sustain pedal was making. But, other than that, I nailed it, was asked back to the centre to do more music for them, and made a contact at BBC Radio. Not bad for a day’s work.

I still have HOPE and a PROMISE

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Last week I made the very hard decision to go back on medication for depression. This was not an easy thing for me to do, because I so detest the side-effects of antidepressants. But, the time had come to either do something or to go to bed and never get back out of it.

Since we cannot afford for me to have a stint in the hospital or for me just to go to bed (we can’t afford for my husband to stay home from work to take the kids to/from school, or to come home from work every single time I have a breakdown and am crying hysterically down the phone), it was necessary to do something.

So, yesterday, I bit the bullet and went to the doctor. I was officially diagnosed with severe depresion (scoring a 24 out of a possible 27 – the higher the score the more severely depressed you are) and was given the prescription.

My attitude to it is this: I know how I am supposed to think, I know what and how I am supposed to think, but my brain will not work that way; it needs some serious help. This is the first step to getting better; this will open the door for me to be able to make myself think the way I should think. This is the first step – on  a journey – to better days.

Yesterday morning, in my quiet time before getting out of bed, I felt God give me this verse of scripture:

Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope! I promise this very day that I will repay two blessings for each of your troubles.Zechariah 9:12 NLT

I am a prisoner of depression. But, I still have hope, and I have God’s Word; His promise of blessing.

No, I’m not happy that I’m on an antidepressant that I know, while it’s helping, will affect me in ways I do NOT want to be affected.  But, I have hope of deliverance, from both the depression and, eventually, the crappy side-effects of the medication I have to take in order for me to cope with my every day life.

Hope is not synonymous with wishing. Real hope is not the same thing as wishful thinking. The difference between hope and wishing is as much as the difference between a dream and a fantasy: the former is inherant with power and possiblility while the latter is just smoke and sandcastles.

I still have hope. And, I have a promise which keeps that hope breathing.