Life As I Know It | an animation

This goes out to the precious extraordinary carers of those of us with bpd.  What makes these people so unique (and rare) is their ability to accept us as we are (when that is so hard to do) and not do the typical abandonment of us when we are difficult. This love and support makes all the difference to a sufferer. Specifically and personally, this is dedicated to my carer and husband, Jamie, with my unspeakable thanks.

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For Better or Worse

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Anniversary presents are nice, but it’s the every day giving that makes a marriage.

When you make those vows, you’re so hopeful that there will be more health than sickness and more richer than poorer. Life often has other, crueler, plans.

Often growing up means growing apart, too. Or, worse, you refuse to grow at all. Problems arise when one or both can’t accept the person as they really are and keep trying to make them into whatever fairytale vision they had for the other on that vow-day.

Marriage ain’t for everyone. For it to really work at all, through all the shit life throws, requires the one thing this world lacks so greatly: love. But, people’s idea of what that is is so far from what it really is that it’s no wonder problems abound as they do.

Convention sometimes must be thrown out the window. Accepting the reality of your partner and supporting them in whatever self-discoveries they make. Allowing exploration instead of fearing it.

Today is my 11th wedding anniversary. I’m ill and we have no money to celebrate. Yeah, that sucks, but if I had to choose between the big, yearly, token gifts and the every day gifts I receive from a man who I know loves me, I’d go with the latter every time.

He brings me coffee in bed every morning because he wants to soften the blow of another morning coming.

He makes me laugh and laughs at my jokes.

He still makes love to me. Not out of some obligation. But because he still really wants me.

He ignores people who say he’d be better off without me (including me when I’m the one who says it).

He supports and celebrates my music.

He takes care of me, even though it’s not easy being a caregiver to one so ill,  and does it without making me feel like the mistake/waste of space I so often feel I am.

Expensive gifts are nice…but they can’t replace these priceless ones.

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).

The Beginning and the End of Journey’s End

In 2006 my husband presented me with a poem he had written for me. It’s simplicity and beauty struck me immediately. So, also, did its inate singability. This was no poem, these were song lyrics longing to be sung. With no delay, I took his words and sat down at the piano. I didn’t have to search for it; the music was just there. A lot of times, as a songwriter, you try to write a song – and, that’s ok… you get some good stuff out of that. But, the best pieces come from songs that find you and choose you to write them. This was the case with Journey’s End.

I have often performed this song at live shows and it is the song I get the most requests for. I am certain that when I released my first album in 2012, quite a few people expected Journey’s End to, at the least, make an appearance on the album, if not be the title track thereof. But, no… it wasn’t the time and Gloriously Autumnal wasn’t the place.

In February of this year, I released my second album – a full length album entitled Expressions of the Songmistress. It’s a highly personal work. A labour of love for the art, a message for the hurt and hurting. Journey’s End could have found a home here (I could have stuck it in), but I’ve had other plans for this song for some time. Actually, I think the song itself has always had its own plans, you see.

Not without a good cause (or two)…

What do I give? What do I contribute? I sit, navel-gazing, wishful thinking that people would love and rave about my music. I have a handful of loyal fans, but it’s not like I can expect these people to shove my music in everyone’s face and demand that they listen and appreciate it. In the world’s eyes I am, well, if not a failure, I am certainly not a success.  I put up music to buy. It gets greatly ignored. Oh, a few listen, a few even acknowledge the talent, even fewer (those precious ones) buy it… but, I am far from having a successful, consistent career. I can’t do much for me, or for my family. Is it possible for me to do something for someone else?

Journey’s End is a song that lends itself to a message of love and charity. Of giving. Of being there for others when a friend is really needed. It’s about the support that comes from someone loving you, unconditionally, day in, day out, no matter what life throws at you, no matter how the road bends and twists – it’s about being there, all the way, to the end.

And so, if you download this single, I will be dividing the money bewteen two charities. First is The Center for Courageous Kids. This is a camp for children with terminal and life threatening diseases. They provide support for the families of these ill children while providing top health-care and – the most important thing of all – lots of fun for the children, filling what days they have with adventure and beauty and friendship. All the way, to journey’s end.

The second cause is very close to my heart and very close to my home. I want to donate money to my local community centre, the SRKCP, to run some very important music therapy groups. This funding will help buy instruments and equipment, affording us to run drum circles and other music events for the health and well-being of the community. It’s a way of me practically – rolling up my sleeves – giving back.

I hope these two awesome causes will touch your heart and you will download this single because you, too, want to do something you can do. For your gift, you receive a song, a beautiful song. And your gift can make a positive difference in the lives of a variety of people, insuring that these good works continue when they are so very needed. It’s such a win win win. The way the payment is set up on Bandcamp is that the track costs £1 or more. You can give however much more you wish to. All the proceeds will be divided between Courageous Kids and SRKCP.

I’d love people to download my music because they really dig my music. I have a little handful of people who do that, and it’s lovely. I wish it was more, but that doesn’t stop me for being grateful for what I have. Journey’s End may be the last thing I ever release for others to buy. I don’t know…  but, I do know, I want the legacy of this song to be about what the message of the song is about:

I will walk with you
With your hand in mine
Anywhere the road will take us

Be your company
Made of you and me
On this road
To journey’s end

I’ll be by your side
At the sound of my name
Anytime you choose to call me
I’ll be there for you
When you want me to
If you call
My heart will hear

I will sit with you
Ease your cares away
Any place you wish to send them

Be your honesty
Be your chance to breathe
All the way to journey’s end

I’ll be your honesty
Be your chance to breathe
All the way to journey’s end

I will walk with you
With your hand in mine
Anywhere the road will take us

Copyright ©James Leader & Autumn Dawn Leader

Listen, then click and give! It feels good to give.

C.S. Lewis’s most forgotten work, and his best…

Tillwehavefaces

Ok, so perhaps it is only in my not so humble opinion that this is his best work. I am very biased, after all; this is my favourite book of all time. Thus, when Daily Prompt asked their question today:

Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?

I certainly wasn’t going to let an opportunity pass to gush about it.

I have lost count how many times I have read this book. It frustrates me that in all the C.S. Lewis quote pages I am subscribed to both on Facebook and Twitter, I have never seen any quotes from my beloved Till We Have Faces. I can’t figure it out…or, maybe I can.

Till We Have Faces is not an easy read, in that you are slapped right in the face with yourself. It’s painful to read something that so lays your soul bare – something that so exposes the true nature of yourself. I’d like to say that like so much of fantasy fiction (or, in this case, the re-telling of an ancient myth) that clothing the truths in the guise of a well-told story will lessen the blows it delivers. But, I’d be lying to you if I told you that. This book brings one face to face with themselves and, most of the time, that just isn’t pretty. It is, however, very liberating.

Every time I read this book I get something out of it. It never fails to speak to me.  And, while its lessons may be hard to swallow, it manages to remain entertaining (a spoonful of sugar afterall, perhaps). I certainly wouldn’t want to scare you off from reading it (I, personally, think it should be required reading for every person on the planet), I suppose someone might be able to ignore the obvious while reading it and simply read it for its most excellent story. But, I suspect, one would really have to be utterly obtuse to get through it without seeing the message at its heart.

The core of the book lies in the difference between selfish and real love. It shows, in great detail, what we do to others when we say we love them but how often everything we do is out to serve ourselves and not what is best for the one we confess to love. It also examines how too often we only see and hear what we want to see, even when the truth is staring us right in the face.

Till We Have Faces is a re-telling of the classic myth of Psyche and Cupid, told from the perspective of Psyche’s older half-sister. It is a first person narrative, and I defy anyone to not see and hear themselves in Orual. I certainly identify with all her struggle.

I would implore you to read it. I would get down on my knobbly knees and beg for you not to delay after reading this post but go secure yourself a copy. I would plead with you to discover this most forgotten but best of C.S. Lewis’s works for yourself. But, eh, who listens to me, huh?

Embarrassment (And What Does It Have To Do With Ducks?)

Image“Like water rolling off a duck’s back”, so the old saying goes. I’m not much like a duck (well, other than I may waddle a bit when I walk, and then there’s that quacking thing…and, my lips, of course). I wish I was more like a duck. How great it would be to have bad experiences just roll off like so much water and not be affected because my God-designed waterproof feathers keep me from getting soaked, damaged and overwhelmed by the badness.

I wish I was more like a duck.

Last night I had a rather embarrassing, humiliating and demoralising experience. To make matters worse, this pickle I found myself in was not my fault (hey, I’ll hold my hands up and admit often I’m the one to blame for my pain, but this time it wasn’t the case). I cried most of the night, kept awake by my anguish.

The whole episode reminded me of a time when I was about 15 years of age and was to sing at a special meeting for Veteran’s Day. Now, I have always been good (or, at least I was so when I was younger) at remembering my words. I never forgot one. Up until that night, when almost every word in the song flew out of my head in an instant leaving me up there blinking into the spotlight while no words came out of my mouth. Some people blamed my age or lack of experience; the truth was I had been singing professionally since the age of four. I had no excuse. This, unlike last night’s experience, was my fault. I had no one else to blame but myself. The experience marked me. I was so embarrassed it made me sick. I have never fully recovered from that night over 20 years ago. So much for “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, eh? What a load of bull-poo!

Of course, that experience when I was 15 was not the end of my musical career. The fact that I was so young worked in my favour even if people were mistaken in thinking that it was youth – and therefore – inexperience that had caused my nightmare situation that night.

Last night was the same, but different. I didn’t forget my words. And, there was very little I could have done to change it other than to not sing at all or stop when my guest accompanist began the song we were doing in the wrong key forcing me to sing it way out of my comfortable contralto range (where we had rehearsed it – and, man, it sounded awesome in rehearsal). The song was part of a bigger programme, so it wouldn’t have done to stop and start again – so, the professional “went on with the show”. Of course, there’s no explaining this to people who don’t understand music. I simply sounded crap (“who told her she could sing?”). There was no way to save my musical/vocal reputation. For this night, and those people, it was ruined. And this time it wasn’t even my fault.

Now, I don’t want anyone to get the mistaken idea that I am badmouthing my extremely talented keyboardist. The man is simply talent on legs. He played what he played absolutely exceptionally (and any decent second soprano could have handled it easily and beautifully, but I am a contralto) it was just, unfortunately (for me and my rep), the wrong key. Believe me, there’s a lot of difference between F and C.

I sobbed most of the night, feeling kicked in the teeth by life again – marked, irrevocably, and not feeling in the least bit duck-like. Humilation is just so utterly sh*tty!

I didn’t get much sleep, obviously. But, after I did mercifully drop off to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, surprisingly enough I woke up without immediately starting to cry again (although, I did tear up a bit as the morning progressed), and I felt led to read Lamentations from the Bible (well, if anyone is lamenting, it would be me…).

Lamentations: 3:14-24:

My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord  is lost!” The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord  never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord  is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Well! Here I am rolling around in the dust like Jeremiah the prophet was, humiliated, in sorrow and pain…yet. What a great word that is. Yet. Jeremiah chose hope again and so can I. Why? One reason:

am

loved.

I remembered my grandfather when he would comfort me when I was little, and he’d say, “You’s bein’ wuv-ved” (wuvved – pronounced like wuvv-ed). He didn’t have a speech impediment and he was quite well-spoken and a very intelligent and well-educated man. But, when he was affectionate with his family, he used language like this with us. I still hear him say it, though he has been gone these many years, when I feel very vulnerable and very unloved. “You’s bein’ wuvved.”

This morning it was as if my Heavenly Father was saying to me, “Autumn, there’s hope. All is not lost. This situation has affected you greatly and maybe you can never forget it, but you can put it behind you today and start afresh, because you’s bein’ wuvved.”

So, we have established that I am not much like a duck where it counts but I am somewhat like an ancient prophet. We have pretty much made it clear that humilation sucks big time, and – judging from past experience – we can pretty much assume that I am not likely to “get over” it anytime soon. YET. We have seen yet. And, that one little word makes a big difference going forward, because I can’t go back and change anything.

Thank God for yet, for hope, for grandfathers, for music, for ducks and, most of all, for wuv.

Behind The Mask

We all wear masks. Sometimes you run into people who are convinced they want to see the real you. I always suspect this is like the person who says, “I really do want to know how you are”, but always ends up regretting asking the “how are you?” question if you are indeed honest with them about how you are doing. The only ones that can handle the people we are behind the masks we wear are the individuals who genuinely love us.

Only in the safety of real love can we begin to take the off our masks and confidently be ourselves with someone else. And, when I say love, I mean real lovebeyond a superficial affection that can change with the wind: love is a real, unchangable force. You either always love a person, or you never loved them at all. Love is constant. You can fall in and out of infatuation, you can fall in and out of lust, you can fall in and out of friendship, but you cannot fall in and out of love. And, anyone who says otherwise is lying to themselves and everyone else.

The truth is, while we do wear masks to protect ourselves, we wear them just as much to protect the other people around us. Most people simply cannot cope with who we really are.

What are some of the masks you wear?

Sometimes a mask becomes so much a part of us that we begin to even accept ourselves better with the masks on. Most people don’t like themselves, let alone love themselves, so it can become easier to be fake with yourself, as well. I know I do it. Vulnerability and authenticity – even with oneself – don’t always come easy. However, most of the time, I am rather brutally honest about my warts and all – to myself, anyway – and I’ve chosen to be painfully honest in this blog. As one blogger I admire puts it, “put away your rainbow and be real.” I think it’s nearly as annoying to be superficially positive all the time as it is to be genuinely negative 100% of the time.  I don’t sugarcoat much of anything. I can afford to be rather transparent. But, I assure, I have protected you from a lot that is me. I notice that when I do dare to share a bit more of who I am, it isn’t well-received. People just ignore it all together because…as I say, they can’t handle it.  If it doesn’t compute, if it makes your brain go tilt, if it isn’t really relatable to a wide audience, then it doesn’t make for the best blogging fodder, does it? Certainly, the number of likes I get on some posts, as opposed to the total lack thereof on others, confirms my theory. Then, I always end up coming back to the question, “Why do I blog?” To answer that question I must go back to the tagline I wrote when I started this blog.

While I’d love to touch a wider audience, this blogging experience is for me to express…MYSELF. Whether YOU can handle it or not, whether you like it or not.  I do this for the sake of the fragile, broken, wreck of a person behind the mask.

No One Else But Me (Behind The Mask)

Take it off

Put it down

All of these pretences

Curious?

Do you want to know

Who dwells behind the defences?

You should walk away

You should understand

The walls are there to protect you

Just as much as they are there to protect me

Behind the mask, behind the mask

There’s nothing you want to see

Behind the mask, behind the mask

There’s nothing you want to be

Behind the mask, there’s nothing left but me

Nothing else but me

Look at me

Feel the pain

And all that longs for freedom

Can you stand

To hold my gaze –

The anguished eyes of the broken

Please don’t walk away

You should understand

The walls come down only by love

Take that chance and you’ll find out

Oh, you’ll learn

You must learn

Behind the mask, behind the mask

There’s all that’s left of me

Behind the mask, behind the mask

Desperate to be free

Behind the mask, just scared to be

No one else but me

 – © Autumn Dawn Leader