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.

The Strength of Shadows 

I haven’t written a blog post in a while. I haven’t been doing well, and I haven’t been posting all over about it. No anguished Facebook statuses expounding on my less than coping condition…with the exception of last Thursday, when I admitted that I had to take a double dose of duloxetine in order to make it through the day.

In one sense, I am better than ever. Musically, things are happening for me, things that should’ve happened years ago. And, I am grateful for finally being in (somewhat of a) demand and appreciated for this music that IS me. I have a diary full of gigs, and I’ve been asked to play and sing on two different artist’s albums (one of which is a national artist). 

This keeps me busy. This also keeps me tired. Tired, on top of the chronic fatigue and pervasive everyday weariness I experience. Am I glad about my musical opportunities and successes? For certain I am! Does it change my brain chemistry and my worn out body? Certainly not.

It’s hard. My musical partner doesn’t know how I struggle. I hide it from him (thus the afore mentioned double dose so I wouldn’t fall apart in him during rehearsal).

My kids are an added stressor and cause of anxiety. One is facing her own set of health issues (‘gee, thanks, mum, for the lousy genetics’)…and, I feel guilty and frustrated because of that. Fucking bad genes! 

I have to force myself out of bed. I want to hide. Escape. The music is worth it, and I feel free and as close to ‘good’ as I get when I’m doing it. But, the anxiety and exhaustion persists. It waits until I step off the stage and then jumps on me with a vengeance. 

Sometimes, I am the shadow. Without substance. Waiting, longing even, to fade out of existence. Other times, I am all too real, heavy, and the shadow over me makes me heavier yet. 

But, dayum, do I sound awesome!

A New Project

First, I want to thank those of you who follow me here on WordPress. I know that many of you here suffer with health issues like I do, and the main reason you follow me is because we have that in common.  I also hope that I have gained fans and followers of my music, so much of which comes straight out of my struggles with my illnesses. First and foremost, I am a musician.  That’s where my heart is and, really, if you don’t want to hear/read me ramble on about my music and why you should listen to it (and support independent artists in general), you pretty much shouldn’t be here (just sayin’ it like it is). So, saying that, I want to go on to say that I really do appreciate my readers, watchers and listeners, and sincerely hope you will stick with me.

**(For those of you who would rather watch and listen to a vlog version of this post, here you go…otherwise, keep reading.)** 

Inspiration has struck for doing a series of posts about obscure/independent/unsigned musicians (other than myself), in an effort to make more people aware of the talent that is out there amongst us lesser knowns.  So, I am beginning ‘Project: Now Hear This (Music & Musicians You Should Know)‘ in order to spotlight the treasures that dwell amongst you.  Because, they are worth knowing about.

Now, in doing this, I know that musical tastes vary immensely.  But, I will try to provide something for everyone…well, for most people, anyway (if you like grunge metal, move on now). Thus, I will have categories for genres, so that if you really aren’t interested in a certain genre, you can skip that one if you must.  However, I encourage you to check out all the artists that I will be sharing over the coming posts; you may surprise yourself by finding you like something in a genre you never could imagine liking.  Hey, it happens all the time.  Music is like that, and so many of my fellow artists cross genre barriers all the time (I do it on purpose).  So, don’t count something or someone out just because you’ve never liked a particular genre before. Try to keep an open mind, and heart!

Now, this is simply an introductory post to whet your appetite for what I plan on sharing as an ongoing series – an advertisement for future posts, as it were (I’ve also written it for myself, in order to solidify the inspiration and importance of doing this) . So, as I say, stay tuned. Watch this space. And, get ready to Now Hear This!

Kicking Around Ideas

Do you have a bucket list? I’ve never had a formal one. The thing is, when one longs for death, the top of the bucket list is to kick the thing. 

I’ve sort of had ideas of things I’d like to do or accomplish, though. Some of these things – like recording a studio album, performing at The Musician, performing with Melanie Page – I’ve done. Some things I’ve done above and beyond. Like, I used to want to visit the UK. Now I live here and have done for over 12 years. I used to want to put a wild coloured streak in my hair. Now I have coloured it several times in wild, bright colours. Some things I’ve gotten close to, but no cigar… like, I recorded the album, but I still have no physical cds made, and that’s something I really wanted to do.

My informal list has changed since I was young, adjusting to what was possible and what was forever out of reach. When you’re young you can dream crazy dreams of singing a duet with Sting. You later realise that you’re filling your bucket with pipe cleaners when you add something so ridiculous to it. So, singing at Carnegie Hall and the London Philharmonic became singing at the Musician in Leicester. And, winning a Grammy by the age of 16 became just being satisfied with having a regular platform to share my music with others.

I can’t be climbing any mountains or travelling to see Greek ruins. I will never have the energy or the money for those things. A bucket list shouldn’t be full of pipe dreams; otherwise it would be called ‘a wish bucket’…or, a Bottle full of dreams, but that’s another story. 😉

My proverbial bucket looks rather empty. It sits there taunting me…shit, I’m rhyming. No, this isn’t going to be a song. 

Today, I began trying to think of things that I would like to do before I get out of this wretched skin…things that are actually possible.

Some days, when the longing for death is intense, it seems like just dying is impossible. There’s that taunting bucket, not letting me kick it.

Alas, miles to go, and all that. I’m so tired.

But, ok… let’s see. Let’s list some new things to do while I wait – some possibles…but challenging ones.

1.Do a gig (proper gig, not an open mic or folk/acoustic club, but a gig where I’m the featured artist) where I primarily play guitar (rather than keyboard/piano).

2. This edges near impossible, but it isn’t totally out of the realm of happenables, so… I’d like to meet Ryan Gage in person, give him a hug and see that amazing smile up close.

3. Visit Bradgate Park again.

OK. ..well, there’s a start, anywho. Feel free to tell me yours. 

Oh…and here’s a new song… it isn’t about buckets… it’s about longing.