Life Update, March 2017
For the last several weeks, I have been through a mill of, (mostly), my own creation.
It began with my unilateral attempt to cut back the established drug regime that I had gradually come to accept as my due, and as a necessity, for wending my way through daily existence with the least ‘resistance’ (a deliberate choice of word).
I think the spur was the long-held understanding of how all these chemicals slooshing about in my system impacted my creative, empathic and deductive abilities.
In a nutshell, I missed not feeling life as acutely as I felt I should. Without peaks and troughs, the landscape can get pretty ‘same-y’ after a while.
I like to write.
No. That is not always true. Sometimes, it takes a gargantuan effort and force of will to scribe.
I got into the habit, at a young and troubled age, from the suggestion of a teacher who noticed how the expressiveness of my written work was completely at odds with my apparent, immediate lack of social and verbal skills. Such it is with many a child who has their inclination to express themselves brow-beaten (and, on occasion, actually, beaten) out of them. But, that’s another story.
So, more precisely, I have a need to write.
It is almost a compulsion born of the need to relay, chronicle, organise and make understandable the myriad, tumbling thoughts, feelings and ideas cascading behind my eyes every minute of every waking hour.
Those who come to meet me in person more than a couple of times will probably notice how much of my pocket space is taken up with small notebooks and pencils.
These aides-memoir are also a small insurance against my appalling memory. However, this relies on me remembering that I wrote something important down and, when I do, remembering which of three or four notebooks I wrote it in.
However, the thing about inviting the peaks and troughs back… is that one gets the peaks and troughs back.
So, I’ll find myself welling up and choking a sob at a particularly poignant line of poetry or lyric one moment, then, the next, analysing the smallest behaviours of people I know and wondering why they have suddenly decided to discount me, ignore me or treat me like an idiot.
Overall, it is rather like the chemical crutches I had been using provided an extra layer or two of skin.
Now, daily life was like stepping into that shower whose heat settings you had, through trial and error, tuned to perfection, only to realise that several layers of your skin had evaporated overnight and every droplet now feels like a frozen or fiery hammer blow.
But the key thing is that I AM feeling.
There are people who have been through, and are, indeed, going through, far, far worse than I.
I make no pretence to heroism but pain, mental, physical, spiritual, are not strangers to me. My current condition has me sometimes wondering what a pain-free day might feel like – or a day not having to worry letting someone down because of random, brain-foggy memory lapse.
But, I keep going. The thing about inconvenient or uncomfortable things becoming a constant in one’s life is that, with time, they can be assigned to background noise by the conscious mind. I imagine my chronic pains as if they are eternally attention-seeking children. When their cries for attention become too insistent, I run a quick check for any actual, serious problem, then banish them from under my feet to go play in another room.
Well, I’ve had a bit of a mental stumble. An overload that unbalanced me for a few steps. Been there before; recognised the signs. It was not the worst I’ve experienced and, by judicious managing of my time and focus, I’ve held things together. This also came at the same time as the most strangely-timed, longest-lasting bout of cold/flu symptoms I’ve ever endured. This began well over two weeks ago and I’m still not a hundred percent recovered. Most unnatural.
I have heard that Miyamoto Musashi would describe, in the following way, his favourite tactic when surrounded by foes, threatening to overwhelm him:
Look for the weakest in the line and then throw your focus and ferocity into a sudden charge, dealing with him swiftly. Then continue that trajectory, breaking out of the trap and put as much distance as you can between yourself and your enemies before they can organise themselves.
Your enemies, in the meantime, will pursue you but, since each foe has a different reaction time, stamina and staring point, they will naturally string themselves out so that you can turn and take each one on individually before his friends catch up.
I tend to have this image in my mind when I feel overwhelmed by demands, projections and expectations.
While, clearly, avoiding being surrounded in the first place would be a better tactic, I remain aware of the limited energy and focus my ongoing condition allows me.
I have learned to turn my focus to whatever requires the most immediate attention and, hopefully, whatever I will have the most chance of having a positive impact on – wherever my actions will do the most good.
The choice is that, or being overwhelmed to oblivion.
Pacing and pragmatic choices, made with self-awareness and honesty about what I can realistically achieve.
Right now, my focus is on the young people I am helping to prepare for their upcoming gigs. This also requires that I prepare myself for whichever small part they need me to perform in order to support them. They rely on me to come through for them.
In return, they allow me to retain my faith in certain facets of the human spirit that, while essential to the evolution of functioning humanity, are often ignored.
Creativity and collaboration.
Sure, there are performers whose egos (commonly, those with an inflated view of their own abilities) will actually stifle the creative process. In my experience, these people either learn humility or swiftly find themselves working solo. A blind, “My Way or the Highway” attitude merely results in a lonely journey.
Look at the formation and journey of a group of dedicated musicians:
A spirit of giving without expectation of reward other than knowledge of contribution. Acceptance of, and the mutual working around of individual limitations, to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
A common bond built in pursuit of a common purpose.
And an end-product that entertains, explores and/or informs.
A product with no built-in obsolescence, requiring no insurance nor regular maintenance. Also, no approvals nor permissions from ‘higher authorities’. It doesn’t spy you or try to control your behaviour – in any covert way, anyway.
Now, wouldn’t it be nice if that M.O. could be adopted by other initiatives, interactions and processes in life?
Across the world, humble musicians cross paths, gravitate to each others’ styles and often collaborate, help out, advise each other, learn from each other and, if the result is powerful enough, the unique style, tone, flavour produced from that meeting will percolate across music-dom.
Another bough sprouts from the tree of creativity.
Would it be too much to hope for a forest?