Month: September 2020
Mid-Life Crisis or Dispatch from the Edge of in/Sanity
When COVID-19 spread in our communities and there was not adequate governmental response, so many became hopeless, so many lost their lives because of government failure. I am speaking of leadership at the national level. Many governors rallied against it and it is yet to be seen if we will ever be able to effectively deal with it. This failure is nothing less than negligent homicide in my opinion by the resident of the White House (that slaves built).
I do not think I have said enough about that but for now, I will shift to my personal experiences which are surprisingly extraordinary and blessed. I have not gotten ill. I have stayed sheltered. I wear a mask in public. I do not socialize except with remarkably close family and the few friends who I trust and believe have been taking all possible precautions.
When COVID-19 struck and it became apparent that this world had gone wilder than our worst nightmares, I could not turn to poetry to heal my anxiety and depression. Poetry, in its highest literary form, may or may not be therapeutic but the masters of it do use it as a tool for healing and processing grief, or love. They are intrinsically entwined.
I became wordless. I was in traumatic shock for weeks, as I believe many of us were. There’s a feeling of missing time in my mind of March and April that I cannot track down. My memory fell off a cliff into a great chasm of uncertainty. I was lethargic, not eating or sleeping well, staying in bed most days, only reaching out to my core family, and spending too much time doomscrolling. Poetry eluded me and felt like a great strain on me.
I decided to break up with it.
The only way I have ever been able to claw myself out of hell is to throw myself headlong into a creative activity. Making visual art, cooking, writing, and relevant to the pandemic, playing and composing music and songs. Music only comes to me when I am most vulnerable. Where poetry can be a shield, music exposes the soft flesh, the broken heart, the weary mind. Music works on our beings through vibrational resonance. It seeps into us and permeates us with magic that can carry us away into a more peaceful realm or rock us to our very core.
A musician friend sensed the danger of all of us lying around mourning and full of anxiety. He created a brief little experiment to get people moving and into the enjoyment of music. He broadcast his program at 4 p.m. daily and challenged us to move, shake a tail feather, or play along with his makeshift one-man band. At first, I could only lie in my bed and watch. It didn’t so much entertain me but nursed me and took care of me in my poorest state. By the second week, I had picked up my guitar again, to play along and when I did, I was immediately overcome by inspiration.
I have multiple diagnoses of mental illnesses. This time has been awfully hard for anyone and is especially hard for those of us who battle mental illness every day. So many new sufferers in this mass traumatic event that is continuing to this day—the day America counted 200,000 citizens dead from this novel coronavirus.
I have a strong support team and an incredible group of friends and core family who are in my corner. I’ve been at this a long time and I’ve cultivated a self-care routine and rituals that have saved my life on multiple occasions. When I picked up my guitar again, it felt so akin to my body. My rhythm returned. My musical sense returned. And joy returned.
I had to knock the rust off my body to get back into playing and of course, build up my calluses. I began practicing every day. I got smoother. I started humming and then singing melodies. Tunes came to me intuitively. Being a practiced poet, writing lyrics came fast and fit the tune perfectly.
And then it dawned on me: In this upside-down, crazy world, what harm would there be if I committed to being a Rock Star? I had to laugh at myself but just setting a goal that is just ridiculous enough to catch my interest was a brain-switcher for me. It gave me purpose and the playing and weaving songs together gave me true joy and pleasure.
Even though I’ve had a few years of experience playing guitar, I wanted to break through barriers that fear had put in place. I grew up around a lot of male musicians and hardly any women. This stunted my growth. The guys I wanted to hang around with to learn saw me as a groupie and not a serious person at all. Plus, I was a freak. Plus, I was kind of loose and easy. Made for a bad learning environment.
I taught myself for four years but never could unlock the instrument. I never ventured past open and barre chords. When I got married, I felt pressured by the mentality that a woman must put the needs of her man first, as much as I fought against that. I gave up guitar and every time I looked at my guitars, I felt tremendous guilt.
(I must add that my husband loved to hear me play but we were going through tumultuous times with a death before our wedding that took years of grieving to heal.)
Skip forward to August 2020. I had been playing solidly for a couple of months and felt I really needed to level up. So, I decided to hire a private guitar teacher. I never had a guitar teacher before. It seemed out of reach financially, but friends chipped in to this creative cause and we found the money to be able to do it. I’ve had a month of lessons and I am progressing.
I’m learning about the fretboard, some music theory, scales, power chords, mimicking songs, exploring, facing my hesitancy and nervousness, committing to a two-year trajectory of study to possibly put together enough songs to be able to perform in public. Even if I only do it once, I will be fulfilling a dream. What’s the upside of a national crisis of a pandemic and reckless, absent leadership if not to go for it—go for your positive, harmless, and constructive dreams?
You’ll see me here more often. I’ll be working on my YouTube Channel and syncing videos on Facebook. You might hear me singing vocal warmups, exploring the instrument (I like to show my process), and singing original songs and a few covers.
Two years from now, 2022, if I am given the grace of time, I’ll be ready to “come out” as a Rock Star. I’m a 51-year-old living a 13-year old’s fantasy. Dreaming big but putting into practice all that I know about discipline, hard work, having fun, and being the artist I know I can be (in multiple genres).
It’s no guilty pleasure. It’s an obligation not to give up and to pour myself into what the muses call me to do.
Thanks for reading.