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Archive for September, 2017

Every life has its challenges. Most challenges here in the First World are fairly inconsequential. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, where I will sleep tonight, or my physical safety when trundling to the bathroom (floor-flopping cuddle cats aside…). There are millions of people in the world whose lives are far more difficult than mine. And yet, I spend my days crippled by my own mind, fighting to get out of bed and then wondering why I bothered.

My depression tends to be worse this time of year. Summers in SoCal are always hard on me. From that great, searing microwave in the sky over the course of the longest days of the year, to temperatures that would make the devil himself wish for air conditioning. The last weeks of August gave us more humidity than usual in addition to eight days straight with temperatures over 100F. Have I mentioned that I don’t do heat? I look out a window too hot to touch only to see parched, dead yards in between pale suburban cookie cutter houses lining asphalt streets blurred by roiling waves of temperature refraction. And people wonder why I don’t want to leave the house.

I miss my Sequoias and my fog and the smell of the ocean. I feel energized and at peace when I’m in that environment. A daily walk in that would go a long way to helping me feel better. But home is 700 miles away, which makes dropping by for a walk a little inconvenient. Yeah, I’ve lived in SoCal over thirty years, and been in this house with my husband for over fifteen, but none of it has ever truly been “home.” Maybe that’s just a manifestation of the bad chemistry in my head, never truly being satisfied with anything, despite there being nothing wrong.

Or maybe I’m not really home…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIjjh_PRmU8

 

Usually when I get like this I hide in one of my computer games. Nothing like killing zombies to avoid the real problems of the world. But these last few weeks have found me spiraling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube. After the usual fare of stupid human tricks and cute cats doing silly things, I wandered into the music halls of my youth: Queen, The Police, Def Leppard, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Van Halen, and – of course – Journey. These musicians helped sustain me through some of my toughest college years. Years when migraines lasting for days would visit me every two or three weeks, when the medication prescribed for those migraines had annoying side affects but no actual effect, and when my chronic depression was undiagnosed and out of control.

If I was down, I’d listen to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” or Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever,” over and over and cry my eyes out. If I needed a pick-me-up, it was Van Halen’s “Panama,” or Def Leppard’s “Photograph.” Everything was done according to my mood, which could languish in darkness for days, then change in an instant. Music was my greatest love and my greatest comfort, and those musicians all have special places in my heart, for without them I’m not sure I would have survived. And it gives me great comfort to know that most of them are still out there performing, in one form or another, and still selling out venues. Just goes to show you what it means to have real talent instead of just computerized backing tracks and autotune.

Yeah, there were a lot of bad days, but, ironically enough, those years were also some of my best creatively. I was immersed fully in fields that I loved. First there was music for my undergrad, where I was playing and composing daily, surrounded by talented people who loved what they were doing just as much as me. Then there was graduate work in film, in the heart of the industry – Los Angeles – spending every waking hour in some aspect of production, from writing to directing to editing, and meeting the giants of the field – John Huston, Oliver Stone, Roddy McDowell. Long days, short nights, lots of hard work and frustration and disappointment, and I loved every minute of it.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNIZofPB8ZM

 

Listening to the soundtrack of my life from then has made me finally realize what I’m missing now, what I’ve been missing for nearly thirty years – that creative environment. My fear and insecurities forced a detour into corporate America, where I had all the things that people said would make me happy: regular paycheck, house, car, etc. And yet I wasn’t happy. What I really need to be happy is music and writing. And to get back to doing both on a regular basis, I need immersion. I need interaction with other musicians and writers to keep me on track because otherwise I’m just an amoeba, formless and directionless, swimming along in basic survival mode and not accomplishing much more.

I know I have the ability to be successful. Despite the additional roadblocks put up by my gender and my weight and my grey hair, there’s something inside me that will not give up, no matter how depressed and hopeless I feel. I have great family and friends who are supportive, and a husband who is convinced of my future status as a best selling author. But isn’t that what those people are supposed to do, asks the depression. Aren’t those people closest to you required to love and support you no matter what?

Yeah, depression sucks like that. Always finding a way to bring you down. But even at my worst, I still want to live off my writing. Every time I’ve convinced myself that I should just give up such pipe dreams, that little voice in the dark, cobwebbed corners of my mind protests. Not loudly, not angrily, but just enough to not be ignored. One thing being at AFI taught me was that success would come if you work hard, have the talent, and are given a chance. I just need a little help on that chance thing, for I am not as brave as some may think. Certainly not when it comes to promoting myself and networking. That requires people skills that I am sorely lacking. And a confidence I’m not allowed by that damn demon clouding my brain.

What I need is a mentor. Someone who will be equal parts cheerleader and advocate. Someone who will challenge me, but can also be a friend. A musician or writer already in the business who wants to get some extra karma points by taking on this old rehab project. I’m trying to find ways to make those kinds of connections. AFI has a mentor program, and supports independent writing groups, both of which I’ve signed up for despite the logistics of getting into LA at any given time. I have long been a lapsed member of the musicians union, but maybe it’s time to get those chops back, too. I did manage to rescue the Casio from the spare bedroom a few days ago. Combine that with the MIDI connection to GarageBand on my iPad, and I can doodle some compositions – something I haven’t done in what seems like forever.

I don’t just want to be creative, I NEED to be creative. I MUST write, I MUST play music, or I die, little by little, like I have been these last three decades. And if you’re someone in the business who’s managed to stumble through this blathering, and thinks you might be able to help despite me, I promise to be a good student.

Bonus fan girl swoon if you’re Steve Perry.

 

 

https://vimeo.com/61213949

 

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