Judgmental and negative
is something I am, that only my true friends and family members know about. It's not something I admit out loud very often. Tell me 3 good reasons why I should? You can't because I don't think they exist. One reason why I'm writing a judgemental and negative blog post now, is to get things off my chest and see if I feel better. It certainly doesn't work to speak out loud this way, so we'll see how it goes with writing.
Yesterday I had a great day with Jamie, my wife. We listened to a podcast about apologizing and had some do-it-ourselves marriage therapy, which we seem to need constantly, since we are very different people, and we have been together a while (18+ years, married 17+). It was great for us. We also played cards, listened to music, did several other things, and basically spent a lot of the weekend together having good times.
But somehow in the middle of the second episode of the 2-part podcast and the card game, I started feeling sad, hurt, angry. Not about her or us, everything was going great. I think it was about the state of the world, the virus, quarantine, and the existential questions I always ask myself, but now magnified because of current circumstances.
At the beginning of this quarantine, Jamie reminded me, she was depressed, thinking about how messed up all this is, and I was being positive, thinking, ok well we have some time off to regroup, think about our lives, see if we can wait this out and see what happens. 2 months in, now I'm thinking about how messed up this is, and that there seems to be either nothing I can see to look toward for the future (outside of admittedly, great music that I can and will continue to try to make), at least as far as the economy and health situation of our world goes. We don't know and that is scary.
The judgemental part of myself is asking, why did I stop my jobs, live on savings and donations and the 10% or so of income (luckily) that we did have coming in, not go out, not have anywhere to go, wearing a mask, trying to stay 6 feet apart when we do go out, for people to be going back to normal like nothing is happening? I won't call out any names, but if you know me, I might be talking to you, or you might know who I'm talking about. I did a session where 10-12 people were next to me, like often 1 or 2 feet away, with no mask. Why? These were not overly political people, definitely not right wing or conspiracy theory people. Musicians like myself. Why am I following the rules, and you are not? Why was it advertised on social media that we were going to be social distancing when we were not? This makes me feel like all humans want to do is fake it. Why did I not go see my mother on Easter or Mother's Day, even though she lives alone, and lives for the human contact when she gets to hug, feed and hang out with her sons and families? Why did I buy and wear a mask? Have I been lied to? Does it not work? Online things people say, if I were to believe them, would have me believe the Republicans are not believing there is a virus, that it's fake and they're not going to wear the mask, and Democrats are the ones who are following the rules about social distancing and masks. My experience proves that this is not the case. I am not at all interested in the point of view of anybody who makes this political. Please get along people. I'm serious. We're going to die sooner or later, and I don't want to spend my time being mad at you because we disagree. This goes for my Republicans out there too. If you are making fun of government help for virus prevention because it gives you a reason to pretend like you're a deadbeat, or if you think that liberals are deadbeats, that is a childish way of being and I am not interested in you. You don't know me or my friends. My community of artists are mostly liberal, and we work our butts off for a culture which needs us, but often does not pay us what we're worth, considering the expenses we put into it. Research this yourself. This is not the message of this post, but only a side item. And liberals who think that all conservatives are disbelieving all truth that's out there, that is also a childish thing to believe and I also am not interested in your opinions. Conservatives don't all think the earth is flat and the media is out to get them. A lot of people are a little of both politically, and a lot of people on opposite sides of ourselves are smarter than we give them credit for.
This feeling I have of, "why did I follow the rules, when it was just going to end up like this?" has happened to me at every turn in my life and career. I suppose I must face the music here and deal with my own thoughts and what kinds of situations I have attracted to myself with these thoughts. "Why did I learn the songs you sent me for this gig, when you are such a terrible musician that you can't even learn them yourself?" "Why did I give your musical concept the respect I wanted for mine, when I knew it was so far away from what I knew was right for me?" "Why did I think you would be there for me business-wise, just because you were being friendly to me?" I can go into other areas than business with these thoughts. "Why did I spend time believing in the rules that the religion of our culture taught me, even though I never have belonged to a church or religion?" "Why did I wait to try to develop a personality, ask out women, try the social oils and libations I wanted?' "Why didn't I leave a bad situation and trust myself to do better sooner?" Things I had to learn.
Here's a not-so-new one to me, but prescient in sexual mores and issues of today. Why am I respecting women, when many of the guys I have hung out with don't really do that? Also, when I was single, why was it easier for the guys who don't respect women to actually get a relationship going with a woman than it was for me? Maybe this is why I got the best one, and why I'll always be here for Jamie Stephens. She is the greatest. But I had to learn where the line is. I learned how to be brave enough to talk to women from guys who disrespected women and men, and were only trying to get laid. I took the positive conversational skills I learned from some of the tricksters, and used them for myself, in a more nice, respectable and positive way. Conversational skills are conversational skills, and I used to not have any.
Back to the present. So many of you think of me as this positive force. I have been called a sage, shaman, an example of positivity. I can be a very nice guy, and very open and non-judgemental, but whenever I work to do my best, and others do not, I start to go into sadness, sulking, rage, negativity. You should know, if you care, I stopped drinking and smoking weed. I have had to back so far off of these things which I love, to occasional status over the last years. If you have known me doing those things, even a lot in moments, also please know that I've spent at least the same amount of time away from them in the past 10-15 years. I've been back and forth for sure. But this virus/quarantine situation made me think about the fact that maybe my immune system needs to be clear. I have known for a while that it takes me longer to recover from stuff in my lungs, and that the dehydration from alcohol is not good for my sinuses. I stopped those as soon as we quarantined, and this is for life. I knew this decision was coming, and I admit to putting it off in the past.
Having something to work toward is the thought that inspires me to handle challenging situations. When I was in the hospital last year, I was looking forward to healing and returning to the stage and tour life with the band I was on the road with when I got my infections. If you don't know what happened, you probably weren't Facebook friends with me last year, and that's ok. I blogged about it on FB all the time from when it happened in late June, until I was back onstage in late August. I had nothing else to do. Everyone was giving me props for being so positive. What was I going to write about, how much pain I had, or how many drugs I had to be on to handle it? I survived with big leg scars and some numbness as my only serious side effects of a bacterial infection that could've killed me very quickly. Lucky, blessed, grateful I am. All the positive things, and so I wrote those. I did everything right. I did what my doctors said (they saved my life), what my nurses and therapists said, for 3+ weeks in a hospital room, 4 surgeries, 2+ months of home nurse care. My bandleader's family set up the GoFundMe campaign that helped Jamie and I stay afloat, for which I'm forever grateful, and with that and several friendly visits, I assumed I would still have the gig. That was a lot to do with how I had the courage to handle the tough situation, because I felt I had something incredibly fun and rewarding to come back to. I was so wrong about that, although I still had music to come back to, so it turned out ok. Again, I'm not calling anyone out by name, but if you know me, you probably already know.
I was already back to work, performing for local Memphis gigs, and the next tour gigs I had booked were a month after I came back. At that time I was then told by my bandleader for the touring gig, that my job was going to be on hold for another month. I scrambled to fill a month's worth of dates, only partially successfully, but I was still finishing up with home nurses, plus so many repairs happened to our home at that time, that it was fine for me to wait. But I was promised to come back in a month. When that time came, I was then told I was out of the band, but that it was financial, not personal, and that I would be on the upcoming album (which I had practiced for, for the previous year or so--rehearsal tapes and arrangements, Dropbox files, live performance of some of the pieces, etc.), and then maybe affordable to come back. So again, last minute scramble to get work, because even though I was with this artist for a year, and I was helped and visited so much while ill, it was apparently too much to let me know that my job was gone in a way that would've given me some time to find another one. Oh well, welcome back to the music business where people don't know how to act, another last minute scramble for work again. And to top it all off, when the aforementioned album happened, that particular artist and band recorded the whole album in one day, without me, and then came to the local gig I had on Beale St., and all sat in on the gig I was playing on, with me, on stage, and performed some of the music that I did not get to be on for the recording. Damn. Why did I spend a year moving all my local work around, working to keep as many Memphis jobs as I could even though I could only commit part-time, just to keep touring with a group that doesn't appreciate or need me? Because I didn't know that was the case. Why did I ask, and in many cases get, my local musical family to understand my career choice, and actually be able to hold some work for me for whenever I could be there, even if I couldn't always be there? Some of the answer here is because of how the music business works. Everyone involved knows it's a hard life and a harder business, because it's living gig-to-gig if you want to eat, and many of my local colleagues really help each other out a lot.
If you have a regular job that stays until you quit or get fired, and you know how much you normally get, and when and how often you get paid, you will most likely never understand the feeling of an artist lifestyle. Every day is another job, which you have acquired, and will be over at the end. Tomorrow you have to get another job, the next day you have to get another job. I suppose temp workers kind of get it. An artist's whole lifestyle is temporary, and musicians are expected to create something permanent out of something as fleeting as sound. So, why did I commit to an artist and band who was not committed to me? I did not know until after the fact that it would go down that way. At least I thought I had it to look forward to while I was down. Gave me something to live for, a little. I still have music, just not that one iteration of it, and I have my sweet Jamie. She has stuck with me through so much of the stress of the musical lifestyle I live.
But that question. Why have I done _________________________ if _______________________ is the result? Depends, I guess. Some of these answers I now know, because of past experience.
But what about now? We don't understand the virus. Are we doing enough? Is the stopping of my work the way it was, enough? Isn't the mask still a good idea? Is social distancing still a good idea? If so, why aren't some of you doing it? I have had enough of doing the "right" thing, whatever that is, if I have to live in a society where others don't. I have way more questions than answers.
So many times in my career I've asked the question, "Is this it?" "Is this what I practiced for, for many hours a day, for years?" Did I study jazz and improvisation so much, for so long, for the most promising band I've been in so far to have a musician who refuses to interact? Did I study blues for decades to have my place to stay on this tour be a pimp/whorehouse/hard drug zone-situation? It did give me the blues, so there's that. Did I be a nice guy to women for so long, to end up with one that has no morals or personal boundaries? (No, obviously, thank you Jamie). But I had this thought at the time I was in some past relationships.
I am lucky and blessed that Jamie and I are still healthy, we are getting along, we still have some work. I have some great music coming up, God-willing. Things to do. I feel better when I have that. My work at home is fun. I miss playing with bands, but my solo chops are better than ever, and I have some fun collaborations coming up. Stay tuned, stay healthy. Peace and love to you all, even those of you I'm questioning here. Some of you are my favorite people and good friends. But I reserve the right to question, so there you go. It's my blog anyway.