I’ve been in a closet. I’ve had a secret few know about. I need to write my way into some kind of acceptance, and come clean to my loved ones.
For the past twenty-five years, I have been trying to manage chronic depression. Most of the time it rides just below the surface, always there as an annoyance, but not taking over. It stays put until I experience one of those bumpy things that happen in life, and then rises into something which takes over. During those periods, there is little to do but ride it out, and reminding myself that it will pass.
The clinical checklist for major depressive episode includes experiencing symptoms for two weeks or more. The side dishes include being unable to get out of bed, feeling exhausted, self-loathing, and self-isolation.
Social anxiety is also on the menu. As episodes have increased over the past several years, my world has become increasingly small. I’ve lost the ability to sustain relationships. My true friends can be counted on one hand. Even so, I don’t want to bother them. The effort involved feels immense.
Between episodes, cognitive therapy helps. In the middle of an episode, nothing helps much. You try different medications which lessen the episodes and frequency somewhat. You remind yourself with constant mantras that there are people who love you, to whom you matter. But in the middle of the darkness, you have trouble remembering this. You forget that you are highly accomplished and educated. That you were born with prodigious gifts, and have contributed greatly to the world. You forget how much you’ve enriched others lives. You forget that people are depending on you to keep your shit together.
I’m weary. I try to be graceful and grateful. But I seek grace most of all.
A major depressive episode means you’ve got your head up your ass, and can’t get loose.
So many wonderful lyrics and wonderful music Tom Petty left us. My heart is sore.
I’m watching the water, watching the coast
Suddenly I know what I want the most
And I want to tell you, still I hold back
I need some time, get my life on track.
I know that look on your face
But there’s somethin’ lucky about this place
And there’s somethin’ good comin’ for you and me
Somethin’ good comin’ there has to be.
And I’m thinking ’bout mama and about the kids
And the way we lived, and the things we did
How she never had a chance, never caught a break
And how we pay for our big mistakes.
I know so well the look on your face
And there’s somethin’ lucky about this place
There’s somethin’ good comin’ just over the hill
Somethin’ good comin’, I know it will.
And I’m in for the long run wherever it goes
Ridin’ the river wherever it goes
And I’m an honest man, work’s all I know
You take that away, don’t know where to go.
And I know that look on your face
There’s somethin’ lucky about this place
There’s somethin’ good comin’ for you and me
Somethin’ good comin’ there has to be.
Musical Milliner offers her kind regards to all of you who have hung in there with her the past five years as she has been circling the Inferno that was her life. She’s/I’m (changing tenses here) glad to be alive, and pleased to tell you that despite dedicated and focused attempts to dismantle my psyche and resources, I am well.
My sons are thriving. I am rebuilding my business, and I am experiencing one of the most productive phases of my life in music.
Socializing is still a bit of a challenge. Ever the introvert when not performing, but I am taking steps to improve.
Here’s the thing: I recently heard a song which reminds us that after so many years on this journey we all share, comes a time to lose some of the load. Keep what you need or want, and continue in a leisurely stroll toward the sign marked “exit.” It takes so much effort to keep track of all the emotional hording, and is so unnecessary.
Who knows, I may even write an upbeat lyric or two. God bless the lot of you.
The destruction of a long-term relationship, leading to her hitting rock bottom. She is sometimes delusional. In her addled mind, she sometimes believes she’s lost all of her friends, most of whom were mutual friends of the partnership, her in-laws, her community.
This delusion is the result of wrong thinking. When she has a clear mind, she sees all the people who really care about her, and have been there all along, some since childhood. Once again , they are in the foreground of her life, reminding her of her value as a human being, as a friend, as a mother. Yes, she has lost some friends in the war. Friends who were there for a season, and have moved on. It’s not a bad thing. It just is.
Back to the delusion, she knows it is all her fault. Of course it is. That is what he says. His mental illness, his failures, all bad occurrences and recurrences would never be, but for her decision to recind the contract. She has ruined his life. Forever. That’s what his family takes as gospel. It’s a family of enablers.
But it’s not all her fault. Get real.
His mother prayed for the demise of his son’s marriage to this unsubmissive woman, this vegetarian, teetotling feminist who breastfed her children forever, and didn’t change her name at marriage. A woman who took off to one of the top summer opera Young Artists Program for 12 weeks months after her wedding, and the following two summers, and weeks periodically for the rest of the year.
In other words, she was a bad wife according to the mother-in-law, and she fed that narrative to her son, the husband.
Among tha many gems uttered by his mother was the following: “There is nothing wrong with my children, it’s just the people they married.”
Do you get that?
Aren’t we, as women expected to keep our marriages together? If they fail, is it not, by default, we who are to blame?
Do you get that?
The meek little wifey model disappeared decades ago. It’s still practiced in fundementalist cultures all over the world, including the United States. Society has evolved and expanded, and some people aren’t able to stretch their imaginations and adapt. They refuse. The in-laws close ranks and believe whatever it that their son or brother, her husband, tells them. And it’s always the kids who suffer from the disconnection. You shun the mother, and wonder why the children will do anything to avoid spending time with those people. The children are loyal to their mother. They observed firsthand the abuse over the years, and how their father’s family did nothing to help.
The same woman once said, “I like my children. I just don’t like other people’s children.”
Does she get that ? Skilled dispensor of passive-agression, her mother-in-law?
Does she wonder why her grandchildren are not in touch? Does she understand they why don’t come around? Of course, that is their mother’s fault. Never mind the children are adults. That is their family culture. Submit, conform, or you can’t play with us.
What am I talking about? I am trying to reconcile how I went from someone with a good education, a prodigious talent, a career, self-respect. A singer with big competition wins A confident woman who collapsed into a beaten down, humiliated, & depressed woman in a violent marriage. How did that happen? I need to check in, look into this hatbox which I shoved up on a high shelf, and check my compass. I hate thinking about all of this. But I’m stuck again. What’s working? What’s static?
I am ready to write about these things now. My children are all adults. This is also their history.
In high school, I discovered hatha yoga, which led me to the writings, and eventually the lectures of Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert). I consider him my first spiritual teacher. He popularized the phrase “Be here now,” which later became the title of a fascinating book. Some recent drama has called me back to these teachings.
This excerpt is from a 1988 interview in The Vegetarian Travel Guide.
Ram Dass: “…that’s (suffering) the one that is hard for this society to recognize. That is one of the highest mystical teachings, that suffering is great. But who wants that? To hell with that…later, baby.
VTG: When one is suffering, it’s very easy for the heart to close down. In my own life when I’m hurt or feeling angry, it’s often an automatic response. What do you tell your own heart when you feel it closing down, when the stimulus is just too strong and you’re ready to run for the hills?
Ram Dass: When my heart starts to close down, first of all it’s incredibly painful because you get addicted to having your heart open and staying in that kind of liquid space of just being in love with the universe, like the divine beloved is just everywhere. When it closes down it hurts. What I do is I sit with it the way it is. I don’t try to push away my closed heart, that just closes it further. I just say, ah ha, my heart is closed, and I realize that what is closed will open and what is open will close so that I start to have a little patience about it. And then instead of trying to open my heart by thinking loving thoughts, usually what I do is go back into my breath because the thing that closed my heart was a thought that I had. It was nothing out there.
Nobody did anything. They just do what they do. It was my interpreting what they did that closed my heart. And so I can see that what I’ve done is get stuck in a thought form. And what I can do now is go directly into my mind and go back into the rising and falling of my breath until I get to the point where the thought dislodges and I’m just with the thought of the rising and falling, and then at that moment that whole constellation of thought that closed my heart isn’t around anymore.
EJR: Do you actually identify what the thought was?
Ram Dass: I used to do that. I’m an old psychotherapist so I would say, “why are you unhappy?” or “why is your heart closed and what caused it?” Now I’m not so interested. When you go into the causes then you move into the psychological reality. You’re treating it as real. That’s one strategy, but it’s only one strategy. Sometimes treating the psychological as thought and going back behind it is a much more efficacious manner to get on with it. It is a bottomless well of trying to figure out why it is you’re angry, why it is your heart closes. It just never ends.
This is an informative article from a teacher’s blog. Lots to think about. The art of singing involves so many inter-connected systems. One’s psychological and spiritual state is a huge part of the equation, and technology is giving us answers as to how the musical brain functions.
Mostly, singers are bat shit crazy.
It is our annual World Breastfeeding Week. In a former phase, Musical Milliner was a certified lactation educator. Because MM breastfed her kids to age two, the only singing was lullabyes for a time. We know anecdotally that </=5% of women cannot nurse due to medical conditions. That leaves 95%of us who can, with support systems in place, experience long-term breastfeeding.
We know that most breastfeeding failure occurs when there is a lack of education, family and peer support. The whole village needs to get on board. Support is crucial in the first few weeks, and peer support is one of the greatest predictors for successful breastfeeding, along with frequent consultation with a certified lactation consultant and a new moms support group as needed. Most medical insurance companies have seen the light, and knowing of the long-term cost savings, now cover lactation services.
Not long ago, WIC distributed vouchers to low-income mothers for formula, a demographic for which health issues are more common. We got the hospitals to stop distributing “samples” of artificial formula. These women learn that breastfeeding will lower their grocery bills and lessen their medical costs.
Yes, there are challenges for most women at first. Between sleep deprivation, and the social, relational and physical adjustments new moms make, things can be tough. Again, support of family, peers and lactation consultants, is key for long-term nursing relationships.
Mother-friendly policies in the workplace is another area in which we’ve seen progress. Having a dedicated space for moms to pump and store milk, or have places to nurse in privacy are important. We need to keep pressing on this one until it becomes the norm.
And while we’re at it, for those still-backward parts of the world where mothers are expected to go nurse their hungry babies in a bathroom stall? NOT okay. How would YOU like to eat your meal in a public lavatory?
All I can add is that my own children were obviously healthier than some of their peers. one child has never taken antibiotics, and the other had one ear infection at age three, when he began pre-school.
In addition, they’ve been raised vegetarians, and I believe this has contributed to their robust health.
Binder notebooks in several widths. Check. Tape and a three-hole punch. Check. Recycling box. Check. Super cool labeling tape machine. Missing! Crap. Sheets of (interim) file labels, and file folders? Check.
And a fourteen inch stack of orphan photocopies of arias, songs, IPA and translation sheets, research, and the odd program booklets sitting on top of my piano in my music studio.
This is a project I’ve been avoiding for months. After I taught a lesson yesterday, and was unable to locate which binder or file folder contained the music I wanted to give my student, I went mad. Time to have a tidy.
Because this occupation is tedious, I enlisted the White Album to keep me company. It turned out that I worked my way through the last half of the Beatles catalog in the process before I was done.
Before getting to the main task, all the opera scores had to be organized (by composer, and order of composition, and publication for multiple copies). Mixed in were several super-title cuing scores, and directing/production copies. These found a new home on another shelf because the regular scores were offended at their unkempt qualities.
How to divide and conquer? Clearly sorting by genre makes the most sense. But it is trickier than that. There are further divisions. So far, this is how things are going:
- Opera arias: past “unlikely to ever sing (Gilda, Juliette) again…”
- Opera arias: Mozart
- Opera arias, present/learning
- Opera arias to learn if I live long enough
- Oratorio arias: present/polishing
- Oratorio arias: feeling guilty that I’ve not learned
- Songs: Common Practice
- Songs: Romantic (by composer and language)
- Songs: 20thC (ditto)
- New compositions: 21stC by composer friends
- Audition pieces: opera and oratorio, ready to go
- Recital program: two copies/two binders (one for accompanist)
- Church/Wedding/Funeral: (ditto)
- Teaching hand-out: (vocalises, information, articles)
- Student pieces to hand out
- Three thick binders of lead sheets: (pop/rock)
- GoshGusMusic compositions (half-inch binder…may outgrow)
Should the reader think of something I missed, please speak up.
The piano pile contained copies of copies of copies. Much tossed into the recycle bin, as were dozens of cassette tapes. I was elated to find eight tapes my coach had recorded of accompaniments to entire opera roles for practice purposes. Lucia, La Traviata, Don Pasquale, and so on. Such generosity. New plan to get these transferred to disc before they degrade beyond usefulness.
As I go about flipping the house for summer cleaning, I will find the label machine, which will produce flouncy covers for the temporary file stickers. I’m thinking Help, Rubber Soul and Revolver should do.