The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Lost August 6, 2013

Kid’s been gone over two weeks. Maybe it’s three by now. You’d think I’d know, but I don’t. Been busy, busy, busy, trying to get all the things done that I simply can’t during the year. I suppose now that he’s ten it’ll become easier for me to do things. He can get himself something to eat or entertain himself easily enough. It’s just that I always feel badly about digging into solitary projects like filing, organizing teaching materials or other time-consuming stuff when he’s home. Which is why I’m hitting it so hard now. But today I feel stopped. The sun is shining and the day is bright, yet I can’t shake this feeling that the world is passing me by. I’m here in my windowless basement office, going through boxes and files and papers that just never seem to end. And I wonder, as I have so many times before, how on earth do working people deal with all this crap? There’s never an end to things that need tending to, never an end to the drawings and schoolwork that needs to find a home, there’s never an end to the personal correspondence, the filing, the bills, the paper…. And yet, at the end of the day, when someone asks me “what do you do all day?”, I’m hard-pressed to properly explain myself. Which leads me to this very moment. Right now, I’m feeling tetherless and lost.

In going through my music closet, and in finally opening great manila envelopes marked “to look at and file”, my past spills out onto my lap in old set lists, cocktail napkins scrawled over with chords, laminates and other small, useless items that only break my heart today. I remember the feeling of hope that went along with that time in my life. Our lives seemed all yet ahead of us then. Yes, I can say that I knew I was enjoying a good time in my life, and I did enjoy myself. I loved doing what I did, and I never took it for granted. But there was always another show coming up, another project, another seed of hope… I was always swimming with a fast-moving current. There was never anything static about that time in my life. But my life now is very different. Aside from my beloved son, I have to admit to myself, there’s very little of that sort of hope inside me today. There just doesn’t seem to be any forward pull. Yes, I have my writing, I suppose. Dear friends and readers who check in to bear witness to our tiny adventures, but is that in of itself a destination? What, I wonder, as I hold the evidence of a life once fully lived and enjoyed, just what the hell is my ‘thing’ now? Mom? Part-time accompanist at my kids’ school? Goddam recess monitor? Man. So much hope, so much forward-looking energy in these old scraps of paper. Yet where did they land me? I haven’t touched my Wurlitzer in ages. I haven’t played in a band since I left Evanston. It’s been two years since I’ve sung a proper show. And I miss it all like crazy. I fully admit to flat-out jealousy when I see the Facebook updates of my friends who are still making music. How lucky they are to be playing. To be doing what they love. I do know that I’m lucky to be here, and to have this new chapter from which to learn and grow, but still….

I can’t make much progress as I feel right now. I have no food left in the house, and I’m hungry. My hunger is no doubt helping to make my mood even darker, and I’m trying to muster the resolve to do something about it. It takes some gas and time to get into town, and I just can’t find it in me to go. I’m almost out of cash now too, cuz kids don’t take piano lessons in the summer (I sure never did), but that doesn’t stop bills from coming. August is always something of a financial challenge, and especially now in the wake of our July trip and some small home improvements. I know this has been a great summer, and I was so blessed to have visited Chicago (and to have eaten all that gorgeous food!), but it seems the spark has worn off. I know things aren’t bad by any means. I do. And I’m doing better than I was a year ago. I know it. Plus I’m home, surrounded by things I love, by nature, by a beautiful summer day. Even so, in this moment I’m still not quite sure where I am.

 

8 Responses to “Lost”

  1. Lindy A. Says:

    Maybe you are so focused on getting to even again that you can’t find any of those hopes again. The fact that you recognize their loss is an indication that you are on your way to finding hopes again. I never had children but those that do usually say that the years they have them at home seem to fly by. The day will come when you’ve got yourself steady, Elihu will be on his own and you can come into full bloom.

    You are on your way.

  2. Jim citler Says:

    Maybe you are exactly where you should be and are just feeling sorry for your self. None of us are where we thought we would be all those years ago. I am certainly not doing what I thought my plan was 25-30 years ago. Maybe even 5-10 years ago. We deal with the cards dealt, and carry on. This IS your life now, and it is a good one, REJOICE IN IT.
    Life and time does not stop, you will have more opportunities to play/sing /gig if that is your desire.
    Enjoy what you have, while you have it,(Elihu, your parents, etc…). Those things may be more fleeting than your musical opportunities.
    This is all said with thought and love. JIM (posting on Carol’s Facebook accout)

  3. Gene Burnett Says:

    I felt similarly around the time I turned 50. I was quite happy teaching T’ai-Chi. i wanted to increase my income a bit, but i realized that I didn’t want to teach more students…I can only be on my feet so many hours a day…i needed to do something else. I realized too that I wanted something with some “wins”…some sense of Yes! or “scoring”, involved in the activity. Teaching T’ai-Chi is wonderful but to feel a win or sense of achievement i had to look back at who a student was 6 months before. I wanted something more tangible, more immediate.

    So i started buying and selling stuff on eBay which definitely gave me some nice wins but eventually due to the economy tanking and everyone in the universe doing the same thing, it became not worth my while.

    The other thing I decided to try was music. I had done nothing but struggle with how to find a way to do music in my life for decades and I was in a major “off” in this off and on again relationship. I decided to make a sort of “best of to date” CD and sell it to my friends and family. I did this and sold my first run of discs…then I decided to start going to open mikes to see if I could sell any there. But within one or two times I realized that I didn’t give a shit about selling the CD’s…I just liked playing for its own sake and i realized that my expectations had become very much lowered. With this sort of semi-retired, WTF attitude…I began to loosen my songwriting head and started writing whatever released a charge for me, with no commercial considerations at all…I stopped trying to project some idealized or coherent version of myself in my songs and started writing with a sort of musical parliament attitude…any part of me, any “minister” in my parliament could get his (or her) song. I could write in different characters, from points of view that represented a part of me but maybe not a big part. This just freed up tons of creative energy. Instead of all that dithering about whether to continue, whether I was getting the good gigs, or how I measured up to others…I just started writing like crazy, (300+ songs, 20+ albums since 2007), eventually making all my stuff available for downloading free or with a donation at my website. I decided to make it all as freely available as possible and see what came freely back. I wasn’t courting the business at all anymore. In fact, I realized that I wanted nothing to do with it. I just wanted to focus on the parts of music that gave me real joy: the writing, recording, performing and posting it all to the net. The stuff I hated, marketing, strategizing, politicking, schmoozing, all that shit, I just let it all go.

    I’m by no means successful, at least by any external measure…I’ve been doing this since 1975 and I know most of my fans personally, by name…I make more or less the same money per gig that I made back in the 70’s which ain’t much…most of my gigs are backgroundy…very few people really listen anymore and I write pretty much listening music…my albums barely sell 30 copies each…but I’ve never been happier doing music in my life and I haven’t even considered quitting in a long long time, something I used to do nearly constantly. I think my ambition was seriously crippling me as a person. Somehow I managed to let go of thinking about how well I was being received and focused instead on the work itself. I’ll play anywhere I feel my music is a good match for whatever they pay, including nothing. Every now and then a really nice gig or musical moment will happen and I’m ready for it, but most of the time I’m happy if I reach one person per show. I know, I know, very low bar, but that’s the way it is.

    Not saying you should go this route…but just that baby steps in the direction of more of what you want can lead to unexpected things. Man, this is the first time I’ve left a comment on a blog that was longer than the post I was commenting on. Sorry. Hope it’s at least a little helpful. ;~) GB

    • wingmother Says:

      I was kinda familiar with your ‘new’ approach to music. I myself have never been good – in fact been quite bad – at marketing. Also, I never had a thing to do with recording (except my 2 jazz cds which I produced) – I was just always either in a band or hired by a band whose label was footing the bill. So I was able to write for entire string sections – and conduct them live in the studio – and other fun things, all with no expense to me (plus I sometimes got paid). I had LOTS of fun. It’s the pure enjoyment that I miss. Just the playing, and singing. I don’t care about writing even. Not even so much performing. Really, for me I just want to get together with some musicians and play. I want to hear my voice mixing with another, I want to feel that lovely sensation of sus chords hanging in the air, a drummer with a great feel and an awesome right foot…
      I just want to bathe myself in that experience. And two truths remain; one, I can’t leave the kid to go and do that (as in pay a babysitter, end up with a too-late bedtime, etc), and two, I don’t even know anyone I can do this with. I’ve met some musicians here, yes, but they’re swingin busy with actual, paying work.

      All this said – I feel badly about having seemed so whiney and ‘poor me’ in the post. Just missing that life. Not much to be done at the moment, but I’ll continue to keep my eyes and ears open – just as I have the past five years – to anything that might satisfy that itch. All in due time.

      You, Gene, are amazing in your creative output. How wonderful to have found that place where you can just tap in and go. Glad you’re doing it cuz you enjoy it. I still marvel over musicians – some really good ones, too – who play with such a jaded attitude. They’re missing the forest for the trees – you sure aren’t !! thanks again for the thoughts…
      xo

      • Gene Burnett Says:

        I wonder if there any musicians in a similar place in your area…people with some chops but who have been out of the loop a bit and wanting to ease back in…and maybe the jam session could be at your place where I believe you already have an in-house percussionist. I am very lucky in that while I get to play occasionally with other musicians, the heart and soul of what I do is one voice, one guitar. This makes gigging and especially recording much easier and much more affordable. Good luck with finding your place and balance with this…I honestly didn’t think I ever would. GB

  4. Robin Says:

    I can imagine it has been tough for you to be w/out your son for a few weeks and quietly think about all this stuff when you are by yourself. I have feelings about this too, actually just started writing about it, if I can ever finish my latest post it’ll be a miracle. It sounds like you really need to do something for yourself. Like in the comment above, maybe a little baby-step each day to do something for yourself. There’s a lot you can do w/video, for free? Maybe do something w/your music and share via video? Maybe just a little outreach locally communicating something about what you can do w/ your music…nothing huge but a little each day may brighten up the monotony of the day with something you enjoy. Not that I’m any better off…still kind of lost trying to find my “thing” while taking care of my son, but I listened to a little program that helped me get organized and actually set goals and start my blog…you may want to check out. It’s all super “duh, I could’ve thought of that…” stuff, but it helped me, and I’m at least writing now…..now I need to figure out what’s next…. :) http://afitandfocusedfuture.com/2013/03/27/little-changes-big-impact/


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