What a week. Actually… what a few weeks and months, and year, and all the rest.
I started writing a new novel, but real life got in the way. It’s funny how that works. When you need to make ends meet, you have to work. It’s a very silly rule.
Lately much of my time has been consumed by my new business: Rock n Roll Workshop. If you’ve followed this blog since 2013 or earlier, you know I’ve been involved in live music for many years. A while ago I started to get really sick of it: too much time away from Elaine, and my kids who need a dad. (Even if they think I’m lame.)
Life on the road is a young person’s game. That’s not to say you must be a twenty-something. I feel age and responsibility go hand-in-hand: you can be sixty-something, kids all grown up, with fewer responsibilities than a forty-something, and live the life of a twenty-something.
Life on the road is difficult now. Maybe my set of responsibilities has tempered me to take some situations seriously, where others take a flippant view. Maybe my life experience has fine-tuned my bullshit filter. Or who knows, maybe it’s something else. What I know is, being crammed together with other people for hours and days and weeks is a real tax on the mind. Trying to walk a 24/7 line between professional courtesy and personal tongue-biting has led to crushing periods of anxiety resulting in mental scars.
Around 2013 I started to become less enchanted with the road. In late 2015 I got really sick of it. Then, out of the blue, in June 2016, my mum got sick, and died two months later. It was a blur. While she was doing chemo, I was still doing short tours, and keeping in touch while keeping my head afloat in a rock n roll world.
Cliché alert: life has to go on, and people can’t drop everything when faced with the unknown. I couldn’t just quit work altogether to look after Mum. She wouldn’t hear of it. But I did quit the US tours, and toward the very end I quit them all, to be close by.
Rewind a moment: early 2016. Before Mum got sick, and while I was experiencing a lot of unhappiness on the road, I started thinking of a big change. I toyed with various ideas of career shifts, until a couple of friends nudged me in a certain direction: set up a repair shop! Rather than sit at home and wait for tour offers, I’d sit in my workshop waiting for people to bring me their broken guitars and amps.
Imagine that! I could earn a living free from airport security, and shared hotel rooms. No sitting in a cacophonous van when all I wanted was some quiet. I could cook my own dinner, help my kids with homework, and sleep in my own bed. I could be like a normal dad.
In May 2016 I secured a premise in the location of my choice and I was excited – and nervous of course. But I was comforted by the idea that ordinary people set up businesses all the time. How hard can it be?
Then Mum got sick. I was still committed to upcoming tours, while setting up this new business. I quit tours. Mum died. Business was slow. Everyone says that’s normal for a new business. After some months, I was offered a short tour. The extra money would be helpful, and I thought I was healthy enough to do it. Boy was I wrong.
Nothing had changed. Every day brought the same old mental challenges. Trying to stay positive, professional, friendly and calm was an effort. It all unravelled quietly one day and I collapsed on a hotel bed sobbing. I was clearly not ready for this shit. My head was a time-bomb and thankfully it exploded while I was alone. I’m not sure how things would have transpired if it had happened in the open.
Mum phoned me on June 7, 2016 to tell me she had cancer. Now it’s June 4, 2017, and I could use some extra money, so I’ve committed to a short tour beginning in August, nearly a year to the day Mum died. It’s strange how cyclical this all feels.
The overall feeling I think I’ve experienced in the last year is confusion. As a human with responsibilities, I’m pulled in all directions: personally looking after others, looking after myself, and taking care of business. Then there are the grey areas: knowing the appropriate moment to pause one thing and resume another, and even more important, when to tell the world to fuck unequivocally off.
The last year has been a bit of a blur, but I’ve made a few connections. Rewinding, I go back to when my son was born. That was exciting. Proud daddy. But it didn’t take me long to realise that soon enough, people stopped giving a fuck that I was a new dad. Fair enough, people have kids all the time. And in that same vein, when you lose a loved one, people are sympathetic for a while, but they move on much more quickly than you. While you’re confused about life, people might assume because you’ve managed a few smiles that you must be okay, and it’s business as usual.
Before I go, I have to share another couple of things I’ve learnt. Letting go is vital. In April this year, we scattered Mum’s ashes. Eight months had passed until we said goodbye for real, and I wish I’d done it sooner.
Last thing: setting up a business. How hard can it be? The work part is easy. The hard part is staying positive.