A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Heading To Grassroots

Well I can’t get the audio through or a picture but I’ll keep fiddling with it a bit more, but the blog does come up which is a step in the right direction.

Tomorrow my brother and I go to an annual music festival that’s called GRASSROOTS. We’ve been going each summer for several years now. It’s an outdoor festival that lasts four days. There’s camping but we will be staying at a nearby hotel. We’ll bring our fold up chairs and set up in front of one of the stages. The music is varied, from African to country, blues, rock, etc... I particularly like the African music and I recommend it (try Ali Farka Toure or Fela). For the country music lovers they have a covered space where you can do country dancing. I’ve never really hung out there. They also have a couple of dance performances. There’s a gallery of work by local artists and there’s a long wall where people can paint whatever they feel like painting. There are also people selling handmade tee shirts, jewelry, musical instruments, hats/bags and assorted other things. And of course, there’s all kinds of food. The festival is one of the few places where Rob and I can eat both Thai and Indian food which we love. Everyone seems to have a good time and there’s a lot of dancing going on which is fun to watch, people just relaxing and enjoying themselves.

It’s one of the few places where I’m around a lot of people. For the most part, I like it. My therapist said to me that it’s a place where I can be around people but not have to interact with them. I like to watch people while listening to music. I like being outside with them. For the most part it’s a safe feeling there though a bit too homogenized (mostly middle class white people). I grew up in New York City and I got used to people coming in all different shades of skin color with all different orientations, religious, ethnic, rich and poor and everything in between. It took a little while to get used to being around mostly white people. Some people, that’s all they know and going to a big city is an foreign experience. For me, it was the other way around. Now, I’m no longer a city woman, not used to crowds of people in the subway or on the streets. But for four days and nights I can adapt to being around the people at this festival.

The main reason I go is for the live music. Music just sounds so good live and outdoors. It’s what makes the festival a festival. Something joyful and all too human. It makes me think people can live in peace if they’d just get a daily dose of good music. And the music at this festival you can get right up to the stage if you want and see the performance with crystal clarity. I usually stay in my seat with my crocheting and a pair of small binoculars.

Yesterday I started working with a singing instruction tape. I got this program many years ago but never studied it but now I need it because my voice is so weak and untrained. I found that you have to be willing to get really LOUD!!! It doesn’t matter if at first you sound like shit, you just belt it out there. The instructors, a man and a woman, started out teaching about proper breathing and then went on to singing vowel sounds. They sound terrible and so do I but that’s not the point. The point is how to sing well and these are the steps you take to get to that point. They also demonstrated dynamics or the ability to get loud to quiet or quiet to loud. I can see that I’m going to need a lot of practice. I recorded myself singing one of my older songs and compared it with the original. Big difference. I started to worry, would I be able to sing that way again if I practiced regularly? So I consulted the I Ching and the response was Deliverance(40) into Progress(35). I didn’t even have to go deeply into the reading to realize that the answer was a firm yes, that is, if I do the work. And I want to keep trying.

I wondered, why did I sound good before? I think it was that I practiced and got lost in what I was doing in a good way. It used to be a form of self-expression and meditation. I couldn’t play my guitar well but I could make up words, find a melody out of a handful of chords and sing. And so I did. I knew it was just me singing to myself, completely private and I could sing whatever and however I felt like it. Most of what I got were not complete songs but maybe half to three quarters of a song at a time, which I recorded but only after I had practiced a lot. Right now, I’m practicing a little bit and recording what I get too soon. I guess, I just don’t want to forget what I’ve come up and I don’t have the stamina yet to sit with it. But stamina is what I have to cultivate over time.

Last night I watched an hour long DVD on Jim Morrison and the Doors which I borrowed from my brother. Jim Morrison was not afraid to get LOUD but he also could get soft. And it was obvious that sometimes he was oblivious to everything but what he was singing. He both acted out and got contemplative. He also saw himself as a poet which I think was part of his charisma. He was very fortunate to have the Doors as his band. The music still gets to me years after I first heard it. The Doors sound like themselves and to me they’ll always be worth listening to. It’s too bad that Jim Morrison cut himself down so young. What he could have done!

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll be back hopefully early next week. Till then stay safe and happy.

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