For some time, my birthday arrived with a certain heaviness. Fatigued and anxious all of the time, I’d reflect on past achievements as if they were lived out by a completely different person. Someone fiery, passionate, energised, fit and healthy. My gratitude for all that is around me, a beautiful family, house and a musical lifestyle was hardened by fears of the future. I was happy to be alive, but I couldn’t say that I was always present. The most overwhelming notion was that I knew I’d be trapped in this tired and wired state forever if I didn’t do the work to confront fear – regularly.
In contrast with previous years, this year I’m on a massive high. Not the kind that is fueled by forced optimism, life makeover plans and resolutions, but of contentment and peace. If the previous years were about learning how to respond to my thoughts and emotions and identifying the “why’s”, this year was about applying it on a daily basis. I got to see the falsities of fear over and over again. Every week, I made a point of habitually proving them wrong. Through keeping a curious eye during the heat of the moment, I uncovered beliefs that kept me from engaging socially, travelling , pushing myself physically and mentally, and doing the thing I’ve loved since I was three years old – performing. I even got to see first hand false beliefs around fear itself, proving it to be a misunderstood over-extending protector, rather than a destroyer.
Now energised, grounded, strong and mostly at peace, another shift in how I perceive myself has again come about. This time, because I willfully created it by going “in”. I now hold my beautiful boy and radiate the energies I want him to absorb. Having trust in myself to lead by example wavered during the first year of his life. I didn’t want him to grow up with a father that was tired, half present and worried all of the time. Now, that’s a foreign concept to me. It’s awesome to reflect on past struggles and see them being handled by a stranger. It’s wild.
Musically, I’m more connected than ever. Casual blues cover gigs with good mate Kenny Jewell has returned the primitive connection between self and guitar. Expression and performance is now much less dependent on external circumstance and more about my internal world, which puts me in a place where I don’t have to be anything more than what I am – exactly as it was when I performed as a kid. If last year you showed me a schedule of performances, interviews, co-writing sessions, blog commitments and recordings, I’d have started every day with dread. Yes, now I have to courageously dance with fear during the lead up to every single one of these events, but the moments themselves are bliss. And the bliss is sustained, bit by bit dissolving the layers of fear that have iced over my deepest desires. Now, I hear them and feel them and it’s giving me a clear picture of what I want out of music and life in general. I’m once again hungry.
The habits of practicing a skill over and over are about turning a conscious process into a subconscious process. My mind is more often than not, positively reacting to the environment without my conscious mediation. The grounding, trust, peace, and strength I feel by “nature” is leading me to believe that the subconscious must be a little more healthy these days. It’s not giving me as many weeds to deal with anymore! The other day, I sat in gridlock on the way home from a cumbersome 10 hours at work after a shit night’s sleep, with NO GLOOMY SLUMP! I felt peaceful and present without the teleporting powers of the imagination. When I gazed over future challenges, I felt no resistance. Yes, there is fear, but I’m okay with it. These days, those “feel good” states are becoming less reliant on circumstance. This is worlds away from the “me” who use to wake up feeling dread, who would approach everything on the back foot and sleep with one eye open.
I recently looked up to the night sky, a reminder of possibilities that stretch beyond our imagination. It was like I was a kid again. Old friend faith wrapped their arms around me and I returned to my laptop for a final email check before hitting the couch. A blues festival (for now unnamed) wants to book me for February. This would be the first solo gig I’ve done in 17 years. With no set, not quite enough songs, no players in mind to back me up and knowing that when the gig comes around I will be six months into being a dad for the second time, I agreed to do it. Bring it on! (Fuck).
Thanks so much to everyone who has stuck by me. Thanks to the amazing practitioners that often don’t get the credit they deserve, and to all those who share their knowledge and experiences to help others.