It is such a privilege to make music in this world, but please, never assume that it is easy. The challenges, disappointments, stresses and sensitivities involved in creating something I can be proud of are continually taking me ever closer to breaking point. But what I realise now is that breaking point moves a little further away each time as I progress, make mistakes, learn to forgive myself for them and carry on.
The level of sensitivity required to feel and express what I experience of this world in my own unique way can rub uncomfortably against the financial and worldly realities of making a record or a tour, of working under pressure of time, in conditions that are far from ideal, of getting on with others and keeping connection in performance despite external and internal anxieties.
I wanted to say this because I know that social networks are a place where you share all the good stuff that shows how well you’re doing so people can like it and be a part of your success. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is imbalanced and symptomatic of our culture’s insistence on denying that the painful, difficult, ugly aspects of life are inevitable and pretending that the right elixir is out there for your particular brand of suffering if you are willing to search and spend enough.
People often laugh at me for focusing on suffering or the darker side of existence, they say I’m negative or a perfectionist or perhaps I should just relax and be happy. Yes worrying is fruitless, yes we should all relax and be happy, but until you look into what’s making you miserable how are you going to let it go?
Contentment, I have found, is a live process, not an achievement. The kind of happiness that is gained from ignoring suffering is of little interest to me, although of course I continue to be dazzled by its promising sheen on a regular basis.
For me it is laughable that the possibility of happiness could exist without acknowledging the existence of suffering, the suffering that goes on at a low level in all of us all the time. Embarking on a creative project is like turning up the heat on that suffering to maximum and watching myself burn. And yet that is what I do with my life energy and that is how I spend my time and money.
Maybe that makes me a masochist or simply an artist, but I think all I am really trying to do is get close to truth of things as they are because I believe that is how real relaxation is found, not by switching off or hoping for the best when things are clearly not going well.
Failure is such a dirty word. I’m terrified of it myself. It’s like I’m running a race, I’m the only entrant, and I’m also the judge who sets impossible obstacles and keeps moving the finish line, all the while providing a running commentary on what a disappointing performance this is and how we had hoped for better.
I’ve been reading a book called ‘Tuesdays with Morrie,’ leant to me by a good friend. It was just what I needed. How would we live differently if we knew we were nearing the end of our lives? We can all roll our eyes at that old cliche or we could contemplate it every day and see what changes. Revisiting the wonderful ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ recently after the tragic death of Robin Williams, I was reminded of this great teacher’s lesson to his students, considering the students of the past, whispering ‘Carpe Diem’ as an inspiration.
As Morrie says, echoing the Buddha Dharma, death is necessary for new life to take place. Death of a dream, an idea, a fantasy, a relationship, these are all painful but inevitable stages in any journey of the life of a human being or an artistic endeavour. Do we dare to look directly at our experience in all its excruciating detail? This is where the jewels are, the lessons that soften us and keep us moving forward.
One thing I will say for myself, is that while I really know how to suffer, I also really know how to have a good time. It’s not a coincidence. Those (including myself) who think they can have sparkly magnetic liberated dancing Annalie without dark brooding volatile chaotic Annalie are gonna be disappointed in the long run. Maybe it’s even better this way. The light reflected in the puddles has a beauty of its own.