But what’s the answer?

For the past 3 years I have been friends with a homeless lady who lives not far from us. She’s softly spoken, kind and unassuming. She has 2 dogs who are always happy as can be and far from skinny.

We periodically meet up and I take supplies of food, propane and anything else she might need. If it’s chilly outside I let her sit in my car with the seat warmers on, and for typical Texas-level heat I’ll get the air-conditioning on the go. It’s hard for her to trust people and even harder for her to accept help, so it means the world to me that she feels safe in my presence and allows me to do what I can.

She is part of a small group of homeless people who have found a spot tucked away out of sight from the rest of the world. They don’t steal from nearby shops, nor do they bother passersby. They are all outcasts for one reason or another and the only thing they are trying to do is survive. This year I have been able to meet a few of the other people in her community and they are all absolutely lovely. On the outside many of them look like they could cut a bitch. But if you can look past that and engage in conversation, you will find them to be intelligent, articulate and extremely thoughtful.

When I arrived in the US 8 years ago, I literally didn’t have a pot to piss in. The help I received from my community was unreal. People I didn’t even know offering me clothes, food, help with finding gigs, loaning me gear to play shows and even offering to me a ride places.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support of those kind souls. It’s something I will never forget, and even though some people might say my pissing pot still isn’t enormous, at least I have one 😉

I know you’re probably reading this thinking what the bloody hell does this have to do with the crisis in Ukraine? Isn’t that what this blog post is supposed to be about KM? 

It is. Stay with me.

A few years back, Laran and I were renting a room from a guy’s house. He and I would periodically chat about stuff and things (well, when I say chat, it was more like walking down a one-way street). He leans fairly hard to the right. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m more of a left leaning sort. The fact that we lean different ways doesn’t bother me and certainly doesn’t mean I no longer wish to engage in conversation. Quite the opposite, I want to hear everyone’s point of view.

We got onto the subject of other countries and their issues, when he said:

Back in the day the media didn’t cover news stories from all over the world. I believe we should only be concerned with our own and shouldn’t get involved in anything outside of the US.

I was somewhat perplexed by this statement and asked him to clarify.

To paraphrase, he believed that the American government should exclusively look after the American people, the US States should only deal with their own issues, and that each individual person should only concern themselves with their own family, and no one else.

Over the past few days, I have spoken to a couple of friends here in the US and asked them for their thoughts on the current situation involving Russia and Ukraine.

Their response was somewhat, surprising.

They seemed to very much align with my former roommate. We shouldn’t get involved. It’s not our problem. These aren’t our people.

I’ve thought about this a lot (I am a Libra don’t forget, it’s what we do).

At what point does it become our problem? When it’s on our doorstep? When it’s someone from our own country? Or family? Or a friend? At what point does human life become important to us? When you see it with your own eyes and not on a device that you can switch on and off whenever you want to? Or does it only become important when it directly impacts you?

There have been so many times when I have been around my homeless friend and thought there but for the grace of God go I. I was born in the UK, into a household filled with love and acceptance. I was told by the people closest to me, that I was loved and appreciated, even when I was being a complete arsehole. I was encouraged to follow my dreams. I always felt safe, and I had two strong role models in my life who taught me the value of both hard work and kindness.

Life is hard, and we’re all trying to figure our shit out on a daily basis, but some people have to endure unimaginable hardship that is totally and utterly not their fault. They just happened to be born in a certain place and time.

An analogy I often use is thinking of life as a dense forest with low visibility and each of us going on our own journeys, figuring out how to get to the other side.

Some people may have the appropriate clothes and shoes. Some may even have a flashlight and a GPS to show them the way. Others may have all the above along with a vehicle to drive them through the forest, so they don’t even have to walk.

Now imagine someone with no clothes, no shoes, no map or help of any kind, stumbling through the forest, lost and alone, trying to figure out how to get through to the other side, and when they ask for help no one answers.

We are all connected. Yes, we have our tribes which are divided into different countries with varying rules and ideals. But we all inhabit the same planet. I don’t see a them, way over there in the distance, in a country I know nothing about. I only see us. Humanity. The human race. If you’re hurting, so am I.

I was having a conversation with my Mum a while ago about helping others. I told her that I wish I could do so much more, and at times it feels as though I’m picking up a grain of sand and throwing it into the ocean.

In her usual Zen-like way, she replied with:

But imagine if everyone, everywhere picked up a grain of sand and threw it into the ocean. That really would make a big difference, and all you can do is hopefully inspire others to want to pick up a grain of sand in the first place.

I know, she’s a keeper.

I’m far from a perfect person and don’t profess to have all the answers. Often I feel lost and conflicted. But what I do know is that instinctually I want to help others wherever possible. The situation in Ukraine is heartbreaking and leaves me feeling so helpless. I desperately want to do something and it’s incredibly difficult to process, but I would far rather sit with an uncomfortable, helpless feeling, than be the polar opposite, and simply say ‘it’s not my problem’.

Sending so much love to the people of Ukraine.

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

 

 

 

Be Your Own Valentine

I don’t know about you, but I’ve learnt so much about myself over the past 24-months. I feel as though the Universe (without my consent btw) thrust me into a 2-year-long voyage of self-discovery, on a level unlike anything else I have ever experienced.

In that time, I’ve realised a great many things. But my main takeaway is this:

Bloody hell, I was SO hard on myself.

And I’m not just talking about pushing myself a bit too much. It was like having some beefy drill Sergeant living inside my head, yelling at me every time I messed up.

YOU LAZY MAGGOT! What the hell was that?? I’ll tell you what it was:

CRAP! T-O-T-A-L CRAP!

You call *that* playing music??

You wanna be a loser the rest of your life?

Huh???

QUIET!! I’m speaking!!

Now git down on the ground and gimmie 50. NOW!!

The irony of all of this is that when it comes to other people, I am the polar opposite. Kindness is at the centre of my being. I am kind and compassionate to everyone I come into contact with (including arseholes), and yet when I was dealing with myself, I wasn’t kind at all. Far from it in fact.

There were numerous times my body gave me very clear warning signs that it needed a break. I ignored them all and kept pushing. It made me feel tough. I felt a sense of pride when I was utterly exhausted at the end of the day and could barely stand up. LOOK HOW HARD I HAVE WORKED! (lol). I used to tell everyone with much delight how busy my schedule was, and how I used to work every single day without a day off, ever….as if that was a good thing.

I thought days off were for sissies. I believed whole-heartedly that the more you work the better your life will be. If you want to be successful you have to put in the hours and work, work, work, work. Which is true to a certain extent. But here’s the thing; there is zero point in working yourself to death if you don’t have the time or energy to enjoy the fruits of your labor because life has simply passed you by, or the stress from overworking caused you to get sick.

John Lennon famously said, ‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’.

After I had my hysterectomy in Jan 2020, I promised myself that I would listen to my body more and not push myself as much.

Recovery time for a hysterectomy is 6-8 weeks.

I was back to work on week 5.

I know. You don’t need to tell me. What a dumbass.

Thankfully for me, lockdown happened on week 7, which forced me back home, where I should have been all along.

Like so many of my musician friends in 2020, I had to sit back and watch gig after gig, tour after tour get cancelled until I found myself staring at an empty calendar. Every self-employed person’s worst nightmare.

I remember calling my Mum in a total panic.

‘What am I going to do?’ I cried. ‘I need to get back to gigging as soon as possible!’.

She listened and patiently waited for me to stop wallowing in my own self-pity, before replying with,

‘Instead of trying to get back what you had as quicky as possible, why not use this time to figure out exactly what it is you want to rush back to?’. 

*Cue mic drop*

In that moment I realised I was barreling towards one thing and one thing only:

Burn out.

Burn out is real.

I didn’t get a random tumor growing in my uterus for no reason at all. I got it because I simply refused to take my health seriously. And you know what? My body got to the point where it was like ‘OK KM. I let you take the reins. You’ve done a pretty shitty job. I told you nicely on numerous occasions that I needed a break and it’s obvious that you are completely incapable of listening, so, in the words of Rage Against the Machine, Imma gunna take the power back. Sit yo-self down. I’m taking over’.

I often get FaceBook memories pop up from a few years back, that read something along the lines of:

Played at X festival and then at midnight hopped on a plane and flew to X place. Played 3 shows and flew back to Austin. Got off the plane and played a show in the airport, afterwards I drove home and played a show that evening. The following day I ran a workshop and then played a show in the evening. Following morning finished workshop, afternoon played a show, evening played a show. 

And so on, and so on, and so on.

All of this was very normal for me. To be moving and rushing around every single moment of every day. I would love posting about how busy I was. But when I read these types of posts now, I kinda cringe, because I know I wasn’t making my needs a priority, which makes me very sad.

I’m a pretty simple sort. I don’t need very much in order to be content. I’m also very accommodating. But I have finally come to realise that every day I need KM Time, which includes:

Quiet time.

Alone time.

Time spent immersed in nature. 

These things are no longer negotiable. They are part of who I am, and they make me happy. It’s really that simple.

When I lived in Devon, having these things on a daily basis was very easy. But once I moved to the US, I stopped making them a priority.

There’s a wonderful Maya Angelou quote that feels so relevant to me right now:

So, this year for Valentine’s Day, I will be reminding myself that being kind and taking care of me is not only acceptable, but it’s essential. It is ok to stop once in a while. You’re not being selfish, you’re being kind, to YOU.

And since I have adopted this approach, my work life is considerably better. I’m happier. I’m a whole lot more productive. I have way more ME time. And quite honestly, life is too short to not be happy every single day. Trust me.

I always say that it is imperative that we be kind to everyone around us, but don’t forget to love yourself as well ❤ You matter!

Happy Valentine’s Day ❤ ❤ ❤

Game of Life – the Gay Edition

Recently, my wife and I were going through Netflix trying to find some aimless crap to watch on tele. We came across a show called Coming Out Colton. It documents former NFL player Colton Underwood coming out to friends and family as well as the general public.

It took me back to when I came out over 20 years ago. Even though my friends and family are super laid back and cool, I had a terrible time summoning up the courage to tell them. In my head I had made it into this BIG deal, when in reality it really wasn’t at all. Some of my friends even responded with ‘well yeah, we already knew that!’. What? Really?? 

I wasn’t brave enough to tell my parents to their face. Instead, I did what I do best and wrote down my feelings on a piece of paper. I then waited until my Mum was in her room, slid the note under her door and ran away into my bedroom (to hide….and cringe, and worry, and cringe some more, and cry, but mostly cringe).

As soon as she had read it, she came into my room and gave me a big hug. As expected, she was cool about it and, as always, was super sweet and kind. She then offered to tell the rest of my family, which I said yes to, and that was that.

A few days later we were all gathered around the kitchen table having just eaten dinner (‘we’ consisted of myself, my brother, my parents and my grandad). After dinner, we decided to play that classic board game, Game of Life. 

I’m sure you’re all fairly familiar with GoL and how it works; you spin a giant plastic wheel in the centre of the board and do ‘life’ stuff, such as buy a house, dabble a bit on the stock market, buy yachts and paintings, deal with your aunt’s stray cats, that kind of thing.

One of the main elements of the game which is unavoidable is marrying someone. There is a square you HAVE to stop at and marry someone, whether you want to or not.

There are blue people and pink people that fit very nicely into your plastic vehicle, and the general assumption is if you are blue (as in male) you will marry a pink (female) person and vice versa.

When this realisation dawned on me, I started to feel very uncomfortable indeed.

I didn’t know at this point if the rest of my family knew that I batted for the other team and wasn’t sure how any of them felt about it.

I guess I was about to find out. 

After 10mins of play, my brother was the first to arrive at the church, the destination for marriages.

With a big smirk on his face, he unapologetically said

“I’m going a marry a man!”

Everyone laughed. This is especially hilarious as my brother is a typical dude and straight as a bloody arrow.

Next to arrive at the church was my Mum.

“Who do you want to marry then?” my brother asked.

“A pink person of course!” my mother replied.

Then my Dad followed suit, he also married a man. Even my grandad said ‘yeah, go on then, I’ll marry a blue one!’.

I’ll never forget it. Looking at the board and seeing every car with either matching blue or pink people. When I arrived at the church, me marrying a girl seemed very fitting.

I care deeply about what everyone at that table thinks of me, and without saying a word they made me feel so loved and included. Being British, we generally don’t talk about feelings and that sort of thing. But on this occasion, words weren’t needed.

I’m so fortunate to have grown up around people who love me for who I am. A creative, intenerate musician who ended up marrying a pink person in real life.

❤ ❤ ❤

If you’re interested in reading about the origins of Game of Life, I highly recommend this article. The original game is surprisingly dark and included squares such as ‘suicide’!