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 ❤ ❤ ❤

The Missing Pieces

This beautiful lady is my grandmother, Margaret Joan Robinson.

Brought up in north-east London, Margaret was a woman way ahead of her time. Forward-thinking, dynamic, driven and extremely business savvy. Even though she was only 5ft tall, she didn’t take any crap off of anyone.

At 22, she was a sergeant in the WRAF (Women’s Royal Air Force) and after leaving the Air Force, she and my grandad ran many successful businesses in and around Devon. My grandmother was an unstoppable force of nature and was driven to succeed in everything she did.

When I was 6 years old, my grandmother bought an old pianola (player piano). I remember the first time we went over to their place to see it. The moment my little fingers touched the keys I was in heaven.

From that day on, I wanted to visit as often as possible so I could sit in front of the piano and noodle. I’d spend hours writing my own tunes (most of which I’m sure were bloody awful) or trying to figure out songs I’d heard on the radio. My grandmother taught me how to play an old traditional piece of music which I still remember to this day.

This is one of only a handful of memories I have of my grandmother. She passed away when I was 11 and the events surrounding her death changed our family forever.

Margaret lost her life in 1992 after having unnecessary surgery from a doctor who was at the centre of the Bristol Heart Scandal (James Wisheart). Wisheart performed heart surgery on my grandmother and blamed the issues on ‘faulty equipment’. 10 years later it came to light that it was in fact his incompetence that took her life as well as causing brain damage to over 100 children. There have been multiple news stories about the incident as well as a one-off BBC dramatization.

Before my grandfather passed away in 2011, he and I started creating a family tree together. We found lots of interesting information about his side of the family, but absolutely nothing whatsoever about my grandmother. She was an intensely private person and didn’t share any information about her family, her life in London, her upbringing. Nothing. And whenever I tried searching for information myself it was always a fruitless exercise.

My grandfather’s side of the tree has a plethora of information with well over 100 people in it, a couple of whom I have met in person. My grandmother’s side is quite the opposite.

It contains her, her brother and mother, and literally no one else.

And that is exactly how it has stayed all this time, up until a month ago, when someone out of the blue contacted me, saying we were related through my grandmother.

I couldn’t quite believe it and really hoped this guy wasn’t barking up the wrong tree. I asked for more info and sure enough, we are related. Not only that, but he knows a ton of info about my grandmother’s side of the family.

And guess what?

😮 THEY ARE ALL MUSICIANS 😮

All this time, I believed I was the first one to take up an instrument and play professionally. But it turns out my great-Uncle played piano for a theatre in London and my grandmother’s parents played on cruise ships as well as in the pub they ran in London. Everyone in the family was musical and apparently they all played by ear extremely well, something I have always been really good at.

I got to see photographs and look into the eyes of people I didn’t even know existed, as well as hear first-hand accounts of what these people were like and their love of music.

I even got to see photographs of the pub where my grandmother grew up:

 

Once I had processed all of this incredible information, my memories of 6-year-old me playing piano in my grandparents’ house took on a whole new meaning. I had no idea that by simply being a musician, I was connecting to people in my family line who I knew absolutely nothing about. People who were just like me.

I have always felt like a lone wolf, doing my own thing that isn’t in any way connected to anyone else in my family. Now I can truly say that I come from a long line of musicians and I’m carrying on the family tradition ❤ ❤ ❤