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 ❤ ❤ ❤

Self Help Books for Musicians

In between my musical activites I do a lot of reading.  I switch between fiction and non-fiction depending on my mood, but on the whole, I do tend to lean more in the direction of Educational and Self Help books. I’m a real learning junkie and love coming across a life changing read.

BUT – one thing you do realise very quickly when stepping into the world of Self Help books;

There is a TON of utter crap out there.

The Self Help section of any store is always filled with brightly coloured books of all shapes and sizes, all with snappy titles and a photo of the author printed on the back looking very smug indeed.  These happy, smiley people have jumped on the Self Help band wagon hoping to become the next Louise Hay or Wayne Dyer. Using lots of Self Help jargon to get your attention, each author brags about how, with their help, they can make YOUR life better.

In so many cases it becomes painfully clear quite early on that these people have no idea what the bloody hell they’re talking about and probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to them is their MacBook Air took 10 seconds longer to load than usual.

*sigh.

Thankfully, in between all the brightly coloured books screaming ‘pick me! pick me!’ are beautifully written works by genuine, authentic people who actually know their stuff.

And these are the books that have quite literally changed my life for the better, which is why I wanted to share them with you.

I do have some honourable mentions below my Top 5 list.  These are also well worth checking out.

Ok, so here goes – this is my Top 5 Self Help Books for Musical People

#5 – THE ART OF PRACTISING A Guide to Making Music From the Heart by Madeline Bruser

I remember reading the title of this book for the first time and rather obnoxiously thinking ‘a book about rehearsing? How interesting can that be?‘.  But after seeing it over and over and over again in various places, I decided to give it a try.

This is SUCH a wonderful book. 

Madeline combines musicality, spirituality and practical tips for getting the most out of your practise time.

Almost every page in my copy has a maker in it because there is so much to learn from this beautifully written book.

Go check it out if you haven’t already, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

#4 – EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves

I know what you’re thinking.  This is a strange choice, but hear me out.

I am extremely introverted.  Extremely.  I used to be *terrible* at making conversation or meeting new people and HATED networking with a passion.

Thanks to this book I am now able to meet total strangers and converse with ease.  I *never* thought in my wildest dreams this would be possible for me. I had come to the conclusion that after X amount of years I wouldn’t be able to change that aspect of my personality. I was wrong.

For those of you that don’t know, EQ is Emotional Intelligence, which unlike IQ is much easier to change.  I normally don’t like books that have online features (such as go online and watch this video or unlock this feature etc etc, I bought a fecking book you bleedin eejot! I don’t want to be online) but in this instance it works EXTREMELY well.  You take their online test to find out what your current score is and the website figures out exactly what is making your score low and tells you how to raise it.  My score was 86, which is pretty high – but what let me down was my social skills.  There are specific chapters in the book that tell you how to improve in particular areas and I honestly can’t tell you how much this has helped me.

If you want to improve your networking / people skills, give this a try!

#3 – MORNING SIDEKICK JOURNAL by Habit Nest

Most of my musician friends have been making fun of me the past couple of months because I have been getting up at 7am almost every single morning without fail.

WHY? Why would you do that? I hear you cry.

Well, I was interested in creating more time in my day and thought I’d give this a try.

I was AMAZED at how much of a difference it made.

I sleep better. I have more energy through the day. I finally have some ME time. I get all my jobs done pretty much every day.  It’s truly awesome.

The Morning Sidekick Journal is part book, part journal.  You write in it every day and it holds you accountable for your daily actions, kind of like a personal coach.  It has tons of really inspiring success stories, tips on getting the most out of your mornings and so much more.  It’s been beautifully designed with great attention to detail which I very much appreciated.

The book lasts for a total of 66 days and I made it all the way through! I was actually very sad when it was over, but I’ve kept my morning routine going and I wouldn’t have been able to make that work without the help of this journal.  It really was life changing for me.

Since finishing this I have tried a couple of similar ones but they were all pretty awful (yep, you guessed it.  Jumping. Band Wagon).

I’m a full time musician and have managed to make this change work for me.

Go on, give it a try 🙂

#2 – YOU ARE A BADASS AT MAKING MONEY – Jen Sincero

I wanted to find a book specifically to help me with my hang ups surrounding money.  The Universe presented me with You Are a Badass at Making Money and I couldn’t have found a better book.  It TOTALLY changed my way of thinking and helped me work through all my energetic blocks surrounding moola.

Jen has a beautiful writing style.  Easy to read, relatable and extremely funny.  I’ve just finished reading her first book You Are a Badass which is also very good, but I thought this would be a good choice for creative types as let’s face it – most of us are pretty terrible with money.

Highly, HIGHLY, H-I-G-H-L-Y recommended.  An awesome, life changing read.

#1 – ZEN GUITAR by Philip Toshio Sudo

This book was published 20 years ago and amazingly I only came across recently.

Holy. Crap.

If you need to be brought back to centre and have gotten so caught up in the business side of things that you feel disconnected from your art – PLEASE read this book.  It’s another one where almost every page in my copy has a marker in it, because there are SO many things we ALL need to hear on an almost weekly (if not daily) basis.

Beautifully written with honesty and sincerity.  This applies to all musical people no matter what instrument you play.  Please go and get yourself a copy if you haven’t done so already.  It’s a wonderful book.

HONORARY MENTIONS: 

Even though these aren’t in my Top 5 list, they are all well worth checking out.

The Music Lesson – Victor Wooten
How Many People Does it Take to Make a Difference? – Dan Zadra
Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes (I highly recommend getting the audiobook version.  It’s read by Shonda and her inflections and brilliant reading style add so much).
Two Minute Mornings – A Journal to Win Your Day Every Day – Neil Pasricha (there are a lot of these journals popping up, but this is a very simple and well put together journal that I take with me on the road, due to it being nice and small!).

So that’s my list.  What do you think? Do you agree with my selection? Have I missed anything? I’d love to know what you think and if you have any suggestions, please comment below and let me know!

If you’re based in Austin please go and buy all of these books (and more) from my favourite indie book store – Book People.

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