While sitting at the top of a hill on a bench, after getting hopelessly lost, walking barefoot through small rivers, a friend laughed and said, ‘So the answer is to have low expectations?’ No, the idea is to have no expectations and end up sitting in an unexpectedly beautiful place, talking, smoking in the rain while eagles circle above.
It was hard when you loved something as much as I love music to make space for…life simply happening. Perhaps, because of the great excitement there is a desire to experience everything, to summit the mountain without buying the proper gear or even exercising! This was the case many years ago. I remember being in Switzerland when I first got signed. Everyone had an opinion about the outcome and significance of that Montreux Jazz Festival performance.
Two things happened in Switzerland. I saw Ben Harper perform the first time and cried at the back of the hall when he sang Pray That Our Love Sees The Dawn….and I realised that my marriage to my best friend since the age of 16 is over. I came home with only two desires. Firstly, to get a better band ( and be a better musician) and to stop the torment I was going through. Music, and any ambitions I might have had, was put aside.
And so the years went on. More heartbreak and life happening. As it does and as it must. Slowly, I learnt to put aside any and all preconceived notions of who I am meant to be…to others. I stopped telling the same story about how music found me, the drama and the pain and tried as best I could to…be a better human being instead of a better musician. I did this with no expectations….and by doing so small windows opened. Windows to the lives of people I would not have met.
While smoking in the rain I confessed, ‘I leave it all wide open to the universe. This is what I would like to experience in music, but I give no clear specifics. Never.’ At first I thought that it is a way of shielding myself against the weaknesses of others, their failure to act or my own ambitions. Only later did I discover that my tactic had little to do with them, who they are or failed to be in that moment.
I am my own anchor, my own silence. I am the indefinable thing that pulls everything towards myself. Just like music, there comes a point when all the elements are in the right position and all that is needed is to let go. Allow your voice and the music to merge, to travel, to pick up whatever’s in the ethers, stuck in one’s imagination and just….fly. That’s when something else ‘steps into the room’.
The same with love of every kind. If there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s this. When my desire for another becomes unbearable, I need to stop and check myself. Why the void, why the longing, what am I not taking care of within myself? I refuse to walk around with a broken heart. It does not serve me, the music or those who love me and I love in turn. The same applies when I act out of character, when love is knowingly cast aside. My decisions can never be dependant on the actions of anyone else.
The reason why my next bit of ink will be a kaleidescope of butterflies is simple. All the people who matter to me have butterflies surrounding them when we sit in the sun, or inked on their body. Butterflies remind me of life’s unexpected transformations and beauty. Also, that’s what pounds in my stomach days before a performance, the excitement and the freedom of flight, of letting go.
No one knows what’s around the corner. And even if they had any suspicions it would not matter, as the reality of being submerged in an experience, be it musical or not is vastly different from the theory of it all.
All I can do is move in the direction of people and things that excite me….and when I feel fear, sit at the piano, play badly and allow the fear to leave me. All I can do is offer the people whatever is in of my heart to give, with open arms and no expectations.
I had moments of sadness, of heartbreak over the last two years yes…..but not the kind that set my world asunder and left me in ruins. It was a decision I made, sometimes a few times during the day. I am my own anchor, my own silence, the one who sits at the piano and writes, who gets on stage and sings. And if this life is to be lived….I will do it with as little fear as I can muster. Or if the fear is too much, will wade through the dark waters, even if it means losing myself in the deep for a while….but swim, move and let go I will. And that’s all that matters now.