Studio de Chaos is open for business starting in September. Its been a long year plagued with uncertainty and injury and lessons. Many many lessons. Here is what I have learned:
1. I am not me if I am not playing guitar let alone teaching music.
2. This injury I have has basically put me at level zero of playing. I do not sound like how I should. However, its given me a gift – I now know and understand the frustrations of the beginner. The callouses, the awkward hand positions, the inconsistencies, the triumph of getting that measure perfect 4 times in a row, just to blow it on times 5-19 to get it almost right again on attempt #20. Empathy is a good thing, and will get me back to where I need to be – at least on the teaching end of it. Im still working on the patience side (for myself).
3. My imagination hasn’t gone anywhere. My imagination has always been the strongest asset to my guitar career. I spent an entire year reading books just so I could at least keep one part of guitar game going. And if my practice session this morning is any indication, its going to be a really fun year of telling stories while we learn some classical music.
4. My mental game may be strong – but my physical one is not – so I need to add more exercise to my daily practice. Strength training – along with a whole lot more physiotherapy here we come!
Im getting excited about the coming year – I have lots of ideas, and I am super excited to share them with new students. And for everything that I have lost, I have gained so much more.
So if you are interested in an unusual approach to studying classical guitar, and live in Vancouver, BC – I may be the solution you are looking for. Call 604-679-1731 to schedule a lesson. Ask for Laura.
There are very few photos of me where I am smiling or resemble anything that identifies as happiness. And there have been even fewer smiling photos than usual this year.
But today I was given some wonderful news, I saw my orthopaedic surgeon – who gave me the go ahead to play guitar *regularly*. Some of you may know that I am a classical guitarist, who has for the last several months (which felt like 10 years) has not been able to play due to a bone fragment from my elbow wrecking havoc with the ulnar nerve.
I got the swelling down to an almost manageable amount (its decreased in size by half), and my movement is good. Although, I am still struggling with rotation of my arm, in both directions. There is not a whole lot of feeling in my fingertips -but that should come back in time.
I probably should mention that I am playing because of twice weekly physio and acupuncture sessions, and once a week lesson in Alexander Technique. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I am celebrating this milestone. I have worked hard. HARD!
Anyway, today is a really special day – I am excited and happy. I sound absolutely terrible, but I must tell you – its the most glorious sound in the world.
I practiced for 28 minutes. 17 of those minutes were actually spent playing. I aim to be playing an hour a day, by the end of September.
Its 3AM and I have just woken from a recurring nightmare. I’m covered in cold sweat, I desperately need a shower, but I can’t move from my bed. It is hard for me to move around when its so dark outside. In fact, I have started going to sleep before the sun sets, because it feels safer. But I’m kidding myself. I don’t sleep, not really. Sleeping an hour or less at a time isn’t really sleep. It definitely isn’t restorative. I go to “sleep” so early, to stop myself from thinking about my past.
It’s May, and this is when my PTSD symptoms are the strongest. Historically its been like that. The more I try to cope with them, the worse it gets. Its at a point now, where I am unable to answer the phone (something that I need to do for work). I have to force myself to go outside, but unless I am wearing the darkest sunglasses -that filters out all colours, I can last about 5 minutes. Its just too green here. And green is harmful.
I don’t know why this time of year is so hard. While I remember just about every detail of my rape (I was a kid)- I don’t have any idea of when it happened. It could have happened in May – it was a warm day after all. No one was wearing a jacket, and the sun was out. But this is the time of year where its hardest to breathe, hardest to stay calm, hardest to sleep, and hardest to function like a normal person.
But I am approaching an anniversary of something else. Something that I never talk about. There are only two other people who even know it happened besides myself. One, my doctor who explained to me what happened, and a friend who I am no longer in contact with – who tried to help me figure out why it happened,
Several years ago, I was raped by my boyfriend. Note – this is my very first time calling this rape. We had been dating for about six weeks, and during an intimate moment he decided that he had waited long enough. I didn’t stop him. I was unable to speak. I was paralyzed with fear. Frozen. It was not my first time. But I was not ready. We hadn’t established a ring of trust where I was comfortable enough to be with him. After it was over, the sheets of my bed were covered in blood. He freaked out, and I spent the next 3 hours crying in the bathroom, He later told me that it wasn’t his fault. That the way men are wired, once they are aroused they can not stop. It is inevitable. This was my fault.
I knew about date rape, but I didn’t consider what had happened to be that. I hadn’t been drugged – and that is pretty much how I thought date rape occurred. I certainly didn’t think that boyfriends did this to their girlfriends. Which is why I didn’t consider it to be abuse of any kind. A girlfriend took me to see a doctor, when I told her about what happened. How empty and devoid of meaning it was. How it hurt. How there was so much blood. I was adamant that this was my fault. At that moment I didn’t think he had done anything wrong. He had patiently waited for six weeks. I owed him this. These were my thoughts. Other than him telling me that men can’t stop once they start – is the only thought of his that I know about – regarding this situation. I have no idea if he has ever thought twice about this. He broke up with me two days later. It would have been earlier, I am sure -but I couldn’t pick up the phone.
It took a visit to a doctor, a visit that I never want to have to repeat because it was so humiliating, to learn about consent. That while consent is mostly verbal it can also be physical. I learned that what my boyfriend said to me was not actually true. That just because you are in an intimate moment – if you are scared (and by scared he meant paralyzed by fear) partners pick up on this. A loving partner will not want to hurt you. That they will take that moment to discover what is wrong. its an opportunity for conversation. To make you comfortable, because that will be important to him.
I run into that “boyfriend” now and again. He was a new girlfriend or wife. He always introduces me as “Tiffany”. I have no idea why. That isn’t even remotely close to my name. But it hurts me just a little bit more when he does it. That I wasn’t worth just a little bit of effort to properly remember my name. I am more angry at myself than I am at him, now. I wont confront him about it. I just need to make peace with it.
I don’t talk about that time of my life, because I don’t like to remember how naive and stupid I was/am. This story gets worse before it gets better, I am sad to say. But eventually I find some strength. I moved on from that time. But occasionally it comes up (like it did tonight), and I struggle to make sense of it. As for the childhood stuff – I will never make sense of it. That doesn’t feel real, even though it is the most real thing that has ever happened to me.
Most of the time, I can recognize the strength it took to survive this – and the other stuff (and there is other stuff- stuff just as dark that went on for a long time), but right now these thoughts feel like they are killing me. They are attacking me from all sides, when Im not looking. They are in my dreams, I feel them around me always.
I want to walk in the sunlight. In order to do that, I need to crawl out from under the covers, and show my face to the world. Here I am. Please be kind.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with doors. Behind doors lay magical worlds. Talking creatures that were not human lived just on the other side, colours not found in our world existed there, grand adventures were to be had, but most of all behind special doors there was a place where anxiety couldn’t survive.
In the house I grew up in, closets were a special fascination. My house had huge closets. Walk-in closets, closets that could be used as clubhouses, and hiding places. Closets that could be used to escape from the noise. These were places where I could escape from myself.
These closets were big enough to drag in cushions, and mattresses, and pillows, and piles of blankets. I could bring in a stack of books, a flashlight, and mugs of iced tea, and I would be happy there for days. Sometimes I skipped sleeping in my own bed just so I could stay in that world a little longer.
Today the start of (what I call) the PTSD season snuck up on me. It does so every year. I don’t ever realize its approaching until its here – and I have a panic attack so bad that I don’t think I can survive – in case you are wondering, I did survive. But I am now aware that for the next 6-10 weeks, life is about to get a bit more challenging.
And right now, the only thing I want, is a closet big enough to drag in an air mattress, and take a flashlight, some books, and a big mug of iced tea, and move to a land (albeit temporarily) where anxiety doesn’t exist.
This is me. I don’t always look like I this, but I pretty much always feel like how I look in this photo. Scared, exhausted, and like I have just gotten my ass kicked. Also I pretty much always feel like I am six years old.
Over the past couple of years, there has been a great deal of change in the way I see myself. I have had a great deal of help from both professionals and friends- and I have come along way. But there is one area that needs a great deal of work still. I don’t actually believe that I am deserving of a good life. Professionally I mean. I have made great strides in my personal life – but I kind of forgot that there is a whole other part of my life that needs attention. And so recently I started thinking about this area.
I am a classical musician – but due to injuries I am unable to play music. I have had a teaching practice -that I have set aside for awhile, since it wasn’t working out the way I had planned, and I am was a member of a quartet, that has just started to do a lot of performing. Since I am unable to play (until at least July 1) I had to find a replacement. I have a lot of practice ahead of me, if I am to come back to where I was as a musician -and we don’t quite know yet if I will get there, even with all that work. My musical life is the only place I feel validated. When I play music I feel like I am contributing. I feel valued and respected. This is all on hold now, while I heal. And all of these feelings have gone away.
I also have a day job. And this is where my problem lies. I have dreams. Professional dreams. I want a job that is creative. I want a job that makes me happy. I want a job that challenges me. I want to be able to feel good about what I do. And I want to enjoy going to work everyday. I have none of these things. Why? Because I don’t actually believe that I should be allowed to have them.
I had great role models growing up. I grew up in a house, where not only did my mother work, and work hard, but she was incredibly successful. She made sure that I knew that I could do anything I wanted. She instilled a sense of independence in me. That stuck -I am incredibly independent. I don’t need help from anyone. I can take care of myself. And I do. But I am unhappy.
A long time ago, someone treated me like a garbage can (actually worse-but its too painful to talk about). And that feeling stuck. I have never been able to shake it off. I don’t believe people unless they say terrible things about me. I just don’t think they are truthful unless they are telling me I am useless. Probably why I can’t actually count on anyone to be sincere, unless they are angry at me. I feel better when I have goaded someone into telling me that they don’t like me. I have done this to my own family, more times than I can count. I know this is self destructive behaviour. And I have worked so hard in order to move past it. I have successfully culled toxic relationships, and built healthy supportive ones. For the first time in my life, I have a support system in place. And yet I am still broken.
I work hard. But I am unable to ask for simple things like a raise. Or for a job that I would be better suited at. I can’t even quit a job that I don’t enjoy, or one that I am not good at. I am not afraid of rejection – I have had plenty of rejection in my life. But I can’t even bring myself to be put in a position of rejection. I am unable to do anything – because I am terrified. Paralyzed. Afraid of being happy.
Because I am a garbage can. Suited only for containing trash.
For Easter, I went to a cemetery. For no reason other than to lay flowers on graves of people that I have never met. This is not something I would normally do on Easter, or really on any other day. With the exception of burial services, I have never had a reason to visit someone’s grave. For the people I have lost in my life, I think about them all the time, and I have never felt the need to visit them graveside. But its Easter, and a friend of mine suggested we go. Since she is visiting from Toronto, I decided it would be something interesting for us to do together. There is a great deal of history after all – and just by looking at the types of headstones, you can learn a lot about the styles of the day – and the kind of person that they were.
But we hit a couple of snags. First, we couldn’t find flowers. You’d think that there would be plenty of flowers to be had on Easter, but we couldn’t find any. So we settled on mandarin oranges. There are cultures that put oranges and other kinds of food to wish good fortune, to show respect towards the dead, or to offer it to the evil spirits – so they will not eat the souls of the departed. But we chose this because I have a friend who does this for someone who loved oranges, and I thought it was a really special offering.
Second, we didn’t actually know anyone who was buried in the cemetery, so we walked around for awhile, until we connected with a headstone. We would talk to it, or just stand quietly and meditate on their lives a bit. And for ones we connected with, we placed an orange on the stone, as a sign to let them know we were there and thinking about them.
The last orange I offered, was to a woman named Ethel, who died in 1935 at 28 years and 11 months. Her family chose not to use her last name. I found the bolster gravestone an interesting one – and the design of the cylinder balanced on a slab of granite, made me feel like perhaps she was a bit undecided in life – or maybe even just a little chaotic.
Photo by Sisi – Taken at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver, BC
I have a mentor. Or I had a mentor when I had a business. I guess now you could call him a friend who is much wiser than most of the people I know. He is kinda sage like. He also understands the way my brain works, which makes him unusual. Basically he is around to bounce ideas off of. And then helps me focus the ideas into something real or at least something a bit more focused (after a couple hours of chaotic brainstorming). Sometimes he puts ideas into my head. But usually the conversation between us starts off like 2 bouncing balls – they start out manageable – but with each bounce they get more and more excited and out of control.
Its been exactly a year since I decided to shut down my studio (which I closed in July of 2016), and I have spent this past year walking around in a daze. I have been so lost. I have ideas, but they don’t stick. I want to move to Spain – but I don’t have the money – because Im paying off studio debt and trying to save during this time, has proven impossible. I have wanted to relaunch the studio into something a bit different, something a bit entrepreneurial – but every time I seriously start thinking about it, I talk myself out of it. And honestly, I really don’t want to work with children anymore- so its probably best that I just lay it to rest.
So to mark the one year anniversary of me making a decision – the mentor/sage/friend comes over to have a chat. Or give a tough love talk. The tough love talks take place during a walk in the rain. This is how it plays out (in actual fact, having tough talks and walking in the rain is a lesson he learned from me):
Mentor (him)- Lets go for a walk. Leave the umbrella inside.
Laura (me)- Im not up for it.
Mentor – Im not asking you.
Laura – …. sigh fine.
M – You are not 14 and I am not your mother. Lets go!
M-(starts singing a song about an oyster whose greatest dream is to be a part of a gourmet meal to be eaten).
L- smiles a little. joins in but I don’t know the words so I just make them up. I suspect he has written the song -but the tune is too good to be his.
M- Stops singing. Ready to talk?
L. I guess. But I don’t have anything to say. I wasted the year, and I still don’t know what to do.
M. Ready to listen?
M- Do something. Anything. If you don’t want to teach, don’t teach. Build skyscrapers out of lego if you want. Do anything but stop sulking. Tired of kids – thats ok. Kids are tiring and sometimes boring.
L-I just cant figure out what comes next, nothing feels right.
M- The universe is telling you to let go of this dream for awhile. You are injured- you cant even play guitar.You want to continue on this path? Because Im telling you – you have been here before.You either do something different, or you will stay in this place forever, and I know that isn’t what you want.The last time this happened – you changed the way you taught music – and it was completely unique. Change it again. Either musically or non-musically. Just change it.
M-What are you going to do?
L-Stops walking and stares at a puddle. I am completely soaked by this point. I shake off some of the water, wipe off my glasses – look at the mentor and say – what do you think I should do?
M. I think you should write a book. What do you think you should do?
This isn’t the first time this has come up. Well, its the first time this has come up with him. But the suggestion isn’t a new one. I could probably be a fairly ok children’s book author. But his suggestion was to write a book about my method of teaching. A sort of manual – but in a reflective style.
I don’t know how to write a book. Other than starting with an outline, I know next to nothing about writing. But I’ve been thinking about this for several hours now, and I haven’t talked myself out of anything. I haven’t talked myself into anything either, but that’s neither here nor there.
Today being International Women’s Day, a very important day for all of us- since we either are or know (and probably love) a woman, I decided to share a post on my company’s Instagram page that I manage. A quote that involved something that I happen to agree with.
“They can live in my new world, or they can die in their old one.”
This is a partial quote explaining that the world has changed, you can either jump aboard, or drown waiting for things to go back to the old ways. The quote is attributed to a fictional character. A strong, independent, female character. The quote probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on this day, unless you know who said it. So here is what I posted, in all its glory:
The quote is attributed to Daenerys Targaryen. A character known for strength, fairness, and leadership skills, amongst other qualities. What didn’t occur to me when I posted this, was that this character is written by a man. A man who writes extraordinarily strong and independent women, and then usually kills them off.
But its International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate real women, not fictional characters (no matter how strong they are). I could have chosen thousands of other quotes. I could have chosen to write something myself. But I was in a hurry, and I’ve been a big angry of late – and this said what I wanted to say. It just isn’t enough. The message could be stronger, because it could have been said by a woman (original source). So I apologize to my colleagues, and customers, and anyone who saw the instagram post (most likely none of whom will read this post- but oh well – I feel better).
That said, I have chosen to leave the post up for several reasons:
I like the quote
Its International Women’s Day. I am a woman. Women are Human. Humans make mistakes. We should learn to celebrate and learn from our mistakes/failures.
Daenerys is one hell of a woman, and even though she is not exactly real, she is a good role model – or at least she has been up to what I have seen of Game of Thrones (I am only on season 5).
I grew as a person today. I experienced some presence and some sensitivity (albeit after the fact). I learned my lesson – and I am keeping the post up there to remind me (and all of us), that I am/we are not perfect. But as long as we keep learning, we can become better than who we used to be. And as long as that happens, we can survive (and thrive) in the new world.
And right now I am better than who I was at 1pm PST on March 8, 2017
Living on the West Coast, we are often spoiled. We have mild weather all year round (mostly). Yes it rains a bit – but we are rewarded with loveliness just about everywhere. This winter, we have gotten a bit of snow. Not a ton of it -but definitely more than normal. Most of the people I know are ready for spring. Not me! I’m loving the snow – and here is why:
When spring comes, people tend to be more social, there are more events, the weather is better, we go outside and talk to our neighbours, go to the beach, and barbecues, and block parties. I like those things too – but Im happy to go to one event per season, not every weekend. I prefer to be alone. I need the rest. Just having a regular day exhausts me. Spending time with others does me in for about 2 weeks.
I think nature is feeling the same way. It needs a rest. Its exhausting being pretty and social all the time. Let the world recuperate for a bit. Stay home, build a snowman in your backyard, go ski if you love to be outdoors in this weather. There is much to do. There’s lots of time to get everything done that you need to do. Summer will be here eventually.
Let the world gets some rest. Hibernate just a little bit longer.
I don’t actually believe in the patronus. I once
thought it would be great to have the spirit of a golden retriever, but friendliness doesn’t come naturally to me, and I feel kinda meh towards tennis.
But last night a good friend of mine gave me a chocolate with a bee on it. Bees are her thing -and its super cute for her. My last name sounds like a bee is nearby (if you are buzzing right now- you are very close to having a handle on my last name).
This chocolate made me think about what qualities bees bring to the game. They are industrious, sweet, community minded, hard working, social, takes no shit (also said friend swears a lot) from anyone, and is found in nature. This does describe my friend who gave me the chocolate quite well. In case you are wondering the centre of the chocolate was a honeyed caramel.
So if I was to be turned into an animal and served on a chocolate what would I be? It would be one that prefers to be alone, always has a book in hand, and sees the world in a somewhat skewed way – but definitely on their own terms.
Seems to me, that I would be the Tootsie Pop Qwl (to hell with the chocolate).