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Jul. 31st, 2013

So I want to share a very personal thing that's been on my mind to write about for a while.

You may already know that my mom died at the beginning of 2011. It's hard to believe that's two and a half years now. Time stretches and bends around anything highly emotional, doesn't it?  Sherman Alexie wrote in The Real True Diary... that no matter what age you are when a parent dies, you feel about five years old. That happened to me.

What else happened to me was this. I lost her before I lost her, because for years before her death she had rapidly worsening dementia. Looking back, I can pinpoint the moment when I really lost her, and it was long before we were finding assisted living and applying for state services. It was when she was over for a visit, and I played her a recording of a song I was covering.

See, Mom was always my biggest fan, all my life. Any show I was in, Mom would say, with absolute sincerity, "you were the best one up there!" She just seemed to believe that this was a mom's job, to believe their kids were the best and the prettiest and the most important and the smartest. (I kind of agree; the world's going to be harsh on them soon enough.) Sometimes I took it for granted in a "oh geez mom" sort of way, but it was always a comfort to know that no matter what happened and no matter how it went, she was always there; I could always count on her for unconditional support and reassurance.

So there was a time that she was over for a visit, and her mind and memory were already going, but we really didn't understand how much yet. Also we were all kind of in denial.  And I played her this recording. And when it was over, she kind of shrugged, and frowned, and said in a disinterested voice, "Well, I didn't understand it, but..." and trailed off, looking bored.

And that was when I knew she wasn't really her anymore. Oh, she came and went, there were better days and worse days before the really bad ones... but from then on, she was a different person. Because Mom would never have dismissed my music like that. That was really when she stopped being Mom.

Mom taught me nearly everything I knew about singing, about performing, about interacting with an audience, about songwriting. And through the years of her illness, and in the years after her death, too, something started happening to me that it took me a long time to see. I wrote much less music; I felt like I couldn't do it anymore. I felt blocked. I sang much less; I avoided gigs unless Tony talked me into them. I avoided recording altogether. I had to be dragged to rehearsals. I still had fun on stage, for the most part, but... getting there was so hard. I didn't even listen to much music on the radio or ipod anymore.

It took me a long time to realize that I'd made an unconscious association, I'd developed a sort of trigger: Music hurts.

Music reminded me of Mom. Music equaled grief. Anything to do with music stirred up a bunch of emotional responses I didn't always even understand. Sometimes I picked fights. Sometimes I cried. Sometimes I got stubborn about stupid stuff.

It didn't help that the year or two after her death were like a Series of Unfortunate Events. There was a relationship that ended in unanswered questions. There was a show that was fun on stage but where the planning and rehearsals were a circle of hell. There was a smear campaign on a mailing list. There was a con that was an organizational nightmare. There was a musician who seemed to find us good enough to play with but not good enough to socialize with. There was a show where almost nobody came; there was a show where almost nobody smiled. There was a misunderstanding with another band. There were feelings of being used. There was jealousy and doubt and insecurity over musicians who are just plain better than me.

Not all of these were things that would've affected me deeply were it not for the equation already in my head. But because it was there, everything piled up and reinforced it. Music hurts.

Music is more than a part of who I am; it's the basis of who I am. It was everywhere in my childhood, the foundation of my family and my home, of my relationship with both of my parents, and of everything that meant comfort and belonging.  I don't know how to explain how it feels to have the thing you are be the thing that triggers your pain and grief. It's like an autoimmune disease. It's like being unable to decide whether you want to punch yourself or run away and keep on running. It sucks, is what I'm saying.

Realizing what was happening didn't just make it disappear, of course, although it did allow me to become a little more analytical about my responses to things. I've been fighting my way back. I'm still fighting. Getting into the recording booth is still an internal struggle, one that usually requires a good cry after I'm done. Songwriting is still something I have to drag myself kicking and screaming to do. To get up on stage I have to take deep breaths and babble my way past anxiety attacks and remind myself it'll be fun. (And it is.)

Little things happen. We recorded "Likho's Lullabye," which is a capella, and without any instruments at all to mask my voice from myself I was struck while singing just how much I sounded like her. I sounded exactly like her. I almost couldn't finish the song.

Music hurts.

It hasn't stopped hurting yet. It hurts less now, the more I'm able to remember the good things and heal from the bad ones. (Caring for someone with dementia includes some pretty horrific moments.) It gets easier.  Nobody can tell you how long it takes to get over a death. It's not a steady path, either; some days feel like improvement and others feel like relapse.

(Incidentally, I don't need suggestions for treatment etc., kindly meant though I'm sure they would be; I've been talking to medical professionals and to trusted friends, I've been getting help and I've got a support network. I'm good on that score.)

On the whole, it's getting better, as they say, all the time.

All this is why... well, probably why just about anything you might have been wondering why I've done or not done lately.

Comments

( what 49 dormice said — feed your head )
spectralbovine
Aug. 1st, 2013 06:49 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this story. I hope it continues to get better. *hug*
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :) *hug*
johno
Aug. 1st, 2013 07:07 am (UTC)
I hear, I understand, I shut up and offer hugs.
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
Virtual hugs are always good!
katyhh
Aug. 1st, 2013 07:41 am (UTC)
*many hugs*
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you sweetheart.
lisa_marli
Aug. 1st, 2013 10:49 am (UTC)
*more hugs* You are a lovely talented woman, and I do hope to hear you a lot more. You already know you are not alone, and we will all cheer you on to more singing and love.
Losing Mom is always the hardest thing we can do. Sounds like you are doing everything to handle it.
Take care over there.
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you :)
ericcoleman
Aug. 1st, 2013 11:37 am (UTC)
I was wondering why, the last few times I have seen you in circle you didn't sing much. Now it makes sense. I have nothing else to add but yeah, I get it, been there, and the promise of future hugs.
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
It's good to know so many people understand.
alicebentley
Aug. 1st, 2013 11:53 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for writing about this. I haven't been there, but I've been nearby, and hearing your journey is is a real help with mine. Best of all wishes for moving forward from here!
reedrover
Aug. 1st, 2013 04:30 pm (UTC)
I would like to second the words above. Reading your thoughts is a real help with my troubles as well.

In particular, thank you for pointing out that I should be looking for associations and behavior changes that ... aren't right... stemming from prolonged loss, and that working on them might take time.
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
It actually really helps me both to hear that other people go through this and to know it's helping someone else when I write about it. Thanks. :)
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:29 pm (UTC)
I wrote for myself, but I'm so glad to hear that it might help someone else. Best wishes to you too.
maverick_weirdo
Aug. 1st, 2013 12:58 pm (UTC)
Is listening to music also painful, or just performing?
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
Sometimes both.
dormouse_in_tea
Aug. 1st, 2013 01:08 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it's starting to get better.
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
:)
lemmozine
Aug. 1st, 2013 01:10 pm (UTC)
I must have a lot in common with your mom. This just makes me want to tell you you were the best one up there. Because it's true. You are absolutely one of the most talented performers I've ever heard. Even background singing, you don't disappear into the background. Until I heard Tony perform solo, I had no clue what a great guitar player and talented, funny performer he was, because I am in awe of both your writing and vocal ability, and have been since I first heard you at the NASFiC in 2005.

If anything I say could convince you to just ignore all the showbiz BS and sing more often, well, if someone could do that, they'd be doing the world a favor.

And by the way, I think your mom sounds like a cool person, and I wish I could have met her before all that stuff started happening.

Edited at 2013-08-01 01:11 pm (UTC)
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:31 pm (UTC)
*blush* You are kind. Thank you.

ANd yeah... she was awesome. :)
filkerdave
Aug. 1st, 2013 01:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this.

Many hugs.

Edited at 2013-08-01 01:16 pm (UTC)
vixyish
Aug. 4th, 2013 07:31 pm (UTC)
*hugs back*
catsittingstill
Aug. 1st, 2013 01:19 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry. I hope you continue to heal. I love your music, and have since the first time I heard you do a song about Arthur and Merlin in a song circle lo these many years ago (pre-Escape Key, I think.) So if you get to where you can do music and be happy, I would cheer.

And it sounds like things are slowly moving that way, so great. But I'd rather know you are happy than have your music, if you see what I mean. Do what you need to do to feel better.
sheistheweather
Aug. 1st, 2013 01:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this.

I tried to write more, but none of it came out right, so there's just wordless empathy.

*hugs, if you want them*
smallship1
Aug. 1st, 2013 01:38 pm (UTC)
And you came and sang for us, while you were going through all that.

Wow.

Thank you. *hugs*
billroper
Aug. 1st, 2013 02:09 pm (UTC)
I don't know that the death of a loved one is ever something that you "get over". It's just something that "is" that eventually starts to hurt less most of the time, even when you run into the triggers, and where the things that you regret are just things that you regret.

The good parts will always be there, whenever you want them.

*hugs*
mdlbear
Aug. 2nd, 2013 03:41 am (UTC)
very much this. *hugs*
maribou
Aug. 1st, 2013 02:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, vix. Love and strength to you across the mountains.

And thank you for writing about it, because the family thing I've been going through this year (for the past six years, actually), that I still don't really want to write down? One of the hardest parts of it is that "I don't know how to explain how it feels to have the thing you are be the thing that triggers your pain and grief. It's like an autoimmune disease. It's like being unable to decide whether you want to punch yourself or run away and keep on running. It sucks, is what I'm saying." For me, it's being outdoors, especially at night. And reading books. Two things that always meant - still mean - Who Maribou Is. And, yes, what you said. That's how it is. If my two things had the performance component yours does, I don't know what I would've done.

I'm sorry for your losses, friend. I'm glad you've kept on keeping on, for both selfish and friendly reasons.
avhn
Aug. 1st, 2013 02:42 pm (UTC)
<3 Can't think of anything eloquent to say, except that you are amazing and brave, and I hope you keep fighting to be happy and keep your music.
ladymondegreen
Aug. 1st, 2013 03:09 pm (UTC)
I don't know how to explain how it feels to have the thing you are be the thing that triggers your pain and grief.

This gets me where I live too. If you ever want to talk about it, I am here, and listening. I think about this topic a lot in a rather different context.

That being said, reclaiming something for yourself is one of the hardest things we do in life. You have my empathy and my support and my love.
eeyorerin
Aug. 1st, 2013 03:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing with us. I hope it keeps getting better.

You're still the best one up there to me.
herefox
Aug. 1st, 2013 03:46 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you're coming back from it, hard as it might be. The world would be a much sadder place without you doing music.

peteralway
Aug. 1st, 2013 04:13 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry to hear this, and hope it gets better. All I can say is that for me as a listener, your music does the opposite of hurting. Any time I have the pleasure of hearing you sing, it brings joy.
valydiarosada
Aug. 1st, 2013 04:27 pm (UTC)
*hugs*
hsifyppah
Aug. 1st, 2013 04:59 pm (UTC)
Your music's okay, I guess, but I really think you should go back to your career making cards with macaroni and glitter glue because you are AMAZING at that.

Wait, did I do that right? I so should not have skipped all those mom school classes.

HELPFULLY, BROOKE
katyhh
Aug. 1st, 2013 07:55 pm (UTC)
I want a macaroni glitter card :)
erinwrites
Aug. 1st, 2013 05:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, vixy...*hugs*

Thank you for sharing this.
judifilksign
Aug. 1st, 2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this. I hope that your music will bring you comfort and joy again, as it used to do. {hugs}
admnaismith
Aug. 1st, 2013 07:18 pm (UTC)

My experience is, yeah, there are those losses where the pain never quite goes away. But it does have a half life. The thing that hurt like a huge gaping abyss in the soul yesterday and that still hurts like a hole in the heart today will be a papercut tomorrow, and--not now, not soon, but before too long--it will be like one of those bad smells that, after you've been in the room with it long enough, you don't really notice.

This too shall pass.

And I've told you before, but it bears repeating: The night your face peeked out from behind someone else to tentatively propose a follow-up song, the one that parodied both Jordin Kare and Tom Smith, remains on my top ten mind-blowing filk moments. Your Kitten sundae concert set at Orycon is another. And my Toastmaster show at Conflikt, that you helped put together and performed at is yet one more. You, Vixy, have blown my mind more than any other filker.

Most of my favorite listening experiences at cons have involved you. Most of my best singing experiences at cons have involved singing with you. Many of my favorite socializing experiences at cons have involved you and people close to you. And I know that there are many, many people who are around you at cons much more than I am, who will say the same multiplied by ten or more. Music fandom has been blessed by you, and if you never sang again we would always have these memories. That and Thirteen.

We've had similar experiences with our mothers. If there's anything I can say or do to help, you know how to message me. I wish you healing and energy and appreciation, for you deserve it.
gement
Aug. 1st, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
I'm here.
k_crow
Aug. 1st, 2013 11:29 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this, Vixy. *offers hugs* I wish you healing, and I'm so glad you have support from many different people. Take care.
gorgeousgary
Aug. 2nd, 2013 12:22 am (UTC)
*HUGS*
geojlc
Aug. 2nd, 2013 03:10 am (UTC)
Hugs!

I've experienced music hurting in small doses. I hate it and feel like it's unfair because music is a large part of my life as well. But I've come to recognize that it's sometimes a thing. Sometimes I can work through it, but sometimes I have to put music on a shelf for a while until it doesn't hurt so much.

I'm so sorry you had to deal with the one more thing and one more thing. Those sound like an awful series of events to work through even if music wasn't hurting!

I don't know if it will help, but I love your music. I love listening to you sing, and sitting up in the front row at your concerts is one of my favorite things ever! I also think you are a nifty shiny person both on and off stage! :-)
jenk
Aug. 2nd, 2013 03:30 am (UTC)
While I read this, My Story Is Not Done," with you singing harmony, came on the iPod.

I <3 your music. If you don't want to do it, that's your choice. *hugs* offered.
kat_merle
Aug. 2nd, 2013 05:55 am (UTC)
*hugs* I am sorry I haven't been there in the crowd to be another face grinning and dancing along while you sing I never have been able to sit still in your concerts after all. I have been dealing with my own issues but know that each time you post about a performance you will be doing it tugs at my heartstrings and I long to be in the audience listening to you. Love and hugs and an ear to listen or shoulder to cry on should you ever need them.
thegreenyear
Aug. 2nd, 2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
I read this whole thing. Thank you for sharing it. And I'm sending good vibes to you as you heal.
joecoustic
Aug. 3rd, 2013 11:30 am (UTC)
*hugs* I really identify with this, in fact far more than I realized before I read it and thought about it. Thank you.
quadrivium
Aug. 4th, 2013 03:20 am (UTC)
I'm tearing up reading this. This is the sort of thing that I would respond to with a wordless warm hug and not try to explain all the many ways this resonates with me. So I'll leave it at that:

Wordless warm hug, virtual across teh internets for now.
filkferengi
Aug. 5th, 2013 03:52 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for sharing this.

[Crassly practical tip from a middle-aged fan: if/when you need to cry, be sure you're already sitting on the commode. That way, when you have to blow your nose, there's no risk of wetting your pants. Just in case.]
( what 49 dormice said — feed your head )

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