‘ Well You, walked the plank; now get swimming’

Damn; Why Can’t I Sleep Tonight?

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It’s 11.10pm, Thursday 6 February 2014; I awoke just over an hour ago, I having a few slices of buttered bread, a small piece of chicken and a very large mug of tea, extra sugar. So why am I only just getting out of bed? Insomniac? No. Professional Night Crawler? No. Lazy bum who sits around doing nothing all day? Hmmm, pretty close!

No actually the ‘real’ reason is I’m awaiting a live seminar for students on a course learning internet business techniques and implementation. The Webinar is in the U.S at 9pm, not sure of the exact location, but here in the UK that’s 2am in the morning. Hoping to sleep until 1.30am, I found myself tossing and turning thinking it’s must be near 1am, I look at the clock and it’s still only 10.05pm, aaaarrg (went to bed at 6.30pm); I guess I must be excited, or nervous, either way, no more sleep so time to get up.

It might have been nerves preventing my sleep. I have been nervous all day, to put it mildly. A more precise term would be TERRIFIED; from the moment I awoke at 8.15 until about 4.10pm I was gripped with fear, and couldn’t shake it. Today’s bout of fear was easily the longest and most intense I’ve experienced since leaving my 11-year long job exactly 6 weeks ago.

Why this fear? My life is a self made conundrum at the moment, I’m in no man’s land not knowing where to turn and how to go forward, needing to work to pay rent, bank account shrinking, hating the idea of going back into another office, but knowing that doing so as a casual worker will offer the funds urgently needed to make ends meet for another couple of months, wondering if I’m insane for trying to see if affiliate work is a ‘viable’ option, wondering how I can make use of my other passion; piano playing, wondering if I am really listening to my inner voice, my gut, my intuition.

But let’s be really honest here, the crux of it all is in something that gradually occurred to me in the past two weeks. After leaving the job, I worked with another company as a casual for a month, and decided to take 2 weeks off to investigate other options and to indulge myself in an unreasonable amount of piano playing (which I loved 🙂 ). Well, during this two week break, something has slowly started to reveal itself to me; FEAR. I’ve managed to become completely ‘blocked’ by fear, I mean, yeah, I listened to my voice (after many months of self nagging and pleading) to get out of a job that was making me very unhappy, but now I feel almost completely immobilised by fear.

Prove It To Me!

 Judge

I took this two week break, but it’s not exactly what I really wanted, but was a way of settling because I didn’t have the courage to tell the people I was working for that this is definitely NOT what I want to continue doing and that I was looking for something else, the words just couldn’t leave my mouth; I felt ashamed as I walked home on that last day before the 2 week break.

I have a glowing CV ( I think it’s called a Resume in other countries) (Ok I exaggerate a little about the glowing CV), but 11 years of experience means I would have no trouble slotting into a temporary post, but for fear of rejection and possibly getting ‘lazy and complacent’ and stuck in another office job again, I am too scared to send my CV out to multiple recruitment agencies.

Even with this course and the training involved, I get terrified by how ‘pro-active’ one needs to be in setting up an internet venture, and that MORE THAN ANYTHING has got me panicked and wanting to run for the hills, except in this part of London, there’s hardly a hill in site, and anyway, who would I be escaping from? Myself? Hmmm, now that sounds ludicrous to me, how can I escape myself? I mean when I got to the safe destination, I would still be there, hot on my own tail; all that running for nothing.

Who The Hell Am I?

So this revelation has been quietly creeping up on me over the last few weeks until yesterday and the day before, I started to feel embarrassment as the ‘Eureka’ light went on upstairs, revealing what I possibly am; a coward? Afraid to take the plunge? A sayer and not a doer? The irony of it is that (yes I’ve discovered that the universe is full of irony) one reason I dropped this job was to find out who the hell I am, and maybe the Universe has responded saying, ‘ok, you wanna know who the hell you are? Well, I’m gonna show you.. to the full extent’… and I found myself thinking this morning that perhaps the best thing that has come out of this two week break is this discovery of who I am, or who believe I currently am.

Ok, well after some thought and browsing the internet looking for products to promote, I stumbled across a web site discussing limiting beliefs and how to put them to sleep. Well after reading a few paragraphs, it hit me. This is where I am at the moment, this might be the cause of my inaction, self-limiting beliefs. I make it sound like an excuse, well it’s not, or maybe it is. I guess it’s something I’ve used as a way of not taking charge or taking responsibility for myself, always having to wait for others to say, Marvin, you have the talent, use it. People can only repeat this to you so many times before they get fed up of seeing their words fall on deaf ears of a person with a wishy washy heart.

So here I am in the quiet of my room now midnight exactly, a slightly aching neck spasm accompanies me, it has been my companion several times the last 6 weeks, it’s the fear and resulting panic manifesting in bodily symptoms, due to the mind thinking ‘You’ll FAIL, it’ll all go wrong, You won’t succeed.’

Why the hell am I blogging this? Why the hell? I don’t know, I thought it would be good to write it down. I’ve found that looking back on these thoughts is often an intensive to get my butt moving. I’ve walked the plank and now it’s time to swim. Paradoxically, even in the middle of these fear fests, some little feeling pops up and says to me, ‘Marvin, you’ve done the right thing, keep on going, keep on pushing, you won’t regret it’… and I believe that little voice 100%, because despite the fear, I have never felt so sure about the decision I made to walk out and start trying to find what I can be passionate about. Now it’s just up to me to ‘live’ it.

Actually, I wasn’t The First!

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Interestingly I’m beginning to understand that this angst, terror, overwhelming fear is a fairly normal reaction to this type of situation. The insight has come through reading many online blogs of those who have already walked the dreaded path; they eventually passed through the fire. It’s obvious why I hesitated for so long; 7 months before leaving, it was already the absolute final straw, but I still took 6 months to give my notice, and I have had several rants in previous years. It’s funny looking back on Face-book comments and emails of a couple of years ago with me saying, ‘what the hell am I doing in this place’, and noticing I was still sat there for who knows what reason. So I now understand what blocked the beginning of this journey and I appreciate it now. It is also understandable why so many people cannot take action towards an uncertain future which may or may not work out, and would rather stick with a painful but familiar situation (better the devil you know; as they say)

Honesty IS the best policy

I definitely belief this statement, though I’m a little suspicious of where it comes from. I don’t know what my future holds, I don’t know exactly what to do, I’m terrified at times, other times I feel this inexplicable happiness. Before moving on from the job, I was writing to a colleague and said to her ‘I can turn my had to anything’, and I know that to be true, I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, I think that’s true of many people; all the more so if you find something you are ‘enthusiastic’ about. The admonishment that has followed me from the back of my mind in these last few days is ‘Marvin, I know you’re scared, but keep on pushing through, keep on working at it, don’t stop, just do what’s required, do what you know you need to do’… I listen to this, and am becoming more and more convinced that the voice is right. As I walked down the stairs after visiting the bathroom earlier, before I thought of writing this blog, I thought to myself, an often repeated thought, that, I don’t want to die without having lived. In the last couple of weeks, whilst sat in my room looking out the window facing the main road (on my 2 week break from work) I have seen 3 funeral processions pass by; I also overheard two co-tenants talking about a friend that unexpectedly died recently; and with each of those events, that uneasy feeling visits again, what if today was my last day?

This isn’t one of those blogs where the blogger ends by saying they started a multimillion making internet company, or they sailed around the world visiting 40 countries, it’s one where the book has been opened and the pages are empty ready to be written on, I guess it’s where, the world traveller and the self made millionaire, or anybody else who in the smallest way took the reins of life, where they all began. Some of you are yet to get where I am, some of you have passed this road already. It’s been educational reading the many experiences from both sides of the water;

The Day I left the permanent 9-5 (well, my mind left, but my body held on for two more years)

Recently I have been reading countless blogs about people who decided to be true to what moves them, to what makes them tick,  to their deepest desires, especially what work they would like to do. The stories and actions of all these bloggers have inspired me so much, especially since it sometimes feels easier to give up on trying to find something of value, something to wake up for every day. Would it be wiser to take the line of least resistance, doing what the majority do, taking the safe road? Well all this reading got me thinking, and I thought I would talk about my experience and what brought me to the point where I am reading blogs on this subject on a daily basis and wondering “what next?” and “how the hell do I move forward from here?”

The Awakening

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It was about 9.am on a weekday morning. As usual, my walk from the local underground station to my office was painfully slow. I watched as the usual ‘running late’ commuters sped past me at a frantic walking pace in an effort to cut even a few seconds off their lateness, in a maybe futile attempt to pacify their boss, or who ever would be witness to their lateness. Funny really, London transport can be such a nightmare between 8 and 9.am, with the mainline Victoria Station gridlocked, with train and tube delays, and limited passenger access to overfilled platforms.

You would think the regular late comers would just stroll into work 5,10, 15 minutes late, and give the usual excuse, “sigh…those bloody trains again.” But no, they run like hell trying to salvage an extra 12.3 seconds so their lateness doesn’t look too late, but more like an ‘acceptable’ lateness. So I’m observing the latecomers as I walk a painfully slow pace, almost as though I’m heading for my execution and attempting to delay it to the very last possible moment.  As I approach the main door of our office building I suddenly stop (this is wrong of course because I ‘should’ have been starting my ‘fake’ panicked-run into the office while pretending to be out of breath so I could give the impression that i did absolutely everything to NOT be late). I can’t remember what I had been thinking on that 7 minute walk from the station to the office but, whatever it was, it stopped me in my tracks, my feet anchored firmly to the office entrance paving.  I was going NOWHERE.  I looked around for a few seconds and then 7 words came out of my mouth in a whispering tone, “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?” This question wasn’t addressed to someone in particular, it was a rhetorical question just thrown out there. I didn’t need an answer, there was no answer anyway, or so I thought. 

In that very moment I ‘knew’ something was wrong, terribly wrong. But I would have to wait several months before finding out just how wrong things were and WHY they were so wrong. 

This wasn’t the first time I had asked this question. This type of questioning normally came after a holiday abroad spent doing things I loved; being with friends, day-long mountain hikes, banquet style meals on a warm summer’s evening surrounded by loved ones and laughter. Yep, the rhetorical why why why questions usually came in the middle of a post-holiday depression, after the ‘doing what you love for a few weeks’ had ended, and you then returned to doing things you definitely didn’t love, things you disliked, or utterly hated.

But this time, there was no post-holiday depression, because I hadn’t been anywhere. ALARM BELLS… From that moment on I realised my days were numbered in that office, unfortunately, at the time I didn’t realise that those ‘numbered days’ would amount to approximately 820, yes, it took me two years and three months to finally muster up the courage to tell my boss I was leaving. I was harboring so much ‘fear of the unknown’ that I was willing to sit in a horribly painful situation that was driving me insane, rather than take the plunge into the unknown.  So that was the answer to my question two years before; ‘What the hell am I doing here? ‘Fear of the Unknown’

I walked out of that office as an employee for the last time on 27 December 2013. It felt weird, well, maybe not ‘weird’, but it didn’t feel as I had anticipated, no feelings of elation, no jumping for joy, no tears of bitterness, just peace, just quiet, it felt as though I was doing something totally normal, nothing unusual. It was a very quiet sunny Friday afternoon, hardly any workers about, the whole train network system at Victoria station had seized up, nothing was working. So I took myself off via the underground to my second home, Guys Hospital where they have 3 grand pianos sitting in various public areas, and I sat and played for a few hours then I headed home not having the faintest idea what I would do next and how my life would pan out.

The Reawakening

wake up call chicken

So what got me here to this place, walking out on a job I had been in for 11 years, not having any idea about where to go and what to do?

It all began one day in about February 2012 when I was working at the office with the radio playing in the background. Suddenly something caught my attention. The radio host was interviewing a former Australian palliative nurse named Bronnie Ware, her job was to counsel terminally ill cancer patients in the last days of their lives. What caught my attention was a list she talked about detailing the 5 most common regrets expressed by these dying patients.

The two regrets that made me stop and listen were:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

  2. I wish that I had let myself be happier

here is a link to the full article;

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying

Being happier came in as 5th place regret. Being true to yourself was by far the biggest most common regret… This lady’s words struck me to the core, everything I was doing until this point was out of my willingness to ignore what I really felt inside, so that I could live up to other people’s expectations; I was even being called a ‘yes man’ behind my back by a few people in my social circle,  I was a chronic people pleaser, and I was addicted to listening to and solving OTHER people’s problems.

The Long Road To Action

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From that day on, something inside me moved, it took 2 years of constant reminders via painful situations at work, in my home life and elsewhere, for me to finally get the courage to start doing more of what I loved and to walk out of that office that was killing me. To some of my colleagues it seemed as if I was jumping off a cliff I walked with no guaranteed place to work. I feel I had no choice it was either, walk out of the job or walk into the nearest mental institution.

Shortly after leaving my job (look I’m still calling it ‘my job’, that’s how attached I was to it), I had several panic attacks, and overwhelming feelings of terror, visions of being homeless, not having food etc. But every so often, a different feeling overtakes me, a feeling of ‘thank you for listening to yourself, you have done completely the right thing’… this doesn’t come in words, it is a feeling, and it is an absolutely happy feeling of self love that I can’t really explain; I guess if you’ve had that feeling from following your path in absolute truth then you know what I’m talking about.

So, I’ve taken the plunge and am practically falling in mid-air… what next? I’ve no idea, after many years of working in many places prior to my 11-year stint, I know I can put my hand to anything really, but that isn’t the goal, it’s to find what I can do and love doing and do that, it may not be an instant thing, but the first thing is, I have the flexibility to decide when to work and when not to so I can give more time to my current passions. And it’s only just begun…

REFLECTIONS ON ‘NOT NECESSARILY NECESSARY’ LAUGHING

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To laugh is a ‘funny’ thing (excuse the play on words 🙂 )

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I think laughter is part of somebody’s MASTER PLAN for humanity. Today, sitting eating lunch in the Royal Brompton Hospital surrounded by hospital staff, I noticed how people relax and unwind during their lunch break. Eating is a priority of course; but, there was laughter, lots of it. As I sat quietly I noticed four guys at a round table chatting, then suddenly one of them bursts into laughter, his back arched to almost 90 degrees, mouth raised toward the ceiling as if to let it all out and send it to the heavens; the guy opposite him bends over like a crouching porcupine, holding his ribs, shoulders shaking, head bowed, as if the laugh hurts it’s so good. The other two remain upright, perfectly vertical, but looking energised, then after all the body shaking, they relax into some quiet conversation again; the laugh has done its job, whatever that is. So now I’m intrigued and watching them for the next breakout, but in my right ear, suddenly a female laugh. My eyes dart towards the sound and there’s this lady sat with a man, she’s bent completely back, mouth in the air, hair back, eyes to the ceiling, AND, she clapping while she laughs, (have you ever noticed someone clapping while they laugh??? Why on earth???? But who cares anyway) it’s almost a look of madness, but I don’t care, it makes me smile, and feel good inside… now I’m hooked, I continue to look around the staff canteen, and every now and then someone explodes into spontaneous laughter, it’s all over the place.

Dare I make a completely not scientifically proven observation? I think laughing offers people the chance, just for a few moments, to step completely out of their daily social image and be totally free. When you’re having a gut busting laugh it’s almost impossible to be worried about how you look in that moment, you don’t care… nothing is important, you’re in the throes of ecstatic laughter, it’s powerful… and it’s contagious.

Watch out… you might catch Laughter-itis.          

Years ago, I was traveling on the underground at the weekend, it was late at night, and this guy steps onto the tube at one of the stations; but as he’s walking in he’s having fits of completely uncontrollable laughter, he just can’t stop, and the thing is, as he’s having this laugh, he’s also trying to explain to the uneasy fellow travelers, what’s made him laugh, but he can’t stop long enough to put the words together, his sentence is broken up with laughter… so he just carries on laughing and laughing, you know those laughs where it hurts so much you want to stop because your ribs are hurting and your head hurts, but you can’t stop because you’re totally out of control, with tears rolling down your face? That’s how this guy was, rolling all over his seat, rocking back and forth laughing… well after a short time I started to notice other passengers’ shoulders jigging up and down as they began giggling and chuckling, and as he carried on, people also started laughing out loud, I couldn’t help it either, I started to laugh, in fact as I type this, I keep chuckling as I remember it. So there we all were, total strangers, in one half of the tube carriage, laughing and laughing. He got to his stop, stumbled out of the doors and went his way, and people were still laughing and smiling, and none of them knew what they were really laughing at. It didn’t matter; it was a moment of complete happiness and satisfaction. I wonder if some of the people on that tube carriage still tell that story to this day.

What are you laughing at? – Laughing when it is not called for.Man Laughing
Have you ever been with someone, a person you feel very comfortable with, and you make eye contact and just laugh…. For no apparent reason? It might have been a strange facial expression one of you made, or maybe somebody said something that sparked a memory in both of you and as you look at each other you realise, this is hilarious, and you laugh, it’s a silly laugh, childish and irresponsible, but you didn’t care, it made you feel great. (Warning: please use this type of laughter cautiously, you may be chastised or glared at for apparently behaving inappropriately  😀  )

I was on my way home from work the other day, and having just exited the train station, crossing the road I noticed someone out of the corner of my eye trying to get my attention, and as I turned, I looked at her and realised it was one of my neighbours. I pulled the headphones from my ears. She looked at me and while pointing at my headphones she said…“see what I mean?”… We both just started laughing. We had a conversation a couple of weeks ago about being plugged into technology 24/7 and missing what’s around us because of it, and as soon as she pointed at the headphones and said ‘See?’, it sparked my memory and I knew I had been ‘Busted’, lol.

Up to this point, my day had been pretty, how can I put it?, pretty rubbish, and I wasn’t in a good mood; but all of a sudden I’m laughing, as though I had an instant personality change, my Alter Ego came into being, and the miserable Marvin evaporated.

We then stepped into the local Chinese Takeaway so she could get her dinner, the owner calls me by name, ‘Hello Marvin’…. Again, my neighbour looks at me, and starts laughing, and this starts me off again, lol… (I won’t explain why this happened but, use your imagination) We carried on talking and laughing, and as we talked, laughing at nothing in particular, silly things really, my mind stepped back from the conversation and started thinking; ‘here we are sitting here laughing, I don’t know why we’re laughing so much, there’s nothing particularly funny happening, but this feels good, I’m not complaining. Then I returned to fully participating in the conversation.

I noticed a few people looking at us who seemed either puzzled or a little annoyed at us two immature kids giggling like naughty adolescents, hmmmmmm, perhaps our laughing was ‘not necessary appropriate’ to them.  I also noticed a couple of people smiling at us while we were having these ‘silly’ laughs, Obviously they were on our wavelength, and the happiness was ‘infecting’ them, it wasn’t intentional, it was just happening. So, I totally forgot about my miserable day and went home and enjoyed my evening.

Not been laughing enough lately?

Obviously because of various belief systems, where laughter came from is a highly debatable subject, I’m not here to get into that, but I thank whoever came up with this great idea for soothing the soul. I happened to read a bit of information today that shocked me. It stated that children laugh 300 times a day on average, whereas adults laugh on average only 17 times a day. Oh my god, is adulthood so bleak? Are we taking ourselves too seriously? Are we ‘that’ stressed? I don’t know. All I can say is if laughter has such a great effect, then why on earth are adults removing it from the equation of life??????????????????

Wake up people; the irony is, we probably need to laugh even more than kids do because we are no longer blissfully unaware of life’s difficulties. As the saying goes ‘if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry’….  🙂

Below is a link to a great article on laughing, with suggestions on how to go about bringing more laughter into your life. Lot’s of resources and links to other interesting articles are made available on this page. Enjoy

http://www2.ca.uky.edu/hes/fcs/factshts/hsw-caw-807.pdf

What Happened To The Magic?

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What happened to the magic?

Thursday 11 July, I sit at work frustrated. It is after 5pm, way after 5pm, almost 6pm; I should’ve finish at 5. As the minutes pass and my huge mountain of work ever so slowly shrinks, my irritation grows; who am I irritated at? At my colleague who complains to the management if I don’t finish all my work? At my managers for not quite understanding how hard I work? Or at myself, yep, at Marvin, for not having the guts to stop working at 5 o’clock, leave the work behind, and explain that the afternoon was very busy, and therefore, I, not being SUPERMAN, couldn’t finish it and went home when you stop paying me, at 5pm.

As I sat brooding, I thought; “Marvin, why are you doing this to yourself? You can’t stand this job, it bores the life out of you, you’re feeling completely unmotivated and demoralised, you’ve had enough and you’ve been threatening to leave this place for years. Yet here you are, working your guts out, doing unpaid overtime ‘for the company’… You’re sitting here staying late, working at something you absolutely loath with every inch of your soul”… Are you mad?

As I  griped, bitching like an old man on a hate campaign against the establishment, my eyes slowly lowered to my desk. I became silent.

On the desk there were two drawings, basic sketches, primitive really, nothing Picasso, but something I did with all my enthusiasm, 100% effort, carefully crafted with love. These little things gave me great pleasure and filled me with a sense of pride, happy that I created something. As I stared at my masterpieces I suddenly thought to myself, “now THIS, THIS is what I like doing”. A smile came to my lips.

Then it hit me! Like a bolt of lightning. Like a brick in the face, BANG, it hit me hard. Everything stopped, no work, no thoughts, no anger, no bitching; just stunned silence. In that moment my mind opened the truth to me, suddenly, all of it. Every other thought disappeared out the back door.

The thought:

I spend a large portion of my day engaged in something that gives me no pleasure whatsoever, leaves me emotionally exhausted, and physically lethargic; it robs me of the desire to do ‘anything’ interesting when I get home, even the few hobbies I try to maintain; I just want to Flop down on the bed and watch TV whilst eating fast food.. IS THIS WHAT LIFE IS FOR?

(Yes, I know I know I know I know; this IS totally my own choice, I’m here because I chose this job, and continue to voluntarily attend work every day like a willing slave… etc etc)

Big me – The Vortex – young me

As I gazed at the desk thinking this, something very very weird came over me; I don’t even know how to explain it. It felt like some sort of out-of-body body experience. If this happens again, I’ll go see my doctor; I Promise  🙂    I seemed to get physically sucked into a time vortex, taking my mind and body back to a pre-adult Marvin, it felt like I was really there, in some unspecified time in history; I was no longer in the office, I was somewhere long ago and far away. I was suddenly remembering all the things I loved doing and experimenting with back then, all the things I used to do to keep life interesting. They all dropped on me like a pile of books from an unstable shelf. And I couldn’t handle the falling mass, it just floored me;

Drawing,
Pinhole photography
Playing instruments
Singing (you don’t wanna hear that :-D)
Break Dancing & Body Popping
Astronomy
Pulling apart everything electronic attempting to fix them
Story teller
Origami
Recording my own ‘actions Stories’ on cassette
Trying to Make Kites
Paper plane making (ask me to make you one, I make one super-badass Concord, it flies on and on forever)
Darts
Football
Knock down Ginger (do any of you remember that?)
Constructing the most ‘crude’ musical instruments
Long Jump
Primitive Gymnastics
Wall Climbing
Bicycle stunts
Rubik’s cubes and other puzzles

The list went on and on…But before I could even understand what was happening to me, I get dragged back through the time vortex and find myself sitting at my desk; it’s about 6.05pm (I’m normally home by that time)

Back to the Future
While finishing the last bits of work before breaking free from self-imposed psychological imprisonment, I start to reflect; Back then, Every little break during school was an opportunity to unleash pent up energy via some ‘interesting’ self created activity, all the kids were doing it, at least that’s what it seemed like, and when outside school, especially during the summer holidays, the activities just increased all the more. To us it was completely normal, why wouldn’t you behave this way? Or do you love boredom? Or do you or crave inactivity? I can only clearly remember two periods of near complete inactivity.

1. When I contracted Pneumonia, and spent about one week in hospital.

2. Once, because of my blisfully unaware naughty behaviour, my mother grounded me, stopping me from going outside to play for a whole weekend. It was a very hot weekend, and I can remember, every kid on the estate, all of them, hanging around outside, doing stuff, having fun, banishing boredom, I watched it all from my 2nd floor bedroom window, it was a pretty painful experience, feeling trapped unable to express my adventurous side…. perhaps that was my first taste of adulthood the experience! I digress slightly. When I was grounded I still could do activity at home, but the painful part, was knowing I had no complete freedom to do as I pleased…. hmmm that sounds a lot like a typical day at the office.

Did this have to happen?
What on earth is this about? What happens to people? What happened to me? Why do adults change? Is it inevitable? Is it inappropriate to hold onto that childlike spark? Do the things we once took pleasure in as youngsters eventually bore us? Is the loss of adventurousness an inevitable part of growing up and getting older? Is sitting in this office, bored to tears, just the fulfilment of my unstoppable adult destiny?…

Years ago I had an interesting dream where I went back to a place where I lived between 1980 and 1985; flat in Limehouse, East London. In the dream I was on the road outside my block of flats, looking up at my bedroom window, I caught a glimpse of the silhouette of a young Marvin, but, I got totally freaked out at the idea of an adult Marvin coming face to face with a Childhood Marvin, and Instead of trying to communicate with him, I fled the scene totally petrified (If you’ve ever seen the film Back to the Future, you will understand why I had that reaction to meeting my younger self). Perhaps what I should have done in the dream was go and speak to little Marv…Maybe I would have got some answers. Maybe he might have reminded me of what it’s like to be an excited child again, with all the natural curiosity and relative care-freeness, with that unabashed desire to create stuff to do just to please yourself and nobody else… well I missed the opportunity because I was too scared to face him, and here I am still asking; where did my natural curiosity go? Who stole my adventurous nature? Why is my creativity imprisoned? What happened to the magic?

Don’t get me wrong, there were ‘dark’ sides to my childhood, but along-side the darkness there was an ardent unquenchable longing to make life exciting, fun and interesting, even if the way I sometimes chose to express that adventurousness was through reckless, silly or naughty behaviour.
Whatever the behaviour, it usually had the one objective; to maintain that spark, it was irrepressible, and no parent, no teacher, no bad weather, no school day, No dark winter’s afternoon, could take it away from me. But somehow, looking at myself today, I realise it has ‘almost’ disappeared (yep, I said ALMOST). So where is it?

Are all kids ‘CRAZY’?

Have you ever seen kids walking down the street looking crazy? I have. I see them all the time, outside my window, on the main road. I never used to notice it, but now I notice it more than ever. Have you ever noticed it? They all walk funny… if not all of them, many of them. I mean, who walks like that? Not me. you know the way they move, just watch them, when walking with adults watch the difference… they seem to half-walk half-run, not upright, but leaning several degrees forward, as if they’re trying to get to that next exciting thing, whatever it is, some don’t even half-walk half-run, they skip along, jump about, what for? Who knows? Their arms wave around, flailing about like a badly engineered windmill, arms going all over the place, they jump and flip about as if today was their last day of life and they had to squeeze every bit of joyful weirdness out of the day.

I’ve tried to imagine adults walking around like that; imagine that, if I saw that coming towards me, an adult walking like that, I would cross to the other side of the road; I would be thinking;

“are they completely drunk? Are they deranged? Which hospital did they escape from? I don’t want to meet that”.

But why don’t I want to see that? Is it because I’ve been taught that an ‘adult’ must walk and talk a certain way and if he doesn’t then the world is going to end? Or that perhaps that person is the Antichrist? And the people who taught me that stuff, well, who taught them? And who taught ‘their’ teachers. And the question begs, were those teachings right? But my question isn’t so much why adults walk so differently from children. No, the question is, where did the natural exuberance for life go? Did it just disappear one day? Was it squeezed out of us as teenagers? Did we get tired of it? Did we get too busy earning a living? Or is it just a natural consequence of getting older, or did we one day realise that for the sake of ‘self preservation’ amongst our peers, we needed to act ‘normal’ or ‘cool’, so as not to upset those around us, or rock the boat, or to avoid appearing unusual or different, which could obviously result in our everlasting banishment from sane society? Or was it that we spent most of the childhood years being told to ‘grow up’? Is that where it started?

Whatever the reason for this apparent loss of that thing (I haven’t even thought of a name for that crazy childhood non-limiting self expression that seems to keep life exciting ), we seem to adopt methods for coping with the resulting, boredom, despair, irritability, uneasiness, dullness, etc. What’s your method of distraction? How do you escape the nightmare? Millions of hours in front of the TV? Binging on food? Overconsumption of alcohol? Inability to let go of technology even for a short time? Sugar addiction? Lack of motivation i.e. being a couch potato? Aimless surfing of the internet? Or perhaps you choose more constructive fulfilling ways to exorcise the dullness demon.

Eventually, some are rudely awakened to this loss, I awoke to it recently.. And now I’m as scared as hell. No excuses, I need to take responsibility for this and try to get back the magic. Is it get backable? 🙂 Or is it gettable back? I believe it can be re awakened. I believe that for life to be more fulfilling, it NEEDS to be reawakened. If you think about this, it actually does get re awakened from time to time in our lives; that great holiday where you feel like a new person, with all your weighty worries nowhere to be seen, or when the sun comes out after months of cloudy cold weather, you become a new YOU. But it often disappears as fast as it came. The average kid though refuses to let it disappear, if need be, they’ll run around in the most inappropriate places, just to keep the magic going, just to keep that thing alive.

Not necessarily correct conclusions, causing confusion

I’m writing this at 11.30 on a Wednesday evening (a week after that office-vortex experience). Two teenagers, maybe 16, 17 years old just passed my window riding BMX bicycles in the darkness, shouting to each other and laughing at the top of their voices, so wild, so crazy, so oblivious. They probably don’t even recognise that gift that they have, or maybe they just don’t give a monkeys, who knows? I think they’re just ignorant, NO, not a ‘harmful’ ignorance, but an innocent, good, healthy ignorance, they’re doing all they can to make their lives unboring. They appear untroubled by the possible irritations of late night noisy conversation.

I sit here now at 12.20am Thursday morning. Just finished formatting this, thingy majig, doo daa, It’s late, I’m mentally tired, I know I should be in bed, it’s work tomorrow, but guess what? I want to finish this, yes, writing is something I really enjoy doing. It won’t help me pay the rent, I don’t get paid for it, no one has forced me to do this, and it’s not an essential part of my daily routine. BUT, I love doing it. Yes, I’m tired, but inspired, impassioned, I’m ‘working’ late, but there’s no sign of anger, no sign of loss of motivation, no pain, no asking ‘what are you doing to yourself Marvin’. There’s just the gentle hum of a few cars passing on the main road, the clicking of my keyboard, the bright back-light of the computer screen, and my tired gritty eyes, watching as I type. Yes, I LOVE THIS THING. Is this part of that magic feeling? I’m usually desperate to finish work and get away from it as soon as I can, and in the evening I try forcing myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour (very rarely happens actually 😀 ) so I can have the energy face another horrible day at the office. But here and now, writing this, I feel completely at peace, I don’t want to force myself into sleep, because I’m doing what I love right now, giving it 100%.

Now I get it, now I get why when I was told to go to bed as a child, I wanted to cry, why I got silently angry and reluctantly obeyed; I didn’t want bed. Is this why children resist? Because the adventure must continue unimpeded by unnecessary sleep? the excitement and the fun needed to carry on, and bed was the death blow to the magic, and here I sit, refusing to go to bed, just like that little Marvin, digging my heels in, refusing to be sensible and get some sleep.

Perhaps that’s the answer to where the magic went. Dare I say it? Is it the act of being constantly sensible that forces the magic out the door? Are magic and sensibleness each others nemesis? Marvin…. Shut your mouth and don’t ever speak such things.

The Water Rats – Headlining; El Born and special guests

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The Venue: The Water Rats, Grays Inn Road, Kings Cross

Hosted by Success Express Music www.successexpress.webs.com– Lorraine Solomons – In Partnership with The Water Rats

Friday 19 July Doors Open 19:30

Headlining: El Born  http://elborn.org

Performances Also By: Sara Robalo http://www.sararobalo.com ; Sam Hutton http://www.samhuttonmusic.co.uk, Johnny Lucas http://www.johnnylucas.co.uk, Paulaa www.youtube.com/paulaaofficial.

I’m Exhausted, My feet hurt, I look around me, darting eyes, checking who’s there, trying not to make too much eye contact, I’m concerned for my safety, I’m starving, famished, I’m uncertain when my next meal will come, certainly not today…. I miss home…

Where am I, in a prison camp? In some notorious Ghetto? Thankfully no; this hostile situation is my own creation, my own doing; I’m here because I chose to be here. It’s Brixton Station by the bus stop and it’s half past midnight, everybody seems understandably tense, my feet ache because I’ve been standing for several hours, I’m starving because I haven’t eaten since 1pm; and a small salad at that, and I’m waiting for my bus home….

Why this torture? Why this self inflicted pain? Why? —- I did it for love, no, not THAT type of love…. Love of music. And luckily for me, it wasn’t unrequited love; my sacrifices were completely rewarded.  Tonight, or rather, last night, a musical parade was squeezed into the small basement area of The Water Rats, this is about what happened on stage and why people will go to lengths to get their fix of Success Express organised music.

The opening performance: Sara Robalo; An unapologetically brazen performance. This is what Sara gives.  My personal favourites are Concrete Skies and Thank You for Breaking My Heart. Both songs underpinned by mesmerisingly strange guitar harmonies and unusually sweet sounding cleverly placed bass riffs; an instrumental performance could suffice, but then when you add Sara’s raw, bold voice to the equation, voila, GOLD. I can’t quite place that voice; a sort of an Annie Lennox/Rod Steward mix, but with a different feel and colour to it, warmer perhaps, well at least to my ears anyway.  The song Thank You for Breaking My heart pierced my soul with its bare-faced message, bringing up confusion, guilt and fear in my bones, but the music held my feet firmly in their place, there was no escaping.  This would be the first of several emotionally troubling moments I experienced this evening. Great Music reaches into the soul for good or for bad, or perhaps, ‘for bad or for worse’  🙂

As soon as Sam Hutton Started singing, I simultaneously gasped, jolted and swore, I listened to the first tune then walked out, grabbed Lorraine and started raving, ‘Watch out John Legend, Watch out John Legend’… Mr Hutton has a completely authentic soulful voice, and the audience ate it up, every so often you’d hear involuntary grunts, growls, shouts, roars, Yays and Yeeeaaaaaaaaahs at high volume over the music, but this wasn’t your local pentecostal church, no, this was the church of Sam Hutton and the Church people were responding to his sermon like sanctified cavemen…. his course soul voice and guitar work just bought out that ‘low down dirty’ love of deep soul. My personal favourite was one song he defined as corny, or was it creepy, can’t remember; anyway it was pretty lovvey dovvey, and then towards the end of this song, he only decides to break into various other artists’ songs, Prince, Marvin Gaye, just to turn up the cassanovaness, and put a cute twist to the already corny song; The result? Involuntary chuckles, laughs and cheers from the audience. And if you doubt he could capably pull off Prince or Marvin Gaye, you must have missed the gig, or been in the toilet for a very long time, because you couldn’t possibly have heard what he was doing. Then Sam sails off with his guitar/voice rendition of John Legend’s ‘Ordinary People’. I’m partial to John Legend, so you might think I’m biased, but, NO, being partial to John Legend I’m fussy…. This was flawless…

Next up was Johnny Lucas; some of you may have recently read Si Connelly’s blog on Johnny. Si explained that there are apparently ‘weird’ rules that performing musicians are subjected to, he then said that Johnny breaks all these rules.   Well tonight, Johnny didn’t disappoint, he broke them all again. Johnny certainly knows how to get to the crowd, how to liven them up, how to start a party. He had us all laughing, talking about the bass guitar player who couldn’t make it to the gig (there is no actual bass player, it’s Johnny’s job :-D), and then when he misfooted one of his ‘thousand’ foot switches, he growls down the microphone saying ‘come on noise’, as if to encourage the noise to put in an appearance.. Hilarious… then he gets his camera out and takes a picture of the audience… hey isn’t it meant to be the other way around Johnny? We take the pictures, not you… Lol… then after a slight mis-cue he says, ‘well you can tell it’s definitely live music’.  Thank you Johnny for being light hearted, bringing us joy after a hard working week. I would like to talk about Johnny’s music.  This is my third hearing and I’ve come to this conclusion. Mr Lucas’ music is like a college course on the philosophy of happy human living, each and every song encourages you to take yourself off somewhere to create happiness, whether it’s ‘Dreaming’ and inside your mind where there’s nothing you can’t do, or on the ‘Lilo’ where you can take a break and get away from it all; ‘Lilo’ is his recently launched single, available to pre-order on Itunes, or forgetting about tomorrow and remembering the glory days, it all creates happiness.  In other words, try not to focus on life’s pains; it’s all a reminder that we have to ‘make’ our happiness, go out of our way to create it, or find things in life that we appreciate that makes us take full pleasure in life. Every time I hear that song ‘Keeps Me Alive’ My mind wanders to the thought ‘yeah, take full advantage of the life you have now’. Not only are the songs great, but his performances of the music always leaves you happy, in a better place.

Next Up El Born… there is too much to write here. They Start out with Kangaroo, I remember lead singer Si’ Connelly on his knees bent over playing some tender notes on the guitar; it may well have been his ‘Kargaroo Stance’, If you’ve ever been to an El Born gig, you soon discover that Si has many stances, power stance, mid-air stance, it all adds to the stunning effect of the performances. Well, Back to the Song Kangaroo, just when you’re getting into the soft mellowness of a tender softly strummed sweet tender rock ballad, BANG BANG BANG BANG, you get destroyed by a wave of nuclear powered, musical thunder as the tune moves from intro to main body.  You could almost see the audience bend backward in shock, some uninitiated newcomers looked stunned by this, I think it caught us all out. I saw one guy frantically stuffing tissue paper in his ears, poor man.  My face creased hard at the in your face raw unsuppressed emotional expression bursting off the stage. El born have the ability to take you from a delicate whisper to a totally body vibrating overload, your body seems to actually shudder as it happens, the sound was so big, and just when they were tapering off the song and you were stabilising, they burst into a more up-tempo rocking tune with a very catching rhythm ‘And it’s Still a Long Time; if your head isn’t bopping furiously to this rhythm then call your doctor ‘something is very wrong with you’ . It’s so loud that no one can hear me shouting f***, sh**, f*** f***, the only way I could express the emotions I was feeling, Si’ howls and screams his way through this song accompanied by Hils with high pitched vocals, it ends sharply and softly; and at the end of this song it’s insane mayhem from the frenzied crowed, no human can keep still after that. next was 1982, I turned to look at the audience, many in the audience were completely lost in the music, swaying slowly back and forth to the very slow heavy beat behind a double time waltz feel, people just swaying back and forth, and shouting praise every time the band hit us with a ‘stop time’ feel, where for a few beats everyone lays out, no one can hear the beat, but we all know exactly where it is, and we sway with precision as they pick up the beat again… perfect use of silence and space. You were filled with waves of emotion, screamed at you by Si, his guts pouring out, and all the other musicians were double bent and bopping furiously to each beat, it’s like some ritualistic witch doctor voodoo ceremony, acted out to put you in a trance to take you away from whatever it is you face in the world, it works 100%, you are overtaken, your face creases in disbelief, or your mouth becomes an open cave, gaping wide and expressionless. As for the band, not one bead of sweat is withheld, it all comes out, every drop, no energy is spared, it’s all given on the altar; and at the end of the song the crowd goes wild with howling. Next we are treated to his ‘new’ tune; Rivals… this tune is just too painful, the subject matter, it hurts, it really hurts. They are so confident that this tune will do well that Si announces that it ‘will’ be a classic, and who’s gonna argue with that? this tune has a badass chorus with Hils vamping out a penetrating organ riff, then the whole band ‘kills you with sound overload… kills you with emotional overload’ through complete utterly unabashed emotional unleashing, it’s almost scary… maybe it needs a health warning before each performance. During their performance of ‘You Made Me’, I was thinking, leave your kids and your grand parents at home, they’ll get damaged, they’ll be traumatised, this is too dangerous. This is not music for the faint hearted, and just when you think it’s loud enough they turn it up and you want to get on your knees and beg for mercy, because your body can’t take that hammering all night.  Next was Wonder Boy; again, it was like church for the non-religious, I kept hearing sanctifying chants and howls from the crowd, the same goes for the song ‘Now That It’s Over’; they start with a long organ and bass guitar intro, you half expect Reverend Jesse Jackson to walk up on the stage and talk fire and brimstone, but instead it’s Si’ crooning and shredding emotions again… and Drummer Mike Brazier beating the life out of you; it’s so shocking, you stop swaying, you stop moving, you’ve become the proverbial deer in headlights.  Thankfully, for the last song we are spared the sonic booms, with a duo on the tune ‘Got Miles Davis in My Head’, Si’ vocals and Hils on keys… this is about those times you want to give up on your passion, when it gets too much and you’re thinking is it worth it because it feels too hard; Thankfully for us El Born pushed through those hard times… Then just when you’re thinking I can relax into this haunting ballad now, Si ends the song giving you a heart attack by dropping the mic loudly on the floor and walks off stage, as if to say, ‘you have just witnessed El Born, and don’t you forget it’

Following hot on their heels was Paulaa. It is quite clear that Paulaa has her own distinct style, or maybe it’s me trying to label her…. I was in for a shock tonight… when I saw her at the Apres a couple of weeks ago, I ‘labelled’ her R&B, but today she shattered my imaginary pigeon-hole, and dragged us all over the place with surprise turns. With the tune ‘wish you were here’. It seemed to move from light pop ballad to heavy rock, to Funky R&B, to Heavy Rock, To R&B Ballad, and was totally full of energy. And the thing is, there was no thought of ‘oh she was just doing Rock, and now she’s doing R&B..’ it just melted into one seamlessly, totally authentic, perfectly crafted tune, to put a twist on your preconceived ideas about what music should be…. and it worked wonderfully.  Another song that got to me was called ‘Stole the Sun’…. correct me if I’m wrong another R&B type tune, but with a hypnotic sort of African drum rhythm carrying the tune along, putting a twist on the style. I recommend you check out her youtube channel music videos; Great music and videos, you will not be disappointed. (Are recommendations appropriate to a music blog??? anyway you can find the Link at the top of this page). Paulaa’s music is pretty ‘light’ when compared to El Born, I’m talking about the lyrical content of her tunes, but she gives her fair share of pain too…. with the song ‘Why?’ I was feeling pain, no the music wasn’t sub par, it’s just that the lyrics hurt, because they went into my heart and condemned me; thank you Paulaa.

The Irony of all this is that, the mixture of great music, with tough, raw, deep, painful lyrics, leaves me totally confused, I want to run away, but cannot because the music is so good…. in the end I stay and swallow my pride accept what pain I’ve caused and accept what is and what has been….. But after all of it…. you feel alive… and now 4 hours later, several of the tunes are still ringing in my head, after all, it was also balanced out by happy optimistic themes, a good all-round spelling out of life itself….. I feel lucky. I think Si Connelly said something like ‘stop saying sorry I missed the gig, I’ll come to the next one’… we don’t know the future.. Perhaps you might have lost the opportunity’…. if he’s right, then what an opportunity lost it was….

Thank you all who volunteered giving their time in putting on such a great event, you deserve a good rest now for all your hard work, especially you Lorraine  🙂

Success Express – Live music – Very Talented Musicians

19.00 Sunday 7 July 2013
Après, London
31 Duke Street, W1U 1LG London, United Kingdom
Hosted by Success Express Music

My mind is frazzled, cooked, burnt, and wasted. I am overwhelmed, but cannot go to bed until this is said. I just went to the ‘Real’ Britain’s Got Talent, the underground one, no, really, it was literally underground, so much talent crammed into one room; is that even allowed to happen? it felt like a some sort of musical speakeasy, during prohibition, bootlegging great music, I kept expecting the ‘Anti too-much-talent secret police’ to burst into the place armed and ready, frightened of the possible consequences of having too many talented people gathered at the same location doin’ their own thang.. Yes, their own thang. The thing witnessed tonight was truly overwhelming; sometimes, after seeing a truly great artist, I joke that I’m going to sell my electric piano on EBay the next morning, and drop the idea of trying to play anything ever again. Tonight was one of those EBay nights. High quality performances all around. It is almost unnerving to sit there and see performance after
performance at such high levels, we’re just not used to that sort of thing, we’re used to x-factor out-takes, nuff said. It went from R&B-like soulful Singer/keyboardist Paulaa Klupsch, then Guitarist/singer David Blomiley from the Straight Til The Morning Band to driving Latin numbers and moving Spanish ballads by various groups… it was just all too much… But I must mention two performances here, this isn’t to say the others weren’t top notch, they definitely were. First Laura Najam; Laura is a master of dynamics, caressing you gently with soft vocals and a tender touch at the keys, then suddenly waking you from the lullaby with a jolt, full of soulful gospelly power, then she mocks, making you laugh involuntarily, with her ironically honest humour… and Oh my god… this girl can siiiiiiiing, so much soul, I heard her sing before but this time, I’m speechless, you sit there thinking, ‘how can someone create on that level?… it doesn’t make sense, it’s too powerful, it’s too moving, and it’s too much fun, but there it is right there in front of you… it’s impossible… but it lives. Another performer, Nika (Nicol Zelinska)(she’ll kill me if I spelt that wrong I guess ) with her guitarist, their connection and musical banter was brilliant, each song full of surprises… when Nika opened her mouth to sing, I was brutally killed to death, it was a violent death, But it was a ‘GOOD DEATH’, it’s not just the great voice, it’s what she does with it, the dynamics, the excitement, the great story telling, the ability to bring out the emotions of the music, amazing … cancel the X-factor, send Simon Cowell home, Britain’s already got talent , it’s just that many of us often deprived ‘Brits’ don’t know exactly where to go to find all these talented people. Sitting in a room full of them tonight was very humbling. And that’s the most surprising thing of all. These artists are not signed yet (correct me if I’m wrong). Put them up next to the average signed artists and they will definitely stand their ground; unless of course everyone in that basement had something severely wrong with their hearing; perhaps all of us are wrong? Mind you, if you hated any of the music please tell, we’re waiting!

Want some great live music? checkout Success Express Music. They have their own Facebook page, with video snippets of some of the performances, if you like what you see, you will be blown away by the live performances.