Hello! It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post – like everyone, the pandemic has wreaked havoc in my life, and I’ve been too busy surviving, adapting and adjusting, to get a blogging groove on. Whoever you are and however the pandemic has affected you, I wish you as safe and sane as is currently possible, and I hope you will enjoy my thoughts and reflections below, and perhaps even consider joining me for some online singing, yoga and more.
For the safety of all, to do my part in reducing the spread of the virus, and to protect myself, my close ones and my students, I’ve taken all of my work online for the forseeable future. This has been a pretty hefty move, involving a lot of grief, creativity, adaptation, letting go, and stepping into the unknown with as much integrity as I can muster.
At this moment in time, the beautiful countryside where I grew up is under imminent threat of destruction from the frankly greedy, bull-headed and stompulent Highways England; who seem to think that it’s a good idea to destroy woodland, habitats, beauty, villages, communities, churches, homes, and more, for that “wonderful cause” of lots more money for themselves, and creating lots more pollution and strain on the earth during a time of climate crisis. What sweet intelligent caring folks they must be. I wrote a song about this last time they tried to do it (when they were delayed by being taken to court by a crowdfunded individual, for falsehoods and incompetence in their public consultation process) which you can listen to here: https://getbrightonsinging.com/2020/10/25/protest-song-arundel-bypass-destruction-of-wildlife-and-villages/ Please do anything you can to stop this atrocity happening.
Um, back to me for a moment – the move from working face to face, in person, to working via zoom, has also happened alongside physically moving house, and other human challenges – hence extra upheavals have been afoot. This may or may not explain my delays in updating my website, writing blog posts, stopping climate change or figuring out how to earn better in uncertain times. I am grateful to now live in a home where myself and my Beloved can both teach from zoom at the same time, and ensure privacy for each other and our students. This is a huge relief, very exciting, and already allowing us both to serve our clients and communities with much greater ease. We’ve just about finished unpacking, except for all the boxes in the van. Eek.
Well, everything I used to do in person professionally, I’m now offering online, with adaptations and bells on. If you’re keen to enjoy singing lessons, yoga classes, voice coaching, workshops or other creative offerings on zoom, then email email@example.com to let me know your interest.
I’m also just about to undertake Estill Voice Training Levels 1 & 2 for the second time – so if you want a singing lesson with me while this dense and thorough anatomical, practical and experiential learning is still fresh in my mind, ping me a message and book your session!
I’m also a person living with a proper shitty chronic illness, so wish me luck for managing 9-6 training every day next week, please and thank you, and I’ll be sending you my very good kind wishes too.
If you want to read a reflective article about all sorts of things, including reflections on life, love, pandemic, work, music and more – then do read on. Feel free to also stop reading and get in touch too, if you’d like to enjoy some of my online offerings and have no more time or inclination to read these words.
Back to the home-moving theme and a bit of over-personal gushing: Besides providing a place where me and my partner can do our online work simultaneously and with more ease, the house move mentioned above has also been significant because my Beloved and I chose our new home together, and this has been our first chance to choose and move into a home together as a couple. Woah. I feel very lucky and proud to have come to this place, with a human I Love, respect, care about and admire in so many ways. I mention this because it is A Big Deal and I want to shout about it.
Quarantine Romance Story Side Note That Goes On A Bit – Before this Autumnal house move of which I do shout, I had moved into my partner’s small one bed flat the morning after lockdown was announced in March. The lockdown announcement made us feel that we faced a choice between becoming a household immediately, or not seeing each other in person at all for an unknown and potentially very long amount of time. We wanted to be together through the uncertainties of pandemic life and lockdown, so we made a swift decision and almost as swift a house-move, in response to pandemic rules and responsibilities.
I packed a bag and moved into hers as quickly as I could the next day, and didn’t see my flat again until we moved me out of it officially a month or two later. My partner was totally amazing making space for me to move in and doing Lovely Things to make me feel welcome, and Adapty Things to make life work well suddenly living together as domestic partners.
We put most of my stuff into a storage unit, wearing masks and doing our best at distancing with the moval people we were lucky to find help from at that time, and did a fair bit of hefting sofa beds about by ourselves like the ultimate spoonie queeroes* and hand sanitising a ton. It was exhilarating, bold, biazrre and exhausting, and I’m proud of the choices we made.
[*queeroes = queer heroes. In my mind we totally wore hero outfits corresponding to our various indentities. In reality I think there was only a moderate amount of fancy dress for this rather practical event!]
We spent lockdown living and working in her small one-bed flat together, and had to make the choice to do so very quickly, because of the pandemic restriction announcements.
By contrast, our current move has felt quite different. We are now in a home we have chosen together lovingly, where we can nest, where we both have more physical space to be individual humans, and where we can both keep working and serving our clients and communities online as the pandemic marches on in all its strange and unpredictable ways.
Hallelujah for getting to this place. I’m so grateful for this Wonderful Human, that life has given me the chance to love and be loved by, in all the ways. I told you this bit would be personal. Or at least I meant to.
But life isn’t all sunshine and roses (plus sunshine isn’t that great for me because it makes my chronic illness worse. Roses are good though!). Pandemicky life is weird and hard in so many ways, and being human is riddled with changeable things from ecstatic to craptastic and everything in between.
I’ve certainly struggled with my mental health as a result of the pandemic, and I’m pretty sure almost every human on the planet will have had to manage mental health/illness that is in some way directly affected by the global pandemic that we’re all affected by.
If you’re having mental health challenges, or something like that but that you would describe differently, I would very much recommend seeking what support you can (sorry about the unsolicited advice).
Support might look like all sorts of things, such as a socially distanced good-friend meet, some medical assistance, more/less structure, removing a stressor from your life, professional mental health support, more time with trees, cuddling your childhood teddy while you weep and eat comforting food, or something quite different from the above.
Whatever you’re experiencing is a totally valid human experience, and whatever you need is a totally valid human need. There is no shame in asking for or needing help, in any form. I realise that might be an annoying thing to say, because there often IS an experience of shame in asking for or needing help – sorry! But I hope you know what I mean. I wish that there was not a general backlog of human shame around mental health struggles and needing support with them, and I hope that any shame that might be around for you isn’t too painful to sit with, or obstructive to asking for/getting what you need.
Personally, I’ve started taking an anti-depressant medication to try and help with chronic insomnia (what a lark) and pandemicky anxiety, and I found the process of speaking to a GP about mental health as well as physical health, quite embarrassing, as well as eventually quite helpful. I also managed to find a therapy practice that has some funding to make therapy accessible to those in need.
Why say such a personal thing in a blog post that is potentially also about professional things? Well, because humans are human, and I like to support humans in their humanness in the work that I do. And I think that being brave and choicefully open about some personal things, can be of benefit to others. And also cathartic. And can also have you coming back to something you posted online, again and again wondering if you should regret it, until you finally realise that worry belongs in the ‘fuck it’ bucket.
With a chronic physical illness to manage, and mental health stuff going on, moving house twice this year on top of everything else, has been quite an achievement and quite a slog! Plus, spending lockdown in a tiny space with another (brilliant) human, with whom there is Love and Safety, holds up quite the bright mirror to One’s Self. Sometimes uncomfortably, and always with love.
This year and these contexts of existence have taught me a lot about who I am, how humans function in proximity, at a distance, and in isolation; and where I have patterns / habits / trauma / aspects of self etc that need working on for the sake of wellness, wholeness, healing and sanity, and ‘good-functioning’.
The challenges of this year have shown me a lot and grown me a lot. Beyond adapting and adjusting to daily domestic life with my partner, and adapting and adjusting to the bizareness that is “Pandemic Life”, I have been shown personal work that I need to do. I have done my best to meet these realities with love, and willingness to learn, grow and change.
Love is, or can be, a catalyst for change. And so too is, or can be, destruction. The destructive aspects of the pandemic have catapulted so many of us into very different lives than we were living before. Out of this chaos can spring creativity and newness, and positive change. I made a piece of art about this during early months of lockdown. You can see it here, or by looking through all of my Art Page and scrolling down to the bottom.
It’s great to be able to make lemonade out of lemons, but it’s also totally fine to be pissed off if you hate lemons and somebody gives you a lemon basket.
Lemons are actually pretty brilliant in my book so let’s change the analogy. It’s great to be able make a funny joke about it when you step in dog poo, and find the joy in the ludicrous/messy. It’s also fine to feel like your day’s been ruined and your shoes now smell forever though. My point is – the creative and positive possibilities that have sprung from / may yet spring from the awfulness of Covid-19, are wonderous and to be celebrated. And it’s also fine to just feel shit about the shit things.
As I write this [technically, as I wrote this paragraph, now in the past tense], a swirl of Autumn leaves has picked up outside and is dancing the density of a changing shape in space, making beautiful visual noise that draws my eyes away from the screen and my thoughts… And now the leaves have settled to the ground as the wind has dropped, to sit in a new arrangement until the next gust comes along. Perhaps this is symbolic. Perhaps it’s not. Either way it’s lovely.
There has been so much to adapt to this year, for all of us. So many of us have lost things that matter deeply to us – loved ones, coping mechanisms, things at the core of meaningful work and play, and much more besides.
Amongst the things I have found most grievous to let go of, is being able to safely gather in a group of humans and sing together in person, in harmony and rhythm, breathing the same air in the same space at the same time.
As well as being the hardest to let go of and adapt to, Choir has also been the first thing I took onto zoom. Whilst my other work took months to come back to life online, the community choir that I lead for LGBTQ+ Folks and Allies (GLOW Choir Brighton), went online within a week.
This was because there was a clear community need to continue to be able to gather, safely and regularly, that felt more important than my need to know clearly and confidently what I was doing online. Social connection and the stability of a community space continuing each week, felt higher priority than me feeling as competent as I do when I’m doing my job in person, in the ways I’ve known how to for over 15 years as a Natural Voice Practitioner.
It’s been wonderful, meaningful and highly treasured, to gather with GLOW community every week in these times of being physically isolated from one another. Discovering with GLOW Choir Community how to hold space effectively online, and how to do all the different types of work I do via the initially-new-to-me medium of zoom, has been a challenging and beneficial process.
It’s been good for the soul to stay regularly in touch with GLOW community, to find ways to connect together through song despite the limits of zoom-demic things, to hold space for people I care about, and to retain a felt sense of connection to community and living-song that matters to me dearly. It’s been nourishing to hear other people’s human truths when they’ve felt to share them too – it’s validating as a human doing human-ing, to hear other people describe doing just that too.
Maintaining a safe, reliable, welcoming, LGBTQ+ affirmative community choir space during these difficult times has been valuable to GLOW attendees too – as confirmed through survey participation and verbal feedback. This matters very much to me, as a human who wants to contribute positively to the world, and also maintain some semblance of my professional identity too in the current pandemic where gathering to sing does not feel a clearly safe or responsible choice.
The GLOW community members who have been zooming, have taken part in facilitated sharing, vocal warm ups, creative approaches to singing activities, mini-disco’s, story-socials and more. I’ve received positive feedback about the GLOW zoom experience for attendees, and about the role it holds in some GLOWers lives during this time of pandemic.
I’m currently gearing up for the new GLOW term in lots of creative ways! I have been preparing musical and creative experiences various, and have written a brand new song for the GLOW attendees to enjoy singing together when the new term starts on November 7th.
If you want to hear and download the new song, you can do so RIGHT NOW by clicking here GASP! HOWEVER – **Please note** this offering is based on an honesty policy, an understanding, that if you open, download, listen to or like the song from this post link, you will make a donation for it by clicking here which will take you to paypal. Thank you!
But why am I asking for money when music is joy, you ask? But why haven’t I retrained as something else, some MP says? Because, plain and simple, it’s my job.
Yep, I’ll say it again, it’s my job. I’m professionally trained as a Musician, Community Choir leader, Yoga Teacher, Voice Coach, Natural Voice Practitioner, Actor, Dancer and many more things besides. I have valuable life experience that also contributes to my work. I’ve fought hard to find meaningful ways to use my skills in the world and survive. I’ve continued to do my best to find meaningful ways to use my professional skills in the world when I got ill with a debilitating chronic illness, and when a pandemic hit.
And frankly, it’s fucking hard right now for artists of most kinds to make a living. It’s hard for people with chronic illnesses who can’t expose themselves to risky situations, to keep making a living. It’s hard for those who have vulnerable folks in their bubbles or households, to keep making a living if they want to protect their loved ones. It’s hard for self employed freelancers to make a living, especially if their work usually occurs in person. It’s hard for people with post-viral-symptoms post-covid – something those of us who have illnesses such as M.E. and fibromyalgia have been trying to tell the world about for years. Basically, it’s hard to make a living right now, and art is work, whatever some MP says about it.
I think a lot of artists may be feeling devalued right now, given the things that have been said about whether the arts are worth doing at all in these times. But we know that the human soul needs nourishing, or however you would rather put it, and the arts are a brilliant, timeless and important way to do this. The arts are essential for the spiritual survival of many people, and they should be valued.
It’s been tricky for me to balance wanting to make my offerings accessible to those financially affected by the pandemic, with the need to survive and to have my time, energy and professional skills valued, and to have some sustainable income. Frankly, I haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe it’s a lifelong thing. What I do know is, I’m committed to offering high quality voice lessons, choir sessions, yoga classes, workshops and more via the zooms; and I need to strike a balance between well paid work, and accessible pay-what-you-can unpredictable drop in community set ups. I’m doing what I can to learn and adapt with these things in mind, and manage my spoons too!
Why talk openly about money and being paid when it’s so taboo? Well, there’s your answer – because it’s taboo, and it shouldn’t be. And maybe it will help some other struggling freelancer who cares about their work, to hear that someone else is managing a similar tricky situation humanly too.
If you’d like to join in with some Community Choir Magic via Zoom, you’ll be pleased to hear (I hope) that there is currently room for a small number of new members at GLOW choir zoomings – see the image below for details and contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested!
I’ve now been doing some version of most facets of my work on zoom for over half a year, and am in a place where I’m confident in the quality of what I’m offering via the online medium.
I’m proud of this – it’s been a big adaptation and as a self employed person with a chronic illness, it’s not been an easy time. I’m proud to have come through so many challenges to be able to now say with confidence that I can offer quality versions of the work I used to do in person, via zoom.
I hope you will join me some time for a singing lesson, a yoga class, a group workshop or some other such magic, from the comfort of your home, via the interwebs.
OH WHAT THERE’S MORE WORDS TO POUR OUT! AN AFTERTHOUGHT ABOUT MUSIC AND HUGS AND ZOOM
It’s been difficult for lovers of live music and community singing to adapt at this time. The limits of technology are as real as the magic of being able to hang out virtually is incredible.
I have deeply missed the musical aspects of group singing such as harmonising, blending, being in rhythm, synchronising bodies hearts and minds through music… I’ve missed the embodiment of leading a group in person, of communicating musical and human things through my body and seeing them picked up and responded to by the group. I’ve missed a group of humans expanding out to fill a large church with our voices and bodies… The grief for these things has been huge.
For Choirs, the Zooming is not the same as gathering, and cannot replace it – but it is a brilliant and different thing in and of itself.
Plus of course, hugs. The communication of truth, individuality, care, welcome and love, that can be expressed through greeting or parting with a hug, if it is a consensual hug, is a wonderous thing. Everyone who enjoys hugs as a form of expression and connection, may have to grieve them at this time. Community choirs are often something of a ‘Love In’ and may involve many greeting and parting hugs if people wish it. Zoom can’t replace this – but it can still connect our hearts, minds and voices. It can still facilitate connections that are nourishing for the human spirit.
See you online somewhere! Email me if you’d like to attend some zoom-based yoga, singing, musical or other magical fun!
Much love to you. May you be as safe and sane as currently possible.