dear santa.

Dear Santa,

At this time of year, I know you’re quite used to folks writing to you asking for things.  This letter will be different.

I am writing to thank you for all you have done for me throughout the years.

When Larry decided to portray you, I was happy he found something to keep him busy during the months of November and December.  Little did we know that his portrayal of you would become something much deeper for both of us.

When Larry began networking, little did I know that he would meet people who would become friends for the rest of his life.  Little did I know that many of these folks would become good friends, mentors and spiritual advisors to me.  The men who portray you are often incredible people who set aside their lives to portray you, and eventually their lives are shaped by you and what you represent.

It never ceases to amaze me.  And those that remain in my life have been blessings to me – I am reminded of your giving nature and love in their actions.  My faith in humanity is refreshed when I am with them.

Your biggest and best gift to me was Larry being given a focus and drive.  Your next greatest gift to me are all the men who portray you who have stood behind me and supported me when my world fell apart.  You continue to give in the men who were inspired by Larry to grow their beards and don the suit of red and portray you.

At least two of these folks have been a large part of my life before you entered it and they remain a large part of my life.  They continue to support me in their actions, words, prayers and deeds and they remind me that faith can be a powerful thing when given the right intent and reason.

The latest gift you have given me is the latest Santa who has asked me to be his “elf” in the way I was for Larry – supporting, helping connect him with resources and continue to serve your spirit by helping another great friend portray you.  Michael kept me going when I hit rock bottom with PTSD and Depression and I am blessed and honoured to call him friend.

The only reason why I’m still walking this earth is because of him and I am indebted for his quiet love and peaceful resolve to keep me talking when my mind and heart were trying to shut down, screaming for my body to join them somehow.  I wear the semicolon on my left forearm because Michael gave me reason to stay alive – because I need to honour a promise I made to Larry.

You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me musically.  David has been my most ardent supporter, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.  He still does.

You have given me a number of spiritual supports and guides who are showing me that faith is a personal thing and can be balanced with my scientific mind’s desire for rationality and evidence.  Just as I believe in your existence in the hearts of the people who portray you, I believe in a higher power that exists in the hearts and minds of people who are searching for more.

You have given me the drive to keep going when everything within me fought forward motion.  I have recorded and released a CD that is singularly me, I have started writing new songs that build upon while moving away from table for one.

You have continued to keep my family in my life and I am blessed with a supportive and caring Mother and an amazing brother, sister-in-law and nieces.

So.  For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me.  Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me and provided me strength.

Thank you, Santa, for all you have given.

Love,

myke.

P.S. I’d like to ask you for one thing.  If there’s someone who is supposed to be in my life to make me happy, can you make it happen soon?  If he has long white hair, a beard and chubby belly – even better!

 

 

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table for one. in conclusion

As the final chapter of the birth table for one. draws to a conclusion, I’m reflecting on how different my life is from the first attempts at writing sitting in The Brain on that fateful Art Crawl night after Larry’s diagnosis.

Seven years.  Seven.  Fucking.  Years.  Four surgeries.  Three deaths.  One nervous breakdown.  Five days of recording.  One album.  One life.

I’m far less angry.  I’m far less scared.  I’m far less impatient.  I’m far less tolerant of negativity.

Throughout all of this change, I have been re-evaluating my life and what it means to be me.  An old acquaintance used to say “Simplify and do everything.” as a joke, however this saying has summed up the past three years of my life.  As I jettison the trappings and detritus I have had surrounding me, the resulting physical, mental and emotional space is allowing me to focus more on things that are important to me.

As my life becomes simpler, I’m able to focus on more.  I’m also making important choices that have impacted on my happiness and health in a positive manner.

Seven years ago, I was close to four hundred pounds, having replaced my chemical addictions with food to medicate my unhappiness.  Seven years ago, I was so focused on my career that both my health and chosen form of expression (music) languished and suffered.  I was in my thirties with sleep apnea, high blood pressure, failing knees and ankles and pre-diabetic.

I thought I was happy, but truly the one light in my life was diagnosed with cancer and we focused on fighting the battle for his life.  Fast forward to now and I’ve survived the loss of my husband, my father, a beloved animal companion, been through a year of treatment for PTSD and anxiety, continue to battle my weight, keeping it down to a healthy level.

I am now hovering around two hundred pounds, eating a clean diet, drug and alcohol free almost thirteen years, breathing easily and most of my other health issues have resolved.

I am also writing further music that reflects a need to carry on, to learn and grow, as well as collaborating with other songwriters and music makers…my catharsis is complete – time to remove my life from suspended animation and continue moving forward.

Simplify and do everything indeed.

 

on scary people

I think it’s finally time that I express my opinion about the clown situation happening across North America.  A lot of people know that I once worked as a clown and have studied the art of clowning for almost 30 years.  A lot of people might just think that it’s a hobby, however it’s far more than that.  I’ve worked as an entertainer since I was 13, I have performed thousands of shows in that time, entertained for people dying, people getting married and centenarians in nursing homes. The past few years (since my weight loss) I haven’t clowned as much but I still hold the art close to my heart and have taught and presented at international lectures throughout the past few year. My goal is to further the education making better clowns with new ideas and programs worldwide.

Now my opinion on what’s happening.

The current clown “thing” started with some people (mostly teenagers) dressed as clowns going up on to people’s porches and smashing pumpkins. After watching the story, at the very end the newscaster mentioned that most likely the people doing that knew the people they were messing with.

This year pranksters bumped it up a notch and the public copycats grabbed it and ran with it.

However a LOT of the reports have been proven to be either unsubstantiated for lack of evidence or outright hoaxes perpetrated by teenagers or young adults wanting attention.

This current escalation and media attention is troubling to me. As media attention grows, many legitimate professional entertainers are being harassed or outright threatened by the “dog whistle” alarms in these media reports. It frightens me that people I know and respect are now potentially being placed in danger because people are concerned for their safety against pranksters.

To a lot of people this is not a problem at all and possibly even a celebration. This is a problem, because first it’s the clowns next what?

Yesterday, a leader in the clown industry sent an email to his organization to suspend wearing makeup to any performances until further notice because of their safety. He also mentioned that any form of bullying is wrong and encourages other forms of bullying.

Clowns have been bullied for a long time. Almost every time I go out, I have somebody tell me to my face that they “hate clowns”. Now I understand that there are jobs in this world that people do that I don’t care for, however I don’t specifically walk up to them and tell them that I hate them. I keep my opinion to myself.

But honestly folks, this is pretty simple

1. If a clown approaches you with a hostile demeanor, protect yourself as you would against anybody with a hostile demeanor. Most clown training progams train clowns NOT to approach someone, however be open, friendly and approachable.

2. If you ARE a clown, consider temporarily lightening your look – use less makeup and be more “human.” I have been suspecting the days of heavy make up are ending in this country as the public is wanting less. It’s time to stop fighting that and embrace it.

3. Clowns need to learn to act as professional adults; the “clowns lives matter” is an absolute embarrassment. Clowns are not being oppressed and shot in our cars like the African-American community has been dealing with for centuries. Clowns cannot equate a few months of negative press to that experience therefore cannot and should not even try!

4. Please understand that anyone can put on a halloween mask, crappy makeup and a wig; however that really makes them a person in a costume. If someone dressed as a policeman and did this, the media and public wouldn’t say policemen were committing the acts. They would say imposters were. There’s a difference between a professional and the people now roaming the streets. They’re just sad individuals. They want people to be terrified, and unfortunately, it’s working. People that advertise as professionals are highly unlikely to be the troublemakers allegedly lurking in the woods.

5. Clowns are real people. We love people and we love kids. Most of us want to provide happy memories, and it saddens me that people running in the streets would stain the idea of what a clown should be. Professional clowns are not only trained, but the government requires them to do background checks before jobs, particularly those involving direct contact with children.

6. If you hate clowns or they scare you, that’s perfectly okay but clowns really don’t want to hear that. It doesn’t give any pleasure to somebody to hear another person tell them that they are hated and honestly it gets old FAST. Please keep your opinion to yourself and announcing it loudly to the public is kind of a douchey thing if it’s at a public event where it’s known entertainers are going to be. If your fears are affecting your ability to perform activities of daily living, perhaps you should get them checked out by professional help too, being afraid of a person wearing makeup and a costume, which essentially is their work uniform is NOT healthy or a normal psychological response…

on questionid.

After my Dad died in November 2014, and my nervous breakdown that December, it was clear that I had pretty major work to do to get my shit together again.  After packing up my basses and other instruments and coming home from my vacation, I proceeded to throw myself fully into therapy.

I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.  When asked what the treatment options were, I proceeded with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing combined with working with cognitive behavioural therapy and for a VERY brief time, medication.  I spent a period of six months of intense self-examination and questioning my identity.

there’s a question that we must all ask ourselves one day,
and there is no easy answer.
an act of self-examination, a question demanding truth
with no correct response.

each time i ask this question, i get a different response,
each interrogation brings further confusion.
forcing me to evaluate my responses from the past;
leaving me further lost in a world of my own creation.

This last stanza is the truth.  Who I am depends on the day and how I’m feeling.  Some days I am pain.  Some days I am rage.  Some days I am love.  Some days I am fear.  Most days I am confused.

However I am not lost in a world of my own creation anymore.  That world was where I spent from age 13 to age 30, where I was medicated, often drunk and avoiding the old wounds, which continued to fester until 2010.

From 2010, the festering wounds were covered with the psychological equivalent of a flesh tone bandage…until it got ripped off over 2013 and 2014.

who am i?
no response to this simple question.
each person i ask has different opinions,
conflicting responses.
who am i?
further confusion building inside me;
every time i peer inside it changes
no simple answers.

I was discharged from EMDR after a year and discontinued my medications after a scare caused by a side effect of anti-depressants.  I am not anti-medications, however I know they don’t work for me.  I’d rather be able to think and feel, with the risk of having a meltdown every now and then, versus being a placid, potentially suicidal zombie.  This decision was made with full support of my medical professionals and with full knowledge of having to do some seriously heavy lifting as far as therapy and being real with myself.

i asked myself this question again today
and got yet another answer
i answered as truthfully as i could, cutting to the quick
leaving nothing to chance.

who am i?
no response to this simple question.
each person i ask has different opinions,
conflicting responses.
who am i?
further confusion building inside me;
every time i peer inside it changes
no simple answers.

there’s a question that i repeatedly ask myself.
and never seem to like my response.
an act of self-examination, forcing me to be true,
leaving me empty and confused.

The act of self-evaluation and forcing myself to face my reality, past experiences and history has been both horrifically challenging and frightening as well as enlightening.  As I peel away the layers, I am removing blockages that are preventing me from moving forward.  I couldn’t have written this music, I couldn’t have chosen to perform it, I couldn’t record and release table for one. and leave it open, vulnerable, to the world.

Yes, table for one. is as much a part of my therapy, recovery and healing as any of the psychological work I’ve done.  Having released it to the wider world has been both liberating and terrifying as I now have a wide open road ahead of me, free from obstruction.

who am i?
no response to this simple question.
each person i ask has different opinions,
conflicting responses.
who am i?
further confusion building inside me;
every time i peer inside it changes
no simple answers.

Yes I continue to struggle with my identity.  I continue to struggle with my ego.  I continue to wrestle with my past.  I continue to struggle with my future.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way!

on passing me by.

passing me by. was written November 2009 on Art Crawl night, while sitting at The Brain on James St. N. in Hamilton, Ontario.

the air grows chill and the days grow short,
the twilight hours are beckoning.
the animals have departed, nature’s slumber begins;
winter is the time of our reckoning.

As it was early November, the nights were growing longer and the days were growing cooler.  I was quietly watching the Art Crawl crowd, drinking my pot of coffee (The Brain serves their coffee in a 4 cup Bodum).

another year is gone –
life keeps moving on.
this year has come to an end;
time no more is a friend.

At this time, Larry’s liver cancer had progressed to the point where he was barely functioning due to the hepatic encephalopathies – essentially his liver was no longer functioning and the ammonia building up in his body was poisoning his brain.

The medication to treat hepatic encephalopathy in end stage liver failure is lactulose – a strong laxative that forces the body to purge.

I was trying to balance his ability to function cognitively with his ability to go about activities without shitting himself.

daylight fades, the sun grows wan;
the night becomes increasingly longer.
the land grows barren, fading out to white;
winter’s grasp grows stronger.

It’s pretty clear that I was beginning to feel the effects of 22 years of denial and anguish and my struggles with faith, my sexuality and my distaste for organized religion.  At the time a good friend had resurfaced in my life, now a Presbyterian Minister, and in the pulpit at the church around the corner from my house.

I’ve written about this person in the past and won’t rehash his betrayals in my life.  I love this person dearly and wish him the best but don’t have room for people who cannot set their egos aside and act in accordance with their faith.

another year is gone –
life keeps moving on.
this year has come to an end;
time no more is a friend.

my hair’s grown grey, my eyesight blurred;
my life spent setting the stage.
my body weakens, my soul grown weary
as i struggle into middle age.

Between drama in the workplace, Larry’s failing health and yes my failing health (I was topping 350 lbs by this time), I was feeling run down and tired pretty near all the time.  I was physically and emotionally spent.  The greying of my hair was progressing quicker and I was eating my stress and feelings by this time, having exchanged my alcohol and drug dependence for Doritos and diet cola.

another year is gone –
my life keeps moving on.
my year has come to an end;
time no more is my friend.

This song was the last thing I had written before Larry had his liver transplant.  It sums up my state of mind and the bleakness I felt at the time.  It’s also a good general “dull grey day” kind of song too…

on on being human.

For me, this is the hardest song from table for one. It represents a pretty ugly period for me and accurately describes how I was feeling when I was at my worst.  on being human. was written on a train ride home from Ottawa in December 2014. I had just hit rock bottom and after years of fighting PTSD and the dissociation from it, I had completely been cut off from my emotions. Even things that once brought me pleasure left me more often than not confused and wanting to withdraw further from life, I was shutting down and detached from emotions, caring and desires…

“i’m going through the motions
just to see if i still can care.
i’m going through the motions
just to see if i’m still there;
i’m just trying to be human.”

I had finally experienced a full tilt nervous breakdown and even something that came naturally to me – playing bass – stopped “working” entirely. My hands felt like they were in oven mitts and my brain stopped talking to my fingers. I was, for all intents and purposes, useless.

“i’m going through the motions
but that doesn’t make me any less real.
i’m going through the motions
but it doesn’t mean i still don’t feel;
i’m just trying to be human.”

I went home and hid from life for a few days, just trying to make sense of it all. The last little piece of what made Myke Myke was completely lost to me. I was scared and my future had pretty much hidden itself from me at that moment.

“i disconnect again.”

Until that moment, music and playing bass in particular was the one place in life I found solace, peace and joy. After Dad died, it seemed as though that was slipping away until that fateful afternoon in Ottawa when it was yanked out from under me, bowling me over in the process. I had nothing left, no husband, no music, no love. Nothing made sense except the overwhelming sense of loss, anger and nothingness.

“after years of alienation, ambivalence and fear,
i’m just trying to prove to myself that i am still here;
wanting to restore the past i have lost.
attempting to find myself again, no matter what the cost –
just trying to be human.”

And in that I failed. Miserably. If it weren’t for Michael Morin and Drake Jensen – I doubt I’d be around writing this today. Those two men saved my life – I am indebted to them and love them dearly because of their handling of my situation. They both were gentle to me, even though I failed them and others. They are still there for me when I need them and they are two of my most ardent supporters AND providers of reality checks.  I want them to be proud of me. I want to show them that I can.

“i start going through the motions
but i don’t know if i can.
i start going through the motions
because this is who i am;
just trying to be human.”

And I’m still just trying to be human. I still haven’t regained the passion to play bass yet. Even though it’s my main instrument, I still haven’t found the “love” of the instrument and ones that I was once connected to, feel little more than tools to do a job. That’s why I’ve been so heavily focused on acoustic guitar the past two years, particularly the baritone acoustic as it combines my love of the lower frequencies with a more melodic form of expression.

The baritone acoustic is the instrument you hear on this particular song. I’ve further detuned it to make it deeper and darker as a representation of where I was at the time this song was written. There’s something joyfully perverse about taking a lovely acoustic instrument and cranking it through a guitar amplifier to get some distortion which sums up how my emotions were at the time – jagged and chaotic.

I hope, one day, to reconnect with the bass. Until then they sit in my living room, out of their cases for once, waiting for the human me to pick them up and make their voices heard.

no such thing as a free ride: budgeting for an album explained

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m happy, overwhelmed and honoured by the response to table for one., both the live show and the recording.  However, this is my response to the most asked question about this.
Well folks, it’s happened.  Less than 24 hours of being available online, I’ve had the inevitable requests for a free copy of table for one.
If this happens in person, the person asking will likely get a head tilt, followed by “the look” and then a brief and simple “no.” from me.
If you were going to get a free copy of the $10 download or the $15 CD, you would have been notified of it already – my next list is the folks who graciously pre-paid for copies of table for one. along with their tickets to the August 28, 2016 concert.  These folks should expect their email from me by the end of the day!
However, even as a labour of love, I cannot simply afford to give my music away.  And honestly, as it represents 7 years’ of my life distilled down into 10 songs, putting a monetary value on it hurts.   But it also represents a LOT of work and the accounting below does not include the hours of writing, rewriting, rehearsal, travel and administrative work necessary to produce such a document.
Keep in mind that I did this album as frugally as I could without resorting to doing it myself on Garageband, as I wanted to focus on the actual performances while an incredible professional focused on technical things like microphone placement and compression.
tableforoneaccounting-page-001
I’m grateful for the folks who have supported me, however I’d like to at least break even on this, so I can continue to afford to make music.  So, if I don’t offer you a free download or CD…this is why.
You will note that even on such a small budget, I still have quite a way to go before even recuperating the expenses of producing this album and why I’m equally frugal with who gets free copies of my life’s work.  I make music because I love doing it and I’m driven to do so.  I’m not asking for huge success, I’m hoping it will be at least self-supporting.