The movie ended, the credits rolled. I stood up, I sat down. Nearly passing out in a movie theatre only took up about ten seconds of my life, but that was enough for me to think something might be wrong. Over the next few days I continued to feel very dizzy, very tired and very confused. I kept pushing, hoping my symptoms would disappear on their own. I tried to play my weekly basketball game, but I had to keep subbing myself out because I would get so disoriented. My band The Lovebirds had a 35 minute bar gig, which I was only able to finish thanks to a fan’s generous donation of Advil. I had a hard time focusing at work, my emotions were out of control, and any sudden movement made my head feel like a jar of marbles.
At my girlfriend’s insistence, I made a doctor’s appointment. I hated making doctor’s appointments and equated each one to throwing away $50 of my hard-earned money and 60 minutes of my precious time. But I was getting sick of feeling like one of those swooshy liquid-filled paperweights, so off I went. There, they drew blood, collected urine, eavesdropped on my heart and lungs – you know the drill. I answered a slew of questions, explaining how I made my living: 30 hours a week as a corporate event planner and 30million hours a week as a musician. I told the doc how I’d just returned from a month-long tour that included 2 trips to Texas over a 7-day period. I told her about my sleeping patterns, or lack thereof. I told her about my workout routine, or lack thereof. A few days later, she called me and told me what I kind of already knew. I was exhausted. The prescription? More cowbell. Just kidding. The prescription was rest.
I started to think about my body – a garden of growing things that I had neglected to nourish in the name of being “busy.” I thought about time. How I felt overwhelming pressure when I didn’t have enough of it and unrelenting guilt when I wasn’t using it to propel my music career.
I noticed many similar ‘rest-required’ scenarios unfolding for my friends and fellow musicians, especially women. I decided to ask some of them about their experiences to see what kind of insight I might gather, not only for myself but for any other musician who might relate. Leave it to Lindsay White to analyze something as simple as rest.
Working it Out
My friend and bandmate Veronica May has also been trying to get to the bottom of some health-related issues. I asked her why she thinks musicians have such a hard time slowing down, even when their bodies are giving off major signs that something might be wrong. “As a musician you have this self-imposed pressure to be ‘On’ at all times. Between that and late nights followed by crappy dinners…it’s not a winning combo. Personally, I push it because I’m constantly thinking of the fact that I’m getting older and older, so I physically push because my reasoning is I won’t always have it. ‘You don’t use it you lose it’ comes to mind, when in fact resting is what keeps us at our best.”
Listen Local SD musician/promoter Cathryn Beeks shares that ‘always on’ sentiment. “Even when I try to get off (the grid) I sneak on. At least to remove the thousands of spammy stuff in my email. Otherwise it’s too overwhelming when I really get back to work.”
Songwriter/guitarist/performer Steph Johnson also spoke about the sheer volume of work musicians face. “I think that the challenges of being a musician nowadays is that if you want to have work, you have to work for it and it’s often a struggle. I am a singing, guitar playing, songwriting, booking, promoting, teaching, touring kind of artist and so are a lot of my friends. It’s easy to get spun out.
Lisa Viegas, drummer for local band Sister Speak, agrees. “Most people don’t realize how much work musicians put in behind the scenes: acting as their own record label, booking, promotion, press, etc.”
Reeling it In
Often we forget about the importance of self-care until our bodies remind us. Sherri-Anne, frontwoman of Sister Speak recalled, “When I was home recovering from a broken pelvis/sacrum in 2012 it taught me the power of absolute vulnerability. I could write a novel on how precious that recovery time was. I went to my parents in B.C. (Canada) and wasn’t able to go up or down any stairs or leave the house for almost two weeks. I felt what it was like to sleep til I was rested, eat whenever I’m hungry, write music at any moment I felt inspired to, let myself feel whenever an emotion came up, because my life purpose became taking care of myself so I could connect with the world again and be in a strong and loving place to do it.”
These bodily reminders can be life-changing in negative and positive ways, depending on how you choose to receive them on any given day. Steph Johnson recounts, “Earlier this year I was super fatigued and having lots of panic attacks….after some tests, doctors found a large mass in my left breast. This news made me change my life and helped me refocus my intention, with my health and my journey.”
Finding a Balance
It’s been about two weeks now since I went to the doctor. I am making a conscious effort to put nutritious food in my body, establish a workout routine and not feel guilty when my body tells me to rest. I realize there will always be a compulsion to “busy” myself into a frenzy while attempting to tackle a music career; however, I’m starting to embrace the fact that my health and wellness is a huge component to any success I might find in the music industry. I asked my friends for guidance on creating a work/life balance:
Sherri-Anne: “Our bodies are our vehicles for experiencing life and connecting with the world. When we take care of our ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually it paves the way to more freely do and express what we love – whatever that may be.”
Lisa Viegas: “Fuel yourself well with good food and positive thoughts! Get things flowing in your body to make room for creativity- yoga/exercise, massage/acupuncture, meditation AND REST! -a great equation for longevity as a musician to stay on track and share your craft.”
Steph Johnson: “I switched to an all organic/local/in-season diet, mostly plant based (vegan). I also gave up my morning espresso. Caffeine was a crutch for me so giving that up was difficult but after about a week I noticed more energy. Pretty soon my energy levels were soaring. I gave up sugar, dairy, meat, soy and gluten as well. I also cut my stress out, or at least I have tried to but even good stuff is stressful. So I mix in volunteering, meditating and bike riding. Just like eating well and getting exercise, it’s good to take it easy when you are experiencing fatigue or panic attacks, muscle tension, emotional instability, etc. You can’t do everything in a day. And like my buddhist friend tells me, ‘whatever you don’t get done today, just relax and let it go. It’s ok.’”
We pay attention to that “rest” sign in our music charts. Here’s hoping we can all do a better job paying attention to the rest signs our bodies give us. Sending all my healing, positive thoughts and love to these friends and so many others who give themselves to their passion on a daily basis. Here’s hoping you all get some rest this holiday weekend!