Mantras. Do you have one? Do you say it? Does it work?
Through the years, I’ve used them and sometimes they work, while depending on the circumstances, other times they are only words. I have had serious battles with depression on occasion and when it’s been really bad, I’ll say to myself, Everything is gonna be alright and it seems to help, at least a little. Or, I’ll think about someone I know who is much worse off than me and the thought immediately pops into my head, Stop complaining…You’ve got it pretty good (and) At least you’re not…, then I fill in the blank. It helps most of the time.
Many years ago, when I had had enough of Memphis and the music scene here, I decided to head West to San Diego in search of greener pastures. I was 23. Two days on a Greyhound bus and there I was in sunny So Cal. Life seemed pretty sweet, but after a few weeks, I started to get a little homesick and began to question my decision. My former drum teacher back in Memphis called one day to see how I was doing and after telling him how bad I missed home, my family, friends, gigs were in short supply, finances were dwindling, etc., he reminded me of why I’d decided to make the move in the first place, that it was the right thing to do and suggested I try using a daily mantra to lift me out of the funk. I had never used one before, but was more than willing to give it a shot and began saying, I want to be a great musician. I even wrote it down on a piece of paper and put it on the front page of my planner, which I opened every morning to see what my day was looking like. There it was. I want to be great musician. The words however simple, smacked me in the face and I repeated them to myself, over and over again, till I was sick of saying them. A few weeks went by and before long, I started getting good jobs with great bands and my confidence grew. Maybe the mantra was working, or maybe it helped to change my attitude that life was a pile of shit and I was a terrible drummer. Whatever it was, I was starting to feel pretty good about myself.
Then I met a woman and for a short time, everything changed. She was beautiful. A cross between Audrey Hepburn and Winona Ryder. Jesus, I fell in love pretty quick. I felt like I had arrived at some magical place and was never going to have to live the life of a struggling artist again. I’d found my true love and together we were going to rule the world. But I was wrong. What I mistook for happiness was actually a false sense of self and I became lost. Always a people pleaser, her beliefs became my beliefs. Her friends became mine. My friends, for the most part, disappeared. She was working on a Masters in public health and I felt like I needed to step up. Even though we’d met in a bar and she liked the fact that I was chasing my dream, I decided I needed to go back to school and get my degree. Once I was out of the scene, gigs ended and band leaders no longer called. Out of sight, out of mind. Many folks thought that I’d moved out of town and were surprised when they learned I hadn’t. I strayed from the path, stopped practicing the drums, or looking for new work, was no longer saying my mantra every day and things got dark. After only two semesters, I gave up college and to support us, I took jobs in restaurants, record stores, coffee shops and hotels and played only on the rare occasion. I felt very sad inside. We were together three years, married for a few months, then divorced soon after. An ex-boyfriend suddenly came back into the picture and she made her decision. It was over between us. More darkness crept in, and soon, a deep depression. No mantras or uplifting words could pull me up out of the murk that I’d descended into and for nearly a year, I sulked.
A phone call one day got me involved in a recording session with a group of musicians that (to this day) will go down in the chapters of my life as some of the greatest I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with. They called themselves, the cat Mary and once we played together the first time, all three of us knew immediately that we’d stumbled onto something very special. They loved my drumming, complimented me on the fact that I actually cared about making a song groove and that was a big change from a lot of the negative groups that I’d been with before. For me, it was the kick in the pants I needed so badly. We got a record deal, I moved to Los Angeles and things began to get better. I even brought back the mantra, but this time with a slight variation…I am a great drummer, which felt so much better to say and I started to believe in myself again. Together we made two records, toured around the country and spent the better part of three years making a go of it. A time I will never forget. It’s been a while since we’ve seen one another, but we still keep in touch and the lessons I learned with those cats, taught me to just be who and what I am and that everything else will fall into place.