OK, I’m not suggesting that circumstances must always be perfect in order to play drums; that would be extremely rare and difficult to manage. But, I am suggesting that one’s emotional state does contribute to one’s playing; therefore, it is important to try to find something that allows you to tune out the noise when called to deliver a stellar set. This is not easy. And sometimes, our emotions fuel our fire and can lead to intense sessions. However, sometimes, not being able to “center” yourself leads to distracted playing that ultimately lets the entire band down. So, what strategies out there work? I don’t know! For me, in the last few days, I’ve become hyper aware of the fact that I let the day’s troubles bleed into my playing and instead of giving me energy to play, it’s led to losing count. I, personally, need about twenty minutes of personal warm-up time where I can just clear my head without needing to answer to anybody. Maybe I have my headphones on and can jam out a few quick paradiddles to “In a Gadda da Vida.” Maybe for someone else, it’s yoga. Maybe for another, it’s charcoal drawings or zoning out to an episode of Veep. My point is that lately, my outside life list has led to my losing focus while on the kit. We’re talking about how to be present in the moment. I don’t mean to suggest that we are able to completely tune out important life transitions or relationship problems, but I do mean to suggest that our kits should be a safe space that we create for ourselves–a haven away.
For many drummers, the act of drumming itself is our form of meditation. This resonates with me; I’ve never been a need-to-relax-to-quiet-the-mind kind of gal. There are countless reasons for this, but I’ve become more comfortable with the fact that in movement, I find stillness. In drumming, I find that “empty” calm. It seems counterintuitive, but it works for me. So, knowing this, I need to work on creating the time and space to get myself to the kit to allow even a few minutes of my meditative energy flow to be released. I’ve been putting so many items on my To-Do list ahead of my kit, accompanied by excuses and doubts (as if drumming is frivolous when it actually keeps my mind and body healthy) as to why I should be doing anything other than drum. Grading papers. Making dinner. Watching the dog. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much being a woman has affected my frame of mind. Even as a women’s studies adjunct and a self-proclaimed “independent woman,” I am still drawn into a spiral of pressure (even if non-existent from external sources) around housekeeping, my career, and time devoted to my relationship. I am affected, as much as the next person, by our social media and messages about “femininity” and as much as I have tried to buck the system, that does not mean that from time to time it doesn’t unnerve me. What does it mean to try to do it all? I also often feel as though I’m playing catch up to other drummers who started playing as children, whereas I took years off (with my drums in storage) to complete my degree. While that was the right choice for me, it doesn’t mean I don’t have days filled with existential crises.
I’m reading a new (to me) book by Marion Woodman–one of my favorite authors and poets who recently passed away, a pioneer in female archetypes–called The Maiden King about one’s inner union of yin/yang expression. We project so much onto the world around us and expect so much from other people without first asking ourselves why. More to come on this theme as I prepare for a class on fairy tales about women whose skin is stolen and the creative process. The fire…that is so elusive.