MY LIFE IS SO LONELY AND WEIRD
I was text-chatting with my Boston daddy yesterdayâ€”I get a dedicated chat with him maybe once or twice a monthâ€”and he mentioned his new car. He’s very proud of it, for good reason (I’ve seen pictures, it is SWELL). Will you take me for rides in it? I asked. “Of course I will,” he said. And then my brain kinda glitched for a moment, when I realized that I wasn’t going to be seeing him for another SIX MONTHS.
DADDY MY LIFE IS SO LONELY AND WEIRD, I typed. I felt a small ache in my heart.
“I know, cupcake,” he said. “There are tradeoffs for the life you chose. Sometimes it’s really awesome, and sometimes it’s really frustrating.”
Boston Daddy, like my other lovers, follows my exploits on Facebook, so he knows when I’ve been having a run of frustrating shows or a travel fuck-up or bad encounters with street harassment. He also knows how torn I am between striking out on my own and settling down.
Because he’s right. Touring, the way I do it, is a roller coaster, and there’s nothing really to moderate the ups and downs. I haven’t yet been picked up by a manager or agent, I’m not making a reasonable amount of money, not having generally accessible or blockbuster types of shows in my repertoire, so what I’ve wound up with is an awkward string of Fringe festivals, punctuated by one-off productions, with uncertain box office returns and no built-in community, either in terms of fellow artists or local friendships. When I tour, I’m on my own, at least in an immediate, physically proximate sense, for long stretches at a time.
It was a little bit easier on the Canadian Fringe circuit: everything flows east to west, with the passing of the summer and fall, and there ends up being a sort of caravan feel to the tour. I’m planning to do Canada again in 2016, and I wonder if I’m remembering the artist community correctly, or if that’s just me romanticizing it because I miss it so much.
UK touring is far lonelier, because a) I don’t have my car, and b) there is no distinct sense of itinerary for artists. In the UK, there are sometimes half a dozen festivals where performers could go on any given weekend. We are scattered all over, bouncing past each other like metal balls in a pinball game bonus round. I see people I know, but randomly and definitely not from week to week.
Okay, so my social life and support networks are in disarray for six or seven months out of the year. My love life? I try so hard to stay off the relationship escalator, to not carry around any couple-y/nesting/enmeshment expectations, but there’s no denying that I love to nest and savor domestic proximity with lovers. My goal has been to cultivate a network of dedicated long-term, long-distance relationships, where I know that someone is waiting excitedly for me when I come around. And when I’m with those lovers, for a week or a month, sometimes a stretch of months during the winter, I do have a place to call home. This home-sense is partly a sense of owning a space, and partly feeling that I am being welcomed back. The return of the prodigal daughter, every season, every year. I have a safe, welcoming place to land.
But I don’t have so many of those core relationships, only three, maybe a flickering four. (I don’t think I could do many more, because they are real emotional commitments and I can only spend so much of any week on Skype.) There’s a part of me that really thinks that it’s not fair to lean so heavily on any one person, so I get weirded out when I need emotional support from anyone. This may be something that I need to get over, because the fact remains that for a good half of my year, when I come “home” after a long day of performing or promoting or traveling, with whatever the ups and downs, I am almost always coming home to a relative stranger’s house. And that is beginning to suck.
I don’t know what to do about it. As Boston Daddy said, it may just be one of the trade-offs that I have to make. But something has to change; I have to learn to manage this better, or find a more emotionally supported approach to touring. My life feels so lonely and weird right now that it really hurts, and for the first time in a few years, I am beginning to wonder how, and how long, I can keep it up.
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You are experiencing the loneliness of the wandering “minstrel” life. It is a tough one, for all the reasons you so eloquently described. I can think of a few ways to maybe make it better.
You should try to schedule breaks. Times like when you are close to your Boston Daddy, that you can easily go home to him. A few days or most of a week. Recharge your emotional batteries and get the loving we all crave. Or when you are near one of these other lovers. Skip a show or two. I know it is hard when you are as driven as you are, but for your own peace of mind and health, you should do it.
Another strategy would be to try to travel with another performer who is on the circuit, or series of performers for different parts of the circuit. This would give you someone to talk to and share experiences with. I don’t know how piratical this is as I assume each performer organizes their own shows, but if you could find someone(s) who is/are generally in your same performing neighbourhood, you could at least share a motel room and companionship. There must be others who are experiencing the same stresses and loneliness as you are. Maybe start a FaceBook group for people who want to do this. Just a suggestion.
I guess a more radical thing to do is to stop preforming for a year or two. Maybe develop more material. Then come back with a vengeance.
I don’t know if any of this is useful, but I want you to know I sympathise. I try to fight the loneliness as well. In my case it is brought on by depression, which just has me shut down and not reach out to people. In the depths of that I just feel I should be alone and why would anyone want to reach out to me. And they don’t. Except for my immediate family. I know they don’t know, but that doesn’t stop me from going down the same road almost every year. Trying to change that by letting people know I shut down in the fall. I know why (Christmas related) plus I think I have SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder). The combination just over whelms me.
Knowledge is power. But not by itself. You have to let others know and help. Very few of us can do it on our own. Probably close to zero. The odd very eccentric individual.
Anyway, this should only give you one alert on your phone. Not the many I triggered yesterday.
Take care and
Live Long and Prosper