How music changed my life, Part 2: Recognizing and acknowledging the issue

When you are down, negative, depressed, burned out, or even just tired from everyday routine, having some form of creative outlet is a wonderful thing. It doesn't matter *what* you do – it can be writing or painting or really anything you like – but it does matter that you do something. For me, that is largely music.

This is a story of how, over the first 38 years of my life, I grew out of touch with myself and my values, got into a depression, and almost ruined my family. Reconnecting to music was a key element to understand where I was at, in life.

This post is the second in a series. If you have not read the first part, please do

How music changed my life, Part 1: Falling down

This installment continues the story where the previous one left it, and it talks about how I finally awoke to the fact that I had an issue.

A third post will talk about how I actually healed from it. Stay tuned!

One thing was clear: I needed music more than I had ever done before. This was clear to my wife, if not to myself, and she let me take that time to play music and later, as I'll describe in the paragraphs below, to build instruments. She knew my music time was time that was allowing me to deal and digest a bit the overload of information and fear in my head. I needed that outlet. If I had not healed myself first from my addiction (which was work), I could not have time and space for her and my kids. If I was not happy and stable myself first, how could I make them happy?

I didn't understand any of this at the time – I just thought it was cool that she was not demanding or blaming me (while I was an asshole most of the times) and she let me play music, something I had really missed, something that had always let me send out a new 'message in a bottle' with each new song. In the meantime she was suffering and she was getting sick while I 'lived the dream' but I was grumpy and snappy and really not pleasant to be around. I also started pushing her away (albeit I always loved her): I now understand that I felt scared of the person I had become, and I was trying in some twisted way to 'protect' her and 'punish' myself, like I didn't deserve to be happy.

Anyhow, just composing and recording my songs still involved a computer (not directly 'related' to work… but my eyes were sore of looking at a screen and just composing at the computer made the experience still too 'mental' and less 'emotional'); I needed something that kept me away from computers, to find back my humanity, to ground me. Something more 'down to basics'.

Important turns of events often come unexpected, and so the universe blessed me in this casual way: we were at a local thrift store, and my wife (she truly is my muse!) spots an electric guitar, and she points it out to me: "is it any good?"
This guitar looked like it had previously been a not-over-the-top-but-decent quality instrument before it was raped (= really badly relic'd – basically vandalized) by its previous owner.
I wasn't sure, but I kind of saw potential… also my wife encouraged me to try and repair it/restore it, particularly if I was able to bring it home for very cheap from the thrift store and so I got it and I started taking it apart and restoring it. I already wrote a post back then about I then restored this guitar completely and have then used it in various songs.

Restoring an Electric Guitar

This experience was enlightening: never before I had thought I could do anything to the instrument besides playing it or changing its strings and tuning it! Maybe it was the result of my piano education too – an instrument that only very skilled and specialized experts can tune, to start with – but I had never thought about taking apart and modify an instrument and yes, it took me 37 years to get this epiphany!
Then memory came back: I had actually wanted to build one when I was in my early teens, but I didn't know how, and there was no internet available to learn luthiery as easily as today. But these are just pieces of wood, some screws, some springs… as a 14 year old I didn't know how, but today, with the amount of information available, learning just about anything is easier than ever. This meant I could build my own guitar from scratch!
Even if most people would see 'guitar building' as a profession, it is really a craft, like most other skills, and you can learn any number of them. We are not our jobs, we are not the labels society puts on us, we are not our diploma's. We do learn skills during this lifetime, and the more the better, as you never know what they'll be useful for.
How is woodworking different than writing computer programs? I also did not have an education in IT or engineering, and yet I was very successful in IT! I know I can learn just about anything I set my head onto (and here's a tip: so can you!), so I I started building a guitar from almost 'scratch' (I bought the neck already made that first time, but built the guitar body from a plank of wood that my landlord had left lying around). I blogged about it here

DYI Telecaster (Pinecaster) Project

This guitar became one of my favorites, and I regularly use it for my songs, and in dark moments of that period I allowed my subconscious to let out in lyrics and sounds what it was trying to tell me but I could not see, clouded as I was.
When I go and hear back what I wrote and sang – not immediately, but at times many years later – I somehow get handed the key to my own words, of my past self, and I am able to recognize and analyze what was going on in my head at the time, from a calmer, detached position, and to rewrite the emotions associated with those periods, and heal my emotional scars. It is no different than keeping a diary, if you wish.

If you hear 'I walked all this road', which I wrote in the spring of 2014, the text was pretty clear: my subconscious (which I was letting speak thru channeling my emotions into words and music) was telling me that what I had done until then (salaried IT job, career, trying to conform and live the dream) really wasn't what was good for me any longer. I had to evolve, to be me myself – my real self – once more. I wrote and sang that pretty clearly…

I walked all this road

I came till here
walked all this road
only to find
I've got to evolve

what I have been
does not define
what I will be
I have yet to find

a simplistic
view of life
is not what really
should devise

what people do
onto this world
is only their business
don't you know?

I came till here
walked all this road
only to find
I've got to evolve

I came till here
walked all this road
only to be
myself once more

I've got to evolve
to be myself once more

I came till here
walked all this road
only to find
I've got to evolve

what I have been
does not define
what I will be
I have yet to find

a simplistic
view of life
is not what really
should devise

what people do
onto this world
is only their business
don't you know?

You cannot love
if you don't trust
it's almost spring
let's hope it lasts

I am never done
learning new things
it is what gives
my life its swing

I came till here
walked all this road
only to find
I've got to evolve

I came till here
walked all this road
only to be
myself once more

I've got to evolve
to be myself once more

I could not even clearly understand what was provoking the sense of dissatisfaction that I was feeling at the time, but I am pretty sure the lyrics capture it, and now that I am healed I am able to see it: I was done with the 'simplistic' view of life that society wants us to walk, and I had to come all the way to the corporate job in America to figure it out. It wasn't practical to wear a mask all those years, and that by now I was longing to be myself once more.
But back then, I only let the song out, but I didn't have the courage to do anything to change the situation because I was rationally in denial that I even had an issue, to start with. But flushing it down helped keeping it present, track it down, give a signal to the universe while my conscious mind (influenced by society) was trying to always belittle that feeling and suppress it…

Daniele Muscetta playing acoustic guitar

Crafting and 'making' things is a wonderful, practical, down-to-earth way to meditate. Making a guitar with my hands from a piece of wood got me in touch with my emotions, gave me the thinking space (distracted me from obsessing over work commitments, deliverable, dates, disagreements, toxic people's influence, the next email, etc…), and allowed me to re-evaluate what type of system and society I was contributing to.
Am I really a tech enthusiast? Actually, I have never been.
I went into IT just as a way to trade my skills for money: I 'get' how machines work, corporations need those – but I like neither machines nor corporations. My mind was for rent, but my heart has always been elsewhere.

Looking at how guitars are made, and that I was able to build one with reclaimed, cheap materials, without giving the major guitar makers a ton of money for equivalent – or lesser – products, made me see again what I was contributing to with my job, what type of society did I want to create for my kids?
Did I want them to grow up by video games, personal assistants and on-demand videos (next to a fascist school system that represses them and sedates their spirit and treats them more like machines or ants than humans) while I work my health away and take decisions like a machine myself to introduce more of that type of shiny, throw-away, 'you always need the latest' things in the world?

The answer was no, of course.

I was betraying my real self, my values. Under the 'shiny armor' of 'I am providing', I was closing myself to my wife and to my kids – not more money, they needed, but my time and human presence and the example of standing for my own values and owning my shit (as James Greenshields would say it): I was negating them my time, my understanding, my compassion and my better self.

While IT has created the ability for people like you and me to come together in digital worlds and share information, IT has also incredibly invaded our lives. Internet of things, wearables, medical implants, self-driving cars… it is getting creepy. The solution to the issues that IT has raised in society cannot be found in IT itself – we can't turn off a fire with more fire, we can't drain a lake with more water, and we can't fix the issues with society that were created by too much screen time and uninterrupted internet access by adding even more screen time and connectedness!
We need to go at a different level that does not involve being plugged all the times, always fearful of losing what we have accumulated, working all the times, often supporting the wrong energies. We need to rediscover our wholeness as humans. Our emotions. We need to go back to live at a speed that is not necessarily 'primitive' or throwing the world back into the middle ages, but one that allows ourselves to discover the real beauty of each new moment. As people and as a society, we need to slow down. We need to get back in touch with our basic and magical human creative nature. We need to think of the environment. Reconnect with nature. We need to do stuff that fills us and the world with Joy. We cannot afford to die not having really lived for what we believe in. What will our descendants think of what we did in this lifetime? What mark do we want to leave on this world? We should not only half-live, or survive, for fear of stepping out of what everybody else does, out of the known path, out of the comfort zone which we created in our head (but is not really 'comfortable' as we think it is…).

I had enough of the speed and the methods of industrial production, of which IT is the ultimate example. After all, I had got into that just to get economic independence, but I was not married to a company nor to the market in which it operates. Working in IT was a compromise from the very beginning and I had tried to ignore that and forget it, stored it away somewhere where it was hurting me. I could not imagine reinventing myself and doing something different which better aligned with my view of the world I want – which I craved deep inside – for the fear of losing what I had built so far. And so I was working extra hard, to the point of getting panic attacks if we were in the middle of the forest and I didn't have internet connection to check work email. Can you call this addiction a 'success'?

And then it became clear, talking to my wife: the image I was presenting to society/work and who my soul wanted to be had just grown more and more separate over time, together with the responsibilities and how much I became involved in strategic decisions, as opposed to being just a support guy.
Since I was not feeling aligned to the values of the technocratic society, I was working myself to death as a sort of penitence, unconsciously try to redeem my 'sin' of working towards the wrong, fearful, dark, medical scientific future I don't like. Similarly, I was always overly cautious with money and not spending much for my own enjoyment, even if I could afford it.

Basically, compromising my values I had grown out of sync with who I really am, and that – very slowly, over 18 years – threw me in a depression that fed my own insecurity and sense of not deserving enough.

"I didn't even know that I was trapped in the dream that had been envisioned for me by my culture, religion and education" – Alberto Villoldo, 'The Four Insights'

I had to slow down completely and for good. I needed to change job and life. My soul needed that. My family needed me to be my better self. The world needs me – and everyone else – to be their better selves, if we want to do something about the planet, and our health. Eat organic, eat more veggies, plant trees, make love, talk about your emotions, make music, help other people!

When we set in this direction I was still largely engulfed by fear, but I finally did recognize that we needed to figure out a way to make these changes, and so we set things in motion. In the third installment I'll cover how we planned and implemented the changes in our life.

Till then!

PS – my wife has also written a post about her experience helping me out of this depression, and how the whole experience made our family grow stronger in the end.

My partner's depression was a growth opportunity for our family

The third part of the article is here

How music changed my life, Part 3: Climbing up




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