How music changed my life, Part 1: Falling down

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 about 'how I got down there'. The next installment in this series will talk of how I finally awoke to the fact that I had an issue, and how I healed from it.

Personas

I have always loved music since I was a little kid.
I also had music training (piano lessons) since age 7 or 8, after I had begged my parents for a while.
Those music lessons were useful and I am grateful I had them, although they were mostly focused on mastering the 'classics' – i.e. play Mozart of Beethoven perfectly – and not at all on improvisation and composition, and spontaneous flow of emotions.
When I was 16, I dropped out of the piano lessons altogether, after having felt pressured to take it a step higher and do conservatory: I wanted to play rock, metal, anything else by then, and not just copy the famous bands, but compose my own songs, express my own emotions, not play Chopin!
An old second-hand classical guitar that my dad had found somewhere appeared in my life around that time, and I started teaching myself how to play it (this was pre-internet yet, I wish I had YouTube back then!) with some book from the local music store.
I was really crappy with the guitar, but oh the joys of doing my own noise! Expressing myself! No rules to follow!
I even got into a band for some years and I was finding myself.

But at some point I got 'serious': in the beginning of 1997, at age 20 (almost 21), after realizing university was too boring and would be too slow for my liking, I set off in a totally different direction (Information Technology), which would give me economic independence more quickly. Eventually that was still a 'socially accepted' and 'serious' work, everybody in my family was happy and proud of me, and family pressure relaxed.
After a couple of sentimental relationships that weren't the real deal but more like 'proof of concept', me and my soulmate Jyothi – that I knew since I was 19 but we had lost contact with for a few years – found each other back and I got a family with her. I gradually started working more and playing less, and neglected myself my love for music. Nobody told me to stop: it was the fear to be 'silly', not serious, egoistic, or be wasting time for myself.
Maybe because I was told as a kid that artists could never make a living, I was repeating that mantra without questioning it, and music got unconsciously ranked as 'non essential'. So, as I was 'settled', things got busy, and music became something to listen to, but I played and composed very little or close to nothing for several years. By letting go of music, I had locked my soul in a cage I built myself.

[long period of musical darkness]

Fast forward a few years, when we were living in Italy, Jyothi had a miscarriage, but I was already too busy, overworked, tired and blocked emotionally to deal with the associated emotions in a conscious and rational way. Nevertheless, I needed to express them: in a shopping frenzy I decided to buy a new professional sound card for my computer so I could record my compositions – I did it instinctively, or was it divinely guided – and at that moment I started making music again and wrote a couple of songs. But things got busy again very soon – I was travelling for work all the times and I was feeling so lonely, and so did my wife – so I swallowed that pain and didn't really deal with rationalizing the emotions associated with that episode until 2015… I also didn't play nor write much music for another while, as I was never really home, and when I was home I was trying to be a husband and a dad, first. I was spreading myself very thin, and letting my emotions out was really at the bottom of my priorities. It turns out it was a mistake to just try and toughen up / swallow those emotions and keep them locked.
Some music had come out during an episode of pain, but already at that point, with many years of very little or no music and extended exposure to solely 'rational' thinking done in IT companies, I had already shut down parts of myself and some of my other artistic expressions had deteriorated or stopped: I wasn't drawing or painting anymore – I was only drawing networks and other diagrams for work, but nothing artistic – and those couple of songs that came out were still very mechanical and 'stiff'. Also, they didn't have lyrics…

In that period I anyhow intensified my use of the camera and I became a lot better at photography – I used to explain that I still liked music, but photography was more 'portable' of a hobby, which was true: photography meant another artistic outlet that at least let me capture the beauty I was seeing outside and in other people – even while on my business trips – , although I was no longer capable of expressing my own emotions as much, I was at least using the camera to capture stories I saw outside. "The camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera" Dorothea Lange – the famous photographer – said, and she was right.

Fast forward a few more years, I had gotten a career opportunity, so we had moved to America.
While I was still very 'distracted' and mostly just working (in fact, more and more as I was getting 'up' the ladder), I had this big board in front of my face that didn't let me see. I was under the illusion that, since I was providing money by working hard, every other subsystem of me could be just shut down and I would be fine.
Well, not really. But luckily I have my kids that guide me. Kids are the greatest teachers. They are still so 'connected' to source, and if you flow with them and don't try to control them or shape them into what society tells you to, they'll show you the wise way every single time. So in our first year in America, Luca had a chance to get a couple of free piano lessons at school. He loved it so much and started playing a simplified version of Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' over and over and over on a crappy little keyboard we had. Then I thought "hey but I have a better one" – with all my music equipment which I had relocated but not yet unpacked, over 9 months after the move.
So I reconnected all my stuff to get him a keyboard, but eventually I also started using it again myself a little. And then a little more, and a little more…
Then we got Luca a better electric piano, and his playing improved a lot and he kept enjoying it. We made sure his teacher used a different method than the one I learned with, so that he would not be too constrained into just the classics but get a broader taste and focus on enjoyment of playing, not perfection.

Luca playing the Piano

My son needed music, but he was a mirror for me, because I needed it too! I was just keeping it quiet and enduring and waiting for 'when I will have time'… while letting the time pass and never actually finding the time for what my soul craved.
At this point the equipment was plugged again, and the house in America was a lot bigger than the apartment we had in Italy, so I could also use a much bigger space, which encouraged my playing. I was also travelling a lot less, just going back and forth to the same office, so I actually was able to find a few moments in the evenings to use my equipment. So I started composing something again – if you look at my 'songs' page you'll see I wrote and recorded several songs over the 2012-2014 period.

All sort of emotions went into those song, as several things happened in that period. Work was more intense than ever, and under a new set of conditions for me: while in Italy I was travelling all the time, even if I was lonely and it sucked, I had long unwinding times for myself where I could take pictures of a new place and spend time outside to reground myself after having been at customers. I am a bit psychic and a bit autistic, I pick up other people's emotions and they stay 'stuck' on me. In the last few years I have learned to recognize and accept that and 'deal' with it to some extent; but before I realized it, in America I was absorbing everybody's emotions and intensities in large projects with hundreds of people, large meetings, conflicting agendas, frequent re-organizations and changes of plans, I had to keep quiet on several things I didn't agree with, and my European directness tended to not match the political correctness that my American colleagues expected. But according to my managers, at the end of the day I was doing great, so they kept giving me awesome reviews and raises (which carried more responsibilities, as I was already burning out) – which incidentally also made other folks jealous, since they were not moving up the ladder quick enough… as a result of all this, I was swallowing emotions, not dealing with them, and bringing a ton of stress home, which eventually made both me and my wife sick. It must have been hard being around me both at work and at home), as I was often behaving like an asshole, snapping for no reason, not trusting anyone anymore.

At least my wife was giving me the space to write songs which could speak from my soul and not from my hurt rational mind! Please listen to 'Where are the days?' and its desperate cry, from that period when I started going out of my mind.
Not just the rhythm at which I worked that contributed to my stress, anyhow: more stressful situations and episodes were also coming from society, for example what I described in the following posts, which I felt 'safe' to post only a couple of years later, after we got out of America…

When I stopped sleeping well at night

Imaginary Friend Sara (about public school in the United States)

There were more bad things happening to us and scaring us in that period, some of which I prefer not to write about, but it felt like the whole universe was screaming at us 'get the heck out of here'. But at the time I didn't clearly understand what was going on in my own head. I was dozed and 'living the dream' or being a successful manager of a famous company, and I refused to see that things weren't quite good for our well being there. I was scared and delusional.

It's easier to rewind the tape like I am doing now and watch the movie (or hear those songs), in retrospective… but while the movie of life is being filmed, it is all improvised and not always conscious – especially when you are always running, you don’t give yourself time to regroup from one task to the next, you don't know exactly what you are dealing with, and you don't control your emotions and what you are letting out. Other people see it. That's why it's important that you let it out also in some creative form, so that you can also have a chance to see it. Because you can better see how you are by observing yourself from the outside. You can only see your problem if you move your point of view out of it. I can only take a photo of the house as a whole if I get out of it, not if I stay inside its living room. Art lets your inner self spew out fragments of a puzzle that is a projection of your conscience, or your soul. The more of these fragments you create, the more the puzzle starts to take shape, till you eventually see what you already knew but were afraid to admit to yourself – and often it is just fear of being all that we can be.

To become self-aware you have to realize how self-aware you're not – Scott Berkun

One thing was clear: I needed music more than I had ever needed before.

In the next installment of this series of posts (which I hope to publish at some point next week), I'll describe at what point I finally became aware of my condition, how I started climbing back up from the hole I had dug for myself, and the role that music played in the recovery process.

The second part of the article is here

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

Coming soon: Sanctuary of Joy

Hi everyone! Me and my wife Jyothi are getting ready to start running the Sanctuary of Joy – 'a sacred space to (re)discover who you really are'.

The goal of the Sanctuary (both a physical as well as a 'virtual' space) it to take you on a healing journey to find your inner wisdom and energy in a simple and peaceful way.

We'll offer Reiki, Tarot and Oracle card readings, Coaching – and more.

Check out our the landing page on our website and subscribe over there if you want to keep up to date when we fully launch!

Sanctuary of Joy Teaser

Of quality time, the last 20 years and the best night of my life

Just around this time at the beginning of August, twenty years ago, is when I first met Jyothi.
20 years is a long time, of which we have been living together for the last 14 and have been married for 12 and a half.
As we approach our 40 years milestones (I turned 39 in March, Jyothi in July) we have now known each other for more than half of our lives.
I am so blessed I met my soul mate, my lover, my best friend and the mother of my kids – and I would have certainly never imagined what booking that cheap holiday in '95, after I had passed my high school exams, would have led to.
The best things just happen, you can't stage them or set them up. You need to be in the flow.

Good morning sun!

While this post is obviously an open Love letter to my wife, you have to be warned that the rest of this article is NSFW (Not Safe For reading at Work). Read on at your own discretion.

As I was thinking about writing this piece and how to best explain what our relationship means to me, I stumbled into this article on the Huffington Post, which describes a relationship that looks just about the opposite… it's so far from my views of how a relationship should be, that I'll use it to explain by contrast what both marriage and feminism – and respect – mean to me, instead!

If I should summarize the article in a single sentence, I would probably do it like this twitter comment. But this post contains the extended version.

In the article, he author (a guy who has an 'open' relationship) mounts an articulate argument to attempt to preserve his self-esteem while his wife happily screws other men twice a week (and he's also allowed to but doesn't do it as much as she does…) and he is the 'stay at home dad' and he's obviously very bothered by it but he's trying to deny it and say he's fine and he accepts this cross because he's a Feminist ?!
Sorry but you guys are doing it all wrong. This is not feminism. This is American capitalism: you guys have chosen quantity over quality.

What I get from the story is that the author seems sincerely convinced he's doing the right thing, but there is an underlying lack of respect for him in all that she does – or what he lets us know about it – and he lets her get away with everything. To me it doesn't sound like it's really working: you don't sound happy. It sounds like she enjoys the other guys more, and you are losing her.
You guys should talk and dig deep and understand what's she finding in those other men that you don't seem to give her, but you should also make her stop hurting you. It's also not clear why you really chose to make your relationship 'open' – there is a short explanation but is very simplistic. You should dig deeper there to analyze what led you to that moment, and how you felt there.

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become" – Buddha

Either get back in touch and try to heal each other, or maybe you should even question why you are still together. It's not necessary that one of the two people in the couple has to take it all but then plays the martyr role. There is a lot of passive aggression that transpires from that article, while stating that he's fine with all of it.
Is also not clear how the kids are taking this – they sound like a 'burden' to you. I am not sure how they are living what they see and what they are learning from it. I would think maybe – just maybe – two independent but fully happy parents might actually give a better example in this case than what you are showing them here.

But why did I pick on this article?
Well, it got me thinking because the topic of 'open' relationships has been another cause of bother in our permanence in the United States: wherever we went, we kept ending up meeting/hearing/reading about many 'open couples' and poly-amorous relationships – and we have even been offered (and gently but firmly declined, albeit temptations messed up our minds for months…) to do exchanges and swaps and orgies from people we'd never expected such proposals… never happened in Europe, seriously. Yes some people do those things, it's known. But not that many, really, and from our recent first hand observation I believe the phenomenon is way bigger in the United States than I had ever known or suspected. We were not prepared for that.

Now you would think we are bigots. Moralists. Old fashioned.
It's not the point, we are actually quite open – I am not saying people shouldn't do those things. They like what they like, and that's OK if it really works for them and makes them happy.
But I am, anyhow, stating polygamy and various degrees of 'openness' in relationships aren't something for us, because we think they don't work in practice, and everybody gets hurt.
One of my past girlfriends cheated on me once, and she told me, and I was very hurt but I forgave her. But I think she was unconsciously trying to push me away, and the relationship was never the same again. Then she cheated again, then eventually we split up and she went with her new guy, who incidentally was my band's new guitarist – I had lost my girlfriend and my band at the same time. Neither the sexual nor the 'professional' relationships of that guy with my ex girl and the band lasted long, but it hurt like hell, and it took me a while to put myself together.
Jyothi's ex husband used to cheat on her too (and he didn't even tell her but was pretty obvious/under the sun). He also gambled and made them end up with debts. She took the hit for a while, but she eventually kicked him out and divorced him.

We all have had fantasies. We all have our weird thoughts and fears. Our animal bodies and senses, especially in this over-stimulating society, always crave for more. We are stressed and try to fill a void in the absurdity of our societies and workplaces. We are exposed to all sorts of programming and are actively 'targeted' by marketers who want us to always desire more, to buy more, to feel that we have never enough. This extends to desire for more sex, or more love.
There are even folks who start movements and write that they have 'more' love to give and one partner isn't enough for them. Well, you know what? You might think you can handle it – and maybe you can, for a while – but I see you are spreading too thin. You could spend that time better to strengthen the relationships you already have, if you think they are worth it, rather than starting all sort of new ones. Aren't we all already spreading too thin by time slicing seconds here and there for friends on social network, over life on this side of the screen?
But in relationships you need to tackle the issues you have, and you have got to make some choices. You can fight for and fix those issues when you care for it, or otherwise it sounds like you have already given up but can't dare to admit it.
Either way, you cannot want it all and want it now and throw a tantrum like a baby and get away with it, that's not how life works.

The guy of the Huffington post article mentions that when his wife was sleeping with other men he once got worried when she didn't even come back late but stayed out all night. Gosh, I would die at the idea my wife is out for 'fun' on one of those dates! But this is not feminism, she's walking over you! Feminism is about equality and fairness. It shouldn't mean that women now should emulate and repeat all the bad/stupid bossy behaviors they endured for centuries from men. It's bad and disrespectful behavior regardless of which side does it.

I remember with a lot of pain and solitude the many nights I spent out of the house, and not for fun, in a period years ago when we were living in Italy and I was travelling for work a lot, visiting customers all over Europe and Middle East.
I spent those many lonely nights in (sometimes fancy, sometimes crappy) hotels, often working extra hours not knowing what else to do, sometimes masturbating if I could not hold my hormonal levels, but eagerly waiting to get back home and make love with my wife again. And she spent those same lonely nights at home too, in the same frame of mind…

Did I have occasions to cheat? Plenty – the company I work for even hosts to conference in places like Las Vegas (what is more terrible is that this is a place where Americans families – with kids – go on holiday):

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Welcom to Fabulous Las Vegas

But I never cheated.

Many nights in those hotels I really missed ending the day together with Jyothi, after the kids are asleep, when we can sit or lay together and talk about how our days went and the things we want to do together, and everything and nothing… and when we are together we do make love, yes we do enjoy quite a bit of sex with each other, that really I don't think any of us would even have energies to spare and go with someone else… without taking energy away from what we have. And we don't feel the tradeoff is worth.
And even on the days when we don't make love, we talk, read, we feel life together, we enjoy the little things. We really enjoy being together.

Sitting Next To You

Now, when we moved from Italy (where my work was the one that made me travel so much) to the United States, I was hoping the new job to be done 'at the office' (as opposed to travelling to customers) would give me the time to be more present – not less!
Turns out I was physically present almost every single day now, not travelling every other week anymore… but after a while I fell trap to something else: my job's rhythm became so intense that I stopped being 'mentally' present: for several months my head was just focused on the project I was working on, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, and I stopped having a life… and I was ruining what we have, because I was becoming absent. Sure, I was working 80-hours weeks and therefore paying the bills, but I wasn't doing anything else anymore, and I was growing distant and grumpy. Jyothi helped me see what I was doing, we talked about it, and she helped me remember who my better self was and how he looked like. Because that's what you do when you care for someone – you fight for him or her, you don't just let that grow more and more distant down any slippery slope. It was a very painful period, and Jyothi also got sick due to all the stress of having to do more alone than ever in a country with no other family or support system, and of what I talked about in the previous three posts on this blog.
I dropped some balls, I delegated more, we moved back to Europe and scaled back on the pressure. But in the end we both grew a hell of a lot stronger – and self aware – together, rather than falling apart.

I am a feminist, and I respect my wife by spending as much quality time with her as possible, whenever possible. Every night is a date night for us. This doesn't mean we need to go anywhere or do anything fancy and spend a fortune; I just mean we are present for each other with emotional intelligence, which is what human beings really need.
Also, we share the load of things like cleaning, cooking, etc – those are not 'mine' or 'her' jobs, they don't have anything to do with who works in an 'official' job and who works at home running after 3 kids… we are pretty fluid in that and naturally take turns – but it's based again on being there and understanding the other "I see you are tired, today I'll cook", things like that. I am sorry for a period I didn't do this anymore, when I had lost myself.

I am a feminist, and I respect my wife by not cheating, even if my dick sometimes does feel otherwise (and I won't deny it). But those organs tend to have a mind of their own. Especially if your colleagues fed you Vodka at the company event and you normally don't even drink coffee, let alone alcohol… But it's safe to assume that pussies have the same impulses, and here's the trick: you can actually ignore those impulses like you can control shopping frenzy. You can, right? Because *that* is exactly the problem, and that is the point I am trying to make – in all this flourishing of 'open' and 'poly' that we have seen in America and keep hearing about on the media, the problem is that people are not in touch with themselves – and with others. They think they can just 'shop' for happiness. Get more quantity. Bigger burgers! More dicks! More pussies! More everything!

This is caused by stress of a life that goes too fast, by being bombarded with horrible stimulations about how you should live, and conditioning of consumerism only seeking to make more money but give out all the wrong values and messages.

Why should you spread thin and handle multiple half-ass relationships, when you can have one that is just amazing?
You can do a million things and do them all crap. Or you can try to juggle a lot less and maybe do each thing you do properly.
Relationships don't "just work" – you have to actually be involved in them and spend effort on making them work. From both sides. And the growth you get – together – is wonderful, and totally worth it.

When a hooker in Vegas tried to get my attention telling she would make me spend the best night of my life, I smiled and continued along my road, thinking the best night of my life had been the night my daughter was born and I had to argue with and shout at the nurse to be allowed to stay with Jyothi in the hospital. I helped her as much as I could, at least with my presence, hearing and feeling her go thru the pain of the delivery.

That's why I am a very lucky man. Because with Jyothi we spend time together and enjoy the little things, and we are a fantastic team. Of two.

 

Flickr Cake

Flickr Cake

Flickr Cake, uploaded by Daniele Muscetta on Flickr.

Here the photo of another creation by Jyothi, that we have eaten two days ago with a bunch of Flickr-crazy friends: a Flickr cake! That wasn't only nice to see, it was also tasty!