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Okay, FTNB Houston, here are some recommendations for the week.

 ★ Indicates shows I plan to attend. ★

Comment below if you are going to one of the shows I am or if you know of any great upcoming gigs I missed.


Wednesday, December 5th


Chris Isaak | House of Blues Houston | 7:00 PM | $35-$79

Genres: Rock, Rockabilly, Acoustic
He has released nine extraordinary albums, twelve singles, been nominated for two Grammy awards, and acted in several motion pictures

1204 Caroline St, Houston, TX 77002


Todd Snider | Main Street Crossing | Tomball, TX | 8:00 pm | $40

Genres: Alternative Country, Rock, Folk
East Nashville bulldog playing agnostic hymns & stoner fables.

1111 W Main St, Tomball, TX 77375


Thursday, December 6th


Anderson East | The Rustic | 7:00 PM | Love Street Live – Free with RSVP

Genres: Southern Soul, Americana, Roots Rock, R&b/soul, Rnb-soul, Rock, Folk
Anderson East is now a Nashville guy by way of Athens, Alabama. Pre-order the new album “Encore” now. Out 1.12.18.
Side note: this is a gorgeous, relatively new venue that is definitely worth checking out.

1836 Polk St, Houston, TX 77010


Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis’ Annual Holiday Shindig | McGonigel’s Mucky Duck | Thursday and Friday | 7:00 pm (Dinner Show)

Genres: Country, Folk
One of the Lone Star State’s finest tunesmiths you’ve heard the Dixie Chicks play his songs. If you haven’t heard him, you’re doing it wrong!

2425 Norfolk, Houston, TX 77098


Friday, December 7th


★ Maggie Rose | The Greenroom at Warehouse Live | 7:00 PM  | $10 Advance, $12 Door★

Genres: Rock, Americana, Soul, R&b, Country
Exceptionally versatile singer-songwriter Maggie Rose will release her highly anticipated album, Change The Whole Thing, September 21, 2018. Read the preview here.

813 St. Emanuel Street, Houston, TX 77003

Buy Tickets!


Saturday, December 8th


Ryan Bingham | The Heights Theater | 7:00 PM | SOLD OUT

Genres: Rock, Americana
Hope you already have your tickets. Grammy and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham was born in New Mexico and raised all
across Texas and the southwestern United States.

339 W 19th St, Houston, TX 77008


★ Nick Nace | Old Quarter | Galveston, TX | $10 Door ★

Genres: Folk, Country, Americana
Canadian contributing to everyone having a Nace day in Nashville, Tennessee. Playing in the round with Gabe Wootton and Michael Martin.

413 20th St, Galveston, Texas 77550


John Butler Trio | House of Blues | 7:00 PM

Genres: Rock
Hometown: Fremantle, Australia
New album “HOME” OUT NOW! smarturl.it/JBTHome

1204 Caroline St, Houston, TX 77002


Sunday, December 9th


★ Joy Williams | The Heights Theater | 7:00 PM | $26 ★

Genres: Folk
Joy Williams is a singer-songwriter from Santa Cruz, CA who now lovingly calls Nashville, TN home. Formerly of four-time Grammy Award-winning Folk, Country and Americana duo The Civil Wars, Joy has toured with Adele and The Lumineers and collaborated with Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Paramore, St. Vincent, Matt Berninger of The National, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Rick Rubin, Emmylou Harris, T Bone Burnett, Cameron Crowe, The Chieftainsand Birdtalker. Joy recently recorded her forthcoming solo album, Front Porch, produced by Kenneth Pattengale of The Milk Carton Kids. 

339 W 19th St, Houston, TX 77008

Buy Tickets


The Weeks | Continental Club | 7:00 PM | $12

Genres: Rock And Roll, Indie Alternative, Indie Rock, Southern Rock
Hometown: Jackson, MS
The sound of wind through the pines, bare feet brushing through leaves, snapping sticks like the spines of the weak.

3700 S Main Street, Houston, TX 77002

[HOUSTON][ORIGINAL FTNB CONTENT][REVIEW]

Kevin Gordon at the Mucky Duck, Houston

posted by Jared A. Godar December 5, 2018 1 Comment
Kevin Gordon

For me, it is always a bitter-sweet thing to discover a musician I love who has been at it for decades with more records than I can count on one hand. On the one hand, I am happy to have more enriching music in my life and look forward to delving into their catalog. On the other, I can’t help feeling some sense of loss for having not been listening for the last ten plus years. Some examples:

  • A work colleague turned me onto Chris Smither driving to a department retreat.
  • Darrin Bradbury is responsible for exposing me to both Steve Poltz, who randomly got snowed-in in Nashville and ended up opening for Darrin, and David Dondero, who played an intensely intimate set at the OG Basement.
  • Just three months ago I was soliciting suggestions for entire albums to listen to on my drive back to Houston from the Americana Festival and Anna Joy Harris turned me on to Dar Williams.

I most recently experienced this phenomenon when Nick Loss-Eaton strongly suggested I go to the Mucky Duck to see Kevin Gordon. It is no exaggeration to say that I was blown away. Kevin is a road-weathered troubadour in the truest sense of the word. His songs have a very literary quality with vivid imagery. It’s no surprise that he holds a Master’s in poetry from the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Hell, he recited a poem from memory mid-set!

He’s from West Monroe, Louisiana and his songs are definitely infused with the soul and mystery of the deep south. He doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable truths of racism and segregation and captures the essence of these and other major social issues with specific, relatable examples that most of us have encountered in some capacity. He started writing songs and playing guitar at seventeen and had a garage punk band. His first album was released in 1993 (on cassette). He just released his seventh full-length album, Tilt & Shine, in July.

I’m a big fan of storytelling in music. This often ends up with a bit of rambling over three chords, which I am fine with; but Kevin’s songs were simultaneously tight short stories while still being very much songs as well.

Kevin was accompanied by a rhythm section consisting of Ron Eoff on bass and Joshua Hunt on drums. To say this trio was tight would be an understatement. You know how there’s usually one member of most bands that is disproportionately into what they are doing? The keyboard player who is only playing sustained chords for a measure at a time, but lunges forward with his entire frame every time the chord changes. That tambourine player that looks like she belong under a gospel revival tent.

Ron was extremely animated. Bouncing around the stage, dancing and putting his entire body into it. The difference between his performance and what I mentioned above is his frenetic motions were in utter harmony with the tasty grooves he was laying down. He has performed vocals and/or bass for Levon Helm, Cate Bros., Patrick Sweany, and The Band. I got a chance to chat with him after the show, and he’s everything you hope for in a gun-slinging, highly technically-competent musician: incredibly humble and grateful that he has been able to make his living doing what he loves for the last forty plus years.

Joshua, on the other hand, was a study in restraint. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Percussion Performance from Western Kentucky University and a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a Nashville Jazz Workshop faculty member. He is one of the most in-demand jazz drummers in Nashville touring with Alison Krauss and Union Station and he is a member of the Jerry Douglas band. I don’t think his head moved once, or that his neutral, serene expression ever changed. But he was laying down a great groove, equally comfortable and competent with a diverse array of patterns and beats.

The performance was intimate and—I don’t say this often—magical. The show was well-attended and save the appropriate-timed chuckle to a quip either in song or the banter between them, the room was completely silent with everyone on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what was coming next.

For me, the highlight of the evening was an autobiographical tune called “Colfax.” Not many performers can hold the attention of a crowd for a song lasting over ten minutes, but I could have listened to an expanded, twenty-minute version of this one.

I have since delved deeper into Kevin’s work and eagerly await my next opportunity to see him perform live. If you ever have the chance to do so, I highly recommend seizing it.

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify | Pandora 
YouTube | Band Camp |Artist’s Website

Maggie Rose

You may recall when I invited Nashville to the album release for Change the Whole Thing. Well Houston, It is your turn. Please join Maggie and the whole damn band at Warehouse Live this Friday. I assure you, you won’t regret it.

Forget “little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.” Maggie is an incredibly talented vocalist with no boundaries, blending the best of of American music including rock, soul, country, rhythm and blues and gospel. As we learned in the last article, Larry and Alex from Them Vibes co-wrote about half of the new record with her. Even better, both of their bands joined forces to create the thirteen-piece ensemble that appears on the album. It’s not often you get to see a group of that size so in synch on stage.

This will be my first time to the venue. Share your thoughts on the place in the comments below. In the meantime, here is a preview of what you can expect Friday night. 

If you’d like to buy the new record before the show, you can get it on CD or vinyl here. Find out more about Maggie and the band on her website. And, of course, all the socials:

Facebook |  Instagram Twitter YouTube

Dr. Matt Conner

Even though Movember is over, our commitment to our readers health, mental and otherwise, is far from over. I would like to share Dr. Matt Conner’s final Movember contribution with you. If you haven’t seen his previous articles, I would highly recommend reading his take on avoidance, baggage, and boundaries. Today we learn about responsibility.

I was telling Matt that I’ve learned some of these lessons myself over the years, though I haven’t been able to articulate them as eloquently or succinctly as he has. Other insights he shared were revelations to me. Which is weird, because they are all so simple and make so much since, but unless you’re actively thinking or aware of them it is often difficult to see these simple solutions in emotionally-charged situations.

There are certainly relationships and problems I have had in the past, that it would have been wonderful to have Dr. Matt’s advice in my toolkit. But, as we learn today, I shouldn’t lament the mistakes of the past. I can only learn lessons, move forward, and apply them in situations to come.

If you found these articles helpful, please join me in thanking Dr. Conner in the comments on this and his other articles. He doesn’t know this yet, but I plan to ask him to continue contributing these on a monthly or any other temporal basis he desires; because these have been truly wonderful. I am grateful for his friendship and taking the time to share with us all here.

Jared A. Godar

In the first three weeks of Movember, we covered avoidance, baggage, and boundaries. My plan was to cover responsibility for the fourth week, I swear. But I didn’t, and Jared offered to post my last article a week late. And I’m going to explain that as an example of responsibility, but in the meantime, check out this amazing track by Ron Pope—the themes have a lot in common. You’ll see.

Remember last time I talked about the language of boundaries: I am not responsible for my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs; and I have no control over any other person’s. But I am accountable for my decisions. I can’t help it if you remind me of my third-grade teacher who was so mean. You didn’t know her, you didn’t get that haircut on purpose; but hey, I see the connections I see. What I can help is whether I choose to let my attention stay on those thoughts or make an effort to redirect to you, right now, in this space, whatever your haircut looks like. What I can help is whether I shift into closed-off body language or fake like I’m fine or say, “I’m so sorry, you remind me of someone I used to know, this is weird. Anyway, what were we talking about?” See? I can’t take responsibility for your choices, nor can I give up responsibility for mine.

I couldn’t say if I loved her
or if we were not there yet
we were young
and living on lies and cigarettes

Ron Pope—”Lies and Cigarettes”

Something I see in a lot of the people who come to my clinic is regret. Men talk about having cheated on their spouses, having gotten away with small crimes, having picked a college for a dumb reason and then had to live with that decision. We touched this in the piece about baggage, holding on to memories of the one that got away. But what happens when you’re holding on to bad behavior? When you were “young and living on lies and cigarettes?”

Well, if it’s affecting you in 2018, then 2018 is a great year to take some responsibility for it. If it’s a bad decision you’re still making, you are responsible for recognizing it and seeking the help you need to stop. One of the most frustrating challenges for a therapist is when someone wants to simultaneously maintain the affair he’s in as well as a healthy, happy, relationship with the spouse he’s lying to. It’s common practice in these situations to halt therapy until the client can make up his mind about which side he wants help with—ending the affair and fixing the problems in the marriage that made him vulnerable to it, or keeping the affair and honestly admitting to his partner that he is finding love and sex outside their agreement and that they either need to change their expectations about monogamy or break up. I know, “it’s not that simple.” But it’s not that much more complicated, Casanova.

Let’s say you’ve already done that. You made a decision, it stopped, but you’re haunted by having made it. You kept dating that person a couple months after you realized you didn’t love her. You fudged a number on your 2014 taxes. You “wasted” time on a grad degree you’re not using now. You flip through old Facebook posts and see a comment that looks so racist now. What do you do?

So I dial most of her number
and then I change my mind
our friends say she’s doing better now
so I let her live her life


Ron Pope—”Lies and Cigarettes”

You start out by looking at responsibility. Yeah, you made that mistake. You have zero obligation to change the past. Couldn’t do it even if you were supposed to. And that sounds simple, but I see so many men who don’t realize that’s what they’re asking for: a time machine. Your responsibility is here and now. Your responsibility is to acknowledge what happened, to name it as a mistake. You didn’t have all the info, or you made a bad choice based on the info you had; but regardless, it happened, and you don’t approve. Good. That’s really good. This part takes a long time to do (see the article on avoidance if you want to read more about why).

Don’t use passive voice in this part. If something was an accident, okay, but let’s look at your role in it. You didn’t mean to hit that other car, and they shouldn’t have been driving in your blind spot, but you were distracted. The affair didn’t “just happen, I don’t know, chemistry can’t be denied.” You made choices. I’m not saying you should call yourself a bad person. That won’t help. That’s actually counter-productive and just makes you feel shitty. Good people make good and bad choices. Your job here is to see your role in the decision that won’t stop chewing at your subconscious.

Next, and this is the most crucial part, you fucking learn from this. You say, “I made this choice, for whatever reason, and it was bad, and I do not want to do it again.” You say, “I wanted to have sex with her, and I had sex with her, and I regret that, and I learned I am capable of cheating, and the next time I want to, I am going to tell my wife about it, even though I am ashamed, and we will talk, and we will figure out what to do together, and I will be proud of my actions because I am a good person and I deserve to feel good about myself, and I deserve to talk about mistakes I might make before I make them so I can get help to not make the mistakes.”

You say, “I shoplifted and I cannot return the merchandise but I feel bad about this and I learned that when I’m stressed, I steal, and I will talk to my therapist about better ways to handle my stress and, if I still feel guilty about what I can’t undo, I will donate a reasonable amount to an appropriate charity, and I will not steal again, and I will treat myself like someone who has served his time rather than someone in jail.”

You say, “I am appalled by the language I used back then. I won’t deny saying it, but I was wrong to say it, and I have since learned that these words can hurt people who are already marginalized by greater society and need my support, not my slurs. I now review my comments before I hit ‘send’ to make sure I’m representing myself like I want to.”

You say, “I ended that relationship badly, and I hurt him, and I can’t take my words back, but I can make one heartfelt apology and then I can stay away from him and let him do what he needs to do to heal on his own, and I won’t hurt the next guy the same way.” Like Ron Pope says, you have to “let her live her life.”

So how does this relate to turning an article in a week late? I can say, “Gosh, Jared, with Thanksgiving and all, time got away from me.” But that’s pathetic. That’s passive voice. That’s taking my responsibility and giving it to the calendar. Instead, I can say, “Jared, I’m sorry. I prioritized other things, and I didn’t get them done in time to work on this article. If you still want it, I can work on it and turn it in; if not, I understand and hope you forgive me.” Am I pulling melodrama out of a late assignment? Yep. But if we don’t practice responsibility in small things, it makes it a lot harder to practice it in big things. So the next time you say you’re sorry, really dig into it. What specifically are you sorry for? What were you responsible for that you didn’t do the way you wish you had? What will you do differently now that you know this and own your present-day actions? Because when we were “young,” it was okay to live “on lies and cigarettes.” But we’ve grown up. And we get to act like it.

Thanks to Jared for this opportunity to talk to you about mental health this month (technically last month, I admit). I hope this has given you something to think about, and I hope you’ll take that to friends, family, and/or a therapist of your own. Because man, I don’t know you, but I know you’re awesome, and I know you deserve the healthiest life you can get.

[MOVEMBER]

Last Day of Movember—Please Donate

posted by Jared A. Godar November 30, 2018 0 comments
Movember

I need your support this Movember. This is the part I hate—asking friends and family for money. I like this bit of Movember less than actually shaving off my beard (and I really don’t like shaving off all my beard). But, if I just grow a ‘mo and don’t do this bit, it kind of defeats the purpose.

First of all, thanks to you who have already donated. I will be pestering folks via a variety of channels the next couple days, I’ll try to spare you as much as possible.

Here’s why I ‘mo:

43 men die from prostate cancer every hour. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men.

Globally, a man dies from suicide every minute of every day. In the United States, On average, there are 123 suicides per day and 22 of those are veterans. Men die by suicide 3.53 times more often than women. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide. For every suicide, 25 attempt.

This Movember, I’m doing something about it – raising funds and awareness for all the dads, brothers, sons and friends in our lives.

These funds will help the Movember Foundation fund groundbreaking research in prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health awareness and suicide prevention—changing the way men’s health is treated and talked about. And most importantly, stop men dying too young.

Will you help me by making a donation today? https://mobro.co/jaredgodar

[MOVEMBER][ORIGINAL FTNB CONTENT][THE DOCTOR IS IN]

How To Be Perfect Men

posted by Holland Neifer, LPC November 30, 2018 0 comments

Here we have another Movember guest post by Holland Neifer, LPC. Thanks for taking the time to share some insight.

Jared A. Godar

As a mental health professional, my days are filled by stories of abuse, loss, trauma, and the various ways people cope with such realities—often the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs. Despite the circumstances, I am humbled to witness clients take courageous steps towards recovery and their hope for a brighter future. For this piece, I chose to write about singer-songwriter Jason Molina, an artist who knew all too well the power of the bottle.

Jason was unable to triumph over his own battle with alcoholism, dying of multiple organ failure at the age of thirty-nine, but his music lives on to remind us that we are not alone in our struggles. When I hear a song such as “How To Be Perfect Men” from the 1999 album Axxess & Ace, I can feel pure emotion, pouring from this Lorain, Ohio native and his project Songs: Ohia.

This song begins subtly, withdrawn, and subdued. I love the shift in dynamics as it prepares the listener for Jason’s brutal honesty, as well as the driving instrumental end. The lyrics are unpretentious while achieving depth.

Of all that I should be
And perfect men would never be
Jealous or desperate
My ghost and I in our graves will lie

Jason Molina, “How to be Perfect Men”

Although I am unsure of Molina’s mental health history, I am reminded on an almost daily basis that it is nearly impossible to separate mental health from substance abuse and subsequent dependency. Working for a non-profit that treats dual-diagnosis clients, it saddens me that few agencies exist to manage both concurrently. Whether that stems from a lack of resources or not, I can tell you that nearly every client I assess uses substances to self-medicate an otherwise untreated mental health condition or that they have now developed a mental health disorder from the consequences of their drug use. I approach all substance abuse from a mental health lens to explore what is really going on.

I have heard Molina’s art referred to as “Depression Music” and I cannot say that I disagree. “How To Be Perfect Men” appears to be a declaration of one’s own shortcomings and a sense of powerlessness that comes with failure. Unwanted, invasive, self-sabotaging negative cognitions can cripple people to the point of total despair. We have this expectation of how we “should be,” a large product of our environment, confronted by our actual selves, which often sets us up for feelings of worthlessness. These thoughts can truly make us feel like ghosts. In fact, as Jason later wrote in the song “O! Grace,” that he felt “as lonesome as the world’s first ghost.” Wow!

Meeting people in this headspace is heart-wrenching, but so REAL. So real that a whole manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders exists to describe those very feelings that so many of us experience. My copy is spineless, missing the back cover, and tattered from use matching symptoms to disorders.

Some clients take comfort in the label that this book provides. People like to know that they are not “crazy,” but that they are exhibiting common symptoms in reaction to their circumstances. The label normalizes a stigmatized experience. Others would rather focus on the symptoms at hand.

At the end of the day, my goal is to simply help people feel better and to legitimize their experience when they might otherwise not able to do that for themselves. Music is such a powerful vessel that can accomplish the very same task. Everyone deserves to have their reality recognized. We are not perfect men. Thank you, Jason, for sharing this truth.

If you ever find yourself feeling “as lonely as the world’s first ghost,” questioning your place in this world, or merely needing someone to talk to, please call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available 24 hours every day. You can also use their Lifeline Chat,  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

Additionally, if you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for resources in your area.

[NEW RELEASE][ORIGINAL FTNB CONTENT][REVIEW]

Ruby Boots Scoot and Boogie @ The Basement East

posted by Charles Bridgers IV November 29, 2018 0 comments
Ruby Boots at the Basement Wast. Photo: Charles Bridgers IV

I would like to introduce Charles Bridgers IV, the newest member of the Fighting the Nashville Blues team. He will be one of the folks who serve as my eyes and ears in Nashville when I find myself elsewhere. Please enjoy his article from a recent Ruby Boots show at the BEAST. Welcome him and share your thoughts in the comments. Rock on.

Jared Godar

“I have a vagina!”

Anonymous

You know you’re at a rock show when someone screams that out between songs prompting hoots and uproarious applause!

You know the show is in Nashville when you see that blend of hipsters and rhinestone cowboy tourists unique to Downtown Music City. The people in their forties clad in Nirvana shirts and the denim and the patches and the denim and the patches and the denim and the patches and—you get the point.

Last Sunday Ruby Boots and her five-piece rock band returned to Nashville, their home away from home, after a regional tour in support her Bloodshot Records label debut album Don’t Talk About It. Half of the band is from Canada, and the other half is from Australia. The Australian accent is strong with Bex Chilcott, aka Ruby Boots ,who sounds like she’s recording a VH1 documentary.

Ruby Boots Don’t Talk About It

When the music starts, the Nashville comes out of her. Ruby and her band bring the country stomp from Australia to the colonies and beyond. While the twang is unmistakable, you can also hear tinges of alternative rock and a speck of retro flavor—enough to leave you scratching your head trying to figure out what song from the sixties inspired that sound.

One of the things that makes Ruby Boots different from the rest is her love for epic squealing guitar solos; a lost art frowned upon in a world of three-minute disposable pop songs. Her guitarists thrive in manipulating frequencies to add pleasurable textures to the meat and potatoes of the song structure.

Her denim-clad string warriors strut across stage along with her, while the bassist grooves and the drummer keeps that beat we all need so much. The lights shift color,swinging along with the mood and musical shifts provided by Sunday night’s entertainment.

One of the most melodically surprising songs of the evening was“Don’t Talk About It,” a rocking love song with a delicious “doo wop” vibe that was increasingly infectious as the band glided through it.

Ruby Boots “Don’t Talk About It”

How do you follow set like that? With a show-stopping tune that was the highlight of the night.

The band exited the stage while Ruby remained center stage.  The lights turned purple, and sh explained the meaning behind “I am a Woman,” her female-empowerment anthem. Bex then dedicated the song to all the women out there, praising their strength and decrying all the forces trying to take them down. She declared that her gender deserves a lot more respect than they receive, which led to the aforementioned“I have a vagina!” being yelled before the song started.

Ruby had the entire Basement East under her spell as she sang her tune a cappella, providing a voice of love to the struggle against jerks who think it is okay to treat a woman any way they want, regardless of her consent.

I am a believer
Standing strong by your side
I’m the hand to hold onto
When it’s too hard to try… I am a woman
Do you know what that means
You lay it all on the line
When you lay down with me.

Ruby Boots

Her voice was clear and powerful, channeling the spirit of the early female country artists who carved out a place in the genre ruled by men in ten-gallon hats. Call it Dolly Parton filtered through the #meToo moment,call it whatever you want, it was the most powerful moment of the show.

After a couple of songs drenched in distorted, fuzzy rock vibes and plenty of guitar melodies surfing and soaring over powerful vocals, Ruby invited the crowds to come visit her at the merch table, offering to sign just about everything her fans could think of that would need a Sharpie pressed to it.

She mentioned a few less than normal items that had been signed on tour, ending the offer with a wink and guarantee that she “will sign anything but I won’t touch your body unless I ask because I’m that kind of girl.”

It was another unforgettable night in East Nashville, brought to you by Ruby Boots and The Basement East. 

Get your copy of Don’t Talk About It on CD, digital, or transparent orange/gold vinyl here. 

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Official Website: Ruby Boots Online

[FTNB EXCLUSIVE][MOVEMBER]

Happy Thanksgiving from Fighting the Nashville Blues

posted by Jared A. Godar November 22, 2018 0 comments
Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving with wonderful food and the company of those you love, whether that be your biological family or the family you have acquired along life’s journey.

I am fortunate this year to be doing both. Lunch with dear friends then dinner with my folks and nieces. Thanks to all of those who have adopted me in years past.

Last Thanksgiving was my last day in Nashville before heading back to Texas. I had the pleasure of yet another Thanksgiving dinner with the Rees family, who always took me in on holidays I couldn’t travel to wherever my family was.

When things aren’t going the best, the holidays can be especially tough. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t suffer alone. Reach out. Call that friend or family member you have been avoiding because you haven’t felt like talking and now it’s been so long that you don’t want to have to explain your absence. I’ve been there. It’s tough. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, follow the contact links on this site and get in touch with me.

I long to be a happy man
In this life that I am given
In this life that I am given
I long to be a happy man

And when the noise turns to stillness
I see I have the makings
I see I have the makings
To be one happy man

Darrell Scott “A Crooked Road”

Here is one song I would often return to when things were not going the way I thought they should. When you can’t see any path, clear or murky, from your current state to where you want to be or feel like you should be.

Darrell Scott “A Crooked Road”

Darrell Scott reminds us that life takes us down many a crooked road. In time, we look back and learn how the dots get connected. So, just because you don’t see the way, doesn’t mean the path from where you are to where you want to be doesn’t exist. Just get up, face this day then the next and keep moving. Enjoy.

Dr. Matt Conner

Kesha has probably had a worse few years than you. It’s not a competition, but if it wer, her cards to play include a loss in court against her accused rapist, an eating disorder, and a rehab stint. But she came back a healthier artist, dropping the hottest album of 2017. Rainbow is dripping with extremes of up-tempo rock anthems, glitter-snarl attitude, and thoughtful ballads. I didn’t stop dancing or singing along once when her tour hit Raleigh.

But more than great music, her album proves she has learned a lot in her recovery. I could write a post about easily half the tracks on this record. The one I’m picking for Movember, the one I think best applies to us men and is so rarely actually taught to us, is “Let ‘Em Talk.”

That’s right—it’s Boundaries week here on Fighting The Nashville Blues!

Shake that ass
Don’t care if they talk about it
Fuck all that
haters, just forget about them

Kesha, “Let ’em Talk”

“Boundaries” is a word us shrinks use to talk about the essential rules of communicating in relationships. It’s a little tough to define, so I’ll give you some examples instead.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, etc. Some of them, I can choose. I can, like we covered last week, opt to spend my attention on the past or the present. I can recognize that thinking about old mistakes is more likely to get me in a sad mood compared to thoughts of my present-day options. But I’m not ultimately responsible for my feelings. I can’t help it if I feel sad seeing a picture of a refugee camp, or if you remind me of that jerk in middle school, or if a plate of olives makes my stomach twist up and my nose do that scrunchy reflex thing my mom told me was rude and that I had definitely inherited from her mother-in-law.

What I am responsible for is my actions, including what I say and how I say it. “No thanks” is probably going to be better for my relationship to my host than, “Olives are gross. I won’t eat them, and I think less of you for thinking I would.” Even if that’s true. And it is.

Remember, that same rule applies to every other person in your life. People are responsible for their actions, not their thoughts or feelings. If somebody’s putting you down, it’s absolutely okay to point that out to them. But if they’re generally cool to you, you can stop analyzing why. That’s on their side of the boundary.

Here’s where that gets awesome: As long as they keep their comments civil, their opinions don’t actually mean anything. It’s good to know them. Part of an authentic friendship is a curiosity about a person’s inner world. But if they don’t like how you do something, well, “fuck all that.” You want to tell me I stepped on your foot? Please do, I need that feedback. I’ve affected you. You think I need to take a few lessons and lose ten pounds before I share your dance floor? Thanks for letting me know your thoughts, that’s cool, I’m still dancing until I decide not to. Maybe you won’t like me. A risk I’m willing to take.

Do your thing
don’t care if you make ‘em jealous

Kesha,”Let ’em Talk”

So does that mean we get to say whatever we want? Like, if your hurt feelings aren’t under my control, why should I even think about you? No, and here’s why:

We are all people together. We’re existentially alone, it sucks. We’re all going to die and probably not together; and until that day, we’re just walking each other home, my friends. That shared community, however loose or arbitrary, means we have a responsibility to each other. We have to take ownership of our side of the health of our relationships.

If I said something and it pissed you off, you may be overreacting. I don’t know you. Maybe you take everything too personally. But if I want a relationship with you, I owe it to both of us to ask what happened. “I have no idea if this is because of something I did, but you look/sound angry; and since I haven’t tried to piss you off, I’m confused. If you tell me what’s bugging you, I can explain or apologize for my side of it. If you need time, that’s cool, too, but message received, you’re mad, I get it.”

Because I don’t have a responsibility for you. I’m not in charge of reading your mind or predicting your emotional reflexes. But I have a responsibility to you. I factor in what I know about you when I talk to you, and if I step in something, I apologize or ask about it.

Until then, what do I do when I freak out that you’re judging my dancing or hurt by my speaking up for myself when we tried to pick a movie for our next date? I get to remind myself of the boundaries. The freak out is on my side of the boundary and not controllable. What you think about the situation is on yours and is just as far out of my control. What I say to you or where I put my attention, that’s up to me. So I’m going to talk myself down as many times as I need to. And we’re going to be just fine.

It used to hurt me
Used to bring me down
But do your worst
Cuz nothing’s gonna stop me now

Kesha, “Let ’em Talk”

Special case: People in relationships with people using drugs or alcohol to avoid emotional pain may have an extra-tough time with this “responsibility to versus responsibility for” thing. It can be hard to trust a person to take care of himself when his substance abuse keeps him from really doing that well. So people can end up thinking it’s on them to keep the family going, to keep the neighbors from asking questions, to make sure she doesn’t have a bottle hidden in the bathroom. If this sounds familiar, please check out Al-Anon, a free group that meets all over the world and even on Skype. There’s no better way to learn boundaries.

Let’s all take a lesson from Kesha this Movember. Let’s dance, not like nobody’s watching, but like we don’t have to take responsibility to keep them entertained. Let’s use our boundaries to give ourselves a break for the natural moods we feel and to get closer to the people we love. And let’s let ‘em talk.

Movember

I have mentioned each year I do Movember that I have personal experience dealing with depression. Each year I plan to elaborate on that, but to date, I haven’t. It still isn’t an easy thing to talk about. I have suffered from four major depressive episodes in my life over the last twenty years. Not stretches of time feeling sad, but months at I time where I don’t get out bed, shower, put on pants, answer my phone, or really talk to anyone. This cost me an academic scholarship to Southwestern University, my Ph.D. from Vanderbilt, and has put a strain on both romantic and family relationships .

The first time I was diagnosed with depression was the summer between high school and college. I had been manifesting some strange neurological symptoms after being under general anesthesia for the extraction of my wisdom teeth. There was a bit of aphasia, where I spoke in short, choppy sentences and sometimes forgot words I should know. After a series of escalating doctors visits, I ended up at a neurologist’s office. At some point in our personal history interview he discovered my girlfriend broke up with me a few months prior, so he jumped to a diagnosis of depression, wrote a couple scrips, then decided it was a done deal. Mystery solved.

I was still far from 100% when my Freshman year at Southwestern University began. The admissions counselor I interviewed with observed and noted the differences between the bright, energetic young man he talked with and my current condition. He looked at all of my existing college credits through AP and Dual Credit courses and told me I’ve already done my first semester and then some. He advised me to take some time to get better and to come back in the spring and hit the ground running. I followed this advice.

Eventually, things returned to more or less the way they were before. I don’t recall how long I took the drugs for depression. I suppose it is hard to determine when something like that is “working.” I didn’t notice it “working,” but I did notice some unpleasant side effects and, eventually, I stopped taking them. My return to University was uneventful, and I started my time at Southwestern doing quite well academically.

Things were humming along until Spring 2001. Looking back, I wonder if my first diagnosed episode of depression was indeed that or something related to the anesthesia from my surgery. With this second bout, there is no doubt that I was suffering from a classic, major depressive episode; though I did not realize or acknowledge this at the time. This was the first time that I was bed-ridden, don’t put on pants, or even leave my room for days at a time.

My GPA plummeted from a respectable cumulative 3.6 to a 1.2 on the semester. (Damn Southwestern lowers your GPA for an A-. Side note, when looking at colleges, check out their holiday calendar and the +/- policy on the ole’ GPA). I was able to withdraw from a couple classes, somehow managed a C+ in Spanish, got an A in wind ensemble—I was able to put pants on by noon three days a week to go play my horn for an hour. Failed both neurobiology and an elective called “Parenting: Theories & Realities.” (I can’t wait for when I have kids, and they are teenagers and think I’m an asshole to remind them that I did fail Parenting in college, so deal with it.)

When I say this was a classic, major depressive episode, what do I mean? The DSM-V has eight criteria for such incidents. If you experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the signs is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, guess what? You’re clinically depressed. Here are the criteria:


1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.

Yep.


2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.

Ah. Anhedonia. From the Greek an-, “without” and hēdonē, “pleasure.” A diverse array of deficits in hedonic function, including reduced motivation or ability to experience pleasure. This is my personal number one indicator of depression. From this publication, you can rightly assume I enjoy music and going to live shows. When I am depressed, I can’t get it together to go to shows I would otherwise never miss. And it isn’t that I want to go, but just can’t do it. The desire to go is absent. And if I do get drug out to
I would usually love by friends, I don’t really enjoy it. It isn’t bad, it’s just whatever. No emotional response whatsoever and I’m the type of guy that generally can’t stop grinning at a concert and gets goosebumps from music on a regular basis.


3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.

I think my most substantial weight fluctuations in college were my freshman year (got the freshman 50 instead of the 15, going from 175 to 225) then when I was getting ready to enlist in the Army. When I am depressed, my weight tends to remain relatively stable, but my eating habits go to shit. I won’t be hungry or interested in food for days, but when that changes, I’ll house an entire pizza with half a bottle of ranch in one sitting. So, no real net gain or loss; but not a healthy, ideal nutrition plan.


4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).

I am definitely sloth-like when depressed. This manifests mostly through my remaining in bed until motivated by hunger to forage for food around four in the afternoon, but even when I am ambulatory, it is at a snail’s pace.


5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.

Yep.


6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.

Oh yeah. This wasn’t particularly the case during this particular episode, but my most recent two incidents in graduate school, this was definitely a daily thing. The tape on repeat in my head was how I have made all the wrong choices and irreparably screwed up my future and damned myself to continued poverty and worthlessness.


7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

Oh yeah.


8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

This one is tricky, and also difficult to talk about even though I am trying to be completely open and transparent. I never contemplated suicide in any concrete manner, though it would be inaccurate to say it never crossed my mind. When it did, it was always a transient, fleeting thought. Nothing that I got fixated on or planned out in any specific way.


If you are contemplating taking your life, call someone. Call me. Call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.


To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The signs must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition. I would say straightish As to straightish Fs counts as a significant impairment to functioning.

Looking back, this was so obviously a major depressive episode. I had no idea what was happening at the time. I knew something was up. I knew it wasn’t good or healthy. We had free counseling services available at the university, but it never crossed my mind to take advantage of them. Shrinks are for crazy people. I don’t know what’s up, but I’m not crazy; so I don’t need a shrink.

I didn’t seek treatment. Eventually, things returned to normal. I had enlisted in the Army National Guard the Fall before and left in May after my atrocious semester for Basic Training. Not entirely sure where I was on the depression spectrum when I left for basic, but wallowing in bed until four in the afternoon was not an option there.

I returned to Southwestern in Spring 2002. Three As and one B was a significant improvement from my last semester, but a C in Molecular Genetics (docked an entire letter grade for missing one lab), and a D in Frank Guziec’s Organic Chemistry II course meant my GPA was just under the threshold that I needed to maintain my academic scholarship and my days at Southwestern were over.

Since this tell-all account is growing longer than even interested parties would care to read, I am going to wrap this up for the day. We will have the next installment soon.

If you have ever felt this way, please comment with your story if you feel comfortable. If you are feeling this way right now, please know you are not alone. Even though people don’t talk about it, this is more common than you think. There are resources out there and you do not have to suffer in silence alone!

If you are still reading, please consider making a donation to my Movember fundraiser. Thanks!