That doesn't mean that I couldn't fall apart at any given moment

black and white photo of a hand touching a shiny surface
Photo by Chris O'Brien

I'm used to being in a state of perpetual existential crisis, so that's nothing different, this is all... I got like hardcore training in how to deal with COVID from dealing with schizophrenia for what? 12-13 years. And so I feel like I have the tools to maintain a healthy mental health. And it doesn't mean I don't have struggles, I do. I have ongoing struggles, and I have struggles every day. And some days are better than others, and some days are worse. 

One thing I would like to get away from is endlessly thinking about my own and my family's mortality; I'm not really a fan of that. Bringing that thought to the forefront of my mind way too much. But that also sort of spurs on more greater spiritual and existential thought, which is a good thing, I think. Unless it goes too much all the time, in which case then you need to go for a walk. So it's been a combination of things.

I've had some pretty majorly life-altering, physical and mental injuries occur, where I've had to rethink how I do things. And because of those events, I think it's prepared me pretty well for how to deal with this. Now, if I get sick, I don't know how well I'm gonna deal. 'Cause I hate being sick to begin with. I just hate being sick and I don't like being in pain and I'm scared of death, I'm not gonna lie, I'll just be flat out in the open about that. And I don't wanna lose my loved ones and when those thoughts come, I have to use my mental health tools and say, "Well, you just need to be mindful, and you need to be here, present in this moment. Are you sick and down today? No. Are there things that you can do to reduce your risk of being sick? Yes. And you do everything you can to cognitively reframe how we're thinking about things, so it's a mixed bag, right?

It's a mixed bag. And so I think I'm doing pretty well considering. 

That doesn't mean that I couldn't fall apart at any given moment. I certainly could. And like I say, it is an up and down, it's kind of a roller coaster, there are those times and you're like, "Oh my God, I cannot believe this is happening. How the hell did this happen? When is it gonna be over? I can't do another minute like this." I have those moments and then I'm like, "Well, you know what... Everyone needs supper, so go get your hands on some cucumbers" And I'll grill up some venison steaks and try and make the best of it. 

Or, "Get out the guitar man. Just get it out, do it." And I've been actually practicing more than when I was gigging because I was always so busy. It's like two different ways of being as a musician. Because when you're gigging, your hands are hot. Because you're playing a lot and you don't need to practice as much, just 'cause you're playing so much. But on the other... Usually this time of year, I'm gigging like a fool because this is the summer time, this is when musicians are the most busy.  And I'm like, "Oh, I wanna get this new lick or I wanna try this new approach." And I'm like, "I can't really do it because I'm so busy gigging that I don't have time to practice." When I get home from a gig, I'm like, "I'm exhausted, I gotta sleep in tomorrow." 

One of the things that's happening is I'm becoming more sort of self-sufficient as a solo guitarist, or as a guitarist who would be working in like a duo or a guitar trio where it's guitar-based drums where... I know all the melodic and harmonic function falls to me where I'm having to play both chords and melody lines, maybe not simultaneously, but intermixed. And so I'm getting more opportunity to practice and develop a new way of... New approach to the guitar. And so that's been good for the mental health. 

Whenever you're engaged in music or art, I think it's the same when you have that deep level of focus, it's like a kind of meditation or mindfulness that we get our brains into and so that's been, it's been really helpful.

Sam Miltich




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Stories of Wisdom from Bodies in Separation (SWaBS): Archiving the Coronavirus Pandemic Through the Lens of Humanities has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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