Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Musician's Wife

Bryan made me go to one of his weeknight gigs a week ago.

I say made because he literally made me go. I didn't want to go. I don't go to his gigs often anymore.

There are a lot of reasons why I stopped going. For the first year or two, I went to at least one gig every weekend, either a Friday or a Saturday. I would go to Harris Ranch all the time, sit and read a book or decompress after a long week. I'd go alone or with friends or family.

Between two years and two and a half years, I really started to taper off. It got worse as I became pregnant and almost non-existent once Shepherd entered the world. Now I go infrequently at best.

There are many reasons why I don't go anymore. Many are logical and practical and more than a few are based on emotions that are so convoluted and varied that it would take a lot of hours on a counselor's couch to unwind them all.

Before I continue to write, it's important to lay a foundation. I love Bryan's music. I know all the words to all of his songs. Many of them I've helped write or shape in one way or another. And I don't mean helped to write as in, gave him the life experience to write them, but that too, I guess. Some of his songs are about me. I mean more of, he came to me and asked me what sounded better, what word to choose, I've helped him structure a line in a verse that he was having issues with, I've listened as he played a series of the same notes except for one nuance and helped him choose which flowed better. A sounding board, if you will.

If you've downloaded or purchased his CD, it would never enter your mind to picture me listening to the rough tracks, giving Bryan my opinion on volume, sounds, breaks. I have a good ear for music production and Bryan utilizes it. My actions, outside of actually attending the majority of his gigs, show that I am all in on the music thing. I promised him sitting on the floor of the rented house on Malone street that I would support him in his music career and I meant it. That doesn't sound all that noble, of course a wife should support her husband's dreams! Duh.

Promising that I would support his music career was not just promising to support a dream. It was also promising to accept what our future could look like, whether that meant we were starving because of his dream or we were rich because of it. It meant promising to be without a husband most evenings, to be a single mother at night, to never have dates on weekends or a dance partner at a wedding. It meant giving up a stable life, dealing with drunk girls hitting on my husband and giving up my dream of being a stay-at-home mom. For me, it was a sacrifice to promise Bryan that I would support him in his music career and it still is.

I could have easily promised him that I would support his career and done just the opposite once the vows were said. He's admitted that he thought that is what I would do and was maybe even a bit surprised that I didn't. Spouses have the ability to squash their partner's dream with a sort of ease and it happens all the time. When I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom on Malone street I had three choices: I could not marry him, marry him and kill his dream, or marry him and support his dream. I chose the latter.

That night, Bryan made promises to me too. Ones he didn't keep.

In spite of that, I continue to support his dream. I continue to live this life, this life that is the opposite of what I dreamed of. It lacks the stability I craved for my future when I was a kid in an unstable environment. It replicates for my children a household where the father is "absent" just in different ways than I experienced. I do it because I love him and I promised I would. I'm not a woman that makes promises lightly. I looked him in the eye that night and I promised him that I would do it and I never said it was contingent on whether he held up his promises, although there have been many times that I cursed my own name, wishing I had slipped in that caveat.

But, I didn't.

Like I said, my actions reflect that I support my husbands dream.

My heart however, doesn't.

Back to the gig he made me go too. I invited my sisters and Bryan's cousin Jamie and no one could attend. He forced me to sit at a table right next to his set up. My phone was dying and Shepherd was crazy. I felt so uncomfortable.

Bryan starts to play and the crowd is so into it. They're eating it up. He sounds so good. Basically, he's killing it and I wish I was anywhere doing anything else. It's only a matter of time before someone notices me there, watching Bryan. Playing on my mostly dead phone. Not looking angry by any means but not looking particularly engaged. I'm a mom dealing with a toddler sitting at a table right up front with everyone else. I was trying hard to project the opposite of what I was feeling and I think it was working, because I was approached multiple times by strangers.

If you'd like to be a musicians wife you must get used to the fact that people will come and talk to you. Sometimes it's really engaging and pleasant. Sometimes it's less so. Sometimes it's downright horrible because people get drunk and they say things they might not say while sober. I've accepted this as part of my reality as being the musicians wife.

A woman comes up to me and gets real close to my face. She had just smoked a cigarette and she exhales, "Are you his wife?" and I try to keep myself from physically recoiling from the smell as I smile and say "Yes. I am." She jumps right in with "Oh my gosh. You must love having him at home. He is so good. He should RHHHEALLY go on AHHHHmerican HHHHIIIIdol. He would WHin!"

It's sweet. Truly. But also, she is about, two inches from my face and people are watching. People always watch the girlfriend or the wife. They whisper about the musicians wife and point her out. They look at me and judge me if I'm on my phone, if I look upset, if I look happy, if I look in love, if I'm looking at Bryan as though he is the entire reason I exist.

They make comments to others or even to my face if I am not beside myself with how amazing my husband sounds/is/looks. The judgement is so hardcore, especially if they even get a whiff that I am bored. "I saw you sitting over here, do you not like his kind of music?" They'll say. "Honey, you should get off that phone! You're missing your husbands amazing show!" Family members have even said that I should make a point to be overly engaged because it doesn't "look good" to have the musicians wife do anything other than look enraptured by her husband. My M.O. is usually just to enjoy it without feeling pressure to act or behave a certain way, but that usually is not good enough for others and more often than not, they have no issue telling me so.

"Oh thank you, that is so sweet. We've discussed it a few times but we haven't pulled the trigger. We're not sure that is the best way to go." I say pleasantly to the lady so close to my face we would be kissing  if I puckered my lips.

Not only is this woman a smoker, but she's also quite a bit tipsy.

"Ohhh, HHHHe should RHHEALLY go on AHHHHmerican HHHHIIIIdol. I'd VHHHOTE for HHHim."

"Aww, thank you. We appreciate it so much. I'll make sure to tell him."

I do tell him. I know that what she means is that she sees potential in Bryan. The potential to succeed as a musician, to make it big. That is very sweet and both he and I appreciate it. It's always American Idol and that I must love having such a sexy/hot/talented musician at home.

Most people who watch Bryan fall in love with him. People are surprised by him. If you think his CD is good, his live performances are fifty times better. Everyone fawns all over him. Young women, old women, men. Whether it's yeah he rocks! or he's so talented! or he's so handsome! People love him. And they come to me and tell me variations of:

- How blessed I am to have Bryan.

- How lucky I am to have Bryan.

- How nice it is that I have a musician at home.

- How romantic is must be for me to have a man to sing me love songs.

- How wonderful it must be for me to be married to such a sexy musician.

And that is why I stopped going to his gigs.

While everyone else is gushing about how great Bryan is and how amazing it must be to have a musician for a husband and they make comments and wait for me to praise Bryan right along with them, I find myself just smiling, nodding my head and saying "Yes, he's really great. It's wonderful."

He is and it is. It's not their fault that they don't understand that every gig, every conversation about lyrics, every gig planning session and every time we sit down to run the numbers that it all brings up that night and those promises. It brings up the pain of following through with something regardless of what you sacrifice for it. It brings up that he hasn't done the same and that I try not to let that matter. When I see Bryan play music I am simultaneously happy and pained about it. How amazing must it be to live ones dream. How amazing must it be to have a spouse that sacrifices for the good of the other. How amazing must it be to watch your child grow by day and do what you love by night.

On any ordinary day, I can deal with it. I'm authentic in my desire to see Bryan take music as far as it'll go. But in my heart, I have the pain of broken promises, I have the weight of making a promise that I probably shouldn't have but can't go back on, the worry of an uncertain future. In my heart I hold the loss of my dreams while holding the support for his. I have the day-to-day struggle of living with and supporting a musician. People see the show, the performance, but they don't connect it to the hard work Bryan puts into it or what our family experiences in pursuit of a dream.

Being the wife of a musician is an amazing experience. But remember that the next time that you see her, sitting at a table alone or with friends, working the sales table, chatting up perfect strangers, remember that at that moment she is living his dream and to do that, she may have had to give up quite a few of her own.


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