Posted on 20 April 2016.
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Occasionally I feel the need to write something unrelated to diapering, in this case, about my devotion to the Smashing Pumpkins and music. If nothing else, let this remind you that mothers deserve it all, even a chance to throw elbows in the pit. Don’t let the music stop, mamas.
It’s true that your entire life changes when that first baby is born, you’re no longer able to do the things you once used to. Your schedule, including your own bathroom breaks, revolve around that single baby. Motherhood is not for the weak.
Self-care is a buzz word right now. Every blogger and speaker is out there trying to tell us all that we have to take time for ourselves, to go get our hair done, to soak in a bathtub, to grab coffee with a friend and not bring the baby. I can respect that, I can’t however say it’s always possible.
Like probably every other new mom, I lost myself in the baby days. I chose to focus 100% of my energy on this little person, forsaking nearly all of the things I loved in the process. Most regrettably was when I stopped the music. I gave up the thing that meant the most to me before I had a family as if it was one or the other. I traded traveling to concerts and keeping up to date (stalking) my favorite band for the theme song to Andy Pandy. I let it all go, probably because I thought I had to. Parents can’t be “groupies.” Breastfeeding mothers can’t leave their babies behind to go to a concert, you can’t pump milk in a disgusting portapotty. Mentally, it didn’t even seem right to want those things anymore. I disconnected from the old me and threw myself into motherhood and the business I was building online in the same context.
I stopped the music and with it, I stopped being myself.
Music, in my case 98% Smashing Pumpkins, was all that tethered me to existence from the time I discovered Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness until I graduated high school. Every waking moment I had access to a CD player I was listening to MCIS. It would have been my very first CD ever but I was too modest to let my father’s girlfriend buy it, the double CD wasn’t cheap. Instead my first CD was Glycerine by Bush and I had to raise the funds to buy Mellon Collie on my own. I took the liner notes and memorized every word, then when I could earn enough money I bought another CD from the SP back catalogue and memorized those words. The music kept me alive. You just don’t live through the things I have without something to get you through it. Watching your mother aspirate on vomit from an overdose, calling the ambulance when your step-father has almost died from one of many suicide attempts, getting your cereal before school surrounded by drugged up strangers and burnt spoons in the living room, it’s not the life I was meant to have. I knew that, I knew it wasn’t real. I lived in the music to hide from the real world until one day I could be free. It is the thing that kept me alive, the motivation to wake in the morning and the soundtrack that drowned out the crashing and fights beyond my locked bedroom door. That time in my life now feels like it never existed, I’ve only kept the music and left the rest behind.
I was angry, depressed, and worse. High School…
When I started my job at 14 I used all my under the table earnings to buy CDs, then when I was old enough and had transportation I used that money to buy concert tickets. I only saw my favorite band once in high school. I had seats in the very back of the concert hall, you couldn’t have had worse seats than I had for that show. I lost hearing in one ear temporarily because the music bounced off the walls. It was my first taste of good live music though and I wanted more. I would go on to see many great shows- The White Stripes, Coldplay (before they sucked), Radiohead, NIN, Marilyn Manson, Zwan, Billy Corgan (solo) etc… but the Pumpkins were always my main obsession. They did break-up (that fateful day is known to many as my utter breakdown, but I did bounce back eventually) but Billy C. was always creating music and I followed.
Then I stopped. 2008-2013 I lived in a bubble of motherhood. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the things outside of it, I ignored the music world and missed opportunities I will never get back. Rather than stay up to date with new releases I only listened to NPR. It was as if I was consciously depriving myself of music and the happiness it brought me and instead, trying to be the adultiest adult I could be. Slowly I started to let the music shine through in tiny slivers… I discovered my old CD’s and sang happily while my children took their car naps. If I traveled for a conference by car I got hours of uninterrupted music of my own choosing and it was pure bliss. Still, I told myself that music wasn’t a big deal for me anymore and that having kids was what mattered. I’d be fine if I didn’t even know about a reunion concert tour or a new album. It wasn’t important, nothing was but my little boys. What a load of crap.
Before the 2013 show I entertained myself on fair rides with friends who happened to be there for another band
Without looking for it I discovered my favorite band was in my town in 2013. I went alone to the Smashing Pumpkins show since my husband isn’t a huge fan of my concert style. He used to go with me and found that we like different things. I like being in the thick of it, up front in the pit. I’ll wait for hours to make sure I am right there in the front. He prefers to sit and enjoy from a distance and not feel the need to protect me. We agreed he would stay with the kids and I would get my concert time, the first time I’d seen my favorite band since I’d had kids. Everything amazing about the music came back to me. I remember leaving the concert wondering why I had ever let it go.
Opportunities to see Smashing Pumpkins don’t come too often but I’ve made it a priority to see them when they’re in town. When they announced their current tour, an acoustic tour “In Plainsong,” it was necessary that I be there. I was driven to make it work, even though it meant taking a plane to get there. Most notable about this concert was the fact that I scored VIP seats. I was in the front, where I’m happiest, able to see each facial contortion and smile. I could feel the music and the joy from all sides. My 15 year old self, the one who sat in the very back row and almost didn’t get tickets at all (it took every single dollar I had and I still had to borrow money) was back again but this time, right up front with a VIP badge on. This isn’t to brag, this is to point out that I’ve come a million miles and I owe it to that band for pulling me through. I’m sure thousands of others can say the same thing, and that’s the power of music, be it Smashing Pumpkins or whatever non-SP bands there are out there. They do exist.
So now I’m back. I’m feeling like the whole person I am, not just a mom, a whole person with interests that go beyond what happens in her own house. I’m not feeling the isolation of motherhood as strongly because I can tune in to my music and dream about future concerts to come and make them happen. I wish I had known that it was ok to be both people, to love rocking in the pit and also to love rocking my baby to sleep. The two are not incompatible, I just thought they were. The important thing is that eventually I came back to myself. I used to dream that one day my kids would love the Pumpkins as much as I did. For now their favorite songs are by Justin “Beaver” and they really like Blurry Face. We will get there I hope, one day.
[I’m a habitual album listener and not a fan of playlists, but I put together some of my favorite Smashing Pumpkins songs into a playlist for those who said they’d never heard of them on my Facebook page!]