Tell me if this sounds familiar: As winter begins and COVID cases ramp up, you’re even more cooped up than before, but somehow your love of guitar is anything but diminished. Yet, more and more, rather than pick one up, you find yourself lounging on your favorite couch/recliner/giant dog, endlessly scrolling through listings of guitars, pedals, amps, microphones, etc. as the TV drones on in the background.
As your equally cabin-fevered cohabitants veg in similar fashion (within remote-control’s throw or off in another room where they’re less tempted to engage homicidal tendencies), you want to go play your favorite 6-sting. Or at least theoretically you do. On and off, you grapple with feeling either guilty for not making the effort or stupid for not taking advantage of the guitar’s rejuvenating powers. More often than not, you remain ensconced in that comfy chair, softer in body and mind but firmer friends with 2020’s most overstayed guests, the Malaises.
If this rings a bell, about the only advice my guilty ass can offer is this: screw guilt. New studies show we’re suffering anxiety, depression, and/or trauma- or stress-related disorders at three or four times the nonpandemic rate. So guess what, baby? It’s survival time. As long as you’re being there for your loved ones and not bankrupting yourself with impulse buys, give yourself a break. The muse will hit when it hits. If you’re the type to worry about your “chops,” fear not. They’ll come back.
We’re living in unprecedented times. We’re not used to having to think this way. But what really matters right now, whether you’re a (formerly) touring pro or a bedroom warrior, is taking care of yourself—body and mind. The most important things we can do during the pandemic—wearing a mask and isolating as much as possible so we can get rid of this goddamn virus sooner rather than later—are pretty straightforward and simple. The mask bit couldn’t be easier. Isolation is the bitch.
Prior to the outbreak, we’d long been used to modern life making us hyper aware of our physical health—eat right, exercise, get adequate sleep, get a flu shot and regular checkups. Yet, for some dumbass reason, we’re pretty blasé about mental health. Sure, we’re getting better at keeping it in the public conversation. But for all our focus (and money spent) on killer abs, Peloton bullshit, and air-fried quinoa casseroles, the scant thought, time, and effort we put into emotional wellbeing implies we still kind of look at it as just some nebulous, silly, or embarrassing thing that magically takes care of itself. That if you just do your yoga, lay on your thousand-dollar amethyst-crystal mat, or take the testosterone supplements hocked by some muscle-headed YouTube charlatan, you’ll feel like a million bucks, body, mind, and soul—and somehow also be rich, famous, and killer in the sack, too.
I’m here to tell you A) if you’re struggling more than normal under the weight of 2020’s shit pile, you can and should get professional help. It is foolhardy to think that our physiology’s one remaining mysterious frontier—the mind—needs less attention than the human-body bits we actually understand. And B) you’ll get a hell of a lot more joy out of a new stomp or a $500 guitar bought during a 3 a.m. anxiety-scroll than you will from quack cures. Even if your new guitar toys just sit there on your board or hang there on your wall, looking neat till you can muster the inspiration to peel yourself off the couch and give ’em a go.
Screw guilt and be well, friends. Big hugs till next time.