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How to Balance Productivity Guilt and Existential Dread: A musician's guide to being almost okay during social distancing

Alright. I should start by saying the above title is absolute click bait and I, by no means, have any of the answers. It is more accurately my current Google search, but that doesn’t seem to yield a lot of truth either. That’s probably because the answer is going to look pretty different for everyone. Although, it does address what I am guessing are common feelings for most people as we stare down the barrel of unprecedented uncertainty and the forced introspection that comes from what our daily “normal” now consists of.   

Being in a band from Saskatoon (The Pistolwhips) I was definitely looking forward to playing my part in hosting The Juno’s in our hometown this year. It’s rare that we would get an opportunity to connect with the Canadian music industry’s top dogs on our own turf and feature our city. So, when we got the news it had been cancelled, it’s fair to say the Canadian music scene, especially us locals, were pretty crushed. 

In the days leading up to Junofest, we were all working to salvage gigs for the weekend. The Pistolwhips were set to play one of the biggest parties of the weekend with our buddies The Blue Stones, who were likely to take home Breakthrough Group of the Year. Our management, record label, and top industry personnel were going to be at what we had hoped to be a huge night to showcase our upcoming album. By the end of the week, the general sentiment had changed from “we can still do this!” to keeping a responsibility to public safety regardless of the relatively low risk in Saskatchewan at the time. Disappointing, but necessary. This also came right on the heels of us having to postpone our first ever US tour set for the end of March.

Within a few days I went from finishing final mixes for the new album, non-stop rehearsals for our tour and Junofest, writing grant applications, and designing new merch to basically a dead stop. I’ve kept busy wrapping up loose ends, and the band is still ready to roll full steam when the fog clears, but going from weeks of full on attack mode to sitting on the couch was a little jarring to say the least. I know I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. 

So here we are, a few weeks in to social distancing or social isolation, not knowing what news is coming next, or how this all going to play out. It’s about now when the angst starts to kick in like a stiff dread cocktail infused with productivity guilt (…plus the actual cocktails). 

So how do we manage these feelings? Do we invent new to-do lists of forgotten bucket list entries like learning Spanish, dusting off our paint brushes, or cleaning that storage room that’s been a mess forever? Finish that project that you’ve put on the back-burner for years? Or do we take this time to actually take a breath, take a minute, and relax? What does that even look like?

In all honesty, my first week at home looked and felt a lot like being depressed. This was a familiar feeling, but it hits differently when not self-imposed. I’ve found myself in a rare position of introspection, wondering why I’m feeling what I’m feeling. I actually have the time to sit back and analyze: why do we feel less important or fulfilled when we aren’t being productive? Why do we feel the need to entertain or put out content and continually fill the void? 

Again, I don’t claim to have the answers but I’m kind of excited about having this time to reflect. It’s like the break in the clouds - Mother Nature telling us we need chill the fuck out and reconsider our current path. 

What kind of world do we want on the other side of this? What can we learn from it? I know for myself that I hope my everyday, and how I deal with it, will look different than how it was.  So even though this has caught us all off guard, disrupting our daily grind and status quo, maybe it can be an opportunity to reconsider and reset what that is for us moving forward. 

Stay safe and sane out there, and look out for your people from a distance. We are all playing an important part even if it doesn’t feel like it. ✌ 

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Rylan's fave strains these days:  Pink Kush by San Rafael ’71 and Chocolate Fondue by DNA Genetics

What Rylan's listening to:  Stereophonics – Maybe Tomorrow and Mac Miller - Blue World 

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