Mark Danger Powers

drummer β€’ educator β€’ author

The Slump

I hope to not feel this way sometime soon, but at this very moment, I despise that everyone in the blog world (myself included) seems to be perpetually hunky-dory. Always having their act together; full of all the necessary answers for every curveball life throws at you. Each post brimming with insightful action steps and valuable advice.

This is no such post.

Quite the opposite, rather than offering you my thoughts on how one can better him/herself, I’m here to ask for your help.

Frankly, life sucks right now. I’m unhappy with everything. Performing, work, relationships, finances, life goals . . . I’m fed up with all of it. I have been witnessing myself becoming someone I’m usually not. Blowing off important projects, being a flaky friend, caring less about staying on top of phone/text/email/online communications, and growing stagnant in a state of utterly no motivation. Anyone who knows me, knows that this is not normal. No upcoming events or goals seem to get me pumped up. My recent TheDonatingDrummer launch has been difficult and disappointing. Even this blog post . . . it’s going live a day late, breaking an every-Wednesday streak I’ve diligently maintained since May 5th.

This is where you come in.

Give me some comment love below. I could use it. Let me know that I’m not alone here . . . that you, too, have slumps that bring you down. And, most importantly, I want to hear how you dig your way out.

That’s all for now. See you on the upswing . . .

(photo by juliejigsaw)

47 Comments

  1. Thanks for a great lesson yesterday. We found a new beat to work on thanks to Todd Sucherman. My recommendation is to take some time for yourself doing what YOU want to do, not have to do. Eat a favorite meal, dessert, whatever. Get some exercise. Read. Listen to music for fun. Call a friend just to talk. NO BUSINESS ALLOWED.
    I find that if I need a battery recharge – any or all of the above help.

    • Great ideas, Jeff. After this post went live, I actually had several friends call to chat! Definitely recharging to catch up and have a good 1-on-1 with a good friend! And exercise is always a great way to get the body and mind back in action . . . I need to make more of that happen, for sure. Thanks, man!

  2. My favorite mood changers:

    Need a little lift – Stand outside with the sun in your face, close your eyes and take a deep breath (I know, sun is a little hard to find in OR right now!)
    Need a big lift- Stick Control Page 1, very zen. Or for your listening enjoyment, Steve Reich “Electric Counterpoint,” especially movement 3.
    Need a huge lift – Travel! This is the best time of year to go to Jamaica . . . nice and deserted and cheap before the holidays!

    I wish you all the best and can’t wait until the next time we accidentally end up in the same random foreign country again!! Brad and I have several things we very sincerely miss about Salem and being around you and the crazy jazz crowd is certainly one of them. Keep on keeping on!

    • Emily! Stick Control . . . that’s exactly what I need. More time in the practice room always does me good. But that Jamaica idea really does sound nice right about now! Send a ‘hello’ to Brad & James, and thanks for the list of mood changers- fantastic!

  3. Yo Mark! I feel for you brother. You are definitely not alone. I think everyone goes through periods like this. I cycle through them on a regular basis. I find that when I reach these troughs in motivation it is usually because I am being pulled in too many directions. I need to evaluate everything that I have going on and select something that I know will make me happy or give me a sense of accomplishment and only do that thing. Ignore the rest. It’s OK to take a break, in fact sometimes it’s necessary to keep your sanity and maintain your focus. I know you have a lot of great ideas and cool things going on. Just realize that any slump is just temporary and that you are awesome.

    • You are awesome, dude! Thanks for the thoughts. You’re totally right, sometimes zoning in on only one task or project is probably a super smart move. Let’s Skype soon . . . thanks again, Matt!

  4. First, you are definitely NOT alone. Relationships (death, divorce), finances, and life goals have all been an issue for me this year. Well, the last one has been an issue for about 35 years. πŸ˜‰

    Relationships are the most important so I usually start there. When my relationships are good, the rest of the issues don’t seem quite so bad. However, I must also remember that I can’t change anyone else, only the way I react. (So NOT easy!) I’m actively working on my life goals. One thing I’m thinking of trying is a model called the Quaker Clearness Committee, which is a group of people who can give NO advice – only ask questions. (http://www.couragerenewal.org/parker/writings/clearness-committee).

    Everyone has ups and downs; my husband always reminds me that without the downs, I couldn’t enjoy the ups. πŸ˜‰ You are loved by many, not because you’re perfect, but because you are YOU! A unique wonderful guy!

    • Wow- thanks for the amazing comment! I do agree that without the downs, we can’t experience the ups. I’ve said that many times myself (and mentioned it in a post here); I appreciate you reminding me of that. Apparently, I forget. πŸ™‚

      I’ve never heard of putting together a Clearness Committee before. What an interesting approach. You are incredible, Linda! Thanks again.

    • Linda,
      Thank you for the tip on the Quaker Clearness Committee. I have several life mentors who I draw from, but have never heard of this model.
      … “The Clearness Committee is testimony to the fact that there are no external authorities on life’s deepest issues, not clergy or therapists or scholars; there is only the authority that lies within each of us waiting to be heard. ”

      Parker J Palmer is an excellent man. Vocation, vocation, vocation…
      At this very moment I am online blogging about my vocation.
      I applied for a Lilly Grant to create a documentary supplemented by his book “Let Your Life Speak.” And yet, I seem to still not know my own vocation in the highest sense –
      One day at I time, at this time.

      Cheers,
      Miss Rose

  5. For years I was also a “sole proprietor.” It is hard, never-ending, personal work. What I did, successfully, was arrange to have lunch with someone every day. I tried to make them all non-work lunches. Just a place to talk, laugh, bounce weird ideas, etc. It really helped.

    Doing what you do takes passion and massive amounts of effort… fatigue is inevitable. Be proactive about happiness.

    • Being proactive is definitely key. You are right about the never-turned-off, sole proprietor role occasionally being fatiguing. Perhaps we meet halfway for one of those “non-work lunches” one of these days? Thanks for reading and dropping a line, Don!

  6. Sorry you’re feeling this way Mark! You’re one of the most talented and incredible persons I have ever met so please don’t forget that!

    That said, everyone feels the funk from time to time. Even though I’m set to run off to the Peace Corps in February for an amazing experience, I’ve been down too. Saying goodbye to beloved friends, family and pets during the holidays is just kind of a bummer. It really gives meaning to the sacrifice that people give when they leave for service of any kind. It just plain hurts.

    What has helped me, oddly enough was a freakin’ bumper sticker. It said “Nothing worth doing is ever easy.” That has helped remind me why it is I’m working so hard to do what I’m doing. In addition to that, family and friends have been so supportive of this endeavor, I owe it to them to make it happen.

    What worked for me may not work for you, heck, it may not work for me in another month, but it is making me feel somewhat sane today and I’ll take it.

    • That’s super sweet, Stacy! Thanks for the uplift.

      What you’re setting out to spend the next couple of years doing is huge. I can’t even begin to imagine all of the feelings, worries and questions that are racing through you right now. But keeping that fact that “nothing worth doing is ever easy” at the forefront of your mind sounds like a great way to help [as Emily said above] keep on keepin’ on.

      Thanks for the awesome comment . . . as well as the continual support!

  7. I love playing with you. You are a studio one-take wonder, and the fact that you are willing to lay tracks on Wednesday and Thursday mornings keeps me honest about concentrating on original music. Big things will be happening in 2011. You may have to change your name to Gord, though…

    • Ha! One-take wonder. Right!
      Well, I guess we did have a few . . .
      πŸ™‚

      Would it be acceptable to change just my middle name to Gord? I’ve never been too fond of my real one, anyway.

      Thanks, Lee. I look forward to finishing pounding out those hits after the holidays!

  8. How are my relationships?
    Who am I relating to?
    Who is @markpowers relating to?
    Who is @donatingdrummer relating to?
    Are my relationships genuine or superficial?
    Am I trying to do too much?
    Do I have sense of urgency in my life? if so, why?
    What’s wrong with just being?
    Did I set an expectation on something/someone?
    Am I trying to be someone else?
    Does my life suck because I’m not getting what I want?
    Do I need to have everything I want?
    Is it good to have everything I want?
    Am I blogging because I’m inspired or because I’m trying to meet a quota?
    What’s wrong with trying to do ONE thing REALLY well?
    Do I need to go abroad to make an impact or can I make an impact here at home?
    Am asking for support, but not supporting others?
    Why do I have so many life goals?
    Have I convinced myself my life is mediocre when it’s probably pretty freakin’ AWESOME?
    Can I be happy with where Life/God leads me?

    β€œTruth is a deep kindness that teaches us to be content in our everyday life and share with the people the same happiness.” – Kahlil Gibran

    • Carla . . . wow. What an incredible list of questions. I have to admit, I feel as though a couple seem to border on the edge of being a bit judgmental. But nonetheless, a great list to ponder. I have asked myself some of these as various points in the past, but you’ve provided many more that I realize I haven’t, and probably should. This may take a while but (deep breath) I’m going to spend some time on a few of these. Thank you for taking the time and offering this introspective gift.

      • Questions I’ve asked myself in my own life and questions I ask you for you to answer to yourself. Just remember, too many folks confuse ACCOUNTABILITY for judgement. As people who care we are to keep one another accountable. That’s all. It’s a good thing.

  9. Mark Powers, of course you are not alone and I have been there. One of the things that gets me through his a history of having gotten through before, knowing it isn’t forever and it isn’t but it IS something to learn from. As much as a perfect day (and you know you have had those and they bring you a smile and a peace so deep you can’t express it) a “blue fog” can be a form as grace as well…just harder to see . And no one in this life, doesn’t suffer.
    I would never choose suffering but I also know there is something to take from it and it will make those perfect days to come, more of a prisim and less of glass window. I have never seen people want to change when they were content. Never. The opportunity to grow is generally clothed in struggle.
    The people we love and who look to us as their teachers, will look to see how we managed through peril. So, what will your choices speak to them? Hang in there and trust in the gifts that surround you. Oh yeah, and exercise. πŸ™‚

    • Donna . . . what an incredible comment! These two lines are my takeaway from you:

      1. “I have never seen people want to change when they were content. Never.

      2. “The people we love and who look to us as their teachers, will look to see how we managed through peril.

      You just changed my outlook on the day that lies ahead of me. Thank you, Donna!

  10. Mark,
    I agree with Linda in that you are not alone with this. Most people go through tough times, and there are people you know that can, and will, help you.

    Personally, my life also sucks right now. Part of it is that even after 16 years in Salem, I still don’t enjoy the dark, rainy days of winter. I try to catch the sun whenever it appears, even if it is sitting by a sunny window. Also, the days will start getting longer soon. December has some bad memories for me, and I would love to figure out a want to skip from mid-November to January. I know that I will get past this time, because I have before. Finally, I’ve got some personal issues right now that I’m dealing with that have me down. I’m not sure what the solution is for me, but I know that somehow things will get better.

    Some things that I have found to help me are spending time with people AND not talking about what is bothering me, realizing that you don’t have to do everything that is asked of you – take some time for you, and finally, laughter.

    • Hi, Laura- I’m sorry to hear that you are having difficulty with things right now, too. Time hanging and laughing with friends is a great way to get away from sulking in bad memories or other issues that’ve got you down. And, as the holiday gets closer, I am really looking forward to some of that “time for yourself” that you mention! Thanks for the comment, Laura- here’s to us both enjoying that upswing soon!

  11. Hey Mark,
    We all have times in our lives where we feel exactly the same way you do. You’re right though. It doesn’t sound like you at all. Is there a reason for the slump? I don’t need to know, just think about it. Maybe if you can pinpoint it, that will help.
    I hope you start to feel better soon. You are an amazing person! I’m so happy that my family has gotten to know you. What a postive influence you are! Know that you are loved. If there’s anything I can do, let me know.
    Blessings,
    Ruth

    • Thanks, Ruth- I really appreciate you writing this! Yeah, although a friend advised against spending too much time focusing on the ‘down’ times, I have thought about the reasons that might have brought it on. As is usually the case with me, I think it largely hitting that valley that exists between musical projects and travel adventures. Like Linda mentioned above, you can’t have the ups without the downs. It’s just easy to forget that once in a while. Thanks again for the support!

  12. Hey Mark,
    Here’s what helps me out, hopefully I have the smarts to take my own advice.

    1. Dream journal. First thing on waking up, start writing down any remnants you can remember from your dreams. If it’s only one detail, write it down. If you don’t start writing you won’t remember any more. If you begin to write, I bet good money that more of your dream will start to come back to you. When I’m using this practice, I generally end up with about three pages written down longhand. Oh yes, and Mark, do NOT attempt to do this on your Blackberry or whatever gadget you’ve got these days. Pen and paper is key. Sometimes I even do it in the dark without my glasses. It’s scrawly but gets the job done.

    2. If you think someone is upset with you but you’re not certain, ask them. That kind of uncertainty always eats at me and wastes a ton of time. If you find that you don’t think it’s a big enough deal to ask about, them determine to forget it and move on.

    3. Physical work. This is one of the best. It’s amazing what digging a ditch can do for my world view. The only danger here is one of procrastination. Make sure this isn’t one of those “I’ll organize the Tupperware THEN do the pardiddles” sorts of projects. Make sure that it has a specific benefit for you, a friend, stranger, or the world at large.

    That’s it from me. Hope it helps. all the best, Jeff

    • Hey, Jeff! I could see each of these being helpful in changing one’s frame of mind. I’ve heard that everyone dreams, but I’ve almost never woken up with the remnants of one still in my head. The occurrence of remembering a dream is so rare for me, I should, as you suggest, start making a point of writing it down.

      Thanks for all three of these . . . I think I’ve got someone that I can ask that; AND I’m determined to get back into being a little more physically active this week.

  13. Mark,

    Two ideas to keep in mind
    1)I have found the kind of slow, blue times you are feeling are often our bodies way of preparing for something extraordinary. Take stock and begin building your energy now, because you will need it all shortly. Who knows what is coming your way, but I bet it is big.

    2) read this…http://m.npr.org/story/131734718?url=/2010/12/06/131734718/just-breathe-body-has-a-built-in-stress-reliever

    Often when I find myself overwhelmed, I even describe it as being out of breath, or not even having a second to catch my breath. Just find a quiet peaceful place and breathe. Hopefully that helps, I’ll contact you in January to get Aki back on your list.

    • Hey, Brent: Thanks for the comment! I’m charging the energypack, so I hope that “something big” is on it’s way . . . I’m ready for it! Interesting NPR article; I do believe it’s true that consciously altering our breathing can alter our stress level. Thanks again- hope to see you two soon!

  14. Mark,

    The good news is, it only gets better from here. Writing a post like this, being open, is tough.

    My best advice is to continue to surround yourself with supportive people. Then rather than despising, figure out why they are “hunky-dory”.

    For me, it largely has to do with perspective. Things are not really going my way either at this current moment (you’ll see in tomorrow’s post), but the blessings in my life far outweigh the success of my site and my journey.

    Years ago, in my business life, I stopped staring at the brick and began looking at the brick wall. Perspective.

    Know too that there is a plan for your life. One that you may not understand fully at this time, but one that will have you smiling looking back on this post and this moment.

    Take care my brother and KEEP YOUR HEAD WAY UP!

    • Perspective . . . that’s huge, Kenny. I just read your post about the Jordan Camp being canceled. Kudos to you for accepting the increased challenge, and seeing that goal as now harder . . . but still not impossible. You’re drive is inspiring to me! Surrounding myself with supportive people [like yourself] is truly great advice (and will be exactly what today’s post will be about!). Thanks for everything, man!

  15. Hey Mark- Sometimes I find one of the better things to do is get some solitude and silence. Go somewhere by yourself and don’t do anything, or have any extras (music, cell phone, etc), and just be. Somewhere an old book says “In quietness and trust is your strength…”

    • Think I’m familiar with [parts of] that old book. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the reminder, Ryan! Especially in my very music-filled life, it can be valuable to get away and enjoy some silence.

  16. Mark,
    Words of wisdom from a man far wiser than his years…(in case you don’t recognize them they are your own)

    I can’t claim them as my own, but the words I try to live by: “The path of least resistance is also the path of least growth.”

    • Grrrr . . . thanks for that, Brent! Maybe I need to go back and read a few of my own posts πŸ™‚

  17. Love love love!

    I do wish I’d caught this post when it first went live so that my comment love would have been more timely. I’m guessing (hoping?) from the tone of our recent phone convo that you are on your way out of The Slump. I see that your friendly neighborhood commenters have already dispensed much wisdom… still, more love couldn’t hurt, right?

    I have made your same plea for solidarity before. Remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Never believe that voice that suggests you might be alone. It lies; kick it out before something else happens. Of course, you’ve already kicked it out by posting this and surrounding yourself with people who tell you the truth. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

    When Blue Days hit me, I go back to The Basics. I’m actually pretty confident that these are The Basics because at various times in my life, they have been expressed to me in some form or another by friends, voice coaches, books, and counselors. Your friends have already expressed several of them to you. They are:
    1. Adequate sleep.
    2. Good nutrition and hydration.
    3. Physical activity.
    4. Social interaction.
    5. A spiritual practice/Self-reflection.

    I can’t always reinstate ALL of The Basics. And reinstating The Basics doesn’t always make my Blue Days clear up. BUT… reinstating The Basics DOES make my Blue Days a heckuvalot easier to deal with.

    Your friends are right: Blue Days come in cycles. Be gentle with yourself. This too shall pass. =)

    • Sleep?! What’s that? Hmm . . . perhaps therein lies my problem! πŸ™‚

      Wow- thanks for the awesome comment, Jillyn! Yes, I do feel that I’m on my way out of the funk I was in and, agreed, that is largely due to the incredible thoughts and support from so many fantastic friends! You’re right, these Basics really can help, and I’m certainly guilty of disregarding all of them from time-to-time.

      Thanks for caring and sharing- you rock, JC!

  18. We all get tired of doing what’s expected of us and routine can become an anchor pulling us down. Vacation is usually what gets me out of a funk and it doesn’t have to be an emediate one but one in the future. I like to have something to look forward to and to dream about. Even if you have lots of things scheduled for yourself from now till forever typically they’re not things where you can loose yourself. We all need a break from the frenzy of life. Good luck Mark.

    • Hey, Dave! Yes- a vacation would be fantastic! Since I travel quite often, I’ve had several friends suggest that I’m already continually on vacation. But, although still fun, most of my trips end up consisting of some form of work, teaching or studies. Definitely not chillaxin’ on the beach and soakin’ up the rays. That said, I’m honestly not usually very good at that sort of vacationing. But I just may have to make that happen . . . πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  19. Mark….really???? no.
    you are so awesome and you kick so much ass and I look at all of the stuff you are doing and I am like “dammit, why don’t I have my act together like this guy does?” I always look at your blog and go “Wow, this guy is so positive, why can’t I be positive like this guy? Why does my blog have to be a bunch of insecure ramblings? Why can’t I have my act together like Mark Powers does? Why do I sometimes accidentally spew some emotional vomit on twitter? Mark Powers would never do something like that! Seriously, Catherine, you need to be more like Mark Powers!”

    seriously, you are the older musician that the younger musician looks up to and goes “damn, how do I be like that?” so don’t feel bad about yourself! I, on the other hand, work at (insert name of unpleasant place where I work here), am at the mercy of flaky high school band directors for my teaching income, and have yet to strike out in search of students in this Very Frustrating Town where don’t nobody want to pay honest money for a professional music lesson, and have been kicked out of two bands in the past year.

    Honey, don’t feel bad about yourself…it could be worse. You could be me!

    • Ha! Catherine, you kill me! You’ve studied in Brazil on a Fulbright grant, performed at PASIC, spent time learning Ewe music (and apparently, language- mine sucks) in Ghana. It’s hard to imagine YOU writing what you just did above when I am personally motivated by what people like yourself have accomplished. Wow- I guess it just goes to show that we all are in the same boat sometimes. But keep your head up, girl . . . I, for one, enjoy your ramblings and look forward to watching more unfold in your teaching, playing and life in general. We percussionists have to stick together!

  20. You are so NOT alone….I’m going through a major slump myself right now….and haven’t figured out how to get out of it.

    On Nov 30th I walked away from a 6-figure income because I was sick to death of dealing with a client from Hell. I put up with him for 2 years, the last year of which I spent saving money so I could walk away. My dream for several years, has been to do freelance web/blog design and write. So I’m living on savings for the next year until I get my web design business going.

    I started my blog 4 months ago full of enthusiasm and the joy of writing. My plan was to have 100 subscribers by year end. But, I only have 4 email subscribers, one of which unsubscribed yesterday. (I’m still dealing with that one!). I’m feeling very discouraged at the moment and don’t have the desire to write….which really sucks.

    I’m so sorry that your donating drummer project has been disappointing. I think it’s such an AWESOME way to pay it forward! If you can, give it a little more time. You may change a life…and if you change just 1 life….it’s all worth it. :o)

    So what do you say we simply take it 1 day at a time. Let’s enjoy Christmas and New Years and come January….we can refuel and start fresh.

    • Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling bummed, as well. Focusing on subscribers and such can certainly be disappointing. But you’ve doing some great writing, and highlighting some other incredible people, on your site. So I think it’s really only a matter of time before your influence spreads and your readership grows! As you said, taking it one day at a time right now is probably a smart move. By the way, I know you’re an Advanced Riskology fan . . . have you checked out Tyler’s Guerilla Influence Formula package?

      Keep your head up, girl. And keep in touch . . . we’ll both have things rockin’ again soon!

  21. Mark, We all have tough times in our lives. I remember in the 7th or 8th grade when we had this astec project due and I didnt have much to work with. You took the time to help me and because of you I got a C for that grade. The funny thing is even after all these years and many other memories this sticks in my head and I use this story as a tool with my own children if one is in need take the time to help it just might mean the world to them. Because @ that time in my life you were my way out. Thank You.

    • Wow, Freedom . . . long time, no see! How cool of you to leave a comment. I’m glad I was able to help with that [way back when], but now I’m sort of embarrassed I wasn’t able to do better than that C. πŸ™‚ Thanks for bringing back some old memories- great to hear from you!

  22. Unhappy with everything! That sucks dead moose!!!
    It’s strange how there are some people you don’t imagine feeling that way (I always see you as one of the most positive forward thinking people I know) but we all do suffer from the same types of stresses and pressure everyday life can inflict. I feel that way too at times, especially this time of year with my business being so crazy and my gigs so few. I guess I don’t have any solid advice to give but I’ll stand in solidarity as well till the slump subsides.
    If it’s any help , Michelle and I just got a set of mini congas and we were planning to contact you about the possibility of purchasing some lesson time from you or if you already teach in Portland. We would love to have dinner as well!

    • Thanks for dropping a line, Dave! Lessons and dinner both sound fantastic. Let’s make it happen sometime soon!

  23. so sorry to hear about your slump
    wish i knew the words to help
    but i don’t
    just know you are in our thoughts and prayers

    mary, mitch, devin, marty and edie

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