From the outside, it looks like I live a charmed life. I work as a professional musician alongside my husband, touring the world. I get to see so many beautiful places and experience wonderful things, from snorkelling with turtles in Barbados to seeing the Northern Lights in Norway. Ask anyone, and they will tell you I am ‘living the dream’. Yet, I feel so empty. I feel trapped and rootless; I have no home anywhere in the world and my life is spent in a suitcase. The nature of my job means that I have to project a persona at all times – personally, professionally and online. I have to be seen to be positive and loving life but, underneath the surface, I feel like I am cracking and there’s just no way out. Occasionally, I have to deal with hurtful and deeply personal criticism, but this isn’t necessarily the problem. I know that part of the problem may be overwork – I haven’t had a birthday, anniversary or Christmas celebration in a long time. The trouble is if I’m not working, I have nowhere to go. I feel so guilty for feeling like this – I spend my life doing the thing I love with the person I love and I make enough money doing so. I have zero responsibilities in my life beyond making sure people are entertained. So why do I feel despair most of the time? Please help. Name supplied
If we were face-to-face, I’d find a way to ask this gently: how can you be ‘living the dream’ when you don’t know what your dream is?
I am concerned about asking it here because to explore the answers you need to feel safe, and I’m not sure where your place of safety is at the moment. In fact, since reading your letter, I’ve had these song lyrics stuck in my head: ‘where do you go to my lovely, when you’re alone in your bed?’
The most troubling idea is, ‘if I’m not working, I have nowhere to go’. I don’t believe anyone would describe this as ‘living the dream’, so I can only conclude that the people saying it don’t know you very well. On the other hand, how can anyone know you, when you ‘have to project a persona at all times’? Do you allow your husband to know you? Do you know yourself? I’m always slightly allergic to phrases such as: ‘I have to’, ‘my wife won’t let me’, ‘I’m not allowed’. Once you leave school, there are very few things you have to do.
So this is certainly not something you have to do, but if you need an incentive, use it: you rely on creativity to earn a living, yet you are constantly drawing on a well without replenishing it. Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way is your new best friend. It’s a 12-week programme of practical steps to help you become more creative and productive. The key commitments are to write every morning, and take yourself on an ‘artist’s date’ (an expedition to discover something that interests you) every week.
Your first step is to find a way to continue being honest with yourself – it might be by writing things down, it might be by talking to your husband, or whoever is your best friend. It could be finding a therapist, even if that relationship has to start on the phone or via Skype.
You don’t need a guru, but you do need to feel less lonely. Greater happiness is already within you, you just need to give it a chance to make itself known.
Read What to do when your comfort zone at work feels like a velvet prison by Vanessa Anstee on LifeLabs
Read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Pan, £14.99)
Read Unhappy at work? Here's your solution by Obi James on LifeLabs
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. GOT A QUESTION FOR MARY? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line