Gas And A Cane

Phil Circle
5 min readDec 10, 2022
Pondering Under The Palms

As I navigate running music schools in two cities across the country from each other and a non-life-threatening, but essential surgery, I’m also enjoying the benefits of constant challenges to my personal status quo. This personal status quo includes such things as being independent and having direct control of the things I do from day to day, including enjoying my regular cash flow and the anticipation of it continuing unabated. I also assume I’ll be able to walk briskly from here to there and climb stairs without pain, and that every trip I take to a store, gas station, or my studio will require the time the GPS tells me plus about 5 minutes to get in and out of the car. I figure that I’ll generally have the money needed to top off the tank or get my favorite ingredients for some meal I enjoy cooking, and that I can stand and chop veggies or what-have-you without incident. My status quo offers me the basic challenges of any day-to-day first world life. And I’m usually equipped to meet them.

I’m also pretty adaptable.

Some things bend you nearly to a breaking point.

I’m very resilient.

I’m using this trait for all it’s worth.

And I’m using my life philosophy for all it’s worth, too. That includes looking to how any given challenge, or collection of them for that matter, can lead to growth as a human being. I look to how it can benefit the work I do, because, well, life and art are deeply connected. One informs the other. As a coach, these adventures in learning also give credence to my work, and benefit my students.

So, here’s the coolest lesson I’ve gained since arriving in Los Angeles 3 months ago.

You ready? I think I am.

Independence is only two-thirds of a larger growth equation. 67%. That’s a ‘C’ if we’re grading on the standardized industrial education approach. Good thing I don’t grade. The first third of this equation is dependence. This is something we either move past when we depart home for our own life as young adults or at some point after countless years of therapy, or perhaps some combination of the two. Whatever our path– they’re all worthwhile if we intend for them to be– we make it to some general sense of independence and the ability to look after ourselves. That’s the second third of the equation; independence. Most people may feel like they can stop here, and plenty do. But it gets better! The final third of this equation is interdependence. This is the point at which we realize that we’re deeply connected to other people. This can be a slippery slope for someone like me, because I don’t like asking others for help in… pretty much anything. But until we learn this interconnectedness and the exponential power of it, we’re doomed to run into walls. Fortunately, if you’re watching your path and listening to your heart, life may give you opportunities for discovery.

For instance, in order to leave my school in Chicago open, I had to entrust it almost completely to the team of teachers I brought in over the last year. This is the beginning of interdependence. We entrust each other with certain roles and rely on each other to see things move forward. They aren’t paying for the place, except by taking on students. I can’t pay for the place, except by supporting their efforts. I oversee the place with complete transparency, too. So, they all know where things are, like that the money is tight with two schools still in growth stage. Like a true winning line-up, they’ve asked what else they can do to help move things forward. I’m amazed by this, because I’ve never had such a team. Partly because, in the past, I would never utilize interdependence, opting more for autocratic control. Rather than trusting that each member of my line-up or crew had their own unique and effective way of promoting and accomplishing our work together, I just bashed my face repeatedly into the ego of “Don’t you understand how great my way of doing things is? If you just did it my way, you’d prove me right!” Then I’d be letdown, exhausted and ineffective. Resentment and a sense of failure typically followed.

Since arriving in Los Angeles, it’s been a slow build for the new school and my money has run out. So whatever comes in from my own small, but growing roster (and other sources), goes right back into keeping the overall business kicking and growing. Speaking of kicking, add screaming and that’s how I go down. That is, not easily. That’s my resilience working for me. And as implied, I don’t ask for or even accept help easily. But, my wife, Megan, has been mostly supporting me. She keeps reminding me we’re a team. I keep thinking I’m supposed to carry the world to the top of some mythical hill. So, it’s probably amusing. In fact I think it was the source of a few good laughs when I said something like, “I’ve been here two weeks! How come everything isn’t happening?!”

I’ve also been having knee and leg trouble for about 6 months. It turns out it’s been mostly pain referred from my left hip joint, which has lost 30% of its bone mass. I will be starting 2023 with a full left hip replacement. I had my right hip done 10 years ago. It’s due to osteonecrosis; bone death. It’s a side effect of medication and my past drinking habits didn’t help either. I’m delighted to have an answer and the surgery and recovery were tolerable 10 years ago. I understand they’ve made it even more so. I’m down with being something of a cyborg. It beats the constant pain and not being ambulatory. I really enjoy walking a lot. I’m not being facetious. I love walking whenever I can. Anyway, I share this because it leads to the title of this little blog. I knew from past experience that a cane would make my life a lot easier. It doesn’t end the pain, but it lessens the way it builds up after a day of limping through and gives added support. Added support. Hmmm. Anyway…

Leaving the house the one day, I asked my wife,

“Hey, can you Zelle me some money for gas and a cane?”

She agreed, then chuckled and said,

“Gas and a cane, that’s a band name or a song title.”

Yeah sure, it could be a country song. But I already have two of those.

Thanks for hanging. I appreciate your support.

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Phil Circle

Phil Circle is an award-winning singer-songwriter, author and coach, native Chicagoan who lives in Los Angeles, and founder of Phil Circle Music in both cities.