The ultimate “swipe right”

Around this time last year, I was asked out on date by a dude on Tinder, who’s caption read, “It’s getting cold outside.¬† Looking for a girlfriend for the winter.”¬† True story.

A girl with my dating track record really had nothing to lose.

I had JUST relocated to Michigan for a few months to work on a music project.¬† I had no social life outside of my family.¬† I’d just ended an 8 month turbulent relationship.¬† Detroit was frozen over and there weren’t enough bulky sweaters or Ugg boots to keep me warm.¬† I was the perfect candidate for Tinder.

I arrived 40 minutes late to my first date with Jon.
He was just relieved I showed up and that I wasn’t a dude.

It was a pleasant night, especially considering I had low expectations.  Tinder does that to you.  Well, no, dating does that to you,  ha.  We had dinner and drinks and walked to a local vodka distillery in the freezing cold.  When the night was over, there was a hug goodnight and we drove to our separate homes.

When he followed up the next day to make plans for a 2nd date, I won’t lie, I hesitated.¬† The whole “seeing someone” thing did not appeal to me.¬† Been there, done that,¬†caught on fire¬†one too many times.¬† I’m good…I’m only looking for¬†attention.

I know I’m too much.¬† I’m loud and unfiltered, exceptionally weird as shit AND I work in music.¬†¬†I like to bare my midriff and bar hop any day of the week.¬† I casually “date” and own (laugh at)¬†every single dramatic/scandalous/entertaining story that comes with that.¬† I’m independent, I don’t know how to communicate through any vessel other than sarcasm and I’m too tired to give a shit about guys anymore.¬† The few guys I ever actually called a boyfriend ultimately ended up royally¬†mind-@#*!ing me and inspiring my entire songwriting catalog.

And¬†yet, there¬†I was in November of 2015…600 miles away from those disasters.¬† Those stories.¬† Those bars, that scene, those exes.¬†¬†I’m older now, it’s starting to feel less cute.¬† I’m also in a completely different part of the country now.¬† So what was going to be my excuse?¬† ¬†Did I want the path of destruction to run north and south…Or did I want to do it differently…Am I really not going to go out with this guy a few more times because of who I’ve been¬†600 miles south?¬† I was off the hamster wheel.¬† I was in Michigan.¬† No hamsters live through Michigan winters.

I’m not going to say I gave Jon a chance.¬† Because in all honesty, it wasn’t HIM that I was doubting at all.¬† It was me.¬† So I will say that from our 2nd date on…I gave MYSELF a chance.¬† I gave myself a chance to prove false whatever self-defeating thoughts I’d be carrying around in my head and in my heart¬†that I couldn’t be/didn’t want to be “the relationship type”.¬†¬†

And it truly was a process.
It’s a process to unlearn all the self-sabotaging thoughts/feelings/behaviors.¬† You can’t silence that inner voice as quickly as you’d like to.¬† We’d be out to dinner and he’d compliment me, only for me to roll my eyes or make a stupid face and say, “Yeah, ok.”¬† I’d say that happened for the first 3-4 months, easily.¬† And every time he’d say, “I’m just going to keep saying it until you start to believe it.”¬† Seriously, what is wrong with this guy?¬† He’d do thoughtful gestures like put gas in my car or¬†surprise me with¬†flowers or buy/ship me a Tempur Pedic pillow when I was out of town, and at least half the time I’d say, “Why’d you do that?¬† You don’t have to do that.”¬† Like, he was trying too hard or something.¬† Or even worse, he just doesn’t reeeeallllly know me yet.¬† Because once he does, this shit will stop.¬† We’ll both be swiping again soon enough.¬† Luckily, none of that was¬†true.

Aside from the nice dinners or the thoughtful gifts or the sweet compliments, I was in awe of his patience more than anything.¬† And I still am.¬† I know I’m not easy.¬† I’m still learning.

Jon set the stage for me to look at myself in a way I never had before.¬† Kind of like “Pretty Woman” only minus the getting paid for sex part.¬† He gave me an opportunity to be a woman truly worth pursuing…the way my mom, my dad, my grandma always hoped a man would win me over.¬† And let’s be honest here, they’d all just about given up hope, ha.¬† I don’t blame them though.¬† They knew what I’d put myself through in the past.¬† He showed me that it’s okay to want these things.¬† It’s okay to think of myself as worthy and deserving of a mountain-moving love.

All the things I used to deem cheesy or unrealistic about being in a relationship were deemed so because I’d never felt it before.¬† I thought I didn’t want it because I didn’t know it.¬† So I never hoped for it, I never held out for it, I never asked for it.¬† I talked myself out of it long before any guy would end up disappointing me.

And Jon just gave his all.  Without question.  And continues to do so.

Not only did he expose me to new way to love…but he exposed me to his larger-than-life (borderline creepy) obsession with his bulldog, Stella, his¬†ridiculous ‘if Danny Tanner were trying to seduce you’ dance moves, his grumpy old man opinions on everything from music to politics, he closet full of nothing¬†more than¬†plaid shirts and blue hoodies, his sappy and sensitive feelings when he’s had more than 3 IPAs, his super intense foot rubs,¬† his awkward story/joke delivery, and a million other things that I whole-heartedly love.

Who would have thought that after a¬†decade of dating in Music City,¬†I’d wind up with a car dealer in Michigan… Not I, that’s for sure.¬† But somehow, somewhere our stories blended perfectly.¬† And shit, we just stood side by side for last 365 days creating a new one.

I’ll drink to that.

 

 

Sobering up to a “fallen sky”…

Sobering up to a “fallen sky”…

I don’t want to get political.

I really don’t.¬† And I won’t.

I will say, however, that I urged my fellow family members and friends to vote.  I posted on my social media accounts to please, for the love of God, go vote.  I spent a good chunk of time sorting through my feelings with my fingers on a keyboard the day before the election.  I then proceeded to share these very personal, somewhat uncomfortable thoughts/events/feelings with all of you on Monday evening, as over 1,000 of you have now read that blog post in the past 48 hours.

As in touch with my feelings as I may have been Monday and Tuesday… Wednesday morning was unlike anything I’ve felt in a long time…¬† And truth be told, I didn’t allow myself to feel it for long.

Tuesday:¬† I got my people to the polls.¬† I shared my story.¬† I swelled with so much pride seeing the lines at the polls, seeing everyone posting their photo with their “I Voted” sticker on Facebook and Instagram.¬† I¬† made the executive decision that I would NOT watch any election coverage on Tuesday.¬† So at 7PM, I turned my phone off and left it on the kitchen counter.¬† We then proceeded to our basement bedroom with all the dogs, junk food, and a joint.¬† We let ourselves fall asleep to the sweet sound of “Friends” on Netflix.¬† .

It was out of my hands now.¬† There was nothing else I could do.¬† It’ll be OK.¬† She’s going to win…maybe not by much…but she’s going to win.

My oblivion was blissful.

Wednesday:  Wake up at 7AM.  Jon gets up for work.  I ask him to turn on his phone and check.

“This can’t be right…. No.¬† No…this can’t be right.¬† Trump won.”

I’ll probably never forget what those words felt like.¬† How they knocked the wind right out of me when I first heard them.¬† I jumped out of bed and went upstairs to my phone.¬† I turned it on and there was just buzz after buzz after buzz with about 20 text messages I had missed through the night/early morning from friends and family in complete disbelief.¬† The thought dawned on me, “Holy shit, Rachel.¬† Half of America has been feeling all sorts of shit while you slept.”

Another punch to the chest. 

It’s now 7:20AM.¬† I get on Facebook and start scrolling and it’s not fake.¬† It happened.¬† I immediately find my “medicinal green” and light up.¬† I can’t process this right now.¬† It’s grey & foggy outside.¬† It’s early.¬† Just don’t feel it right now.¬† (And no Mom, I’m not a pothead/wake and baker.)

So I didn’t.

All day long.

I didn’t get on my phone.¬† I didn’t turn on cable.¬† I watched the 2nd season of “Friends” on Netflix.¬† I wanted Rachel Green’s problems in the mid-90’s.¬† I wanted nothing to do with¬†Rachel Williams in 2016 problems.

I picked up my guitar.¬† I scribbled down thoughts.¬† But then I decided that I didn’t want to think just yet so I went back to “Friends”.¬† There’s no way I can put into words, let alone, a song about what I should be feeling right now.¬† What so many of us are feeling right now.

When my boyfriend came home from work, I decided that we should go out for dinner.  I needed to get out of these four walls, off of this couch, out of my numbness.

We walked into a couple of neighborhood bars.¬† On the flat screens behind the bar area was either¬†CNN/FOX/MSNBC.¬† “I cannot,” I told myself and then walked directly out of their establishment.¬† Got lucky on my 3rd bar.¬† All they were playing¬†were the¬†Detroit Red Wings¬† I breathed a sigh of relief.

I ordered up some chicken tenders and a vodka soda.¬† I talked with Jon about his weird day at work.¬† I told him about how insanely funny “Friends” is and how there were so many episodes I’d forgotten about.¬† Then halfway through my second drink, I looked around…

Everyone was cool.

Everyone was drinking and eating.

The sky had fallen and yet, here we all were.

Maybe some of them voted Clinton.¬† Maybe some of them voted Trump.¬† Maybe some of them didn’t vote at all.¬† Either way…I just watched.

I watched as people inhaled and exhaled, laughed, high-fived, sipped their IPA….

And then it dawned on me.

We are all in this together.

There is no “me” and then “them”.¬† Our future President is the same.¬† Whether you are Taylor Swift or Kanye West, whether you are gay or straight, whether you are Mormon or atheist, whether you are an immigrant or born/raised/die in Detroit.¬† Whether you are feeling victorious right now or whether you are feeling confused and heavy-hearted, like myself.

Together.

I¬†know it may sound na√Įve or idealistic, but I have to believe that there¬†is no black or white, gay or straight, poor or rich, right wing or left wing…there is hate and there is love.¬†

The haters were going to be there REGARDLESS, loud & proud, whether it was Trump or Clinton in the White House.  All you need to do is scroll your Facebook newsfeed to see that.

I won’t do it.

There’s a million things I could say about the hateful posts I’ve read.¬† The videos I’ve seen go viral.¬† The words that our President-elect has said that have hurt.¬† The fears I have for my African American peers and my¬†homosexual friends, including¬†my homosexual brother.¬† (Nobody better fuck with my brother.)

But I won’t.

Because in the end, my hate says nothing about me except that I don’t love myself enough to love those around me.¬† And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I¬†have vowed to¬†show myself love and compassion and respect every, single day…even when it feels undoable.¬† Even if it’s just in the slightest, most¬†microscopic¬†of amounts some days.¬† So I will do the same for others.

Whether they’re racist or whether they’re just Republican or whether they just hated Hillary Clinton…I will show love…even if it’s just in¬†forgiveness.

I will rise strong.¬† We will rise strong.¬† If Hillary Clinton can make it through a concession speech, I sure as hell can get through my Wednesday, my Thursday, and every day after that…

And I will start by making the conscious effort to get my face out of my fucking phone.  Out of fucking Facebook/Instagram/Twitter.  I will start by practicing what I preach.

I will thank this¬†election for making me more self-aware.¬† For making me more aware of the people around me.¬† For making sure this big crack in my armor heals and¬†grows stronger than it ever was before.¬† For truly making me feel¬†united with so many of my fellow Americans…because we¬†know we can do better.

Don’t just type the words.

BE the words.

Now that we see the division, don’t hide behind the wall….

Build the bridge.

Build the bridge with no intention of burning it.

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Death…and what’s left behind.

Death…and what’s left behind.

Mortality¬†is something I’ve thought about a lot this year.¬† And when I wasn’t thinking about it, well…it’d come back and slap me in the face a few times to remind me it was still a thing that needed to be thought on.

This year taught me a lot about shutting up.¬† Listening.¬† Learning.¬† I absorbed everything… the softness of baby cheeks, the rush¬†I’d get when creating a song that¬†enthralls me the more we write it,¬†the¬†indescribable beauty I see on every walk/road-trip/sunrise and sunset, the wrinkles in my Granny’s hands, the loudness & the ridiculousness of my family in a room and how I’ll laugh until I borderline pee myself, the heaviness and fluffiness of my 13 year old dog laying on my chest and remembering the good/bad/complete chaos of the last 13 years, stopping and actually smelling the flowers that are always¬†waiting for me on the kitchen table when I get back to town.¬† There was a lot of hurt, disappointment, and loss to take in too.

I’ll admit, I haven’t been as adamant about blogging as I was when I initially started this particular blog.¬† I guess that’s life.¬† At least, that’s what I chalked it up to…¬† But what happens when that life is a lot more fragile than we ever care to admit to ourselves?¬† It’s brutal when it shows it’s cracks…even more brutal when it shatters to something that feels like it can’t be salvaged.¬† And most heart-breaking of all, is when it’s gone forever.

I love to write.¬† A lot of people say I should be a writer, and not just of songs.¬† It’s not that I don’t agree, I just always think that it’s something I’ll get around to.¬† I have plenty of time for “side” careers.¬† My story (or stories)¬†will get written and it’ll be insane and hysterical and touching and heart-wrenching.¬† Right now, I’m busy enough being a singer & songwriter, a big sister/daughter/Auntie to a rather needy (but hilarious) group of crazies, a mother to 4 dogs, a therapist to any girlfriend that calls on me for advice, and a somewhat sane girlfriend to the man of my dreams.

Writing can wait.

Babies can wait.¬† (That one, I’m pretty sure can wait.)

Travelling can wait.

It’s not “the right time”.

The “right time” in 2016¬†has been showing up, even when it was beyond inconvenient, when I couldn’t explain it.¬†¬†When my head was convinced of one thing but my gut¬†was telling me another, so I prayed to the sky that whichever way¬†I proceeded didn’t completely #@*! up the course of life.¬† Thankfully, the world did not end.

And now I’m sitting at a computer at¬†8PM on a Monday evening, the eve of¬†Election Day.¬† Thinking.¬† Feeling.¬†¬† It’s never the right time to feel things and blog about things that are unpleasant.¬† The Election is one of these things.¬† Death is definitely one of these things.¬† Don’t you worry, I’ll only be talking about the latter.

My last living grandparent turned 89 years old in August.¬† Clearly anyone that knows anything about me knows that I worship the ground she walks on.¬† My Grandpa (her husband) was my world when I was younger.¬† He died unexpectedly in an accident when I was barely 6 years old.¬† I remember everything about how they told me, where I was, the look on my Dad’s face… I remember the funeral and how I cried in the corner until the pastor came and found me, how I stepped on my Grandma’s toes when everyone stood in line to hug her after the service.¬† I remember how strange and empty it felt to go to her house for awhile after he was gone.¬† It was my first loss.

  • A couple years later, my Mom’s Mom, my Nana, died from an unexpected blood clot during a hip-replacement surgery¬†when I was 8.¬†¬†One day we were visiting her in the hospital and she was fine, the next day she was gone.¬† She was the same height as me and I loved her.¬† I can still put myself right back in her house, smell the food she was cooking, me clunking the keys on her piano by the front door.¬† My mother has never been whole since.
  • Nine days before my 9th birthday, my best friend died of leukemia.¬† Followed by her father a few years later, also from cancer.¬† I remember her birthday and the day of her death every single year.¬† Any time I find an old photo of her, I treat it like gold.
  • Around the same time, my Mother’s oldest brother, my Uncle Joe passed of leukemia.
  • My¬†sophomore year of high school, my Mother’s father passed away in hospice.¬† I remember the teddy bear I gave¬†my Papa¬†when he moved out of his house and into a home.¬† I still have the rocking horse he made me as a kid.

There have certainly been deaths that have occurred in my life, in my family & friend’s¬†life during those times and since then that have hurt like hell.¬† But the ones listed above were the ones that were fundamental in shaping my understanding of death.¬† More importantly, they shaped my understanding of God.¬† Because there’s no way I could have comprehended anything about love & life, heartbreak & compassion, without praying &¬†pleading¬†to someone above.

So now here we are…

2016.

  • My Granny’s oldest brother, my Great Uncle Wilburn, passed away this spring.¬† It was divine intervention that I was in the right place at the right time to help her travel between Detroit and Tennessee.¬† The decision to not drive her back to Detroit the¬†morning I was supposed to will forever be chiseled in my heart.¬† Her brother died that night.
  • My mother’s brother, my Uncle Corky, died of cancer this summer.¬† I didn’t see him all that much as I got older, but I remember his funny mumbles and his banter with the family growing up.¬† I remember how cool I thought his basement was as a kid.¬† The cathedral that his funeral service was held in made me nostalgic for my grandparents.¬† All the Catholic services that I felt forced to attend as a kid suddenly seem downright beautiful to me now.
  • Literally, one week later, my mother’s last surviving brother, my Godfather…Uncle Mike…was diagnosed with leukemia.¬† I don’t remember the last time I cried so hard.¬† This¬†is my long-haired,¬†Polish Superman.¬† It’s been bad, it’s been good, it’s been us¬†over-eating Polish food¬†at his house last night.¬† I’m optimistic because God told me to be.¬† And I love him so much.¬† And he will see me get married.

The last 2 weeks

  • My sister and niece were rear-ended in a horrific-looking accident.¬† One minute, she was calling me to ask if I wanted her to pick me up a few pumpkins from a roadside stand.¬† A few minutes later, her car was totaled.¬† Thanks be to God, no one was injured.
  • I got the unbelievable privilege to see St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN.¬† I’ve played benefits for St. Jude in Nashville before.¬† We’ve all heard the telethons & commercials for St. Jude…but nothing was like seeing it for¬†yourself.¬† Meeting the people that work there, the kids who are just the brightest of lights, and the parents of these kids who are doing everything to make their children’s light even brighter.¬† It was beautiful.¬† If a place like this exists and exudes nothing but hope…why can’t I.
  • Someone that is like a second mother to me had a cancer scare a few weeks ago¬†and surgery to remove a tumor.¬† It’s taken awhile for the results to come back, so my chats with God have been pretty constant.¬† We just found out today that she’s in the clear ūüôā

And most recently…

I found out a couple days ago that a very close friend¬†of 2 of my best friends (and newlyweds) died while deployed in Jordan.¬†¬†Staff Sgt.Kevin J. McEnroe was¬†in the US Army¬†Special Forces with Shawn.¬†I remember meeting him casually with Kristine and Shawn in Nashville.¬† They told me he had a girlfriend so I quickly got over thinking he was “the handsome friend”.¬† A year or so¬†later, I saw him again with his beautiful girlfriend at Kristine & Shawn’s wedding this September.¬† We all danced and celebrated the night away.¬† That was only 2 months ago.¬† I’ve been praying for his family & friends and Kristine & Shawn so hard.¬†¬†Kevin’s sacrifice shakes me at my core.

It’s time we talk about Death.¬†¬†It’s time we talk about what we fear and what we¬†truly dream for ourselves…openly and honestly.¬† What we’re going to do with the life we still have while we’re still able to do something with it.

Not cliché quotes.

Not photos or hashtags or song lyrics.

What are you going to DO?  What are you going to SAY?  WHO do you want in your circle, standing with you?  Who do you want to be NOW?  Seriously.  No bullshit.

After I click “Publish” on this post, I’m going to pray that I’m always awake to these questions.

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Rest in peace, Staff Sgt. Kevin Joseph McEnroe
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My Godfather with my baby niece and nephew this Halloween
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The beauty of St. Jude
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Elizabeth Gail Fontana