“the music thing”

“the music thing”

So, for the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to commit to “mental health mornings” to start my day.¬† Aside from waking up at the ass-crack of dawn to work out, I’ve been trying my best to take advantage of these early morning rises to “check in” with myself too.¬† So after our work-out, and my boyfriend showers and heads off the work, I sit out on the front porch and read up on the book, “Jesus Calling” with my journal in my lap. Also, for the past 2 weeks, I’ve been keeping up (or at least, attempting to) with Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience series, “Desire and Destiny” through their website.¬† Now, I wouldn’t say that meditation/yoga/mantras/affirmations and all this are necessarily my “thing”…but I’m trying.¬† Why?¬† Because stagnation and I can no longer be comfort buddies.¬†

Not that I’m stuck, per se, but the need to expand my mind and get out of unhealthy or limiting thought patterns I’ve become privy to in the past has become increasingly apparent as of late.¬† I am embarking on a complete reintroduction in the next couple of months and it’s scary, to say the least.¬† New music, new branding (because apparently that’s a thing in the music business), new documentary, new message, new me…well, at least, an evolving me.
To put myself so front and center for so many to hear/see/judge feels equally part paralyzing and empowering. 

It has been a long time since I’ve been in “Artist Mode” aka “a bright ‘effin spotlight to see if you’re really as good as you think you are”…¬† Which is crazy considering I’ve always been “doing the music thing” as so many people casually refer to it as.¬† Even worse, when people literally ask the question every music person hates more than politics, “So are you still doing ‘the music thing’?”¬† For those of us writing songs, singing demos, waiting tables, driving Ubers, singing background vocals, taking meetings even though we’re not exactly sure what for most times, slowly saving up money for a photo shoot or a recording session, trying to figure out how to create our own website, constantly needing to replace a roommate or two, physically attempting to make our social media numbers higher, booking our own shows, playing our latest creation around town with the hopes that a bigger artist somehow hears it and records it, figuring out how to release new music so that more than just our family and friends think it’s good (but also hoping that they’ll start thinking we’re actually doing something with our lives now), checking our bank accounts and feeling depressed every time so now we check it even less, going to shows and trying to get a handle on our social anxiety as we also try introducing ourselves to someone who might be someone someday, attempting to rise above the rejection of the “cool clique” of music biz peeps when they ignore us because we aren’t “somebody” yet, finding the motivation and passion to keep going when it’d be easier to just give in and give up…

Why yes, we are ALL still “doing the music thing”, thank you for asking.

On top of that, now I’ll also be releasing an album that’s been tied up for awhile now and has me feeling all sorts of nervous and ready and like, “Holy shit, I hope people don’t think this sucks”.¬† And with that release, I’ll be reliving some painful shit because the album is literally a live recording of some pretty dark places I was in at the time.¬† Sprinkle on top of that, taking a bunch of photos and videos and trying my best to look skinny and pretty and young.¬† The cherry on top being, obsessing over how many plays, views, “likes”, follows you got that week…because that’s “Artist Mode” headspace…and once you’ve had it off for awhile, it feels a weeee bit overwhelming when you turn it back “on”, HA!

 

*** Speaking of “following”…be sure to ‘Follow’ my blog for future posts ***¬†

Not that I never “un-became” an artist.¬† I’ve always been one.¬† Literally, from the time I was 3 years old and belting The Judds from every family member’s fireplace stage.¬† Or at 4-5 years old when I voluntarily secluding myself on a daily basis at pre-school to draw crayon pictures of a stage with red curtains, a redhead holding a guitar, standing in front of a mic.¬† Or when I was 8-9 years old and riding my bike in secret to the lake, where I’d sit with a notebook and write songs and poems.¬† Ages 13-17, when I was up until 1am the morning of a show, burning CDs and printing/slapping on sticky labels to hand out to everyone that would listen to me.¬† To when I graduated high school and couldn’t move to Nashville fast enough, with $1000 from my graduation party and a 1997 Ford Escort full of clothes with a little too much Little Mermaid (and Wynonna) memorabilia.¬† To every song I’ve written since, some of which felt like if I didn’t get out of me, those feelings/those words would eat me alive.

These things don’t go away.¬† They aren’t temporary, they aren’t a phase.¬† You don’t outgrow them.¬† It’s embedded in you.¬† You can attempt to suppress it if you’re lucky.¬† You can follow alternative roads.¬† You can chalk it up to a daydream or “that was another life”.¬† There are definitely days I wish I knew how to do that.¬† There are days I’d love to know what it’s like to have a career in a field with a salary and health benefits.¬† Or what it’d be like to have a little diva crawling around my house, the spitting image of me, teaching her to sing Carole King songs before she learns to talk.

But that isn’t me.¬† It was never me.¬† A wise woman once told me, “You can’t make an elephant a giraffe.” ¬†I think I’m the elephant in this scenario…?¬† Ha.

Even from a music stand-point, being “musically active” and being in the “Artist” headspace are two very different things, and it’s been an internal tug-of-war for me the last few years.¬† I thought that I could quench this thirst by constantly singing…whether it was with background vocals for other people on stage and in the studio, writing songs, singing demos, being around music-makers, etc. etc.¬† Turns out, I’m still thirsty.¬† Because as wonderful and inspiring as all of that is, it’s only half of the dream.¬† And I know A LOT of killer female vocalists that will agree with me on that.¬† Not because we want to be famous or win a Grammy…but because we have our own thing with it’s own fire and that comes with a burning desire to share it, despite how terrifying it seems sometimes.

And the reality of me extinguishing any of the dreams inside of me are virtually impossible.¬† It doesn’t happen.¬† Believe me, I’ve tried in the past.¬† For the sake of true transparency here, I tried a lot… one toxic relationship after another, co-dependency, drinking, going broke, thinking the absolute worst of myself until I made my thoughts a stinging reality at some points, surrounding myself with the wrong crowd, losing confidence in my gift, not loving or respecting myself enough to forgive my missteps, exhausting myself “keeping busy” rather than moving forward, causing my family to borderline stage an intervention, doubting that anyone would even listen or support me if I tried to step out again, and at least 271 other ways I tried to find a way “out” of my true calling.

But guess what…?

I lived through it all, SO much better for it.

I lived through it all, with a new-found appreciation that I still have the option for my calling…which, is more like a screaming than a calling these days.

And with that, it’s become abundantly clear that there was really only one choice for me all along.

The music thing.

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(All the props to my co-writer & musical genius friend, Bonnie Baker for her cool office/writing space vibes in this photo!)

the hometown bubble.

the hometown bubble.

I haven’t been very good about writing lately.  (I sound like a broken record.)  Aside from some journaling here and there and starting a few song ideas, I’ve allowed my mind to be distracted by other things… travelling, packing/unpacking, being outside as much as humanly possible, Harry Potter books (I’ve decided to read the entire series for the first time), putting the finishing touches on releasing new music, learning songs for sessions and shows, visiting my family, happy hours on patios, and my newly acquired love/hate relationship with Crossfit.  (Yes, you read that correctly…Crossfit.  I know.)  It’s actually quite pitiful how much I think, “I should write today…about this…oh don’t forget you want to write about that…” and then I don’t.  Case in point, I’m sitting at my kitchen table with the window open, listening to it storm outside.  The dogs are all at my feet because they don’t like the thunder.  I’m settling in and getting in a good headspace to start writing and I see my boyfriend’s car pull into the driveway with a much-needed new bag of dog food.  So I feed them, I send a couple emails, I wash a few dirty dishes by hand, I check my Twitter, and I think how absolutely LOVELY it would be to curl up on the couch with these pups, listen to the rain, and read more Harry Potter (I’m halfway through Book 6.)  But I have to write.  Kind of like when I set my alarm for 4:50AM for a 5:30AM CrossFit class because it’s the only time of the day my guy and I can both go together.  You dread it, you hate it, you want to push “Snooze” (and maybe you do once), but you know how much better you’ll feel once you’re done.  That’s exactly what I’m hoping happens with writing this blog entry. 

There’s a lot of ground to cover, but I won’t try to tackle even half of it in this entry today.  You’d be reading for hours.  I will, instead, commit to writing another blog entry by the end of this week.  So there, I said it, feel free to hold me accountable.

I’d like to give this afternoon’s attention to my hometown.  And my guess is, your hometown is probably an awful lot like mine.  So I’ll proceed…

I was born in Garden City, MI,  lived in a Polish neighborhood in Detroit the first few years of my life, and then moved 20 minutes west (with Metro Airport right beside us), to the suburb of Belleville, Michigan by the time I was a toddler.  The first home I have memories of is the little brick ranch that sat off a horrendously pot-hole-filled road right behind what used to be Dimitri’s Kitchen (which I guess is now called Mike’s Kitchen).  I made my very first friends there.  Friends that I actually still keep connected with via social media.  I lived in Belleville and only Belleville until the day I moved to Nashville, however, throughout my younger years, I ended up attending 3 out of the 5 different elementary schools within Belleville’s city limits.  Don’t worry, I was uncool through all 3 schools, ha.  Between 2nd and 3rd grade, my mother was expecting her 4th (and thankfully, last) child so we inevitably outgrew our little ranch.  We relocated over the bridge, on the other side of Belleville Lake, to a brand new subdivision, where at the time, we were the 5th house being built in the whole neighborhood.  Our new location had us directly beside Belleville High School and it was a dream for me to people-watch all the students, imagining my own “Saved By The Bell” episode when I reached those hallowed doors someday.  Yup, it was a whole new world on the other side of Belleville…

Our new home was walking/bike-riding distance to Main Street and all the glorious things you can only truly appreciate when you’re a kid.  Hours spent climbing and running all over Victory Park, sugar highs from Frosty Boy, hanging out by the library, loaded cheese fries from A&W, candy cigarette’s from the Dairy Mart, feeding the overzealous (and disgusting) carp off the boat docks at Reflections…  It was sublime and as a child, I had no interest in knowing a life outside of my town.

I was a Belleville Cougar cheerleader when I was 8-10 years old, which lead me to cheerleading for South Middle School and the first couple years of high school.  Turns out, I was too cynical & sarcastic to be a good cheerleader even at 9 years old, and I never outgrew it, who knew.  I was heavily involved in dance and singing at Jan’s School of Dance.  The owner/instructor, Jan Oliver, scared the hell out of me as a kid.  She was strict but she was good, and she called me out on my laziness.  She also gave me some of my first public singing performances at our dance recitals over the summer.  I was involved in my hometown’s Strawberry Festival, whether it was singing/dancing in the parades, performing at the craft fairs, headlining on the ‘main stage’ with my comically bad band at the time, or coming in 1st Runner Up in the Strawberry Queen Pageant.  *cringe*

Throughout high school, I started performing at every local event there was…charity dinners, Music in the Park, choir concerts, tree lightings, church revivals (shout-out to Faith Assembly), talent contests, the whole works.  Suddenly, my dorkiness was irrelevant because everyone knew I could sing.  The local papers wrote about me and for the first time ever, I felt almost cool.  I started performing bigger gigs on bigger stages with bigger artists, and Belleville had a unfailing, “That’s our girl” way about them in their support for me.

All of that was great, but the closer I got to graduation, the more I wanted out.

Nashville was calling.  Literally.

I got to feature my hometown of Belleville, Michigan on USA Network’s “Nashville Star 2” when I was a top 10 contestant back in the day.  I was still working as a hostess at our local Cracker Barrel and I’ll never forget one morning, while refilling a gentleman’s coffee at 7AM, seeing my face on the front page of the newspaper he was reading.  That’s when I KNEW knew…It was time to go.

I’d visit Belleville multiple times a year, every year, for over 10 years.  The first 6 years or so, I’d come back and find it, uh, uneventful.  It was the same few storefronts that managed to stay afloat downtown somehow (one of them being the Chamber of Commerce, so I don’t think that really counts), the rest were closed and the buildings stayed empty.  There was no night-life, no trendy bars or restaurants, the closest theater or mall being 20 minutes away.  I was really just visiting for my family’s sake.  Nashville was so big, so exciting, something to do every second of every day…forever a new place to discover, new friends to meet, coffee shops to bring your dog, countless boys to date, any and every concert you could ever hope to see, studios and writing rooms and stages to be on.  I was so certain I could never be anywhere but Nashville for the rest of my life.

I’ve always joked, “God put a bubble around Belleville.  Nothing’s changed in 20 years.”  And although I’ve always thought those exact words to be true, the way I interpret that statement started to shift about 4-5 years ago…

Somehow, as life went on, my hometown started to become my place of solace, my refuge.  I needed a break, and Belleville gave me one.   I needed away from never-ending construction and condos and bar-hopping and bad boyfriends and insufferable traffic and comparing my dreams and my progress to everyone else’s.  I needed my family, yes.  But I also needed the simplicity that I once rolled my eyes at.  I needed to sit in Horizon Park, right beside Belleville Lake, and breathe…just like I’d done throughout middle school and high school, when I used to look for my voice through writing poems, diary entries, and song lyrics down by the water.  I needed to walk my nephew to Frosty Boy and chase him in the park.  Because if I could watch his eyes light up, then I could forget about all the messes I kept getting myself into.  I needed the comfort of knowing that every member of my family was only a 5 minute drive from the other, so that they could remind me who I REALLY was, not this train-wreck persona I couldn’t snap out of.  And $3 drinks with old friends at Johnny’s was quite the welcomed change of pace from the $14 martinis/shoulder-to-shoulder bars/loud bands playing “Wagon Wheel”/getting all dolled up just to have boys treat you like they’re at a buffet/inevitably leaving my debit card somewhere-scenarios I’d been dealing with for years on end.

Whereas I used to look almost sympathetically at those that never got out from my hometown, I was now jealous of them.  Maybe the “world of endless possibilities” is too much, granting me too many options.  When you have so much in front of you, it makes you feel like you should never settle, like you’ll never be satisfied, therefore, you never do and you never are.  And that’s a lot to take on in your teens and early 20’s when you still don’t know your ass from your elbow.  I started to see my old high school friends that were raising their own families in Belleville in a whole new light, as I was on my 4th disastrous relationship of that year in Nashville.

When I made the decision 18 months ago to live 50/50 between Nashville and Michigan, I second-guessed it everyday for months.  It was that internal tug-of-war where the Nashville Rachel was supposed to be so much better, more evolved than the old Belleville Rachel, so how could I resort back after coming this far?  I’m happy to say, it didn’t take too long before I removed my head out of my ass and realized that both Belleville Rachel and Nashville Rachel can indeed coexist together.  They are both me, they both have a lot to offer to whoever will listen, and no matter what, I’ll never be able to out-run that nor should I want to.  It’s kind of like this brand new song I just wrote and recorded a couple weeks ago in Nashville, where the lyric asks, “How you gonna grow when you’re cutting off your roots?”  Perfect, right?

I give you all of this backstory because recently my hometown has been shaken to it’s core.  There’s been a few tragic (and unfortunately violent) losses that has left Belleville stunned and speechless.  It makes no sense.  One loss, in particular, hasn’t left my thoughts since it occurred a couple weeks ago.

I was down in Nashville late last month, loaded up on meetings and studio sessions, and for once, not really reading what anyone was posting on social media.  I was updating my Instagram story fairly regularly, detailing me in the studio and all, and I saw a somewhat familiar Instagram user that had viewed my story earlier that day.  Curious, I clicked on her page and went through some of her photos.  This girl was a few years younger than me and went to school with my sisters, also she hung out with some of my old childhood friends, so I’d see her pop up on Facebook sometimes. I hadn’t physically seen her in a few years.  Last time being at a local bar, where she came up to hug me and tell me that she had started singing out and about recently and how she thought it was so cool that I moved to Nashville.  When I looked at her Instagram profile a couple weeks ago, I saw photos and videos of her singing, posts about yoga and meditation, intellectual and inspiration quotes, and I thought to myself, “She’s super pretty, she’s into fitness and music, she’s single and child-less and likes to go out, I should become real-life friends with her.”

She was gone 24 hours later.

She died inside her house that sat off a dirt road less than 2 miles from my parent’s house.

And just like that, the bubble I was so sure would always cover Belleville burst.  The reality that my hometown is not exempt from ‘the world’ hit hard.  The reality that a young woman…just like me…just like my sisters…just like you…could be taken…?  This isn’t a troubled past/wrong crowd/drugs/bad neighborhood/a photo shown for 15 seconds on the local news.  It’s so much to process and it will continue to be so much to process.

I share this story, not because I have anything new to contribute.  I don’t have details, I don’t have all these memories and stories.  All I have is perspective.

Egypt Covington was one of us.

I’m still Facebook friends with a lot of people in my hometown that are terrified/enraged and quite a few of them are saying the town has gone to shit.  Despite these recent tragic events, I have to say that I disagree.

All the things I couldn’t see/appreciate about my hometown while growing up are still present today.  There’s something soul-stirring about the loyalty of a smaller-town community, regardless if it’s progress rate.  For a long time, my eyes were fixated on the “new and shiny”.  But now I’ve seen the new and shiny, I’ve lived the new and shiny, and the new and shiny doesn’t claim you when you feel forgotten, or when you’ve forgotten yourself.  But your hometown does. 

I’m proud to be from Belleville and to stand with a community that took care of my family and I.  This town gave me the love and the platform to create these big ol’ dreams of mine.  This town let me cry on it’s shoulder every single time my heart got broken, whether by these dreams or some stupid boy.  This town let me start over.  So no matter where the music takes me, I will always appreciate landing on this stretch of runway that continues to welcome me home.  Bubble or not.

 

 

everything in the middle of nowhere.

everything in the middle of nowhere.

It’s a weird thing.

I have literally thought to myself and/or said out loud to others, “I really feel like blogging” and yet… nothing.¬† For quite awhile now.

That is always a huge indicator for me.¬† I write when I have something that needs to be said.¬† When the desire to write my heart, read it back, and allow myself to process is more overwhelming than anything going on externally.¬† And sometimes, there’s just too much that needs to be said.¬† So, instead of flushing them out and tackling these topics one by one, I stay silent.¬† The chaos stays internal.¬† The blog stays unwritten.

I’m currently 3 songs written, 2 hours of Golden Girls watched, and a bottle of wine consumed today so… here we go.

I left Detroit on April 22nd.¬† That means, it’s been a whole 30 days since I’ve seen my dogs, my family, my porch swing, and my bed.¬† It has been 20 days since I have seen my boyfriend.¬† This probably seems extreme to a lot of you.¬† To some of you musician/gypsy spirit types, this seems relatively normal.¬† I rest somewhere between the two.¬†

I make sacrifices all the way around, some days seeming more worthwhile than others.¬† The documentary that initially prompted my split location finally wrapped filming 5 weeks ago, so now the “I have to be in Michigan for this” is up.¬† Clearly, life is much different than it was 18 months ago when I made the decision to give up my ever-dramatic, forever busy, at times volatile, full-time living (and distracting myself from) “the dream” in Nashville.

I now live in an “old lady bungalow” in the suburbs with the greatest man I’ve ever known and all of our doggie children.¬† I have a baby niece and nephew that I’m completely obsessed with.¬† I have a Granny that turns 90 years old in August and lives 5 miles away from the rest of my family.¬† I have an Aunt that probably doesn’t “need” me, but regardless, I feel called to be there for since the loss of my Godfather.¬† I have a few friends (new and old) that truly “get me” and I’m grateful.¬† The desire to create music and share it with Detroit remains strong.¬† I’m “one of them” and I yearn to contribute in a way I haven’t just yet.

However, Nashville brought me up.¬† It’s brought out the very best and the very worst in me.¬† I’m now at a place where I can recognize where I was and who I’ll never be again, no matter how alluring it may seem at times.¬† I am not that girl anymore, praise God.¬† And I’m SO thankful that I can have that realization NOW and not on my 2nd stint in rehab or with a couple kids under my belt.¬† Nashville, for all it’s hardships, is also where so much of my light is…it’s where I’m the most creative, the most productive, the most inspired.¬† Re-working my boundaries and my social circle has been a lot, but I’ve already seen the benefits.¬† I’m still working on eliminating the fog of self-defeating and self-sabotaging thoughts that held me down for so long, but I know the vision is getting clearer everyday.¬† I’m not the same Rachel I was 18 months ago and the Rachel in Nashville today genuinely reflects that.

And yet, all this time and traveling that has taken place since I left my little domestic haven on Baker Avenue in Michigan weeks ago… somehow, my lines have been blurred, scribbled, and stomped on repeatedly.¬† Two trips to Florida and 2 weeks in Nashville later, my sense of “peace” has been relatively non-existent for a month now.¬† There’s definitely a few people I could blame for this, but what’s the point?¬† It’s only partially their fault.¬† Because at the end of the day, I could’ve handled their poor behavior and these toxic situations differently.¬† And I’m disappointed that I didn’t.¬† In a couple of these scenarios, I thought keeping neutral and “cool” would be for the best, for myself and the others traveling with me.¬† It wasn’t.¬† So I ended up feeling like a doormat and allowing a few people that I love to feel the same.¬† Another scenario weighing heavy on my heart tonight is where I completely unloaded EVERYTHING, without ever coming up for air.¬† And regardless if those things were on my heart, I’m disappointed that I allowed those buttons to be pushed so severely.

It’s all left me feeling exhausted.

So yesterday morning, slightly hungover (and definitely sleep-deprived from what is now considered a rare, “girls night” out downtown), I picked up my (nearly) 90 year old Granny from Nashville International Airport at 8:30AM.¬† I immediately took her to the Cracker Barrel where I tried to nurse us both back to life with biscuits and a pot of coffee.¬† I then proceeded to drive 90 minutes to her hometown of Hohenwald, TN, where I’d be dropping her off for a few days with her youngest (and last-surviving) brother, my Great Uncle Johnny and his wife, Aunt Lillie Mae.¬† As tired as I was, I enjoyed the scenic drive with my ‘side-kick’.¬† I hung on every story that my Granny’s hoarse voice tried to tell me of anything and everything.

When we arrived, I stayed most of the day with zero distraction.¬† You see, Hohenwald is a “No Service” zone for Sprint.¬† Not “Extended”, not 1 bar if you stand at the end of the drive…no, it’s “No Service” for at least 20 minutes in every direction.¬† It stormed pretty hard for a majority of the afternoon, so that aided in my long visit.¬† A few times, I just sat out on the porch and listened to this beautifully vast country-side get pummeled by rain.¬† When it cleared up hours later (and I’d eaten about 10 pounds worth of good ol’ country cooking), I hit the road alone back to Nashville.

I was thankful for the solo drive.¬† I typically use that time to explore, get a little lost, make a dead-stop in the middle of the street just to take a photo, admire all the farms/random country stores/abandoned houses/gas stations, and know that GPS isn’t going to work 95% of the time.¬† And this time was no different.¬† I definitely got lost without my navigation working.

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It’s funny how that happens…

We rarely allow ourselves to get lost.

We rarely give ourselves permission or allow time for exploration.

I’m forever grateful for my drives to and from Hohenwald, even if it’s just for that.

Honestly, it’s a spiritual experience.¬† I soak it all in.¬† The scenery is always mystifying to me.¬† My heart is literally pulled in.¬† It was probably on my 3rd stop in the middle of the road to snap a photo that I realized that THIS WAS EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED.¬† The peace I SO craved with these Florida beaches, a “vacation” from the dogs and my family life was so completely and utterly unfulfilling for a reason.

Nothingness.¬† No phone service.¬† No social media.¬† No making plans.¬† No time-crunch.¬† No traveling with others.¬† No worrying what others would be thinking or doing or texting.¬† No passive-aggressive bullshit.¬† Just shutting the fuck up and taking it in.¬† And it happened.¬† The peace was unreal.¬† And then, in the midst of trying to figure out which direction I was effin going down on some back country road, there was this….

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And I thanked God at least a dozen times.

And then I drove directly to Kingston Springs, completely bypassing Nashville and the “night out” I had originally planned to have.¬†¬† I went to bed at 10PM and for the first time in forever, I SLEPT IN…until 11AM at that, my first night of more than 5 hours of sleep in weeks.

Turns out, you can really work some shit out in the middle of nowhere.

I don’t know, maybe getting lost is the best way to find your way.

 

-RW

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The Lion.

The Lion.

I don’t know how to begin this.

I don’t know how to end it either.

If we’re being completely honest here, I have been dreading this post for approximately 11 days now.¬† So I’m just going to type and see where it takes me…But first, let’s pick up where I left off with my last post real quick.

My boyfriend’s alarm goes off at 7AM.¬† After he leaves for work, I take my time to quietly bond with our new space, much like I did this morning. ¬†You see, we moved into a new house at the end of February and I haven’t had much time here alone.¬†¬†The first night we officially slept in our new digs, we¬†crashed on the couch because we hadn’t put the bed together yet.¬† When I woke up 6 hours later, I drove 600 miles south to Nashville, where I stayed for over 2 weeks recording, writing, and taking meetings. ¬†My timing was impeccable, clearly.¬†It’s where I wrote my last blog entry, “Burden or light”.¬† I was so touched and inspired by all your love for that last post that I wanted¬†nothing more than to keep the momentum going.

I came back to Detroit a couple weeks ago with a new energy surging through me.  I was ready to kick that ass & take those names.  And on top of that, while I was out of town, my boyfriend worked his tail off unpacking, arranging and rearranging, constructing/deconstructing/constructing again little surprises for me in the new house.   So when I pulled into our driveway after weeks away, I was overflowing with gratitude in every which way.  And the multiple recording sessions in Detroit I had set up for my first week back was just the cherry on top.

It was on my 4th session of the week, that Friday afternoon, that everything went to shit…

On Friday, March 24th, as I was standing inside the vocal booth in a recording studio, my phone started vibrating in my back pocket.¬† It was my mom.¬† I let it go to voicemail.¬† Immediately, both of my sisters called, which I too let go to voicemail, with a¬†rush¬†of anxiety starting to pulse through me.¬† More vibrations.¬† While the engineer and producer¬†were listening through one of my vocal passes, I looked at my phone…”Call Mom immediately.¬† It’s Uncle Mike.”¬† I didn’t call immediately because I feared the absolute worst.¬† I was only one verse away from having this song completed and if I told them I needed a break to call my family, I’d lose it.¬† And once it’s lost, I know I won’t be able to recompose myself.¬† So with a shaky voice, that was nearly impossible to control¬†due to¬†the huge lump in my¬†throat, I finished the song. ¬†Barely.

I called my family once I got to my car. ¬†My Godfather, Uncle Mike, was in the hospital with an infection that had spread too wildly to proceed treating him.¬† Between the cancer and¬†this infection, his body was shutting down and he didn’t have more than a few days.¬† Straight from the studio, I drove, I sobbed, and I pleaded with God for 57 minutes until I reached my mother’s front door.

She cried when she saw me.¬† Then she’d pull it together, then cry some more.¬† I tried to speak hope into her, “He’s cleared¬†‘close call’ hurdles before.¬† I’m not going to stop believing.”¬† She needed to hear that.¬† I needed to hear that.¬†

Once my brother got home from work, we all packed inside my sister’s SUV and rode up to the hospital together.¬† It was oddly comforting, all of us being sandwiched in the backseat like we used to ride as kids.¬† We got off the elevator onto the 7th floor, only to see a huge clock straight ahead who’s hands had just turned to 7 o’clock on the dot.¬† I’ll always remember that.

My parents went into the his hospital room first, while us kids waited in the lounge.¬† I couldn’t stop crying.¬† The brave face I¬†had put¬†on for my mom was clearly cracking.¬† My siblings walked me down the halls as I tried to pull myself together.¬† “You can’t cry like this in front of him and Aunt Susie…you can’t cry like this in front of Mom.”¬† When it was our turn to enter Uncle Mike’s room, strangely enough, I was completely calm.¬† He was asleep, so I¬†talked (and¬†attempted to¬†make jokes) to¬†Aunt Susie.¬† He woke up right before we left.¬† I walked up to him, squeezed his hand, kissed his forehead, and told my Uncle Mike I loved him and that I would¬†see him in the morning.

When we got home, depleted, I trudged upstairs to change into pajamas.  Five minutes later, the phone rang.  I immediately ran to the stairs and before I could even get halfway down, I heard my mom cry out.  He died less than an hour after we left the hospital.

My brother, my father, and I were on our knees in front of my mom on the couch.¬† We all cried together.¬† I slept sitting up on that same couch, with my mother’s head in my lap, playing with her hair until she eventually fell asleep.¬† I cried as quietly as I could the rest of the night.

The last 11 days have been emotionally excruciating.¬† Writing this right now, my hands are trembling.¬† I cannot remember being this shaken, literally and figuratively,¬†by a death since I was a child.¬† And I know why…

Because in my mind, him and I never aged.

He was always “The Godfather”, larger and louder than life, someone you never wanted to cross or disrespect.¬† He would ALWAYS be quicker than you at “Up high, down low, too slow” high-fives and then poke you in the side when you were a sore loser.¬† With his long red hair, beard & mustache, he resembled a lion.¬† Always wearing a hat with a feather sticking out of it, tall, boisterous with a round belly,¬†with his aviator glasses, our ultimate “outlaw”.

Uncle Mike & Aunt Susie used to take my siblings and I to¬†their cottage up north for a week or so in the summer.¬† That’s where he had us do ¬†chores everyday AND made us entertain ourselves without television. (Gasp.)¬† It’s where he’d chuckle as I cried dramatically¬†because I didn’t want to put the worm through the hook the first time he took us fishing.¬† (Funny enough, after that “scarring” experience, he bought our family a fish tank with multiple fish to collect, I proceeded to name every single one (and their replacements when they’d die) after Little Mermaid characters.)¬† It’s where he woke us up¬†at sunrise by bursting into the bedroom singing, “Oh what a beautiful morrrrning!”¬† It was all his way of “toughening us up” because he thought our mother spoiled us, which was probably true, ha.¬†¬†And even still, from¬†the time I was a kid to recently, I could never say anything bad/complain¬†about my parents…”Hey now, that’s your mother.”¬† (But the way he’d say it,¬† ‘mother’ always sounded like ‘mudder’.)

My Uncle Mike was the middle child of 5, two older brothers and two younger sisters, with my mom being the youngest.¬† Not sure of their dynamic growing up, but I can attest to the fact that Uncle Mike looked out for my mother my entire life.¬† With her being the youngest, that meant that us Williams¬†kids were at least a decade younger in the long line of cousins.¬† My Aunt’s and Uncles’ kids were all roughly the same age and kind of grew up together, with many more memories (and photos) of being together with my grandparents than my siblings & I have.¬† My Nana passed away when I was 8 years old of a blood clot during a simple hip replacement surgery.¬† My Grandpa passed when I was a freshman in high school, Alzheimer’s and hospice being the last memories I have of him.¬† After my grandparents passed, the family¬†sort of dispersed.¬† There wasn’t¬†a reason for¬†us all to¬†get together for birthdays or holidays now.¬† But Uncle Mike… he was always a phone call or 25 minute drive away.

I could hear him on my parent’s answering machine on a weekly basis, “Hey, it’s your brother.”¬† My mom going over there after work for help with school stuff.¬† Him singing “Sto Lat” on my birthday, signing every card ‘The Godfather’.¬† I can see him in his chair, asking me if I’ve heard of a certain Blues artist and him saying, “I tell you what, you should sing the Blues.”¬† (Little did we know back then…I would get there…eventually.)

After a few years down in Nashville, I didn’t see him as often.¬† My 5 days in Michigan for the holidays always seemed consumed by my parents, siblings, and grandma.¬† I’d talk to him on the phone and apologize for not squeezing in a visit to see him.¬† He’d tease me and I’d say, “Next time, I swear.”

It wasn’t until I made the decision to split my time 50/50 between Detroit and Nashville in November of 2015 that I really started to make good on my “next times”.¬† He got on Facebook and we’d message back and forth some.¬† My baby sister moved just a few minutes away from Uncle Mike, so even if I wasn’t intentionally planning a visit, I’d swing by after my sister’s.¬† When I started getting serious with my boyfriend in the¬†winter of 2016,¬†we met Uncle Mike and Aunt Susie for Polish food one weekend.¬† I remember him giving shit (playfully, of course) to the waitress and to me, “Oh so you’re the boyfriend, eh? ¬†Rachel hides away her boyfriends from dear ol’ Uncle Mike! ¬†You gonna let this one stick around, Rach?” Jokes¬†aside,¬†Uncle Mike¬†liked Jon and I know he was relieved that I had someone good to help take care of me.¬† Also, Jon could talk the Detroit Lions with him…and¬†Lawd, did Uncle Mike loooove the Lions…¬† When my boyfriend and I went up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan last¬†fall¬†to visit his family’s cottage, I showed Uncle Mike all the photos and videos I’d taken and all the stories of our random discoveries.¬† He was proud and gave me suggestions of where to go and what to do next time we go up.¬† I told him, “It only took me 20 years to appreciate the stillness of having a cottage¬†in the middle of nowhere,¬†Uncle Mike.¬† Sorry I was too much of a shit when I was younger to see it then.”

His brother, my¬†Uncle Corky,¬†passed away a few months after that lunch, in July of 2016.¬† I¬†shed tears for my mother more than anything.¬† I couldn’t imagine losing a sibling.¬† Let alone, two of them.¬† (My Uncle Joe, the oldest brother, died of leukemia when I was 10.)

After the funeral, there was a luncheon, and it was there that my 6 year old nephew was horsing around with Uncle Mike (typical) and hit him in the stomach.  A few days later, when Uncle Mike still felt pain in his stomach, he went to the doctor to get it checked out.  He was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after.

The hit to the family was brutal.

I lost¬†my shit¬†for a week straight.¬†¬†After¬†Uncle¬†Corky’s¬†funeral, after this terrible¬†diagnosis for Uncle Mike, I went to Nashville for work.¬† I can vividly¬†remember¬†on my drive back,¬† I was coming across a bridge along the skyline of Detroit at 6am.¬† The sky just exploded with color and I was overcome with peace.¬† Real peace.¬† There was something in that sunrise that told me Heaven wasn’t ready to take Uncle Mike yet.¬† Months later, I told Uncle Mike about that “feeling” in a card I mailed him after his 2nd round of chemo didn’t work.¬† I clung to that peace.¬† I clung to that peace everyday for 8 months, no matter how bad things got.¬† And I clung to that peace 11 days ago.

But Heaven changed It’s mind.

When we left the hospital that night, I silently prayed that if he’s supposed to stay with us then God needed to show His healing quickly, and if not, then take him now.¬† I didn’t want to see Uncle Mike in pain, not even for one more day with him.¬† I am so completely grateful, with all of my heart, that I got to spend the last year and a half reconnecting with my Godfather while he was here.¬† As much as I like to think, “I chose to come back”, I know without a doubt, God put me back here…if nothing else, than for this reason alone.

The visitation, the funeral, the luncheon…it was all surreal.¬† And the entire family felt it.¬† Weren’t we just here 8 months ago?¬† It felt like a trick but sadly, it was reality.¬† He didn’t look like my lion laying in that coffin.¬† But I guess that’s because it wasn’t really him, he wasn’t in that body anymore.

As I sit here at this kitchen table, on my 3rd cup of coffee, looking out the window on a new street this very grey and rainy Tuesday, I don’t know what’s next.

I went to see my therapist¬†yesterday for the first time since his death.¬† I didn’t make it more than 5 minutes before I started crying again.

I told her how my protective instinct is in overdrive for my mother and my Aunt Susie both.¬† I told her about how it would’ve been my Uncle’s 69th birthday on April 1st and how I drove 45minutes, unannounced, to see Aunt Susie and drop off¬†a piece of cake with a Detroit Lions emblem in the middle, just to turn around and drive back home.¬† How I start crying out of nowhere doing practically anything…kickboxing, reading, sitting in a restaurant with Jon,¬†walking the dogs, trying to sleep… I told her how just a couple weeks ago, I felt so rejuvenated, on a mission, and now, it takes everything in me to get out of bed in the morning.¬† I’m exhausted all day long.¬† What do I do?¬† And her response…?

Be sad if I’m sad.

Let the tears out if I feel them coming.

Pat myself on the back for anything I do accomplish in the day, big or small.

Don’t beat myself up.

Understand that there is no “right way” to grieve.

Trust whatever this process shows me.

So that’s what I’ll try to do.¬† All the “I have to’s” and “I should’ve’s” need to be lifted for the time being.¬† And even though it’s hurting, just stay present enough to keep my heart open to everything¬†this loss is¬†revealing to me.¬† Lean into it, lean in like a lion.

 

 

 

Burden or light.

www.RachelWilliamsOnline.com

I don’t know when it happened exactly.¬† I just know it happened.

It wasn’t¬†overnight.¬† It wasn’t one catastrophic event.¬† It wasn’t someone’s words that lingered.¬† It wasn’t one specific loss that did me in.

So I guess it was an endless series of things…life…that didn’t seem¬†all that noticeable¬†at the time but “out of nowhere”, somehow, it all¬†culminated into a big ball of everything.¬† Defeat.¬† Exhaustion.¬† Emptiness.¬† Fear.

I lost faith in myself.

I lost trust in not just a dream, but in my purpose. 

No one understands the weight and the weightlessness¬†of someone’s dream except the one dreaming it.¬†¬†They can try to explain it to you, the highs and lows…You can nod your head and say, “I get it” but we both know you’re lying.¬† Because someone’s vision for their life is theirs and theirs alone.¬† The words will always fall flat to the most hopeful of dreams and ambitions.¬† My story will not resonate in your soul like it resonates in mine.¬† That is fact.¬† And each of us can choose to see that as a burden or as a light.¬† In my life, I’ve switched back and forth on how I view mine.¬† And as of lately, it’s been on the heavier side.

And as I sit here on this office couch in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, the reality of my situation is sinking me into these couch cushions more than my big ass.

I cannot ignore it.

I cannot turn off the voice inside.

There is no fire extinguisher to put out whatever is trying to burn brighter inside of me.¬† I’ve looked for one.¬† Whether it was in a bar, or in a bed, or holding new nieces and nephews and trying to convince myself that “This wouldn’t be so bad”…¬† It didn’t work.

So, I have a choice.

We all have a choice.

Burden or light.

Somewhere along the way, a lot of us quit dreaming.¬† It became too hard.¬† Too unattainable.¬† Or, you gave up on yourself before you even started.¬† Or, you turned¬†40 and you deemed yourself “too old”.¬† The world,¬†your family, your significant other¬†told you there was no security in it and you believed them.¬†¬†Whether it was a teacher¬†who once wanted to move to Hollywood or a plumber who dreamed of being a writer all through high school.¬† You went another way because¬†you were unsure.¬† And it’s not to say you don’t live a happy life now.¬†¬†Your life is valid¬†and important.¬† We need the teachers, the¬†bartenders, the taxi drivers, the construction workers, and so on to survive.¬† But maybe you had other aspirations once upon a time.¬† And maybe, just maybe, it’s okay for you to still have them today…even if it’s not what’s bringing in your paycheck.

Being in Nashville the last few days has been a very eye-opening experience.¬†¬†Living here 50/50 is good for me.¬†I’m starting to see it differently, literally and figuratively.¬† I’m having different conversations.¬† And even the conversations that might be the same, I’m choosing to take away different information from them.¬† And the thought that keeps nailing me in the back of the head is this… the dreamer’s dream is as big or small as they make it.¬† It’s as heavy or as light as you want it to be.

I don’t know who/when/where it says that you can’t¬†pursue whatever it is you want to.¬† Or that there’s an expiration date/age for going after something with all your heart.¬† Or that you¬†can only¬†choose “one thing” and stick with it until you get rich or you die of a broken heart and a shriveled liver.¬† Really?¬† Those are my only¬†options? ¬†I call bullshit.

This weekend I was humbled by a few conversations with good friends.

I have confessed my insecurities and my crippling self-doubt about¬†finally releasing my new music and stepping into the “artist” role again.¬† I have teared up admitting that I’m afraid to pick up the phone or shoot the email¬†to ask for help because I feel like no one cares anymore.¬† It took too long.¬† I’ve paralyzed myself by attaching everything to this big vision of how I thought it should be…all the ducks that needed to be in a row…that now that it’s taken longer than it was supposed to,¬†I’m somehow inadequate.¬† My fear became too all-consuming for me to commit and pull the trigger.

Their response to my bleeding heart confessions…?

Do it.  Write it.  Sing it.  And they will come.  The time is now. 

How uncomplicated & undramatic is that?!¬† After this long & drawn out internal war I’ve been waging in my head that has drained me completely…THAT is the solution?!

Yup.

1st conversation:¬† One of my dear friends is a photographer here in Nashville.¬† An incredible photographer at that.¬† She called me up and treated me to breakfast because she wanted to ask for my help.¬† At 32 years old, she wants to start writing songs.¬† Can’t sing, can’t play any instruments, but wanted to follow this creative path because it called to her.¬† She’s not looking for it to produce a hit song or a publishing deal…she just wants to write.¬† I was so blown away by this concept that when she asked if I’d help her, I answered with a resounding, “Fuck yes.”¬† So the next day, she came out, I helped piece together one of her tunes and she was over the moon.¬† She’s still on such a high from absorbing information I’d shared with her about song structure and the business that she can’t stop writing…or singing my praises.¬† And it’s just like, holy shit… how brave that she doesn’t know what she’s doing yet but she’s just doing it anyway.¬† I used to be her.¬† And if she can be her and not feel afraid to dream new dreams, then what the hell is my excuse…?

2nd conversation:¬† Friend of mine has been in town over a decade, singing and writing his ass off.¬† He networks like no one I’ve ever seen.¬† His hair, his clothes, his voice…all loud and proud and he gives off the vibe that he gives zero fucks what anyone has to say about it.¬† Sitting down for coffee with him yesterday, he caught me up on his journey.¬† After over a decade in this town, playing & hosting writer’s rounds and performing showcases as a solo artist, he decided to change it up and form a band to play downtown Broadway every Friday night, after never playing/aspiring to play downtown before.¬† And not just “play on Broadway”, but audition, rehearse, and put together a BOMB ASS SHOW that no one else is doing downtown and that people are flipping out over.¬† He posts videos of rehearsals, etc. unapologetically and people are loving it…he’s exposing his talent in a way he hadn’t before and it’s awesome.¬† Why?¬† Because he felt like it.¬† Oh, and he also started his own clothing/styling thaaang and he’s KILLING IT.¬† So who’s to say that “the dream” has to follow X, Y, Z to be recognized and appreciated…?!

3rd conversation:¬† Yesterday I attempted a Sunday Funday, brunch and all, and it didn’t go quite as I had imagined.¬† By 3pm, my friends had other¬†plans to tend to so I was left with a full belly, a couple of vodka sodas in me, and nowhere to be.¬† As I was driving back to the house and passing through Music Row, a friend/my favorite co-writer called me up and asked what I was up to.¬† I immediately spit out, “Meet me at the office.¬† Now.¬† We are writing a song¬†on a¬†Sunday Funday.”¬† So we did.¬† I’d had this song idea in my head for a few days and I guess I felt it hit too close to home to sit down and flush out by myself.¬† I needed backup.¬† Her and¬†I are good about doing that for each other, ha.¬† During our write/therapy session we started talking about how things in Nashville have changed so much in all the years we’ve been here.¬† We talked about the hustle.¬† We talked about the lack of the hustle as compared to some of these ‘newbies’.¬† We talked about the new crop of writers and artists coming here and how they are making things happen and how it’s easy to feel forgotten if you let yourself go there.¬† She works harder than anyone I know.¬†¬†She’s working¬†the graveyard shift at a “real job” so that she can try to pay her bills, takes a short nap during the day, and then wakes up and writes songs/goes to shows before she has to go work again with a few hours of sleep under her belt.¬† I don’t know dedication like that, I really don’t.¬† But she does it.¬† And when I watch her win CMA Song of the Year in the future, everyone in this town is going to celebrate the girl behind that dedication.¬† I told her, “What if we moved forward acting like we’re fresh off the boat too.¬† What if the stars in our eyes still existed, we just let life cloud them over.”¬† And then we wrote a really good song.

It’s not a prerequisite to have a tortured heart or be¬†a pessimist¬†to chase dreams.¬†¬†We choose that on our own.¬† And how we beat¬†ourselves up is farrrr worse than what anyone out there has ever said/thought about us.¬† So¬†I hope we can get¬†over it.¬† Because the alternative is to stop chasing.¬† And I don’t know about you, but I’m quite positive that I have no other skill sets and I’m miserable doing anything else soooo…this is it.¬† It’s time I start acting like it again.

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What is mine…

Yards.  Lawns.

People take such pride in them, right?¬† Mowing, watering, landscaping, gardening.¬†¬†Personally, I never got into it.¬† However, I do remember how I¬†enjoyed using my push lawn mower in my first rental house.¬†**See photo below for¬†proof**¬†I was about 21 years old, renting a one bedroom, 500 square foot house on a dead end street in East Nashville.¬† Mowing my lawn was my way of saying to the world, “Look at me, I’m grown up.¬† I’m independent.”¬† Never mind the fact that I was broke,¬†watching¬†the only¬†4¬†DVDs I owned¬†on¬†a little 15 inch TV (that had an attached VCR) from childhood.¬† But hot damn, I mowed my lawn.¬† That is…until my brand new lawn mower got stolen out of my backyard shed one weekend I was out of town.¬† How East Nashville…¬† I never loved mowing the lawn like that again.

It’s funny how seemingly insignificant little memories like that pop up and completely relate to your present-day life.¬†¬† How, you ask?

Because, in this exact moment, I am not taking ownership of my yard.¬† Nope.¬† I’m not tending to it, watching it, taking responsibility for it 90% of the time.¬† You know what I AM doing?¬† Obsessing about everyone else’s yard…who should be allowed on it and who shouldn’t be, where they need to water it, how to make it prettier.¬† All the while, my yard goes to shit.¬† But hey, at least I’m being a good neighbor, right?

Hopefully at this point, you’re getting my analogy.¬† If you’re not, maybe you should stop smoking so much weed.¬† Ha.

Boundaries are a real and essential¬†thing.¬† A thing that I’m forcing myself to acknowledge, understand, and set firmly for myself, regardless of my past.¬† Because if we’re being honest here, my boundaries¬†have¬†been¬†about as sturdy as a house burning to the ground.¬† Oddly enough, I never knew the problem was as severe as it was until the last few months…

The moment I sat still long enough, I felt it.¬† The weight.¬† Like a 12 pound dumbbell, just hanging out on my chest.¬† I can still breathe, I can still function, but fuck… it’s starting to irritate me and upset me in a way that I can no longer talk myself out of it.¬† And anyone that knows me knows that I can definitely talk myself into or out of anything, ha.¬† So now we have an issue that has to be addressed or else, I might end up on a episode of “Dateline”.

Factors into this new “boundary awareness”:

  • Being only a 50 minute drive¬†from your family instead of the 8 hours of distance you’ve had for the last 10 years
  • Moving in with my boyfriend
  • Constantly travelling back and forth between Nashville and Michigan every few weeks
  • Trying to remain friends with people I was¬†close¬†to when¬†I was¬†a hot mess
  • Having physical and emotional space¬†to re-evaluate some of the people I surround myself with, and¬† yet I still manage to get stressed out
  • Adopting a puppy that has NO SENSE of personal space…nope, none.

If I could tell you the countless hours I’ve spent worrying/discussing/trying to¬†find a solution¬†for someone else’s¬†health/finances/terrible exes they keep going back to/drug use/lack of sleep/car situation/relationship with their parents/retirement/toxic friends they hang around/Tinder hook ups and so on…you’d roll up a joint for me.¬†And then hand¬†me¬†some Ambien.

I always justified it as one of the following, “But it’s family…She has nobody else to talk to…I’m the only positive influence he has…If I don’t help, no one else will…She looks up to me…He could have a heart attack if I don’t intervene…If it were me, I’d need someone to help me like this…Oh, she’d do the same for me…” and a million other reasons.

But the truth is…

I’m tired.¬† People WILL live without me trying to solve their problems.¬† People WILL figure it out one way or another.¬† People WILL let me down and not come through for me like I have for them.¬† I too will live.¬† Friends/family should not expect me to carry their burdens nor should I so willingly volunteer to do so.¬†

I’m literally reading a book right now called “Boundaries”.¬† Real life.¬† A therapist I went to see a few times, roughly 7 years ago, recommended it to me.¬† I was grieving from a rather devastating break up (6 months later) so when he made this recommendation, I drove to Borders (yes, we still had one of those then) and purchased the book.¬† I read the first chapter and then never thought about it again.¬† Shortly after, I got back together with the ex that pummeled my heart, resulting in me ceasing my sessions with said therapist.¬† If that isn’t a prime example of boundary misuse, I don’t know what is.¬† The more I read, the more I talk about it, the more I realize that my boundaries have been blurred my entire life.

That stops.  Effective immediately.

I have a¬†yard.¬† It has a wooden fence all around it, with a little front gate.¬† The bad shit needs to be kicked out of my yard.¬† The good stuff stays for me to tend to, inside¬†my fence.¬† The gate serves¬†to close & lock¬†on toxic people /situations/ways of thinking that don’t show respect to my yard and my fence.¬† The gate will only open for love.

I need to own my yard again.  

I need to¬†learn to be the neighbor that smiles and waves and¬†tries to keep her dogs from shitting in your yard.¬† And even if/when they do, I will still not come over to your yard.¬†¬†Boundaries, y’all¬† ūüôā228361_6078485580_2108_n1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I talked myself out of it.”

It’s 2AM and I can’t sleep.

There is nothing¬†particularly wrong.¬† Sometimes the brain just wants to create…and in my case, that means I’m writing.

It’s been over a month since my last blog.¬† I’ve thought about sitting down and writing every single day since then.¬† I’d take my laptop in the car with me wherever I’d go…including a couple trips to Nashville in December and over New Year’s.¬† But I talked myself out of it each time.¬† I’d find myself responding to an email, stalking my Facebook feed, or looking up which crazy-colored yoga pants I wanted to order from Kate Hudson.¬† While I type this, I realize that the words “I talked myself out of it” feels a bit like a Nerf gun fired to my face.

Because I do that.  A lot. 

**Talk myself out of things, and get nailed in the face with Nerf darts.

Whether it’s going out of my comfort zone to talk to someone I don’t know, sing a song I’m not sure I remember the lyrics to, go inside Chase bank and make them reverse their ridiculous maintenance¬†charges, purchase the plane ticket, wake up in time for that kickboxing class, apologize to my boyfriend, or write a fucking blog.¬† I’ve probably “talked myself out of” some of the best “could’ve been” times because I didn’t trust it, for one reason or another.

It’s January.
Everyone’s at the gym.¬† Everyone is swearing to call their Grandpa more, lose 14.8 pounds, read the Bible, quit smoking, etc etc…And I¬†wish them all¬†luck.¬† When the ball dropped this year, I was still in horror of the Mariah Carey fiasco. (I don’t think I recovered for days afterward, if we’re being honest.)¬† While enjoying mimosas with a couple of my favorite gays on a New Year’s Day brunch, it dawned on me that I hadn’t made a resolution.¬† Champagne aided in me never making a resolution that day.¬† I wasn’t ready.¬†

Because with this new year/new start, it meant leaving 2016 behind.

There was much to love… I fell in love/stayed in love/am still in love with an incredible man.¬† My two sisters gave me a baby niece and nephew over the summer.¬† Two of my best friends got married, and my childhood bestfriend welcomed a baby girl right around my birthday.¬† I finished filming a music documentary coming out later this year.¬† I wrote & recorded songs that I’m extremely proud of.¬† I’ve sang in the studio and on the stage with some of my musical heroes.¬† My boyfriend and I adopted a sheltie puppy and named her Blanche (Devereaux), after my favorite Golden Girl.¬† I spent time with¬†the ocean, the Great Lakes, New York City, the West Coast, and got to take my 89 year old Granny to Nashville to see her family twice.¬† I read more books and wrote more songs/poems/stories/blogs than I have in years.

There was much I could have done without too.
There was death.  There was a cancer diagnosis for my uncle.  There were internal battles within myself that felt like a Target bag over the head.  There were growing aches and pains for the girl and the life I was growing out of.  There were days of crippling self-doubt. There were moments of family drama/crisis that made me feel like I was imploding.  There were career/timeline setbacks.

There was life.  There was loss.

Nothing better portrayed this than my last blog entry.

On December 2, 2016, I wrote a long-winded blog about the significance of my 1st nephew, Nolan and his entrance into this world 6 years ago.¬† Hundreds of you read it/commented/”liked”…¬† It felt like such a release to share part of mine & my family’s story with you.

On that same day, December 2, 2016, my boyfriend’s best friend passed away.

We didn’t find out until the following night.

“Unexpected” is what they called it, but it felt much more severe than that.¬† When you’re having some beer and chicken pot pie at a neighborhood dive bar with someone, and 24 hours later, that person is¬†gone… “unexpected” doesn’t begin to cover it.

EJ Grossi died at 34 years old.

I didn’t know EJ very well.¬† Him and my boyfriend had over a decade’s worth of friendship.¬† EJ actually lived with my boyfriend for awhile before/at the beginning of us dating.¬† When things started getting more serious, EJ moved out and me & my dogs moved in.¬† My boyfriend and EJ resumed their “best friend status” and were always hanging out when I’d go out of town, mostly just sitting at the house and talking.¬† He loved our dogs.¬† EJ was quirky and weird¬†in the best way,¬†super spontaneous, unassumingly thoughtful, and truly loved his people…and always wanted his people to know his people.¬† Case in point, when my boyfriend & I hung out with him the night before he died, he¬†handed me 2 CD’s there in the bar.¬† It was music by a couple of his¬†friends and he said he thought of me and that I might enjoy a listen.¬† He also said if I thought the music sucked, I could use them as coasters, ha.

His funeral was surreal.¬† There were so many people and never a good place to stand that was “out of the way” of everyone else.¬† Looking at photos of him on the memory boards was¬†numbing and shocking at the same time.¬† He looked just like me, just like any of us.¬† There were tears and laughs as everyone¬†reminisced with each other.¬† I couldn’t attach to any of it.¬† I just¬†fixated on¬†my boyfriend the entire time…wanting to scoop him up if I detected any slight sign of an emotional collapse.¬† I was prepared to save him.¬† I wanted to save him.

I also wanted to cry.¬† But I¬†“talked myself out it”.¬†

I’ve cried since then.¬† Only a few times, and always by myself.¬† I don’t know if it’s my distain for crying…or my fear that my boyfriend will¬†sink into depression¬†if he sees how I affected I am…or that I don’t know/don’t want to think about all the things that are surfacing inside of me because of this loss.¬† I still haven’t figured it out.¬† Which is why, every time I thought about blogging, I didn’t know where to start.¬† It seemed inappropriate to write about someone¬†I didn’t know very well or for very long.¬† Because, as you know, I like to talk myself out of things.

But somewhere, in the last couple days, I started to grasp that it’s okay to speak of things you don’t understand.¬† Because if you don’t speak¬†it, how¬†will you ever understand it?¬†¬†¬†I need to remind myself of that.¬† My feelings are real.¬† EJ’s presence was/continues to be real.¬† My boyfriend’s memories are real.

I think if this gut-punching end to 2016 is teaching me anything about what a new year of life to live should¬†really mean, it would be…
Quit fucking talking myself out of it.

Rest in peace, EJ.

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