The first.

The first.

I’ve sat down to write this more than a handful of times over the last week or so, trying to share some recent and sensitive news with everyone.  Every time, I carve out an hour and I just start to type.  And every time, my free-flow of emotions settle differently, my “message” varying with each writing session.   When people use the cliche, “…all the feels”, let’s just say… I’m feeling them.  So I’ll just get right to it…

I lost my dog.

My old girl, my “first-born”, Deliah Maye (or as we called her the last few years, “Doodle”) is gone.  And it hurts far more than I expected, with all kinds of self-reflection consuming my thoughts lately.  But instead of sharing a bunch of deep, introspective shit right now, I’ll just share our story.

With the temperament of a little old Grandma from the very day I got her, she was my baby.  I was fresh out of high school and had just moved to Nashville.  Upon arrival, I had never driven my car through fast food drive-thru, never wrote a check, having literally nothing to my name but an artifact Nokia phone that my parents let me take down to Tennessee with me.  I was young, clueless, and inevitably, homesick.  I was living in a garage apartment in my managers’ home in Kingston Springs and had just released my very first album.  Musically, things were busy and incredibly exciting.  However, I completely lacked any kind of social life, which made being on the brink of adulthood much harder.  All my music peers were considerably older than me and after sessions, it left me feeling pretty lonely at the end of the day.  A few months after being in Tennessee, my managers suggested that maybe a dog would do me good and help with all these big life transitions.  Clearly, I did not need to be talked into this.

Enter: Deliah.

I was raised with shelties growing up, so I knew exactly what I was looking for.  I found an ad in the classifieds inside the Tennessean (yeah, it was that long ago) for sheltie puppies and I was sold before I even saw them.  That weekend, we drove over an hour to a remote farm, with all the puppies being kept in the barn.  This liter of pups, no bigger than guinea pigs, toppled over themselves and each other, and immediately sent me into sensory overload.  I had no idea which was which, they were too tiny to tell apart.  So I decided that whichever pup let me hold him/her and didn’t try to squirm out of my hands would be “the one”.  I picked them up at random and when I came to Deliah, she snuggled into my easily, almost like she was relieved to be plucked from the pack.  You see, from Day 1, Deliah didn’t want be amongst the “common folk”, being regarded as just a dog.  In all honesty, I think the word “dog” offended her, like she couldn’t relate.  This early perception of herself would epitomize Deliah the rest of her life.  Her demeanor would also ruin me for life by giving me the false impression that all dogs were as “chill” and lazy as this one.  

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I came up with the name Deliah from the flower, Dahlia.  Years earlier, my Polish grandfather gifted me a few baggies of Dahlia seeds when we were moving him out of his house and into a nursing home.  That memory never left me.  I thought the pronunciation of “Dahlia” was kind of weird so I improvised with Deliah (Del-yah).

The first few days of having her, she wouldn’t eat or drink when we’d put the bowls down.  I had no idea what to do.  My managers said they thought she was younger than 8 weeks so she might not be weaned from her mother quite yet.  So each night, I’d lay down by her tiny water/food bowls, crying and begging this little nugget to eat, but she wouldn’t.  Then I’d eventually fall asleep on the carpet, right there by the bowls … waking up to the sound of her eating or drinking beside my head.  

Those first 6 months or so, I’d take her to every co-writing appointment, recording session, I even took her to my first few industry showcases, keeping her in my puppy purse underneath a table up in front.  I even wrote a song about her, “It’s Not About Me Anymore”.  Yes, seriously.  And it’s actually a fucking great song so don’t judge me, ha.  (You can listen to teenage RayRay on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/track/6Rpr6ZBVyku5SP9ma7AII7?si=CACK1ajVSaKfD0ga1sdpCQ)

After our first year together, the vet informed me that she needed to lose weight.  How you get a dog too fat in it’s first year is still, to this day, one of my more humorous life fails.   Aside from changing her diet, I had to get this lazy pup to exercise more.  We lived out in the country and our road didn’t have sidewalks, making daily dog walks more difficult.  So instead I’d sprint back and forth across the lawn and make her chase me.  Or I’d take her to the park and walk fast around the trails, having her follow me off the leash.  Eventually, we both lost our “baby fat”, with me dropping weight right along with her.  (She wasn’t the only one allergic to exercise back then.). I was nervous that she’d gain it back without younger dogs around to play with, especially when I was on the road.  Less than 2 years after getting Deliah, I was given the green light to get another dog.  Delaney.  I was now 20 and a “single mom” of two.

I distinctly remember thinking that Deliah would hate Delaney.  Deliah didn’t necessarily take to other dogs.  Or kids.  Or basically, anything with energy that tried to get in her space, besides me.  Delaney was a rescue dog that I found online and instantly fell in love with when I saw her photos.  When I went to meet Delaney, she was 5 months old and the fastest running dog I’d ever seen in my life.  The moment she was released from her kennel to meet us, she took off in a sprint, running circles around me, with no signs of slowing down long enough for anyone to pet her.  I remember saying, “I can’t take this dog.  She’s too much, Deliah will hate her.” But I did take her.  I was so nervous the entire hour drive back, with this new dog in the car and Deliah waiting in the backyard for us to return.  I hesitantly opened the gate and brought this new dog into the yard, bracing myself for the worst.  Instead I witnessed these two dogs immediately start running through the yard, chasing each other and playing.  DELIAH WAS RUNNING?!  I swear to God, I cried tears of joy seeing how they instantly took to each other.

Deliah and Delaney were sisters without coaxing and right away, I had two best friends.  Eventually, I did make friends my age.  And when I did, they all knew that I came with 2 sidekicks almost everywhere I went.  My first house, out on my own, was a little one-bedroom, 400 square foot house on a dead-end road in East Nashville.  I had just turned 21.  I cut my own lawn, hand-washed my dishes, and watched the same 5 DVD’s over & over on the same small TV from my childhood bedroom.  I stole a weak wireless reception from my neighbor and didn’t have cable, but I had my dogs.

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A few months after this photo was taken, Deliah was viciously attacked by a neighbor’s pitbull in my backyard.   I was in the studio when I got the call from my roommate.  I rushed home and will never forget how she was like a limp noodle when I tried to pick her up, still in shock.  The vet stayed open an extra hour, just to see her.  Her recovery was long, and honestly, in no way for the faint of heart.  The operation was $3000, or there was the option to treat the wound naturally & safely, with the warning that it wasn’t going to look pretty for awhile.  I chose the ugly.  It was tedious, but I never thought twice about it.  I guess I do have a maternal instinct in me.

Deliah would recover.  But she’d have a small lump and a gnarly scar where the fur would never grow again.  I thought her battle scars were cool.  It showed character, also, she sounded like a total badass.  

I’d move multiple times throughout my 20’s.  My bungalow house off Shelby Ave with a neon green kitchen, a doggie door, and a front porch swing.  The gorgeous tri-level home, with a big island counter in the kitchen and a huge front AND back yard for the dogs.  The perfect house for entertaining, only all my friends thought Hermitage was “too far” back then, ha!  And then eventually to my “barn” house in 12 South.  With a large screened-in porch, a pathetic little white picket fence in front, and big bedroom windows that opened up and made you feel like a princess up in her tower.  I’d acquire a list of different roommates, guys I was dating, guys I thought I was dating but actually wasn’t, a major tour, new friends I’d make, friends I thought I’d never lose but did … and Deliah & Delaney would bear witness to them all.  

With every new house, I was hopeful for the “new beginning” I assumed came with it.  But my “fresh starts” were usually short-lived.  The reality is, I was so busy stressing out over my love-life and career, I didn’t have the awareness of how badly I was treating myself.   I think a lot of women would agree … I wish I would’ve loved myself / forgiven myself / shown more grace to myself in my 20’s.  But I do know one thing for certain, I sure did love those dogs.  So any love I was withholding from myself, I poured into my making my dogs true companions.  When I needed to clear my head, they’d come along, however many miles I needed to walk or drive.  They’d hear every tear cried.  They would see the very worst days and love me through them all.

About 4-5 years ago, Deliah started having a hard time walking.  She’d struggle to get up off the floor and I didn’t know what was going on.  The vet said that the x-rays showed a benign tumor pushing down towards the back of her vertebrae, interrupting the signal from her brain to her back legs.  The vet assured me that she wasn’t in pain, but that Deliah was probably frustrated because she couldn’t understand why her back legs weren’t doing what she wanted them to do.  That entire summer, I carried her in and out of the house when she needed to go to the bathroom.  I borrowed/bought a bunch of old rugs and made a pathway around my hardwood floored house, so that she didn’t slip.  I carried her upstairs to my bedroom every night when we went to bed.  Eventually, it got much more manageable, but never a full recovery.

The move to Michigan was brutal.  It was the dead of winter and I was incredibly lonely and second-guessing everything I’ve ever done in the history of my life.  I felt like I was betraying myself by leaving Nashville.  But every night, my dogs served as the reminder of who I really was … the good I still possessed, no matter my missteps.  I mean, I’d kept them alive this long, I couldn’t be all bad, right?  Ha.  

Enter: My husband.

Delaney was/still is the crowd favorite, particularly with males.  I had a few that told me, point blank, they preferred Delaney over Deliah.  What assholes. I always slightly catered to Deliah because of the adoration the general public had for Delaney.  Jon and I had been seeing each other a month a half before I brought my dogs over to meet him and his bulldog, Stella.  Although Stella did not particularly care for her new visitors (I mean, I wouldn’t either if I had new dogs in my crib) … Jon loved them.  Both of them.  Instantly.

Six months into dating, we decided to try living together.  It was a completely foreign and terrifying experience for me at first.  I’d had roommates in the past and even lived with a couple guys before, but never in SOMEONE ELSE’S house.  It was always my place,  my sole name on the lease, my furniture, my domain.  That way, if it wasn’t working, they’d leave and I’d stay.  With or without a man.  With or without that friend/roommate. 

Now I’m moving myself & my 2 dogs into someone else’s house.  Someone else’s furniture, silverware, tacky wall decor, AND someone else’s dog who has had this man all to herself for 8 years solid.  To say this was a big life transition would be a huge understatement.  But having Deliah & Delaney helped me maintain some normalcy in this unchartered water.

Just before our one-year anniversary, I convinced him that we should get a puppy.  I wanted a baby Deliah, another Sheltie puppy.  Maybe that would help rejuvenate Deliah, make her more of a “mother hen” in her elder years.  My good intention did not pan out as smoothly as I had hoped.  Deliah was over more “life changes”, so this rambunctious puppy was not her idea of a good time.  Little did Deliah know, her last chapter would prove to be just as important as any.

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My Mom had an almost unbearably rough time between July 2016-July 2017.  She lost her two brothers less than a year apart.  When we had to put our family dog down around the same time, the void grew even more.  She kept telling us she needed another dog, but none of us thought it was a good idea.  A new dog would be a lot of work that my parents did not have the energy for, nor did they have a fenced in yard to accommodate said dog.  There wasn’t a worse idea…

Then I needed Mom to watch Deliah over the holidays.

When I came back to town a week and a half later, it was abundantly clear to me what was happening.  I watched as my Mom made cheese-toast, only to feed it all to Deliah.  Then justifying it with, “Well, if she doesn’t get scraps from me, she gets it from the food your niece flings from her high chair.  And the baby isn’t here today.”

And just like that, Mom had a new best friend.  And Deliah got to live her days being the lazy, old Grandma she’s always been.  No other dogs.  No hardwood floors.  And all the table scraps she could consume.

When we got married, having the dogs down in Tennessee with us was completely non-negotiable.  We’d struggle to find an Air BnB that allowed 3 dogs, but eventually, we found one.  Everyone was worried with how Deliah would handle the trip.  She had not ridden in the car for a long-distance trip in almost 3 years.  My family was bracing me for the worst, expecting our travel to be difficult with her and the other 2 dogs in our vehicle.  Lo and behold, it was easy and without incident.  Once we got to Kingston Springs, we all understood that Deliah wouldn’t be able to go up and down the porch steps.  Like clock-work and without hesitation, I’d lift her up, walk her down to the yard, sit with her awhile, and then carry her back into the house.  (Clearly, my mom’s cheese-toast feedings were taking place by the truck load because she weighed a ton.)  But I didn’t care.  I’d done this very thing a hundred times over in our 13 years together and I wanted to do it for her now.  She adjusted back to Tennessee right away.  She grazed along the yard, she slept heavily, she followed me with an enthusiasm I hadn’t seen in years.  My girl was happy to be home.  My wedding day was chaotic, with literally everything being a last-minute decision.  In all the craziness, the dogs almost didn’t make it to the ceremony.  I was bummed but willing to take responsibility for not organizing their transportation to and from better.  At the last second, a miracle was pulled off and the dogs were there… with a dear friend carrying my fat little Deliah, decked in a bridal tutu, down the aisle.

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Our wedding trip is how I’ll always remember the last days of Deliah.

As a lot of you already know, my husband lost his beloved bulldog, Stella, earlier this summer.  Being there for him throughout the entire process of losing Stella truly prepared me for marriage in a way I can’t fully explain.  I had never so easily stood strong for someone else before.

And less than 6 months later, he now had to stand strong for me.  Literally.  Deliah passed away in Michigan while I was in Tennessee.  He handled everything.  Including talking to her as she went and hugging my Mom when I couldn’t.  It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, but it did.  I’m so thankful for Jon.

And now, like him, I understand the gravity of losing your “first”.  It goes far beyond missing their presence, calling their name, crying over photos.  These dogs lifted us through life in the times when no one else could.  These dogs saw us through every break-up, big move, professional achievement, emotional meltdown, new love, and so on.  We mourn the journey too.  

It’s kind of poetic in a way.

I called a truce with Stella in her final days, promising to take care of Jon as good as she had.  Unfortunately, she didn’t live to see the wedding.  And now, a few weeks after our wedding, my Deliah has joined her.  We believe good things happen if we keep showing up.  So I did, with Deliah by my side….and the good found me.  Thanks for seeing it through, Doodle.22008437_10159443032525581_1799044674878134136_n

 

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Happy One Year Anniversary, Ray.

Happy One Year Anniversary, Ray.

The show was starting in 20 minutes.  I had already taken up my normal post for whenever I play the Bluebird Cafe.  My preferred spot in the round is the chair that faces the big windows and the front door, so naturally I claimed it the moment I walked through the door.  I was fiddling around for my lip gloss when one of my girlfriends came up beside me.

“We really should take your photo in front of the Bluebird before the show.”

Earlier that week, this same friend had suggested to me that I should create a new Instagram account.  Something solely dedicated to my music.  Something where people could discover me as an artist and see what I’m all about.

Due to multiple delayed projects, it had been years since that kind of spotlight had been put on me, so the thought of putting it on myself seemed like a daunting task.  With the lack of anything big in the near future then, I was uncomfortable with the idea.  Also, I was unsure of how to go about any kind of “re-branding” and honestly, thought no one would actually care so I’d rather not embarrass myself.  Oh, and another big thing …

I was now going by Ray Williams.

The change came about when I was filming a docu-series in Detroit a couple years ago.  The label liked the idea of “Ray” because it suited the persona they needed to fill better than Rachel.  I mean, my friends & nephews call me “Ray Ray” so it didn’t seem like a radical change.  However, with the project still unreleased, it was a change I was open to but in no means was it ‘official’ anywhere yet. A brand new Instagram account would be the very first declaration to everybody that it was Ray, not Rachel.  It was a big deal and I almost let fear get the best of me on that one.  Eventually I let up and told her I’d be down for the experiment if she was offering to help.

One year ago today:

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I like to call this photo “If You Build It, They Will Come”, ha.

From that night on, every trip back to Nashville had one afternoon of Instagram.  My friend and I would drive around to different locations with a back seat full of clothes, shoes, and makeup, me changing right there in the car…snapping a ton of quick photos on an old iPhone.

The 1st month of the new account,  I was newly engaged and back in a snow-covered Michigan.  So I’d lock myself upstairs and sing till I had no voice, while playing guitar until my fingers didn’t work.  All in an effort to capture the perfect, one-minute video of me singing a cover song in front of my vanity lights.  And if I had clean hair that day, well, I might even record two.

And with every post (and thought-out hashtags), we started to see the followers increase.  I felt confident enough to start renaming and re-vamping the other social media accounts on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter and eventually, my website all together.

One month after The Bluebird/New Account Created:  Lyft

Around Thanksgiving of last year, I got a mass text message from Lyft.  The text called for any local drivers or passengers that are musicians to send their music in and possibly win free recording time at a new facility called MusicTown Detroit.  Considering I was always back and forth to Nashville, I didn’t need the recording time, but the submission process took about 30 seconds from my phone.  So I sent it off and didn’t think twice about it.

A week or so later, I got an email telling me that I’d be chosen as a finalist for free studio time at MusicTown Detroit.  I didn’t have a band in Michigan, I didn’t even have artist gigs up here yet.  Any musicians I knew, I knew because they played for the artist I sang backgrounds for.  But as luck would have it, the guitar player I used down in Nashville was visiting his family in Michigan for the holidays, so I was covered.  (Love you, Shane Sanders!) They filmed  & recorded the two of us performing a handful of songs acoustically in the studio and told me I should have the final video by the New Year.  The next morning, I got a call from the studio engineer telling me that some folks from Lyft saw my video footage from the day before and wanted to know if I could come play their Lyft Christmas Party … that same night.  It was so last-minute that I almost didn’t even attempt to make it happen.  Thankfully I did.  We did the show later that night and on my way out from the party, I met a couple folks from the corporate office for Lyft who wanted to talk to me about teaming up in some way in the new year.

Throughout 2018, I have represented myself in conference table meetings with one of the most popular apps in the country.  I have vocalized my vision and needs to the ones at the top of Detroit’s biggest radio stations.  I’ve been featured on Channel 7 WXYZ and Channel 4 WDIV, with no sounding board but myself.  I’ve performed for WYCD’s Hoedown at DTE Energy Music Theater, the Ford Firework Celebration, and Monday Night Football.  I’ve made two appearances on the legendary WSM 650AM and my video performances on 104.5 WOMC and 99.5’s HomeGrown Happy Hour have all surpassed 10K views each.

All of this without releasing any new music of my own.  All of this within the first 6 months of 2018.  All of this while still singing background vocals on stage for other people and recording countless demos in the studio for other songwriters.

Then came September.

Releasing my single, “Sing Me Home” was exciting in it’s own right, but coupled with a Single Release Show sponsored by Lyft, 99.5 WYCD, and MusicTown on the rooftop of Hockeytown Cafe was insanity.  The first “local artist” in Detroit to have an event partnership like that.

No pressure.

I somehow managed to keep my head above water with the techy people & the corporate folk, musicians & radio/television personalities, with no representation or management.  And you know what?  I did the damn thing.  I had a great show.  A successful release.  And I miraculously found myself a Showdown champion that was inducted into the WYCD Hall of Fame after 5 consecutive wins.

But really…

I don’t write this blog to brag about myself or boast my accomplishments, that is not my point.  (Besides, I’m still getting used to the fact that anyone would even care to read this blog right now, ha.)  I write this as a testament to the difference a year can make if you let it.  If you leap and you trust it.

I also write this to bring attention to the friend that encouraged this plunge – who still gives me social media suggestions, still drives around to snap photos of me, including the photo she took of me that night at The Bluebird Cafe exactly one year ago …

Well, she is the same girl who co-wrote “Under Your Spell” with me, and her name is Whitney Madlom.  She came to me just over a year ago because she wanted to start writing songs and didn’t know how to go about it.  Her bravery to explore a new facet of her creativity, having no prior songwriting experience, really inspired me last year and we’ve since written more than a handful of songs together.  It was her countless pep talks of me giving “the artist thing” another dedicated shot that has gotten me here… well, us here … with a song that has been viewed/played over 20K times in the last 4 days.  Surround yourself with good people, y’all.  It makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE.  Love you, girl.

So with all that being said…

Happy One Year Anniversary to Ray Williams!

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Reinvention on paper.

Reinvention on paper.

It’s midnight.

I’ve got the front window open and I can hear the rain hitting the pavement.  Usually that would put me to sleep, but for some reason, it’s inspired me to open my MacBook once again.

So again, I’m sitting where I feel like I’ve been sitting for weeks now… at my kitchen table.  With a computer screen in front of me, an iPhone that needs constant charge because it’s blowing up at all hours, and a big glass of water.  My fiancé finally went to bed and says, “Babe.  The show’s over.  You can take some time off.”

I shoot him a look that’s both comedic and sympathetic.  Because him and I both know that there will be no “time off” for either of us anytime soon.

September has been a whirlwind of music and wedding preparations (or lack thereof, so more like “wedding talk”).  From coordinating musicians for gigs, to all sorts of meeting downtown, recording sessions, radio interviews and showdowns, to releasing my single, living on social media to promote release and shows, putting out fires all across the board: music-technology breakdowns-family-friends-fiance THEN we have bridal showers and my birthday and my bachelorette party, constant questions about center-pieces & party favors, and dress fittings and I JUST NEED SOMEONE TO FILL IN FOR ME.  Haha. But really 😉

People are surprised I’m handling it all as well as I am.  To be honest, I’m just handling what’s in front of me… and music was first so it’s gotten my full attention.  It’s been a hard thing for a lot of my family/friends to come to terms with … that I could be so completely focused on music with a wedding just weeks ago.  (To clarify, it’s in less than 2 weeks now.).

Launching myself again as an artist has always been the goal, it’s always been the calling.  I had no idea that the Universe would conspire to make it a reality literally TWO WEEKS before my wedding.  But…”when it rains it pours”…in all the best possible ways, for once.

After yesterday’s successful Single Release Show, I see things clearer.  First of all, there’s no way I could be happy not doing music.  Secondly, the love I’ve received from everyone coupled with the emotions I’ve felt are thankfully less overwhelming knowing that I have someone to absorb it all with me.  It’s not a balance between music and the wedding.  It’s a balance between music and my relationship.  The wedding will happen, with or without the perfect party favors or a majestic bouquet, or ties that match perfectly with dresses, blah blah blah.

The most important thing that will happen: Jon and I get married.

I’m sitting here, reflecting on what the last 10 days have felt like… and how I’m going to have to make the shift mentally in order to make the next 10 days a success.

The last 10 days have seen me the most stressed and exhausted I’ve ever felt, but also the happiest, the most humbled, and just genuinely grateful I’ve been in a very long time. From rallying everyone to vote for me in the WYCD Showdown and WINNING 5 nights in the a row…all the way to the Hall of Fame!  Then with preparations for the Single Release Party, and the reality of how many people were involved and what a big production it was going to be.  To rehearsing with the band for the first time…hearing the songs from a record that almost everyone had given up on ever being released…come back to life again in the span of one evening.  The press, the tweets, the comments, the shares, the photos that everyone shared in support of me and my “little song that could”…it has truly blown my mind.

I wrote these songs while living in Nashville, hoping for something different but not knowing what it looked like.  I knew I wanted to pay homage to Detroit because it is a huge part of me that I felt was never truly represented in my music.  So we made it happen.  Little did I know, I’d be foreshadowing my return to Motor City.  Little did I know that the love of my life AND a career resurrection was waiting for me in the exact place I thought I had to leave in order to attain it.  It fills my heart to give thanks to what a full circle moment all of this has been.

My birthday was September 22nd.  Three birthdays ago, I was a miserable mess.  I took myself solo from Nashville to New York City for my birthday week, just so I could escape everyone and the life I couldn’t seem to find happiness in.  I was strolling the streets one morning and decided that I needed a new journal…you know, since “this year” was going to be different, I didn’t need to write new chapters in an old book.  I bought a journal at a local bookstore and found the nearest coffee shop to sit down and start writing in it immediately.  And I’ve been writing in it ever since.

Last birthday, I got engaged.

This birthday, I spent an amazing day with my fiancé and gave so much praise to God for all the tiredness and stress and love and affirmation I’d received that year, and most certainly, that week.

When I sat down this morning to write about all the excitement of the weekend, I saw that I’m on the final few pages of the journal now.

I find no coincidence in the fact that I documented my biggest life transitions, my personal growth, finding love and figuring out how to keep it, my prayers for myself and my family, my musical frustrations and accomplishments… all in 3 years.

From complete hot mess to matrimony & new music. All in one journal.

And now, I get to start a new journal in a few more pages.  As a wife.  As an artist.   Two things that I truly almost gave up on believing would ever happen for me.  And even though there’s a part of me that still can’t believe this is really my life right now…

I know that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.  For once I can say that and believe it with everything I have.  And many thanks for helping me get here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Burden or light.

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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  🙂228361_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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