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.

FullSizeRenderIMG_0695IMG_0692

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….

IMG_0693

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

  • Be sure to “follow” this blog, since I promise to remove my head from my ass and write more often ❤
  • Follow me on Instagram @ rayray_dubbz
  • Twitter @RachelEWilliams
  • SnapChat @ rayray_dubbz313
  • Facebook at http://facebook.com/rachelwilliamsonline

 

 

Advertisements

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.

If you like this blog, check out my other entries and follow me here on WordPress ❤

IG: rayray_dubbz

SnapChat: rayray_dubbz313

FB:  www.facebook.com/rachelwilliamsonline

Twitter:  RachelEWilliams

www.RachelWilliamsOnline.com

IMG_4080

 

 

 

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.

FullSizeRender.jpg
 

Silenced.

I will never, in my lifetime, forget December 2, 2010.

I was sleeping in bed alongside my “work-in-progress” boyfriend at the time, in my blue bedroom, in my new house in Hermitage, TN.  I woke up to my phone vibrating on the nightstand.  I picked it up and immediately saw a photo of a baby in an incubator, all 19 inches and 7 lbs 4 oz of him.  The arrival of my first nephew, Nolan Robert was here.  I immediately cried tears of pure joy as I admired this photo.  That joy soon turned into tears of desperation and what felt like a hole in my heart the rest of the day/week.  He was here, in the world, for me to hold, and I was 600 miles away looking at a photo on my phone.

I finally met and held this perfect baby roughly 2 weeks after his birth, when I was able to take off work/studio/girlfriend duty for Christmas and drive up to Michigan for the holidays.  I cried again when I met him.  In all honesty, I’ve been shedding tears for him/over him/because of him ever since.

It’s somewhat comical, really.

When I first met my boyfriend Jon and we started dating this time last year, he thought Nolan was secretly my child.  I had so many photos of him on my phone and I proudly displayed them to anyone whose attention I had for more than 2 seconds.  My friends laughed and said I was obsessed.  I’m sure my Facebook and Instagram friends thought the same, with my endless photo/video uploads of him over the years.  I was.  And I am.  But it’s not for reasons that are so obvious to the outside world. 

I’m sure you’ve already heard me gush over him and the little person he’s becoming.  So I’d like to take a different approach with this blog to acknowledge/celebrate/reminisce over his arrival into this world.  I’d like to share with you the truest reason why I’ll love this child like he is my own forever and always.  To put it bluntly…

Nolan saved my family.

He may never know that and I’ll never tell him.  But I will always know.  My sisters, my brother, and my parents will also always know, whether they’ll admit it publicly or not.

The loyalty within my family is ferocious.  That is the only word I can use to describe it.  It is protective.  And just as it can be nurturing and safe, it can also tear you to shreds.  No one can truly understand or appreciate our dynamic unless you’re within it’s folds.  I’m not complaining about it whatsoever.  I love it.  It’s the only way I’ve known.  It has also exhausted me plenty throughout my life.

I am the oldest of 4…2 sisters and a brother.  When I first moved to Nashville, the youngest of the litter, my baby sister, took it the hardest.  She was 11 or 12 years old when I moved.  I remember her crying on the phone to me.  I remember poems and photo collages she’d give to me when I’d come home to visit.  I felt a very real responsibility to her.  I wanted to show her that having big dreams is scary but beautiful and that she too could be brave enough to chase them…to risk the crash and burn, just like me.  I’d drive and meet my dad halfway in Cincinnati, just to take her and my brother for a long weekend away with me in Nashville.  I spent so much time trying to instill hope and confidence in her for a bigger life.

My baby sister got pregnant at 17.  Out of nowhere.  No warning.  No sign of a boyfriend or partying or any type of rebellion in that sense.  She was a senior in high school.  She got impregnated by a “man” that I won’t dignify acknowledging except to say that he had the most minimal part in creating a baby…that, and my hatred for this person consumed me for years after the fact.  Now?  I still wouldn’t piss on him if he were on fire, but I don’t wish him on fire anymore.

I wanted to save my sister from this.  My heart was shattered that she didn’t want to be saved from this.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep.  The downward spiral of the situation was fast, severe, and plunged below any level I knew existed.  Suddenly there were enemy lines drawn and part of the family stood on one side and part of us on another.  Watching my parents go through it was even more torturous than my own hurt.  I was driving up to Michigan on a whim a couple times a month to make sure everyone was still breathing.

She can’t have this baby.

It was a thought we all had.  It makes me sick to my stomach to look back on that now, but at the time…we really didn’t think the family or my sister would ever recover from bringing a baby into this mess.

I love my sister.  I loved her despite the whirlwind of hurt and brokenness we were all swept up in.  All the skeletons were out of the closet so there was nothing more to do…but watch her belly grow.  I remember Halloween of 2010, she was 8 months along.  It was the first time I talked to the baby in her belly.  It was the first time I whole-heartedly acknowledged that the baby was coming, ready or not.  I went back for Thanksgiving, hoping she’d go into labor during my visit.  She didn’t.  So I drove the long and lonely 8 hours back to Nashville at the end of November.  By December 2nd, a baby was here.

I remember I had driven all through the night.  I was tired.  I was wearing an orange hoodie & yoga pants with my greasy hair tied up in a bun.  She walked into my parent’s house with the baby in his carrier and I lost it.  There was hopeEverything dark had led us to this.

My family did recover over time.  It wasn’t instant, but there was a new flag for this family now.  It wasn’t chaos, it wasn’t hurt.  It was Nolan.

Over the years, my love and adoration would never waiver.  I’d drive up every other month for him.  I’d take him to Nashville with me, all by myself, for a week or two at a time, every single year.  He brought out the good in me, the uninhibited and yet nurturing spirit in me.  For a long time, nothing else brought out the good except for him and my Granny.  I could be a train wreck every other day out of the year.  But the days with Nolan, I wasn’t.  I was Auntie Ray Ray.  And out of all the people I felt I “needed” to be, all the people I pretended to be…Auntie Ray Ray was the most natural, most effortless role I’ve ever taken on.

It would take me 5 very long years to realize that if I built upon who I was with Nolan (and my Granny), I would be a happier person.  If I could show myself the same love, support, and forgiveness that I was showing a toddler… I’d probably be living a much different life.  How could I be one person that loves/would move mountains/self-sacrifice for her family and then another who just didn’t give a flying @#$* about anything…but who was still fun and funny, carefree and incredibly careless, who controlled her conscience like a light switch.  The answer is… I couldn’t be both and do either of them well.  One Rachel has to outweigh the other.

So I let the scales tip.  And I’ve been letting them tip for the past year.  And I’m so thankful that for once, it feels like they’re tipping in the right direction.

So on Nolan’s 6th birthday…I am a puddle of gratitude.

He’s growing up.  And so am I.

 

P.S.  If you feel inclined to do so, you can check out the song I wrote for this little nugget a few years back at https://rachelwilliams.bandcamp.com/track/silenced