everything in the middle of nowhere.

everything in the middle of nowhere.

It’s a weird thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all left me feeling exhausted.

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

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

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

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It’s funny how that happens…

We rarely allow ourselves to get lost.

We rarely give ourselves permission or allow time for exploration.

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

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

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

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And I thanked God at least a dozen times.

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

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

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

 

-RW

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The Lion.

The Lion.

I don’t know how to begin this.

I don’t know how to end it either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because in my mind, him and I never aged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The hit to the family was brutal.

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

But Heaven changed It’s mind.

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

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

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

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

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

Be sad if I’m sad.

Let the tears out if I feel them coming.

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

Don’t beat myself up.

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

Trust whatever this process shows me.

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

 

 

 

Burden or light.

www.RachelWilliamsOnline.com

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

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

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

I lost faith in myself.

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

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

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

I cannot ignore it.

I cannot turn off the voice inside.

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

So, I have a choice.

We all have a choice.

Burden or light.

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

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

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

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

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

Their response to my bleeding heart confessions…?

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

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

Yup.

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

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

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

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

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“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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Sobering up to a “fallen sky”…

Sobering up to a “fallen sky”…

I don’t want to get political.

I really don’t.¬† And I won’t.

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

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

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

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

My oblivion was blissful.

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

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

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

Another punch to the chest. 

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

So I didn’t.

All day long.

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone was cool.

Everyone was drinking and eating.

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

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

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

And then it dawned on me.

We are all in this together.

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

Together.

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

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

I won’t do it.

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

But I won’t.

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t just type the words.

BE the words.

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

Build the bridge.

Build the bridge with no intention of burning it.

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Death…and what’s left behind.

Death…and what’s left behind.

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

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

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

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

Writing can wait.

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

Travelling can wait.

It’s not “the right time”.

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

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

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

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

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

So now here we are…

2016.

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

The last 2 weeks

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

And most recently…

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

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

Not cliché quotes.

Not photos or hashtags or song lyrics.

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

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

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