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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What a difference a year can make.

What a difference a year can make.

Or 89 years, at that.

Yesterday we celebrated my Granny’s 89th birthday.  I want us all to take a moment here… EIGHTY-NINE YEARS OLD!  Taylor Swift was born in 1989.  My grandmother was born in 1927.  Like, whaaaaaa?!

This woman still lives alone in the house that she bought with my Grandpa over 50 year ago. She leased and drives a brand new Buick.  She looks like a damn beauty queen and won’t be seen in public unless she gets her hair done.  I squeeze her butt and give her hugs and kisses when we’re out and about constantly, only for her to say “Now Rachel, people are gonna think you’re a lesbian.” 

Everything about this woman literally takes my breath away.  Even if she’s cranky or not feeling good, or she’s critiquing my driving with every mile we’re in the car together… I’d take her on her worst day than most people on their best day.  I truly am in awe of every minute I get to spend with her.  And I mean that with every fiber of my being.

I’ve made a point to attend almost every birthday of hers since I moved to Nashville 10 years ago.  I put more weight on August 31st than Thanksgiving.  People always say, “Cherish your family… Don’t take the ones you love for granted… Let the people around you know how much you appreciate them.”  I have never demonstrated these thoughts/words/actions more evidently than with my Retha Mae.  IMG_2932

Which leads me to the title of this entry.

Granny’s birthday was symbolic.  Not only because she has blessed this earth for 89 years, but also, because it is an anniversary (of sorts) for me.

Last year, at this time, I made a decision. 

A decision that would root me more in Detroit rather than Nashville.  I’d still split the time 50/50 between the two cities, it’s just that my Tempur-Pedic bed would reside in MI for a time.  I’d be working on a film project in Detroit, and yet still keeping my session work/writing appointments/writer’s rounds in Nashville just as active as before.

A couple of very dear friends of mine had offered their moving truck and their assistance last year, around springtime.  However, that “move” wasn’t to be scheduled until later in the fall of 2015. 

On August 29, 2015, I was sitting in on a show at the legendary Bluebird Café.  I was asked to sing a couple songs, so I did, all while hearing my phone vibrate on the floor beneath  my chair.  When I was done singing, I checked my phone, only to see several messages informing me that my friends were still able to help me move, but it’d have to be THE VERY NEXT DAY, or else they’d be out of commission for awhile.

I immediately called my “boyfriend” at the time (*cringe*), and freaked out.  I had nothing ready to go, nothing was packed.  Instead of heading home and getting to work, I decided to sit in a bar across from the Bluebird and numb myself with vodka sodas.  The next morning, we woke up at 6am and started making piles… KEEP/GOODWILL/THROW AWAY/SELL ON CRAIGSLIST.  A couple friends came over to help later in the morning and there was just no time to second-guess, to have anxiety, to back out.  By 2pm, the moving truck was there and 10 years of my life were in piles.  ***You can see the Instagram video I uploaded of the move here https://www.instagram.com/p/6_DrCzBibT/ 

We loaded up my stuff AND my car (yes, the moving truck was big enough to fit my vehicle inside of it too!) and immediately hit the road.  We drove all day and night…me, my boyfriend at the time, and my friend from OH with the truck.  We spent the night at my friend’s house in Ohio, just 90 minutes shy of Detroit.  The next morning, we quickly made the drive into Michigan, unloaded things into my parent’s garage and basement.  There was no real plan.  I couldn’t leave leave Nashville for another couple of months, so I just needed to put my stuff somewhere.  And when the opportunity to move a lot of your big belongings comes along, you jump.  Or else, you pay out the ass for a U-Haul and try to do all this shit on your own at a later time.  Uh, no thanks. 

And wouldn’t you know, the day this craziness occurred just happened to be my Grandma’s 88th birthday.

I hadn’t planned on being there.  It was a complete coincidence.  You see, I couldn’t get the time off of work (I was waitressing on the side) and I didn’t have the money to make the trip up, so I had chalked it up that for the first time in years, I’d miss Granny’s birthday.

Apparently not.

I got to hug her, sing Happy Birthday to her and my sister (Lindsey’s birthday is the day before Granny’s, on the 3oth), and hang out a couple hours.  After that, we backed my car off the moving truck, my ex and I got into the car, and we drove back down to Nashville that same day.  (He was re-enlisting in the Air Force at 9am the next morning, and those things…well, you can’t reschedule.  Ha.)  On the drive back to Nashville, I was informed by the sports bar that I’d been working at for quite some time, that my services were no longer needed.  No one believed that a moving truck showed up with practically no warning and despite my desperation to call co-workers and my boss to cover my shift, no one did.  So I was fired. 

So to recap:  In a matter of 48 hours I… was told a moving truck would be there the very next day, packed up 10 years of my life in 8 hours, drove 550 miles to Detroit, unloaded my stuff, celebrated my Granny & sister’s birthday, drove 550 miles back to Nashville, and got fired from my job.

And here I am… A year later.

I look back on the madness of a year ago, and I actually laugh.  It was ridiculous and frankly, quite unbelievable.  The stories I have, the shit I put myself through, the hamster wheel that never stopped, the guys I insisted on (and yet was in denial of) wasting my time on…

God knew what He was doing.  As frantic as it all sounds, I never doubted that the Universe did what it did to bring me here.  I can’t believe how much happier I am.  How much more hopeful I am.  How much more motivated and passionate I am about life, my family, love, and of course, music…

I could go on and on and on about all the differences and gifts and awakenings the last 12 months has given me, but this blog entry is long enough.  We will get to it.

Right now, I’m about to pack up the car and drive from Detroit to Oneida, NY with my boyfriend/the best love in the world/not the guy from a year ago, where one of my very best friends is getting married this weekend.  She was my roomie/sidekick for years in Nashville and her story is a lot like mine.  But again, we’ll get to that in another blog soon.

Much love to you all.

Thanks so much for reading.

And hey, call your Grandparents.  They miss you.

RW

 

 

 

 

 

the bright side of 2am leftovers on a pull-out couch.

It is legit 2am.

I have a lot to say, but I’m not gonna lie… I’m tired…slightly buzzed…and extremely full on the Thai leftovers I had from yesterday’s lunch.

I’ll say this though…

Today was a good day.  A really, really good day.

I got to sing background vocals alongside 2 complete, MONSTER vocalists, whom I admire to the utmost degree…Vickie Carrico and Scat Springs.  The artist, Brandon Calhoon, is a friend of mine from here in Nashville but is actually a fellow Detroit rocker.  The album is being produced by my producer, Jim “Moose” Brown.  So overall, it truly was a dream.

A dream, and yet, initially, very intimidating.  Vickie and Scat are the definition of “pro”…their range, their ability the find parts, their ability to always stay on pitch, their ability to create parts that you don’t even know are there… it’s incredible.  I should know…they sang backgrounds on my entire album.

The fact that I was called to sing WITH them was daunting.  It’s crazy how we doubt our abilities sometimes.  Like, maybe we’re not as good as we think we are.  I know I’ve done it to myself plenty of times over the years.  It’s good for us though.  The difference is though, now, I can push through the insecurity and just sing/say/write exactly what comes into my brain and people trust it and follow my lead.  It’s a crazy concept but it’s seeming to work.  Today was magical.

I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve gotten at this point/age/stage in  life.  I’m thankful that people believe in me.  I’m thankful that I’m FINALLY back to a place where I’m believing and trusting in myself again.  Because there was a long stretch of time where I didn’t.  And it was miserable.  And I was stagnate because of it.  But I’m good.  I’m better than good.  I own my shit and I shouldn’t apologize or speak meekly about it.  No one is ever gonna fight for me like me.

No one is ever gonna fight for you like you.

This week in Nashville has been exhausting on a lot of levels.  Emotionally, I feel drained from giving friends advice and worrying about things that really don’t have anything to do with me.  But I want them to be happy.  So I carry their burdens, regardless if they asked me to or not.  Physically, I’ve been singing my ass off a large majority of the time, and afterwards, engaging in social life talks/wine-vodka consumption til late hours.  So I’m definitely tired.

But overall, I’m just so, so thankful.  Honestly.

I’m thankful that I get these calls to make music.  I’m thankful that people want to write songs with me.  I’m thankful that I don’t have to deal with the dating bullshit/lower any standards/the excuses/the douchebaggery anymore.  I’m thankful that tomorrow morning, I get to load up my car and drive 8 hours north and obsess over my brand new baby niece, and my other sister’s big pregnant belly that’s due in 2 weeks, my beautiful Granny, my boyfriend who is greater than any words will express, and my dogs that hopefully have missed me all week.

For the first time ever, I can sit on a pull out couch, with “Dateline” playing in the background, and my left-over container stinking up the room and say… “Hey, this life is pretty fucking grand.”  And isn’t that the dream…?  It might not look the same to everybody, but if you’ve got it, hold it…build from it. It won’t fail you if you don’t let it go.  IMG_2373IMG_2353IMG_2342IMG_2290IMG_2190IMG_2187