Burden or light.

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

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

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

I lost faith in myself.

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

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

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

I cannot ignore it.

I cannot turn off the voice inside.

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

So, I have a choice.

We all have a choice.

Burden or light.

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

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

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

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

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

Their response to my bleeding heart confessions…?

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

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

Yup.

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

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

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

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

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“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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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ultimate “swipe right”

Around this time last year, I was asked out on date by a dude on Tinder, who’s caption read, “It’s getting cold outside.  Looking for a girlfriend for the winter.”  True story.

A girl with my dating track record really had nothing to lose.

I had JUST relocated to Michigan for a few months to work on a music project.  I had no social life outside of my family.  I’d just ended an 8 month turbulent relationship.  Detroit was frozen over and there weren’t enough bulky sweaters or Ugg boots to keep me warm.  I was the perfect candidate for Tinder.

I arrived 40 minutes late to my first date with Jon.
He was just relieved I showed up and that I wasn’t a dude.

It was a pleasant night, especially considering I had low expectations.  Tinder does that to you.  Well, no, dating does that to you,  ha.  We had dinner and drinks and walked to a local vodka distillery in the freezing cold.  When the night was over, there was a hug goodnight and we drove to our separate homes.

When he followed up the next day to make plans for a 2nd date, I won’t lie, I hesitated.  The whole “seeing someone” thing did not appeal to me.  Been there, done that, caught on fire one too many times.  I’m good…I’m only looking for attention.

I know I’m too much.  I’m loud and unfiltered, exceptionally weird as shit AND I work in music.  I like to bare my midriff and bar hop any day of the week.  I casually “date” and own (laugh at) every single dramatic/scandalous/entertaining story that comes with that.  I’m independent, I don’t know how to communicate through any vessel other than sarcasm and I’m too tired to give a shit about guys anymore.  The few guys I ever actually called a boyfriend ultimately ended up royally mind-@#*!ing me and inspiring my entire songwriting catalog.

And yet, there I was in November of 2015…600 miles away from those disasters.  Those stories.  Those bars, that scene, those exes.  I’m older now, it’s starting to feel less cute.  I’m also in a completely different part of the country now.  So what was going to be my excuse?   Did I want the path of destruction to run north and south…Or did I want to do it differently…Am I really not going to go out with this guy a few more times because of who I’ve been 600 miles south?  I was off the hamster wheel.  I was in Michigan.  No hamsters live through Michigan winters.

I’m not going to say I gave Jon a chance.  Because in all honesty, it wasn’t HIM that I was doubting at all.  It was me.  So I will say that from our 2nd date on…I gave MYSELF a chance.  I gave myself a chance to prove false whatever self-defeating thoughts I’d be carrying around in my head and in my heart that I couldn’t be/didn’t want to be “the relationship type”.  

And it truly was a process.
It’s a process to unlearn all the self-sabotaging thoughts/feelings/behaviors.  You can’t silence that inner voice as quickly as you’d like to.  We’d be out to dinner and he’d compliment me, only for me to roll my eyes or make a stupid face and say, “Yeah, ok.”  I’d say that happened for the first 3-4 months, easily.  And every time he’d say, “I’m just going to keep saying it until you start to believe it.”  Seriously, what is wrong with this guy?  He’d do thoughtful gestures like put gas in my car or surprise me with flowers or buy/ship me a Tempur Pedic pillow when I was out of town, and at least half the time I’d say, “Why’d you do that?  You don’t have to do that.”  Like, he was trying too hard or something.  Or even worse, he just doesn’t reeeeallllly know me yet.  Because once he does, this shit will stop.  We’ll both be swiping again soon enough.  Luckily, none of that was true.

Aside from the nice dinners or the thoughtful gifts or the sweet compliments, I was in awe of his patience more than anything.  And I still am.  I know I’m not easy.  I’m still learning.

Jon set the stage for me to look at myself in a way I never had before.  Kind of like “Pretty Woman” only minus the getting paid for sex part.  He gave me an opportunity to be a woman truly worth pursuing…the way my mom, my dad, my grandma always hoped a man would win me over.  And let’s be honest here, they’d all just about given up hope, ha.  I don’t blame them though.  They knew what I’d put myself through in the past.  He showed me that it’s okay to want these things.  It’s okay to think of myself as worthy and deserving of a mountain-moving love.

All the things I used to deem cheesy or unrealistic about being in a relationship were deemed so because I’d never felt it before.  I thought I didn’t want it because I didn’t know it.  So I never hoped for it, I never held out for it, I never asked for it.  I talked myself out of it long before any guy would end up disappointing me.

And Jon just gave his all.  Without question.  And continues to do so.

Not only did he expose me to new way to love…but he exposed me to his larger-than-life (borderline creepy) obsession with his bulldog, Stella, his ridiculous ‘if Danny Tanner were trying to seduce you’ dance moves, his grumpy old man opinions on everything from music to politics, he closet full of nothing more than plaid shirts and blue hoodies, his sappy and sensitive feelings when he’s had more than 3 IPAs, his super intense foot rubs,  his awkward story/joke delivery, and a million other things that I whole-heartedly love.

Who would have thought that after a decade of dating in Music City, I’d wind up with a car dealer in Michigan… Not I, that’s for sure.  But somehow, somewhere our stories blended perfectly.  And shit, we just stood side by side for last 365 days creating a new one.

I’ll drink to that.

 

 

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 naïve 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 🙂

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
elizabeth
Elizabeth Gail Fontana

 

 

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