Self-Care, Nashville Style

From the time I was a little girl, I was listening to some sort of music somewhere. My dad shared his love of rock, country and bluegrass with us kids by taking us to bluegrass festivals and shows in Lancaster and other local places; we were raised to love music and to appreciate the chance to see it live. (With the number of Spotify playlists my siblings and I share on a regular basis, you can say that love is alive and well!) Dad even rocked me as a baby in a rocking chair while he converted all his records to cassette tapes. Don’t judge – I know that makes me old!

Saturday nights in our house consisted of evening baths, my mom setting me and my sister’s hair in foam rollers for church the next day, and the Grand Ole Opry on TV. We watched Little Jimmie Dickens tell jokes with a big smile on his face, Patty Loveless belt out Kentucky ballads and scores of others sing from Nashville every Saturday night.

We were taught the history of country music and how the Ryman Auditorium, “The Mother Church”, was one of the most respected and revered musical venues in the country. Dad loved to play shows from the Ryman and even though the Opry wasn’t played there anymore, we watched many events recorded from that stage. So, you can understand the Ryman was a big deal to us.

Fast forward thirtyish years….

Moving to a new state and town is exciting, scary and kinda weird. You start a new job and your new coworkers are basically the only people you know. Literally. So, you make start to get to know people and make friends and go home to….well, yourself. Then you gather up your courage to try something new and start meeting people in the area. Showing up to things and making acquaintances…hoping that some of them will turn into friends. And – get this – some do! And it’s really awesome. But – you’re still in newish friend zone, so you don’t feel comfortable with asking them to go just anywhere yet.

I’m supremely lucky in that I had a friend in CO (here’s to you April!) who made me feel not all alone there and one I hadn’t met in person but had known for years here in Tennessee. I’m pretty sure Nicole was sent to make sure I didn’t have a mental breakdown those first few weeks and has quickly become one of the best people I have ever known. She is hilarious, kind to everyone and this woman has taken care of me from almost the day I hit Nashville. She’s also a classic dork like me who loves memes and never judges when I feel like I might get emotional. Oh, and she’s also a hockey fan – so, legit awesome all around.

Anywho…..Nicole took me to a few Preds games and I was surprised to find that the Bridgestone Arena is literally across the street from the Ryman and that both of them are gateways to the craziness of the honky tonks of lower Broadway. That corner is crowded, loud, crazy at all different times and just utterly fascinating. She showed me places to park, eat and people watch – and promised we’d get to the Ryman one day.

If you guys were friends with me during the “Concert Kim” phase, you know I love going to see live music and am usually checking to see who’s gonna be where and when, and if I can go see them. So naturally, I signed up for a bunch of email lists in Nashville and am starting to see artists here in town. And I know it’s not a big surprise, but there’s a lot of good music here. All over.

One day I got an email about upcoming shows at the Ryman and I saw The SteelDrivers were going to be in town on a random Thursday night. They’re a bluegrass band that have been around for a long time and used to have the Chris Stapleton as their front man. Yep. Stapleton. The guys at work in Denver introduced them to me and I’ve been a fan since I heard them belting out “Blue Side Of The Mountain” in the shop. I listened to them in repeat for weeks and “Where Rainbows Never Die” was my number one listened song on Spotify in 2020. By a landslide. It’s a freaking awesome song with a beautiful intro. Listen to it sometime.

I did something crazy and bought myself a ticket. So I went. All by myself. Parked in the garage Nicole showed me and headed to the Assembly Food Hall for dinner (which she also introduced me to) and got to watch some live music there as well. All the while thinking that, in just an hour or so, I was going to walk into the Ryman for the first time. It was weird – like I had some kind of uncanny awareness that something I had looked forward to for a long time was gonna happen. It was almost like I was scared to mess it up. As I said, weird.

An hour before show time, I walked across the street and didn’t even know how to get in. It was kinda funny – the doors face Broadway but you don’t actually go in there. There’s a path around the back of the building that winds through some statues of famous stars – including Bill Monroe – before entering into a courtyard that filters you into the building.

You guys – the AMOUNT of old people milling around that courtyard carrying stadium seats, lawn chair cushions and blankets to sit on cracked me the hell up! I knew the Ryman had literal church pews to sit on, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting this. I even saw one elderly lady push people out of her way with her cane. I’m sitting there cracking up with a crazy grin on my face. I seriously hope I’m that awesome when I’m that old.

Then I walked in. And felt a certain kind of way. Like I could feel this was a big deal. I was finally in there! There are stained glass windows, pews and a really cool staircase. I walked up those steps looking at the windows and just breathed “I’m here”. It was so surreal. It was just a building but it was like you could feel, smell and taste the history there. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had.

I walked down and sat in my pew (so cool!) and got ready for the show to start. Bill Cody, the guy that MC’s the Opry came out and welcomed us all there. The sound of his voice practically made me tear up – it was just like it was all those times we watched him on TV as kids. So freaking cool!

Troubadour Blue came out as the openers and those kids brought the house down. Their energy, crazy harmonies and musical genius wowed the whole crowd. These guys are GOOD. Really good. And their songs are lyrically entertaining. At one point during their set, the lead singer says to us “I know we’re probably not the ones you came to see and some of you may have been here before, but this will forever be the first time we play the Ryman”. And he choked up. We gave them a standing ovation. And my eyes were leaking a little bit. They were incredible. I follow their Instagram and they are still riding high on that emotion and it’s been weeks at this point. I wanted to find that guy and tell him I had no idea I was going to see them play, but the opening notes to their song was the first ones I would ever hear live at the Ryman. I’m still getting goosebumps.

Then, The SteelDrivers walked onstage and proceeded to blow us away for the next couple hours. They were so good – they have great harmonies, they’re all good musicians and I pretty much fell in love with them all over again. And their latest lead singer is simply a gorgeous man – just throwing that out there. They played twenty songs and I sang along with almost every single one. I was in my happy place watching this band play songs that had come to mean so much to me – and it was in the Ryman! It was incredible.

Oh Mr. Hot Stuff also told us at one point that it was his first time at the Ryman and we gave him a standing ovation as well. He got so emotional he picked up a towel to dry his face. It was cool. Then Tammy Rogers (one of the original members) thanked us for making it special for him and asked if any of us were there for the first time. A few of us raised our hands and everyone applauded. It was pretty cool. I also felt a certain kinda way about that moment.

They played my three favorite songs at the end of the night (of course they were last- they were the best!) and did “Where Rainbow Never Die” as the encore. The second those familiar notes of the intro were played, I couldn’t help it anymore. I gave up. The emotion of the night finally got to me and tears ran down my face as I tried to video it and bask in the making of that memory all at the same time. I will never forget that moment. It was emotional and sweet and all mine and it was glorious.

After they finished the song, they took a bow, we applauded them and the house lights came up. I followed the crowd down the stairwell and came out in the street to the neon lights of Broadway in the hot and muggy summer night. And walking back to the car, I had the biggest grin on my face. I looked up to the sky and just said “thank you”. I was supremely glad I went and so very glad I went by myself. I didn’t have to worry about someone else not liking them, or wanting to leave early or thinking that me fangirling over a freaking wonderful building was weird. It went better than I could have imagined and it was an experience I will treasure for a lifetime.

I called my dad when I got home just to tell him all about it. I wanted to share my exuberance with him as he was the one who started it all in the first place. And bless him – it was late as hell on the east coast and he still listened to me babble on and was thrilled for me. I love how life brings you back around sometimes.

A few days later I told my new friends about it and they said they would’ve gone with me (guess I should’ve been comfortable asking them after all), so they’re totally going to see Aaron Lewis with me in December! But I think Nicole said it best – that this experience would not have been the same and it would not have been so personal to me if I had gone with someone else. That this was something that was mine to do and to have – and that it was a night I would remember forever. And she’s so right – it really was.

So I hope you remember this story when you have the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do. It may be scary or weird and you may have to go by yourself, but here’s to making new memories with your own fine self. And walking out afterwards with a big ass grin on your face because you had the time of your life and you wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Rock on.

Picture credits are by yours truly. Credit for the name of this post goes to Nicole 🙂

A Single Holiday Season

It started with Halloween.  I didn’t actually realize it at the time, but that is totally where it began. It’s probably my least favorite holiday to start with – mostly because I pretty much hate horror. And being scared (and for some reason, people just LOVE scaring me). Anyway, Halloween brings massive amounts of candy, decorations, costumes and the inevitable slew of fall family photo session posts. Whether just cute kids in costumes or happy family shots of smiling parents and darling children surrounded by falling autumn leaves, they’re there.  Everywhere.  All over social media.  Showcasing how happy and together everyone’s life is.

Stick with me here.  This is not a plea for attention nor a blast on those who post these photos.  I personally know of a lot of people who have prayed for years for a spouse and/or children, and these pictures are a testament to their faith and joy.  No issues here, people.

What I would like to bring awareness to are the ones who are hanging in there on their own, whether firmly intact or hanging by a thread.  Holidays suck for single people sometimes.  They just do.  And you don’t even have to be one of those singles who is hardcore looking for a significant other, seriously.  I personally go back and forth.  Last weekend?  I was totally annoyed at life, my single status and the fact that every third post on Facebook showed a happy, smiling family unit.  It seemed like they were mocking me.  Every single one. And the way it made me feel? And my reaction to it? Let’s just say it’s wasn’t pretty.

What manifested from that is something I am not particularly proud of.  Issues in my work life crept into my personal life and I felt like a complete failure who was going to be alone for the rest of her life. (Crazy, right? But we’ve all been there a time or two.) Then I had to attend a bridal shower, where at one point, one of the ladies made all of us “single ladies in the back” stand up so everyone could see us and have our picture taken. The words in my head at that moment people! (Although let me point out here that I love this particular bride and, through the haze of my blah, I was completely happy for her) In light of all this, last Sunday ended up being a pretty rough day for me and I was pretty bitchy.  A funny, snarky bitch, but one nonetheless. Thankfully, my friends put up with me and laughed me through it. Later that night, I had a long talk with one of my best friends and realized my fear and discontent was at the heart of it. We worked through some of those issues and I felt a lot better.

I knew I was gonna regret it, but I told her I was thinking of taking a break from Facebook. I’d realized I was on it more often than usual and that it wasn’t good for my mental health at the moment. Being the great friend that she is, she offered to do the same. So, for the past week I stayed off of Facebook.

I’d like to tell you I didn’t miss it at all, but you know the truth. I was seriously addicted. Had no idea how many times a day I stopped to see what the world was doing. By Wednesday I was pretty disgusted with myself and found that life indeed went on without Facebook. It was oddly freeing.

But back to the main point – holidays get interesting for single people. Here’s the thing, Thanksgiving and Christmas are my two favorite holidays and I will celebrate them in whatever way possible. I love going to parties and even hosting them. But what sucks for single people is celebrating them in a way where you end up making concessions for everyone else.

Not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s put it this way – think about the last few years and maybe even the upcoming holidays – who have you have invited to your events? Where do you put them? Some of my single friends are still stuck at the kids table – while younger people sit at the main table simply because they’re a couple. Some are invited as afterthoughts because the family members they normally celebrate with were invited elsewhere. Some have to change their plans last minute to accommodate siblings or other family members simply because “well, you’re only one person”. All while expected to bring food contributions, gifts and to show up looking classy and put together because “there’s no one else to take care of” and you can look good cause “you have all the time in the world” and “you need to attract men!”. Yet they’re the ones paying for all of that stuff by themselves. Because they are one person.

See what I mean? Most people don’t even notice. Hell, half the time us single people don’t even care. Because we’re with the people we love and we get to celebrate the holidays. (And honestly, we can go home by ourselves and go right to sleep if we want. Pros/cons) But then there’s the inevitable years where it feels off. Where you wish you had someone to attend all the events and parties with. Where you get tired of answering the same three or four questions that apparently are the go-to “ask the single person” ones.

So, in order to escape the weird questions or feelings or even loneliness, we end up on Facebook checking to see what’s new only to be bombarded again with the happy families, new engagements and overall good stuff that people post. All to have the stark reality thrown right back in your face. It’s real out in the field, people.

We are not alone in this either – any single parent, couple longing for children or people simply unhappy in their marriage more than likely go through the same thing.

My plea in this post is to think about these people during this holiday season. Don’t stuff the singles wherever you may have room cause you had to invite them. Remember for all intents and purposes they are a “family unit” as well. I’ve personally experienced the things I’ve pointed out and most times you just roll with it. Because that’s life and where I am in it for the time being. But it’s when people tell you that you should be more flexible (in whatever situation) because “it’s just you”, is when I usually lose it. You’re already trying to manage all this stuff on your own and then someone says something like that and it just make you feel like a friggin winner.

So here are some pointers. Instead of the obligatory questions about work, “where are you traveling to next” and, my personal favorite, “have you thought about online dating”, ask us what our favorite thing was this year. What was the best thing we learned? How are we making out with life? Do we need any help, advice or someone to talk to? (In my case it will probably be “do you need therapy? Lol)

This rant is how I feel now and it doesn’t usually last long. I’ll probably be just fine and dandy in a few weeks and be out celebrating somewhere. I’ll be fine – but please just think about those celebrating alone this season and make them feel just as special and loved as the others. Because they usually are.

The ones who put up with me 😉

It Takes A Village

12 weeks ago, a business friend of mine called me and offered me a job. At a new company. In a new state. Across the country. To many people today, this is not outside the norm. People do it all the time. Maybe not across the country, but people switch jobs and states more often than I realized.

As per my last post, you guys know I accepted the job and was making preparations to tie up loose ends and make the trek to Colorado. I knew I was in for a crazy eight weeks of preparation, but I didn’t know how hard it was going to be. Selling a house, buying a car, trying to end a job well, make arrangements to live in Colorado, not to mention training someone to take my job over and endless introductory meetings with clients and vendors.

Some of you know what my last day, 1/26 was like. I settled on selling my house, purchased a car, quit my job of 17 years, said goodbye to some people who mean the world to me, and left my home State for a new one. All on the same day. Talk about emotional!

Then came the goodbyes – they were the hardest of all. I am not a classic crier people – but I’ve cried more in the last two weeks than the last few years combined. Family members, friends, coworkers. People who love me and have been a big part of my life for a long time. I’ve shared memories and events (some of them life-changing) with so many people and it’s hard to think of life far away from them.

Looking back on the last few weeks, I realize even though it felt like I was making 638948736 decisions and doing everything on my own, there were so many people helping me and I was ultimately taken care of. From packing to cleaning to moving things to goodbye dinners to meals, there are countless people who came along side to help me on this journey. Once I left on my road trip, I had people like Dana and Josh and April letting me stay and hang out with them.

There were many reasons why I even considered this change and then went about it. Some I’ve shared and some only God knows why. The point is that I’ve learned a lot through these 12 weeks and here is one of the most important ones – God did not return void. I was afraid I was going to leave my past job under less than desirable terms a few years ago. But justice prevailed and I was able to leave on terms better than I could even imagine.

The other cool thing? Kindness gets returned people. I received cards, letters and gifts from people I had no idea how I affected. My momma always told me there “is never an excuse not to be nice to someone”. I didn’t always agree with her, but it became something I strived to do. Be nice. Even if they aren’t. It’ll come back to bite them and repay you in the end. Even if it takes years.

I have to admit something though – this is a epic adventure I’m on and somewhere I’m still excited about it. But leaving is HARD. I was a mess last night wondering “What the frig did I just do???” I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t expect to have a rough time with it emotionally. The brevity of my decision and the exhaustion of the past weeks finally caught up with me. My friend also pointed out that I am grieving the life I left behind. And she’s right. I am.

But again – here’s the thing. Were the last twelve weeks hard as hell? Yes. Was it hard making decisions by myself on things I only half knew? Yes. But did I get though it? YES. Am I still glad I did it? YES.

I have no idea what the next few months hold and what awesome things I’m going to learn and experience. But you know what? I’m going to take advantage of it and LIVE. And grow. (Although I feel I’ve had enough of that for awhile. Lol)

So don’t forget to be nice to people. Help out someone you know who is going through a change themselves. Look for those opportunities. You can be part of their village. And don’t be afraid to step outside your own comfort zones and make a change if it’s needed. Hey – if I can do it, so can you!