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A Playlist For The Imperfect Phoenix

Because Sometimes, You Have To Rise From The Ashes More Than Once

By Misty RaePublished 27 days ago Updated 27 days ago 10 min read
Beyond Imagination by Carl Parker: Used with permissions www.parkerart.ca

Trigger Warning: The following mentions instances of domestic violence and may not be suitable for all readers.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

(Taken from Still I Rise by Maya Angelou)

My life has been a series of extremes, the highest heights and the lowest lows. Sometimes they've been self-induced. Sometimes life just dealt me some pretty crappy cards. And through it all there's been music, little melodic signposts through a journey now over 5 decades in the making.

Despite my humble and chaotic entrance into the world as the product of a then - scandalous mixed-race, unwed pairing, my mother's untimely death and my subsequent adoption, my early childhood was filled with joy.

Happy little girl before the world got to her

I spent my pre-school years feeling special and oblivious to the how the world saw me. Watching television with my father while munching on snacks he prepared was the highlight of every night.

My father was and still is the best man I ever knew. He took in his brother's 3 children, adopting 1 (me) with no questions asked. He was the type of guy that would give the shirt off his back to someone who needed it more.

He had a keen sense of justice, of what was right and wrong. And deep down, he was a giant kid. I suppose that's because he never actually got to be a child. He quit school at 10 to work with his father to help support what would become a family of 13.

Dad loved cartoons and kids' shows. He especially loved Kermit the Frog. We never missed the Muppet Show. Hearing the theme song puts me right back on that horrible plastic-covered brown floral sofa with him. I can taste the bad of broken Oh Henry type bars that Woolco sold by the bag. I can smell his Old Spice cologne and feel his big hand, warm, rough from work, but gentle, teasingly pushing my tiny one away from the largest pieces of candy. And I can hear my mother admonishing him for encouraging my greed.

And like any good Canadian, Daddy loved hockey! The whole hosue loved hockey! My brother loved it. My mother loved it. There wasn't a Saturday night that I can remember hockey not being on, if it was, in fact, hockey season.

My Dad sent away and ordered me a stuffed Peter Puck.

We placed bets on the games while, again, eating snacks. Mom always had Hostess plain chips, a slice of cheese and a glass of Golden ginger ale. She had very specific tastes. Daddy and I would eat whatever he decided was on the menu. And my brother, 15 years my senior would float in and out.

Both Mom and Bruce were Habs fans. Daddy was 100% Leafs Nation. And I was a bit of a fink. We'd place bets at the start of the game. But I would switch midway through. I changed my bet to whatever team happened to be ahead so that I could ensure I'd get the coveted dollar bill.

Sure, there'd be protests, but I always got my money.

Of course the day came when I had to leave the shelter of the nest and face the world. I had to go to school.

For the most part, I liked it. Well, the school part. I was good at that. The 3 Rs, I had that down! The social stuff, not so much. I was awkward and small and different, with my frizzy hair and oddly sharp mind.

I wanted to be like the other girls, pretty, with flowing straight hair and lots of friends. I wanted to go to the parties and to be noticed. I wasn't.

Mrs. Beattie's Grade 4 Class...Note the awkward child with all the hair

Funny, I look at that little girl now and it breaks my heart. I don't see what I saw, what I thought everyone saw back then. All I see is a beautiful child. I wish someone would have told her. Well, someone did, but nobody listens to parents, they have to say you're pretty, right?

So this is for that little girl who was beautiful no matter what they said.

Graduating from high school was a huge deal for me. Not because it was hard, but because I was going to go on to further education. That was a huge deal for my father. And for me too.

Somewhere during my senior year, I gained confidence. I'm not sure how or why, but for a while there, I was on top of the world!

Ready to take on the world! Graduation picture, 1989

It was a heddy time in my life. I even ventured outside my comfort zone and tried out for the school's Christmas production! I'd always wanted to join the drama club, but was too scared before.

And guess what? I was in like Flynn! Front and centre on stage for all to see because I could do what no one else could. I could do cartwheels, absolutely perfectly straight cartwheels!

There's nothing like the thrill of being on stage! The pressure to perform, the very real knowledge that all eyes are on you, the thrill of hitting all the marks, delivering all the lines and killing it, the applause! It's amazing, it's intoxicating, and this is the song it all happened to:

I can still feel the excitement. I can still taste the purple Hubba Bubba that Mr. Meade made me spit out. I can smell the stage makeup that was caked on my face. And I can see my father sitting front and centre with tears of pride in his eyes.

But the prospect of graduation wasn't all fun and games. I couldn't exactly put my finger on it then, but I can now. There was an uncertainty, a trepidation, excited as it was, but trepidation nonetheless, that came from leaving the safety of what we'd known for so long.

Suddenly, at 17 and 18, we were no long children. We were adults, thrust into an adult world and relishing it, but also still wanting, needing, the warm comfort of home and family.

What I didn't realize at the time was that it wasn't just that we were changing or that I was changing. The entire world was changing. We were on the cusp of transformation.

The carefree, upbeat 80s were fading into the annals of history, replaced with something uncomfortable and unfamiliar, angst. It perfectly described where I was at that time and Skid Row said it best with 18 and Life:

Confusion aside, I experienced a strange rebirth in my first year of university. Maybe it was the freedom. Maybe it was leftover confidence from the year before. I don't know. All I do know is all of a sudden, I was cool!

Boys that never noticed me months before wanted to date me. There were parties everywhere and I was invited. On a campus of thousands from all over the world, I wasn't that strange or different.

There's one song that brings that feeling back to me. Adult children, we were, out there, making mistakes, absent supervision, tasting all life had to offer and it tasted great!

She Drives Me Crazy by the Fine Young Cannibals. It was always playing in Shelley's car. I still remember that little Nissan. I think it was white and every single time she picked me up (I didn't drive at the time), that was the song.

There was a small crew of us, we know who we are and for a short time, it was magic!

But life has a funny way of biting you in the ass and the magic died. I backed the wrong horse, so to speak. And suddenly, I went form carefree co-ed to mother.

My days were no longer books, classes and socials. They were bills, too many bills, diapers and baby puke. Never mind worrying about acting grown up, it was time to grow up. And I did.

We never had any money. My ex refused to work. I worked 3 jobs, but I did try to bring some joy into our dismal existence.

My oldest son loved music. He danced before he could walk. I suppose that's why he left his job as a Chemist to become a music producer, and a successful one at that..

To get away from his father, I'd take the baby to my parents' place for the weekend. They were always happy to see him. In fact, I'm pretty sure my father was more excited to see him than me. He used to greet me at the door, with arms outstretched, demanding, "Hi, gimmie the baby!"

I'd put his playpen up in the livingroom and every Friday night, he'd get down with his bad self to the following:

Yup, the In Living Colour theme song! I loved the show and he loved the music. He couldn't walk, but he could stand and as soon as he heard it, he grabbed the side of the playpen, pulled himself up and danced his little butt off.

Our life wasn't great. I worked 3 jobs. He worked none. I was scared, broke and alone, at least as far as I felt. I stayed because I had 3 boys. I prided myself on having their father in the home. Never mind the beatings. Never mind the hands around my throat. Never mind the cruel taunts:

You're ugly and scrawny.

No man will ever want you.

You're too stupid to be a lawyer.

I accepted my fate and the bed I'd made for myself because it wasn't about me anymore. Until it was.

I remember watching videos on CMT. Country was cool then. And After the last time he had his hands around my throat, I thought about the song. I thought about the fantasies I'd had about getting revenge.

But that's not me, so when he threw me to that burgundy carpet one last time, I put him out. He refused to go. I threatened to call the police. He gathered his belongings in a good hurry and went off to his girlfriend's house.

The only thing worse than raising 3 boys alone is raising them with a deadbeat abuser. I shed 210 pounds that day. He begged to come back. No. I had my independence day and I was reborn, risen from the ashes to look at the world in a new light:

We didn't have much but we had fun, the boys and I.

2 of 3 in the trailer park

And we had music. I had 2 CDs, that's all I could afford. One was Barry Manilow's greatest hits, the other was Big Willy Style. And Every morning to get the kids up and in the right frame of mind for school, we was Gettin' Jiggy With It:

Eventually, I got my driver's license. I was 32. The freedom I felt, finally being able to go run my own errands, to take my kids places, to do what I wanted to do! I can't even describe it. They joy was overwhelming and for some reason, Everybody Wants To Rule The World became my driving song.

I don't know why. It may not make sense. It just is and to this day, almost 20 years later, that some represents my emancipation in some way and I blast it....LOUD!

So I drove. I drove everywhere. And I drove my butt to school. That's right, I drove myself to university to finish what I started all those years before.

And guess what? I did it! I worked nights, I raised 3 boys, I got an undergraduate degree with a 4.2 GPA. And then I went to law school.

My law school graduation pic

I graduated with my law degree at 37. I invited my ex to my bar call, the ceremony where you officially become a lawyer. He wanted to know what bar it was at. Hahaha, how do you like me now?

I can still taste the satisfaction. It's still sweet as honey!

And you know what I learned? I learned that if I give myself a little respect:

And as long as I use the perseverance and strength I have inside of me, I will survive:

And now, smack in the middle of mid-life, there may be a little dust on the bottle:

But I'm a bitch brickhouse with the eye of the tiger. And that makes me simply the best.

Because I had to be.

I'm not a perfect phoenix. I wasn't able to rise from the ashes once and make it stick. I tried. I failed. I succeeded. I failed some more. I won and I lost. I may bend, but I will never, ever break! I'm still standing and that's what counts.

valuesimmediate family

About the Creator

Misty Rae

Retired legal eagle, nature love, wife, mother of boys and cats, chef, and trying to learn to play the guitar. I play with paint and words. Living my "middle years" like a teenager and loving every second of it!

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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  1. Compelling and original writing

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Comments (17)

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  • HandsomelouiiThePoet (Lonzo ward)4 days ago

    You're still standing and that's all that matters ❤️💯❗Thanks for sharing this Awesome Article and Emotions 😉📝

  • Muntasir6 days ago

    Amazing Story!

  • Jay Kantor12 days ago

    Dear Misty ~ So Glad that I've discovered your carefully selected words/along with your gorgeous presentations through the VM Chat. *I've subscribed to 2/U with pleasure. - As Toby may have said, "How do I Like you NOW" - Jay Kantor, Chatsworth, California 'Senior' Vocal Author - Vocal Author Community -

  • Heather Hubler27 days ago

    Congratulations on Top Story! This was such an honest, heartfelt piece. Thank you for sharing your story. And you did such a wonderful job weaving those meaningful songs in so effortlessly. I love so many of them too!

  • Gerald Holmes27 days ago

    This was very well done. Your story is inspiring. Great selection of songs. Congrats on a well deserved Top story.

  • Sarah Amam27 days ago

    Fabulous.congrats on TS.

  • Great story & soundtrack. I'm glad that you finally began to realize just how beautiful you were & are. That fourth grade picture--a miniature Amy Irving in all her glory. And what I assume was your senior picture for high school, I'd have asked you to marry me within five seconds of meeting you! (It was my thing. I'm autistic, so in order to talk to a woman I found attractive I had to say something stupid like, "Will you marry me?") You'd have said, "No," we'd have talked & hopefully become friends. But if you had given any indication that "yes" was a possibility, I'd have moved heaven & earth to make it so! Is your ex still alive? 'Cause I'm thinking by now he'd probably have killed himself for not doing everything he could to make you happy! Okay, enough of the gushing. What an incredible story! You are an amazing woman & ought to be incredibly proud of everything you've accomplished. And I pray that you & your current husband are incredibly happy together & grow moreso with each & every passing day. (Your profile pic makes it look as though you're well on your way in that department.) Blessings to you & all yours.

  • Lynn Anderson 27 days ago

    You closed with one of my favorite jams -- I'm still standing! Congrats on TS!

  • Cathy holmes27 days ago

    Congrats on the TS

  • Babs Iverson27 days ago

    Fabulous, absolutely fabulous!!! Congratulations on T S too!!!💖💖💕

  • Brenton F27 days ago

    An amazing story punctuated by awesome tunes(!8 and Life!) Well Done!

  • Dana Stewart27 days ago

    I really enjoyed this, and the music too. Well done, Misty! Congrats on Top Story!

  • Excellent personal narrative and I enjoyed your music 🎼 congratulations on top story!

  • Ah you absolutely nailed it

  • Mariann Carroll27 days ago

    I absolutely love your playlist 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰Took me back in time in memory lane

  • Cathy holmes27 days ago

    Bravo. Fabulous story and playlist.

  • Judey Kalchik 27 days ago

    I love this! What a way to tie your epic self to these epic songs. Keep on singing!

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