Friday, November 14, 2014

What it's like to be with the same person for nine years




I never realize just how long I’ve been with my boyfriend until we’re in social situations, mostly with new people, who ask, “How long have you two been together?” Or when someone says something like, “Well, we’ve been together about a year and a half--nowhere near as long as you guys…”

The truth is, I don’t really think about it. Al is one of the biggest parts of my life, yet I never really sit down and think that nine years is a long time. To me, it isn’t. It’s not long at all.

But here we are, thinking about it.

Nine years ago, this is what my life was like:
I had just gotten over the death of my step-dad and a round of self-destructive and not-healthy behavior.
I didn’t want to be in any type of relationship.
All I wanted was to finish high school, go to college, and move far, far away.

Then my junior years rolls around and there he is.

--But let’s back up a little--
Rewind to three years or so before I met Al. My sister was dating a kid who invited us to a Halloween party at his youth group. I think I was like, 15? 16? Anyway, I was the only one who dressed like a “scary” thing so everyone was staring at me in the middle of the church basement and I immediately wanted to go home. But one of the stares seemed different than the others.
Boom.
There was a guy dressed in black and tripp pants sitting in one of the folding metal chairs, not talking to anyone. He had also dressed kind of scary. I didn’t know what it was about him, but I wanted to talk to him. I didn’t, of course.

Then I started high school. I had to take the bus because I didn’t have a car or a license or a friend with any of these things either. I looked out the window because something just told me to.
Boom.
He was standing outside of school, waiting for someone, the sun shining on his dark hair. He was wearing a sweatshirt and light colored jeans. His hair blew into his face every so often, which he was quick to flip away.
It was the same guy from the church basement.
I don’t know this at the time, of course, and the window was too thick, too much of a barrier between us, so again, I said nothing.

The way we actually did finally meet is kind of hazy. Like I couldn’t believe it was happening and so I just didn’t pay too close attention to it. But he had a friend that we were both friends with, and we would kind of play a game of telephone between her, both of us too shy and socially awkward to do anything else.
We got to Iming and Myspace messaging next.
It was weird, we lived so close to each other, yet we decided that putting computers between us was better to get to know each other.
One day, in the hall, he actually said hi to me.

I remember that day because I was having an extremely bad morning, and then he comes out of nowhere and talks to me in person. I didn’t know what to do, so I think I just smiled and maybe mumbled a “hey”. I don’t remember that either.
But I do remember that day in the gym locker room I put my pants on backwards because I was thinking about him.


I do remember that after that day, he waited for me outside of my first class and we walked through the hall together before we had to part ways at our lockers. Always silent, always awkward, yet somehow, okay with it.

On one of these days, he hugged me. I forget why, but it happened. And as he let go, he asked me something that I didn’t hear. I asked him to repeat it, and he said, rather nervously, “Will you go out with me?”

and I did.

We walked through the hall like always, quiet as ever. He was staring at me a lot so i asked, “What are you looking at?” to which he replied, “Nothing”, even more nervously. (This is a story he swears he will tell at our wedding one day. I’ll never live it down).
Later (like, two years later), he would tell me that he was staring because he couldn’t believe I had said yes. And I would tell him I asked the question because I was afraid he was regretting his decision and didn’t want to talk to me so I wanted to break the silence.

How much did this whole process take? Three months.
It seemed like a week to me.

Then what happened after that?

Life happened, for sure.

My first cat died, he helped me move (twice, I think), he waited patiently on the phone while things at my house were crazy and I was waiting for a quiet moment, but didn’t want to hang up, afraid to lose my life line. I published my first book, I started college, I published MORE books, my nana died,  I moved in with my dad, I moved out of his house a week later, my best friend had two kids, my other cat died, the hurricane happened, my dad died, I went on medication, I graduated college.

Life happened. Lots of life.

And it’s only when I look back at a specific memory that I realize that for a lot of the hard times, Al was there, either in the background, waiting to be called in, or right there with me, holding me up when I couldn’t stand anymore.

That’s what’s important to me. Not how long we’ve been together, but how MUCH.

I don’t mean this in time spent per day together; I mean, when you look at the person you call your significant other, do you see someone that you want to see you fall when you’re walking into a convenience store and although they laugh, they don’t think any less of you? Are you prepared for them to see you at your absolute worst? I’m not talking about waking up with no makeup on. I’m talking about being so upset that you can’t even look at yourself because you’re afraid you won’t look the same in the mirror. When you’re so broken that you don’t think you can ever be put back together? When you cry and have snot shooting out of your nose and running down your face and all they do is hold you and let you rub it into their shirt. When you think that one Disney movie is really dumb but the one scene makes you sad regardless because it reminds you of when you were a kid and even though they’ve heard you tell this story a million times, they let you tell them again without interrupting.



That’s what I mean.
Love is not some pretty thing covered in white lace.

Not for me, at least. And I wouldn’t want it that way.
Love is being secure, knowing that there is at least one person in this fucked up world that gets you (at least most of the time); that you aren’t alone, even when you’re drifting out at sea.

The past year has been hard. I’ve lived through it, and I would have probably lived through it if I was alone. But I wasn’t. Al was there, in the background, as well as holding me up. He didn’t judge me when I told him I was depressed. Instead, he took me on a walk in the woods and we talked. When my dad died alone and I blamed myself, he let me crumple in on myself on his living room floor until I had cried every bad thing out of me. When I was afraid of relapsing with self-harm, he talked to me, he held me together.

I’m not saying a “boyfriend” will solve my problems. Love does. Love is so simple, and the answer to nearly everything.

These words always seem to fall short of what I want to say, but I am so grateful we met. I’m so thankful we’ve been together for this long, that my monsters haven’t scared him away, that his “normalness” hasn’t scared me either. There is no one I can better imagine spending the rest of my life with than this person. I don’t care about marriage. I just care about time.

Because nine years isn’t enough.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What I've Learned Since Graduation


Today, I went to Wawa. Exciting, I know. Stay with me.
I’m dog sitting right now and they like to get up at five, so that’s when I was awake. I went to Wawa early this morning to get something to eat, and forgot that in this general area, Wawa is Mecca, the end all be all of places to get gas and crappy breakfast sandwiches.
Anyway, I saw them all in their various work clothes. Construction workers, men in suits, women in scrubs, a few people my age in uniforms for places like Target or Best Buy.
And it occurred to me, these people probably do this every day. They look at me in my pajamas and probably think I’m stumbling in after a night of partying or that I’m sick or something, ordering soup from the touch screen before retreating back to my house.


Hell, even when I tell people what I do, they don’t think I have an actual job. They think I sit at home watching cat videos and Ancient Aliens all day or something.


I’ve been out of college for four months now. I have just completed my first resume. And I have applied for zero jobs.


I work on the weekends at Petsmart (a job where I get to work with animals, so I love it, but it’s not something I see myself doing forever, or even full time), and during the week, this is what I’ve been doing:


Writing two books at once
Promoting my work
Answering emails
Designing book covers
Editing my own work
Workshopping the work of friends
Going to a few book fairs/library events
Freelance Ghostwriting
And I am also one half of Metamorphosis Editing Services, an editing company I made up with little hope of succeeding, but I wanted to try it out anyway. So Freelance Editing (it’s going better than expected, btw).


Let’s just break down the monetary value of these things, shall we?
Petsmart: $150/week
Writing two books at once: $0
Amazon Book Sales: depending on the month, $100-$200 per month
Promoting my work: $0
Answering emails: $0
Designing book covers: $150 per cover
Editing my own work: $0
Workshopping the work of friends: $0
Going to a few book fairs/library events $10-$100 (depending on how many paperbacks I sell)
Freelance ghostwriting: $150-$300 per book (yes, per BOOK)
Freelance editing: $25-$400 per manuscript (depending on word count)


What does all this mean? Well, I’m a poor-ass writer/editor for one thing, but let’s not think about that, shall we? What it means, on some level,  is that I do a hell of a lot of work for little to no money.


Writing is my first love, and I’m proud of whatever I write, even if I never sell a single book, but I’d be lying if I said I’m not more proud when I get paid for all the hard work. It’s as though I have a “real” job, one where I can support myself with something that I love doing.


The same goes for the rest of the above listed “jobs”.


But there are people my age (and younger) who are doing more, and getting paid wayyyy more. They go to an office every day for a fixed amount of time, do the work given to them, have paid sick days, health insurance, and vacation time.


I don’t have any of that. I stay up odd hours writing, I spend eight hours a day editing/ghostwriting, then I work at Petsmart on the weekends.


Like I said, I have yet to apply for a “real” job. (I find that’s a term people use a lot since I’ve gotten out of college. When am I going to get a real job? Why are you tired? It’s not like you have a real 9-5 job. etc.)


The fact of the matter is, like many people caught between college and real life, I’m scared. Plain and simple, I’m terrified of applying for jobs I probably won’t get, going to interviews I’ll probably be too nervous to get through without embarrassing myself, and maybe getting hired for a job that I may or may not like.


I don’t have extra money lying around. I don’t go out and party with my friends, and the only pair of jeans I have has a hole in the crotch that I've sown three times.


But I’m happy.


I love going on the computer and working all day. I love connecting with people and helping them with their work. I love creating my own worlds and characters and putting a book out into the world after a long journey.


This is by no means a steady source of income, but I don’t really care about that.I’m slowly learning that I can either do something I love (while building my resume) between now and getting a “real” job, or hate every second of my actual “real” job. Sure, I could fix my car or get a cat, but I’d be miserable.


I guess what I mean to say is that I’m in no rush. I’m okay with being poor if I’m happy. I’m fine with writing and editing when it could eventually lead me to the right job. I see people my age scrambling, applying for job after job even if it means it’s not what they went to school for or if that they may be stuck behind a desk counting beans or whatever people in cubicles do all day.


I spent most of my college career worrying about getting a job.
They train you, with or without knowing, to apply yourself and stick to deadlines, pay close attention to detail, and to work harder. But how do you tell a company you have these skills when they've heard it from a million other applicants? How do you make them notice you when you are just one more voice, shouting into the void that you too, would like a “real” job.


I feel like we’re all pretending to be Pinocchio or something, telling ourselves that some day, we’ll all be real boys. We’re so concerned with the goal of having an “adult” life with a “real” job that we kill ourselves in trying to make all the pieces fit together and form a life we want to live. We tell fibs about how well our lives are going post graduation, some of us even lie about what we've done in order to impress people, some of them being the ones who we want to hire us.


But I’m already living the life I want to live, for the most part, and I don't have to make any of it up. Yes, I’d love to own a house and go to California to visit my aunt and my cousin, but for now, I’m content. I’m not scared of what I’m doing because I know what I’m doing.


And right now, I’m okay with it.


So this is what I’ve learned since graduation: It doesn't matter.
Don’t look at what other people are doing or what jobs they’re getting. Don’t compare yourself to people who are living a different life than you. If you’re happy and surviving, you’re alright. You will figure it out. Maybe soon, maybe years from now. It doesn't matter. In the words of my stepfather, do what you want and fuck everyone else.

: )

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three AM thoughts: How I'm dealing.



It’s been a long time since I’ve woken up in the middle of the night with the undeniable urge to write something that wasn’t fiction. I woke up last night with that urge, and I don’t know how any of it turned out because I don’t want to chicken out of posting this. Because I feel like it’s important that I get these thoughts out there, for anyone who can gain something from them. I don’t do stuff like this that often, and it’s been a while since I got personal on my page, but if you click back through older posts, that’s all I used to do.


Over the past six months, maybe year or two (I can’t remember shit lol) I’ve been struggling with some issues. I’ve tried many things to cope. Writing is one of them. It always has and always will be. But it isn’t often that I write non-fiction. Fiction makes it so I can deal with what I have through a filter, but sometimes I don’t want one. Sometimes I feel the need to deal with things in a raw and unobstructed way. I think that’s what I was doing early this morning.


For me, it’s important to not just show my successes and have people think I live an amazing life full of writing and fun stuff. Don’t get me wrong. What you’re about to read may have you think that I’m hopeless and ungrateful. I’m not. I love my readers and bloggers and friends and family and a lot of times, these are the things that help me the most. But a lot of my life hasn’t been so fun lately and I think it’s worth it to show that to people as well. I hope at least some of you appreciate this.


Here are my Three AM thoughts from last night, unedited and unrevised:




Having anxiety and depression is a lot like being thrown into the deep end of the pool when you don’t know 
how to swim (for the record, I hate water and I don’t really know how to swim. So this is a great analogy, huh?). When you first experience it, you don’t really know what’s going on. As a result, you flail around, kicking, screaming, crying, pleading—doing anything it takes to keep your head above water so you don’t drown. 

I was diagnosed at a very young age with anxiety. I don’t remember much about it with the exception of the panic attacks. I’ve always been able to remember each and every one of those. I know that I was in  third grade, in the middle of story time, when I first had one. I remember how I scared the other kids in my class and how I didn’t return to school until the middle of fourth grade because I couldn’t function like everyone else. I don’t really know what caused the anxiety. I wrote about that a little HERE.
My doctors and therapists seemed to have thought it had something to do with my parents getting a divorce, but I was so little that my parents always spoke for me, so I don’t know how much of that theory is real and how much of it was them trying to explain why their daughter was acting out. It probably didn’t help that my parents’ toxic relationship was even more toxic now that they were leaving each other, unwillingly placing their children in the middle of a war-zone, but I think there’s probably a lot more to it that I don’t understand. Even now.

The double-whammy of depression and anxiety is just plain evil. That saying of “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy?” Yeah. That makes a lot of sense here. I don’t sleep. I have trouble doing “normal” things like hanging out with friends and driving. I have a hard time enjoying things, I have a hard time believing what I’m doing is worth anything at all. Then I get anxious about what’s wrong with me. 
When I step back and look at my life the way an outsider would, I’m happy. 

I think it’s important to point out that sadness, depression, mental illness in general, is not a straight line. Things can be good and bad at the same time. You can be happy and sad at the same time. Confusing? I know.

That’s why I thought it was important to write this post. So very few people understand what it’s like, and I’ve been struggling to explain it since I was very, very young. I still don’t know how. All I know is that I’m more aware of my “issues” than I was before, and all I can do is try to float around without bumping into anything that will make me start flailing again.

I was doing okay until January. I was having anxiety issues because of school and stress and whatnot, but in general, I was alright. Functioning.
I cannot explain what it’s like when a sibling calls you to say that one of your parents has died. That two police officers showed up on the middle of the night to tell them and they were too upset to call you until morning. I can’t explain that at all, but I can tell you how the snow was falling outside the window, how quiet everything was. And how loud.

I also can’t explain what it’s like trying to plan a funeral when you didn’t talk your parent for the last three years of his life. People have told me that it’s better we weren’t close, that if I really loved him, if we were really in each others’ lives, it would have been harder. That’s where they’re wrong.  It’s like he left us an enormous puzzle. One with missing pieces and even the pieces that are there are warped and don’t fit in the right places. Six months later, and we’re still trying to put the pieces together, still trying to move on when he’s everywhere and nowhere. When we have no answers.

Depression and anxiety affects literally every aspect of my life. It controls everything. It tells me what to think, how to feel, what to eat, how to dress, what to write about, what to worry about. It doesn’t matter that I know that some of these thoughts (a lot of times most of them) aren’t rational. Hell, sometimes I’ll pace the room anxious just about the next time I’ll be anxious. 
I don’t sleep. My stomach hurts all the time. I never feel healthy. I never like or enjoy anything completely. I question everything (good and bad) that happens in my life and wonder if I deserve it.

This is no way to live, yet I’ve lived this way for as long as I can remember. However, I think my dad dying the way he did put everything into perspective. He was alone because of his mental illness, and although alcoholism and my issues are completely different in a lot of ways, I’m drawing lines from one to the other daily. I’m realizing that we aren’t that much different. And it scares me.

I’ve been told that anxiety is a “fight or flight” response. That when my brain doesn’t know how to deal with something, it just shuts down—something maybe left over from an earlier time. I don’t know about that. I think it could be true, but I also think it’s something that I can’t explain away that simply.

I am so grateful to the people in my life, but I honestly don’t know why or how they find the strength to put up with me. How I can flail around and there’s always someone there trying to pull me out. Al and I have been together for eight years. When I first told him about anxiety, I remember  the confused look that passed over his face, like so many others. I remember how nervous I was to tell him that I had depression, seeing that same confused look. But he just hugged me and told me he wanted me to be happy. He still does that. And I don’t know how or why he does.

Part of me will always be afraid that I’ll tell him I’m under a bad wave and he’ll decide he’s had enough. Move on to a normal happy girl, but I know that I’ve never loved anyone so completely and so without question that it scares me even more. I’m afraid of myself and what I do to the people around me. I make them worry. I make them sad or upset. They feel helpless or like they aren’t enough to make me happy. What they don’t understand is that they are. They are more than enough, and although I don’t say it to them as often as I should, they make the whole getting out of bed and trying to live life normally thing worth it. If I didn’t have my friends and sisters, I think I would be a lot worse.

Love is something I’ve never truly been comfortable with. I think it has a lot to do with how I was brought up, how easily things changed for the worse and how easily it was for someone to tell you they loved you and then turn around and drink themselves sick while you were around.
I’m beginning to realize that while I didn’t always have a good relationship with my father, I know he loved me. I remember we would ask him to stop drinking as young as nine years old, beg him to for hours on the phone when he called drunk, asking why we didn’t want to see him. I never believed I was enough. I always thought that if he loved us, he could stop putting something that hurt him and everyone around him above us. I think I’m slowly starting to understand. He did love us. There were just other things in the way. There was some part of his brain that didn’t let him love me completely, that didn’t let me believe him completely.

It’s my biggest fear that this is how the people I love will one day see me. That despite how much I tell them I love them and how much I try to show it, they’ll never fully believe me because they know that deep down I’m not happy and that they aren’t enough.
That’s why, after years and years of struggling to do this on my own, I’ve decided to be put on medication. I’m leaving to hang out in the mountains tomorrow night and when I get back, I’m starting on it. Real, honest-to-god, not-herbal-all-chemical medication. Understand me when I say that this scares the living shit out of me. I don’t want to be taking pills that alter my mood or who I am, I don’t want to end up more screwed up than I am now. I am anxious about taking medicine that will help me be less anxious. Come on, it doesn’t get more confusing than that. Lol.

I know that the people closest to me will be supportive no matter what. I know that there are strangers reading this now who will support me because they’ve been through similar things. I think it’s important to point out that I am not writing this for attention, I’m writing this for the reason I write anything: to help others. I want it to be okay to talk about issues like this. I want it to be okay to be scared, to ask for help, to say that you’re tired of flailing and you need someone to pull you out of the deep end. If I can be something like that to even one person, I’m happy.

I guess I’ll end this here. I’m writing this at 3AM in the dark and it’ll all probably look different in the morning, but I wanted to get this out there. I just wanted to let you—whoever you are—know that I’m trying. I really am. That’s all any of us can do. Stay with me. We’ll be okay.
http://twloha.tumblr.com/

Thank you for reading this post. I love you. Your regularly scheduled book news and so forth with continue soon.  : )

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Donor (Part One) Cover Reveal and Blog Tour List!

Okay, let's start this out right, with the cover for my newest work, The Donor (Part One) out July 14th:



And I guess I should give you a synopsis as well:

Casey Williams and her family are poor. Her parents work non-stop and so does she, just so they can keep the trailer roof from leaking.
They’re getting by fine enough when the headaches start. Then there’s the nosebleeds. And the inevitable doctor’s bills.
Fortunately for Casey, there’s MyTrueMatch.com: an exclusive, quick, and almost easy way to pay it all back before her parents even have to know.
All she has to do is give a man she’s never met whatever he wants from her body.
Inside or out.


So. What do you think?
I figured I would use all that knowledge I gathered at community college as a Fine Arts major and put it to good use. I'm proud to say that this is the first cover I've ever made myself and I'm happy with how it's turned out. I have a really specific vision for these little novellas (they're only about 30 pages each) and this one fits perfectly with the three ideas I have. This story started, like so many, in workshop class. I had a story due in a week and had written nothing because I was so busy with school.
Then, I was sitting in my Spanish class and I was writing in the margins of my notebook as we were learning animals en EspaƱol. I tried to find a picture of it (because I take pictures of shit like that), but I couldn't find one. I do remember the first line, just like I remember every first line that comes to me. The one for Sunshine was, "Love is a monster, you see." And this first line was, "'There are worst ways for girls like us to make money,' she said. And I remember thinking, were there?"

Anyway. I'm really excited about this little project and I hope others are as well. It's also scary because it's so new. I wanted to try something different by putting out short pieces that all go together and releasing them shorter apart from each other than my novels. I hope people appreciate that as well.

When I have to answer interview questions, one thing I'm asked time and again is something like, "How do you know if a book is ready to publish?" and I always answer in some elaborate way that means something like, "I don't know, it just is."
What I've come to realize is the more I publish, the more I want to publish. I don't mean I just slap anything I write up on Amazon. Trust me, there's tons of shit in my notebooks that never sees the light of day. I guess what I mean is that I write for myself, first and foremost--that's how it's always been and always will be--however, when I feel this overwhelming need to share the stories I write, that's when I'd say something is ready. I feel like this story is something new for new fans and something old for my Sunshine Series fans. I really, really can't wait to share.

Okay. Enough rambling. Here's the Blog Tour details!
*I'm still open to adding people to the tour on the same days or different ones, so if you're interested, just email me! (nikkiraeauthor@gmail.com)

The Donor Part One Blog Tour (June 30-July 21)

July 10: Still wide open! : )
July 11: Richard Schiver
July 14 (Release Day Blitz!!!): ALL THE BLOGS
July 16: Pure Jonel
July 21: Best Chick Lit

.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Donor (Part One) NEWS (and excerpt)!

Hello, all! A lot's been going on. I'll try to keep this as short as possible.

Since my last post here, I've graduated college, put out The Sunshine Series (that's right, ALL of them! FINALLY) in print, went to an art show, created an editing company, which, by the way, is also looking for stories for anthologies, drank lots of tea, worked on Animal (the horror/suspense spin off), won an award for the first chapter of my Android Story (like, what? Is this real life?), and went gluten free (for health reasons. Don't ask unless you want to be bored to tears).

Phew.

Anyway, the most important thing right now is The Donor (it's the title of the post, damn it!). Remember this blog post a while back? The one where I asked you to vote for the next story I would put out? Turns out you guys really like two things: The Donor and Androids.
But The Donor won out in the end (by the very skin of its teeth).

There are two sign up sheets circulating around the internets: one for the cover reveal (June 9th) and one for the blog tour (June 30-July 21). If you've already signed up, thanks, you rock! If you're a reviewer/blogger, why not give a short piece of mine a try?
And as always, please, please share them (or this post) around. This whole independent thing doesn't work if there's no word of mouth.

So. Without further ado, here's a little, itty bitty excerpt from The Donor to drive you nuts tide you over until The Donor's release date, July 14th! See you then!:

***



He leads me into the house, shutting the door behind us and flipping on lights ahead of me. The inside is just as unassuming as the outside. No crystal vase on the dining room table. Just hardwood floors.  No plasma screen in the living room. No original artwork. Just plain, white couches, a coffee table, a desk.  The only thing that hints at his wealth is the huge fish tank across from the sofa. I’m not aware that I’m moving toward it until my hand is pressed against the glass. Bright purple and orange coral sits on the bottom, two large black and yellow striped fish slowly swim past my face. I spot three brown seahorses hanging behind a rock, bobbing with the current the filter is creating.
“Do you like them?” he asks from directly behind me. He’s taken off his coat and sat it alongside my suitcase on an arm chair. He’s also rolled up the sleeves of his pressed shirt.
“Yeah,” I say, turning back to the tank. “Not everyone can keep seahorses alive.”
He lets me stare a while longer before he says, “Would you like to sit down?”
I turn around, slightly self-conscious that I went all gaga over something he probably never thinks twice about. If one died, he could drop another two hundred dollars and get one over-nighted without much thought.
I slip off my backpack and down on the couch across from the seahorses. I take off my coat too, and give it to him when he holds out his hand. After he’s placed it next to his, he sits down next to me.
When neither of us says anything, I say, “I like your house.”
He rests his hands on his thighs. “Thank you.”
Then silence again. He smiles. I smile. I adjust the hem of my dress over my knees.
“So did you bring the paperwork?” He asks.

***