Friday, July 25, 2014

Love. Story.

The first time I fell in love, I was fifteen. There was a boy -- a lovely, amazing boy -- that I went to high school with who stole my heart.

He had no idea this was the case. He thought we were friends.

We were friends, but I loved him. I loved him in a way that I had never loved anyone before or since; it was wholly unselfish. I just wanted him to be happy. If I had learned that in order for him to be happy I would have to step in front of a moving vehicle, I would have done it. I simply loved him.

To this day, if you said this boy's name to my mom, she'd say, "Oh Yellie. You loved him," and everyone in the room would nod as if to say, it was so sweet and so ... not happening.

Because as it turns out? Life is not a love story.

Except, of course, for when it is.

*****

The good thing about being fifteen (and anyone who's dealt with fifteen year olds on a regular basis will probably agree with me here) is that it's temporary. You grow out of it and move on to other, moderately obnoxious ages like eighteen and twenty-one and thirty.

The better thing about being fifteen -- and every age before or after -- is  that you carry pieces of that self with you. Sometimes those pieces are large and become major portions of your character. Sometimes they're little slivers and mementos that you take out of your pocket and run your thumb over. Either way, you have them.

As we all do, I outgrew being fifteen, but my sliver -- my lovely memento -- was the memory of loving that boy. I went on, of course, to fall in love with other people because that's what you do. Relationships. Breakups. Love, with all of its different faces. It's a thing.

If I occasionally took the time to remember that boy and my fifteen year old self, it was with a sense of amazement, that I had ever thought that love could be that simple, and the wish that maybe? Somehow? It could be that simple.

And then? I'd throw myself into the next thing.

*****

That lovely boy and I became friends as adults. Twenty years had passed. Things had happened -- marriages, children, relocations, careers. Twenty years is a long time. He was actually more delightful than I had remembered him being -- funnier, more thoughtful.

This annoyed me a bit, to be honest, because it seemed that my fifteen year old self had more discernment than my adult self when it came to people.

Well, I thought, he's changed some. So have you.

So. Friends. Friends from afar, mostly, via the internet because -- you know, all of the life stuff and busy-ness that comes with it. We saw each other now and again, the way you do, but not often.

The thing was, though, that when I did see him, fifteen year old Yellie would tap me on my no-longer fifteen year old shoulder. "You totally love him," she'd say, flipping back her overly permed hair.

"Of course I love him, stupid. He's my friend."

"Yeah right," she'd smirk.

I'd think, I really can't do this again. Who does this?

Until the day that he told me that he was sorry, this might screw up our friendship, but he was in love with me.

Which, to be honest, made me want to punch him. That only lasted about three seconds, before I confessed to the same, but still.

*****

The last time I fell in love, I was thirty-eight. In an unlikely chain of events, the first person I loved turned out to be the best, most amazing person I've ever loved.

Of course -- and don't think I don't point this out regularly -- I figured it out when I was fifteen. It just took him some time to catch up.

Life is a story.

Sometimes, it's a love story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Run, Yellie, Run

The clock was ticking.

I double checked my purse before I left the courthouse. Social security form. Check. Newly obtained, notarized and official divorce documents. Check. Birth certificate (just in case). Check. Driver's license. Check.

Now I just had to get it done. 

I very carefully made my way back to the highway, windows down, singing along with 30 Seconds to Mars and obeying the speed limit because I did NOT have the time to get pulled over. When I hit the highway, I let 'er rip, though, and zoomed down Route 16 --

-- okay, that's not quite true. I drive like an old lady. A nervous old lady. But I did go, like, ten miles per hour over the speed limit because I was in a HURRY, y'all. 

I got to Portsmouth, which is where the Federal building lives, at 1:40. 

One hour and twenty minutes. 

And then I hit a snag. 

No parking. None. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

This was... Problematic.

I did a slow drive around the city. I have a small car, I thought. I can nose it into itty bitty spaces. I could have, were there any to be had, but alas, there were not. I rolled up my windows, turned the A/C up and the radio down, and clutched the steering wheel grimly.

"You," I thought to Snarky Ugly Tie Guy, "do not get to win this day."

I zipped around to the lower entrance of the parking garage, which -- unlike the main entrance, did not have a sign that read "full" -- took a ticket, and zipped in. And then drove around. And around. And up. And finally nabbed a spot on the very top floor, in the roasting heat of the sun. I leaped out the door and immediately thought, "Holy shit, I am going to pass out."

It was almost two. Passing out was not an option.

I don't know if you'll ever find yourself running full tilt across town to a federal building, but if you do, you should know that the security guards there will somehow not be surprised to see your sweaty, disheveled self going through the metal detector again and, miraculously, not setting it off this time. In fact, they might even wish you luck as you dash to the elevator bank. 

It's like they've seen such things before.

It was two o'clock when I got my number in the office, and Snarky Ugly Tie Guy and I kept giving each other the side-eye across the room. "Call me next," I kept thinking. "You need a special form? I have your form RIGHT HERE, Smirky McSmirker!"

The woman manning (womanning?) the cubicle next to him called my number.

As I approached, he said to her, "She was here before. She needs her divorce papers."

She smiled at me. "You need your--" 

"Divorce papers. License. Form. Got 'em right here. Also?" I said, looking at Smirky, "I can HEAR you."

The woman waiting on me smiled. "Nice job," she said. "Let's get this done for you."

Just like that, it was done. 

And then, Dear Blogland, I had a new name. One I loved. One in which I had pride. More importantly, one I had fought to get back. 

It's mine.

I'm keeping it.

And this makes me happy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Metal Detectors and X Rays Oh My

I walked out of the federal building and into a wet, hot, fist in the face of a day. I love summer in  New England, but DANG. It was hot. The heat was radiating up off the pavement in waves. The sun was bright and it and made me squint. I walked across town to my car, weaving around the tourists who like to stop in the middle of the street for reasons I have yet to identify, and felt wilted and sweaty.

There was no way I was going to make it. Mean Ugly Tie Guy and his snarky ways were going to win. I'd go to the courthouse, but I wasn't going to get back to the Social Security office today. There wasn't TIME.

I stopped by my office for a minute and told my partner at work my sad tale while trying to angle myself directly under an air conditioning vent. "What are you doing HERE?" he asked. "One: It's your day off. Two: That guy does not get to win."

"Yeah," I said. I did not sound convincing to myself. "I'll go to the courthouse at least. I'll never get back downtown."

*****

So that we're all on the same page: the town I live in is 20 to 25 minutes from the town that houses the social security office. This is not a major deal. Except:

1) it is summer
2) the town with the federal building is a tourist attraction
3) the courthouse is another 15 minutes beyond my house
4) road construction

I was also going to have to stop at my house for my checkbook because I didn't think the county clerk was going to take a debit card for whatever documents I was going to be getting.

Whatever, I thought, I'll just do it.

*****

When I got to the courthouse, I went through -- and set off -- my second metal detector of the day. The guards at the courthouse were nicer than the ones at the federal building, which was something.

I checked the directory, walked down a hallway, and promptly got lost.  Physically lost, as in "holy hell, where in this building am I going?" and also, emotionally lost as in "being here again is traumatic." I mean, the last time I had been in that courthouse was seven years ago and let's face it, that SUCKED.

I could feel a panic attack starting. I tried breathing. I tried focusing. And then I did something I don't usually do.

I let it go. All of it. The tension, the frustration, the race. The sense that SnarkyPants wanted me to fail on this day. The notion which had crept into my head that somehow, this was my ex-husband STILL managing to fuck with me. I put it all down.

My head cleared.

I went back to the entrance and asked the nice guard for directions. He told me where I needed to go and what to ask for and off I went to family court.

The lady who came to help me was kind and patient. She told me to have a seat while she fetched my records. I thumbed through a magazine and sat in the cool confines of the room, enjoying the quiet and the AC.

She came back. I wrote her a check. She gave me the documents I needed. I looked at the clock.

I had exactly two hours.

My whole body started to hum. Snarky Ugly Tie Guy, I thought. You have NO IDEA what's going to hit you.

It was ON.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Not So Social Security

Before I went to the social security office to process my name change, I went on the website to see what I needed. Preparedness. It's how I roll. 

Sorta. 

Because after going through a metal decector at the Federal Building -- and setting it off, of course -- and stating my purpose (like a knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but without being asked my favorite colour), and then taking a ticket as though I was at a deli counter, and then sitting in a room full of people with morose faces, and THEN having people come in and pull their chairs as far from me as they could and still be in the same room (inexplicable, by the way, since I'm both friendly and visibly harmless), my number got called. 

I went to a window staffed by a cheerless man in an ugly tie and stated my purpose.

He yawned.

"You have the wrong paperwork," he said.

"Fuuuuuuck!"


My research had been in vain-- the website? Was missing some key information. 

I wilted, then pulled myself together.

He smirked. I swear. He SMIRKED at me.

"You'll need to go to the courthouse and get an official, notarized copy of your divorce decree. That's ... What, Strafford county?"

"Yes."

"You could ... Probably ... Make it today," he said. "Of course, we're only open til three, sooo..."

"Right," I said. I smiled at him brilliantly. "Got it."

"There's a nominal fee," he added.

"Great," I said. 

"Okay then," he said brightly.

"Have a good day," I said cheerfully, thinking, oh no, sir. You and your ugly tie and your pisspoor attitude and my ex husband and his stupid last name are NOT -- under ANY circumstances -- going to win this day. 

No sir.

It was noon. The clock was ticking.

Next stop: the courthouse.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Name Game

"I will never, ever get married again," I said. "Ever. Just... Never."

"That's cool," said The Fella. "I get it."

And then he said, "Do you think you'll change your name back?"

"Oh. Huh," I said. "Yeah."

*****

I got divorced seven years ago. Divorce years, though, are like dog years: they're longer than 365 days of emotional angst. They're each about seventeen years long.  Which, if you do the math,* means I've been wearing a name that I don't enjoy or want to keep for a loooooong time. 

The reasons I didn't change my name earlier are both situational and anxiety related. Situational as in I kept having plane tickets and travel plans that required identification. Anxiety related as the task seemed really big and overwhelming. If you've never changed your name, you may not have considered how many things you have to shift and change with the alteration of your last name.

If you have... Well. It's a lot. It's a lot of a lot. And because I'm a considerer, it became a gigantic task in my head, one that I couldn't get around.

So. Seven years. 

I should probably add here that having a name that you have grown to hate but also feel stuck with? Kind of sucks. A lot. It's destabilizing. It doesn't help you to know yourself better, that's for sure.

I wanted to get rid of the name, but I couldn't find my way to it. It was too big a job. That was all there was to it.

Until there was more.

*****
"Look," The Fella said. "You get to be who you want. Do you want to be Danielle Hayes again?"

*****

Sometimes, the ability to change -- the courage to change -- comes from places you don't expect. It can come after you've given up on an idea or have decided that something is too difficult. 

It can come when someone tells you that who you are -- who you were -- is awesome and deserves reclamation. When they remind you that you have never been better than when you are truly and completely yourself, and that part of that means shedding a name you hate and re-naming yourself appropriately.

"You know what? I do," I said.

Which is how I found myself sitting in the social security office last week.

*I am not doing this math. Because math.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Because These Things Will Change

If there's one thing I learned in the last year, it's that life changes quickly. Really quickly. Like, before you have the chance to assess the situation. One minute things are the way they were -- status quo, lalalalaaaaaa -- and the next? Boom. Whole new thing.

(To be fair, this is a lesson I get with some regularity. It's as though I can't process this appropriately, you know, ever, and so have to continually receive object lessons. This? Is not awesome. But whatever.)

So. As you can probably guess, things have changed in Yellieland. Again.

Except.

Remember last summer when things kept shifting and changing and I was all, holy shit, what the hell is happening to my life?

This summer, it's more like, holy shit. I am deliriously happy.

People: this is a thing.

Today, though, I am thinking about being happy in a new -- and kind of weird -- way. This has been in my head all day. (Confession alert: I am a total nerd. The next bit is only going to reinforce that, so ... yeah. You have been warned.)

It's like this: the 10th Doctor described time as being made of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, erm, STUFF. Some days, the separation between the past and the present seems very thin to me. I mean, I don't have a TARDIS or anything (which I lament on a fairly regular basis) but it doesn't take much to realize that the space between who you are and who you've been is very, very thin.

And maybe -- if you're me -- you look through that thin veil of time and wish you could stretch out a hand to the woman you were and tell her that it's all going to be okay. Actually, it's going to be better than okay. It's going to be excellent in ways that she can't begin to imagine or comprehend and it's just around the corner, so hang on. Hang in there. You'll be better than all right.

Because I am.

When I was fighting through the BS, I hoped -- I think we all do -- that there is some truth to the notion that "It gets better" but I had no idea that getting better would mean that my entire life would turn around in ways that I could never possibly have considered, and that daily happiness  and love would be just around a corner, if I was only brave enough to look.

But there you have it.

Honestly, I wish I could go back in time. I wish I could look at myself from last year -- and seven years ago -- and say, this? All of this is worth it. Please, please don't despair.

I also wish I could say it to every other person who struggles: I know this sucks. I KNOW IT. But I also know that somewhere down the road? You're going to find you've been rewarded in ways you can't imagine.

Things change. They change in bad ways, but oh man -- oh my oh my -- they change in good ones too.

I promise.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Over the past several years, I've made some mistakes. Despite what I believed at the time (which can only be described as "holy shit my world is ending"), I am not, in fact, the only person in the world who has made some terrible decisions that altered the path that she was following. I am also not the only person who has relied on her community -- the family and friends who love her -- in a time of crisis because that's what community is for. That's what communities do.

As for making choices that go horribly sideways, well. I have a friend who is fond of saying that when you know better, you do better. I believe this is true. I also believe this: until you screw up some, you can't know better. You have to learn, and you can't learn without some pain or struggle because without those, you have no cause to learn. Without a little trial, you are all theory and no application.  

To quote an old tv show, "you think you know, but you have no idea."

I have had some difficult times. It's true. It is also true that after going through those times, I had another choice that I would have to make (life, it seems, is filled with them): do I dare to keep trying and taking chances, or do I sit and let things pass me by in the fear that I will fuck up again?

It would be easy, I think, to be a spectator. To watch life and not participate, to decline to play and stand on the sidelines. Easy and safe. After all, I'm a born observer. It would be comfortable. 

It's harder to jump in -- to run, leap, cavort, to take risks and get bruises and navigate and move. More difficult, but also? More everything. 
It turns out that if my choice is watching or doing? I'm going to take the riskier path. I can't continue to learn and grow as a person if I don't. I'd rather lose one hundred times than never even bother to try, because even when you lose, you gain something -- a piece of wisdom, new strength, new resolve -- that you didn't have before. 

I think that's the reason we're all here. 

I've made some mistakes. I've had some of those mistakes thrown in my face lately as well, which is interesting because it suggests that I don't remember what happened and didn't choose to learn.

That notion is false. 

I carry those lessons with me. They are carved into my heart. I use those lessons to guide my decisions, which is an entirely different process than letting fear rule them. I won't live that way. If anyone thinks I should, well: I am going to disappoint you.

I will get up each and every time I get knocked down.