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. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Commencement

To the Class of 1994:

The thing about graduating from high school is that it is clearly an ending of one thing and the beginning of another. It's obvious, as you walk across the stage, shake the hand of some official or another, and accept your diploma that something has definitely ended, and something else has definitely begun... And that something -- we called it the future, because we lacked better terms -- was full of possibility. 

Excellent. 

However.

The thing I did not know then, as I walked across the stage (hoping against hope that I wouldn't trip and fall, I might add) was this: you don't need ceremony to start fresh. You don't need a piece of paper to grant you permission to unlock the door to what's next. The ritual is lovely, but the truth is that every moment gives you the opportunity for a fresh start.  Every second gives you the chance to choose who and what you will be. 

At eighteen, I felt locked in to one kind of path. Let me be clear: that path did not, in any way, suck. It was a good one.

I didn't ... Exactly ... Follow it. I took some detours. I changed lanes. 

For a really long time this made me feel like a failure. 

I realize now, though, that the failure would have been marching unquestioning down the road I had paved. Refusing to see that there were other options, that there was more than one definition of success, and that the truth is that the anything -- anything! -- is, in fact, possible would have been a denial of the dream that we held to the day we graduated: that the future -- all futures -- belonged to us.

They did.

They still do.

To my beloved, amazing, wonderful classmates: today is yours. Tomorrow is as well. You are -- we are -- still phenomenal. 

Let's do this.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why I Love Towel Day

Today, May 25, is Towel Day. For those of you who are not sufficiently dorktastic, Towel Day exists as a celebration of Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I love the Guide. 

But.

Anyone who knows me knows that my relationship with my father has been... I'm going to use the word complicated. He wanted boys and found himself in a house filled with women. It happens. He didn't quite know what to do. That happens as well. 

However. 

He also -- blessed be -- belonged to a sci-fi/ fantasy book club. I learned to read early (before the age of three), and the things I best loved to read were delivered to our house each month. Dragons and wizards and magic, oh my!

So. There was that. 

When I was twelve or thirteen, my sister and I had the idea of cooking dinner for my parents. I do not remember what was for dinner, to be honest. I remember that I took on dessert, and that I made cream puffs (I mostly remember this because I do. Not. Bake. Why I thought this was a great idea remains a mystery). I also remember that after dinner my dad said, "Let's go for a ride."

This was an infrequent occurance. My sister and I were excited.

I can't remember where we ended up. Danvers? Burlington? Somewhere in Massachussetts. Our culinary efforts were rewarded with a prize of our choosing.

There was a bookstore.

I picked The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide. 

****

As I type this, my prize sits in my bookshelf. If I ever doubt my relationship with my dad -- and it is complicated -- I pull out my book and hold it in my hands and remember a night when, even though I don't bake, I made cream puffs, and, even though he didn't always know how, he told me he loves me.

Happy Towel Day, y'all.