Adventures in Name Changing, part I

Posted on June 3, 2009. Filed under: reality, screw-ups |

{Tell me you loved the movie, “Adventures in Babysitting” as much as I did.  Yes, the one back in the 80’s with Elizabeth Shue.  When I moved to Chicago, I suddenly understood the whole drive-into-the-scary-city premise.  Anyhoo….}

So, armed with my newly-married force field (ya know, the one keeping away normal frustration, at least until the word “husband” doesn’t seem so mind-blowing), I headed happily off to the Social Security Administration and DMV, armload of paperwork in hand.

Sidenote 1: I keep all “important documents” in a little zippy waterproof folder.  When I need to do something official, I grab the whole zippy folder.  Didn’t make it clear I needed an original birth certificate, Miss Snooty Government Gatekeeper?  Well, here you go!  Think I don’t have a copy of my very first voter registration card?  HA!  Proved you wrong!  Yea, I’m a dork.

Sidenote 2: I didn’t head off to change my name as happily as I might have suggested.  I’m still slightly ambivalentBut I want my kids to have the same last name as my husband and I, so I’m going with the Bandaid Theory on this one (rip it off before you have time to dread it).  On the plane home from our fabulously lazy honeymoon, I asked Mr. Cheese to indulge me by outwardly and overtly acting like this was the best darned thing I could do to show my love for him.  He obliged, offering to take me out for drinks to celebrate (though we instead broke out the new blender and made our very first batch of pina coladas).

Armed with the second Twilight book, I waltzed into the Social Security Administration.  In my state, you start there, and the receipt from your transaction is a requirement at the DMV.  No problem.  45 minutes and a friendly chat with the helpful name-changer later, I had the slip of paper declaring my new identity:

Marisa MiddleName MaidenName NewLastName.

Yea.  Mouthful.  I couldn’t bear to lose my middle name this time around; I’m named after a super fantastic aunt.  Nor was I willing to drop my maiden name.  That name welcomed me back with open arms after the first time I shoved it to the middle slot, so I’m sticking with it.  So I asked if I could keep them all, and she obliged.  Score!

Off I went to the DMV, driving across town to the location staffed with the most unusually friendly people.  Seriously.  When I went to get my motorcycle endorsement, they took my picture eight times.  Eight!  I’m an eye-closer, and the woman couldn’t bear to let me go with such a bad picture on my ID.  What’s an extra 15 minutes of driving for service like that?

I filled out the paperwork, felt a small tinge of pride when I was asked to produce the correct paperwork (yea, yea, teacher’s pet even at 29), and figured I’d be done in an hour.  Then he asked if I knew my license was suspended.

Um, what?

Yea.  So, one of the unfortunate side effects of moving five times in two years is that mail doesn’t always get to you.  Important mail.  Mail that tells you that your license is suspended.  Or, to be more correct, WAS suspended almost six months ago!

Grrr.  And Argh.  And GRRRR.

I left with a picture ID and a big honking hole through my driver’s license, irrationally afraid of what my parents would say (yea, at 29).  My mom wasn’t fazed (she is my mom, after all), but my new hubby was horrified.  Then laughed and laughed.

So today I go through the whole shebang all over again, except this time I have to start at the courthouse where I’ll pay my hefty fine before heading back to the DMV.  With the third Twilight book, because I finished the second one last night.

Anyone else have, um, challenges to getting the name change thing done?

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Posted on December 9, 2008. Filed under: screw-ups | Tags: |

I thought I knew, long ago when I was planning my first wedding, why people got divorced.  My parents were divorced.  Many of my relatives were divorced. I didn’t have any friends that were divorced, but that’s just because I was young, too young for anyone to have been married yet, much less divorced.

I thought that people got divorced because they weren’t right for each other.  I thought that people got divorced because they grew apart, or because they wanted different things out of life. I thought that people weren’t good companions, or had different ideas of what was fun, or just didn’t like each other very much.  I thought that people got divorced because they weren’t realistic about marriage — that they didn’t think about divorce when they decided to get married, didn’t think it would happen to them, didn’t imagine that it could happen to them.

And so, I thought about it, a lot.  I considered whether he was the right man for me, tested our ability to stick it out once the masks came off, was comforted that we knew each other really well and had the same goals and dreams.  Most of the reasons that I thought people got divorced had to do with the beginning of their relationship (reread the paragraph above and you’ll see that it’s true).  Did you pick the right person?  Did you consider the alternatives?  Do you know where you want to go (and does he, and are they the same place)?

I was wrong.

We got divorced not because we were wrong for each other (though that’s the comforting thought that I retreated to for years), we got divorced because we forgot that love is a verb, not a noun, and that it’s most important when it’s hardest.  We got divorced because we pushed apart instead of pulling together, in hundreds of little ways that added up.  We got divorced because we thought that if the big things were in place, the little things didn’t matter… but they do, even more, because those little things are what make your life what it is.  And me, I also got divorced because I couldn’t, wouldn’t ask for the solace and comfort that I needed, didn’t set aside my sense of self-preservation to be loved.

Success in a relationship is a tough and sometimes lonely road, and failure is often easier to justify.  I know this, having done both.  Failing at being a good partner feels better.  I can convince you — and myself — that I was justified in not forgiving, in not forgetting, in not being understood or loved.  I can go to lunch with a girlfriend and we’ll talk about how horrible and wrong he’s been, how insensitive, how unthoughtful.  And it might even be true.  But being a successful partner means accepting that, and forgiving, and loving, and choosing to stay and fight for us rather than doing what feels good, even when it’s best for me as an individual or when pushing away can be justified.

I thought that being married would mean I’d never be lonely, and so when I was, I thought it was my marriage that was the problem and not my expectations.  I thought that if the big things were in place, the little ones wouldn’t matter, when in fact those little things are dangerously capable of pushing you away from the one you love.  Nothing is too small to be a threat.  I thought that venting my frustrations and looking for solace in other people was okay, and it might have been, had I also been able to go to my husband and ask for comfort.  I thought that asking for what I needed meant that something was wrong, but that’s part of growing up — knowing and asking for what you need, because people aren’t mind readers.

Talking to your fiance about everything before you get married is good and necessary.  Making sure that you know him well and are compatible is important.  Thinking ahead and envisioning what you might do or say during the tough times will help.  But in the end, being married is a daily commitment, to honesty and fairness, to submission of some of your individuality to the needs of your family, to enough maturity and trust to ask for something you need.  There are times that you want to rail against the unfairness of what is, and you can, but you must also accept that whether it should be isn’t the question – it’s what you’ll do next that’s important.  Or else divorces happen.

If I could go back, I would tell myself this: you must believe that there is no such thing as divorce, that you will get through the tough times together, that he will be his best if you are your best, and if you’re not, you will be again.  Relationships are sometimes a game of chicken, with either of you waiting for the other to do the hard thing first.  Whether you think it’s right or fair, you be the one to do the hard thing first.  Be willing to hope and try and get your heart broken, because it will be, even though you’re married, it will; but this man can help you heal the hurt if you let him.  If you feel that you must make a choice, make it be about how you’ll recover together, not about whether you’ll recover together.  Vow to get help when things get bad, even if you don’t think you need it.  It’s not being disloyal; it’s being human.  And give yourself time.  Nothing will ever be as bad as it might seem in the moment, and if it takes a bit of loneliness to make it through, you can handle it.  Print your vows and display them where you can see them when things get tough, and use them as a meditation or prayer if you need to.  You’re loved, and you will love in return.  You must believe.

{This is not the complete story, of course.  It can’t be, since you don’t know me or my ex-husband, and blog posts are not books.  I try to distill specific “do not’s” out of my failed marriage as I prepare for my new one, and this is just one of them.}

I’m not going to end with a question on this post.  Feel free to comment if you agree or disagree, to ask follow-up questions; or because you can relate… or not.  It’s okay either way.  It’s a tough subject, after all.

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Something old, something new

Posted on October 28, 2008. Filed under: screw-ups |

The shadow of your former loves and lives follows you into any relationship. The stakes are upped when the previous relationship was a marriage, and it (obviously) failed. Who doesn’t love a “first”? First kiss, first love, first bite, first sip. “I’ve never done this before, been here before, felt like this before.” The “I’ve never” makes it special. But what if you have?

I have been engaged before, and I was pretty good at it. Do I have regrets? Yes, a few, and this is a great chance for a do-over. I wish that I’d been more sentimental, spiritual, connected. I wish that I’d felt the weight of my commitment and been able to say that I went ahead and got married anyway. I wish that I could say that I looked forward and saw difficult times and difficult moments and pledged myself and my life to my man with eyes wide open. I wish that I remembered our ceremony better, that I felt something (anything!) other than embarrassment and impatience. I wish that I’d known myself better, known him better, known the future better. So my “something new” is to revel in my sentimentality, be unapologetic about my spiritual needs, and feel the full weight of our future rather than avoid the uncomfortable feelings.

My “something old” is to get ahead of myself and screw it all up. Welcome to the real world, folks, where you can move on from anything but yourself.

I’m a take-charge kind of girl. I’m a planner. I’m a tactical soul. I’m the product of generations of dysfunctional marriages (and successful divorces). This isn’t an excuse, only an acknowledgment. I get ahead of myself when I’m excited, screech back to a full stop when I’m disappointed, and in the depths of my soul I fear (and expect) being abandoned.

He mentioned marriage months and months ago. My heart skittered* in discomfort. Do I want to be married again? What’s wrong with living in a permanent state of sin? Can I be married again… successfully? Is it fair to my ex-husband to get it right with someone else? (The worries aren’t necessarily logical, eh?) Will I jinx it by thinking about it? Are we ready? What’s the point of marriage? Do we know each other well enough? Can I be faithful to him… forever? Will I be stuck in this city forever? Does he really know and love me, the shitty not-nice stressed out yucky me?

I came around. I love this man. I want my children to be like this man. I’ve never thought/ said/ considered the phrase “my children” before loving this man. My man is a great, good, solid, wonderful, worthy-of-my-admiration kind of a man. Why wouldn’t I want to marry him? I’d love to call him my husband, love to feel the stability that being stuck together forever incurs, love to make a vow (and then keep it). I want the chance to be a good wife this time.

We talked timeline. In retrospect, he expressed his discomfort at any kind of a timeline, but I passed it off as timeline-discomfort — the kind that planning will alleviate, ya know. I dithered around looking at rings. Freaked the hell out about making a decision. Waffled, flip-flopped, panicked. Screeched my distress at my boyfriend. I cried. Finally chose a ring (which he promptly purchased, unbeknownst to me) and then panicked some more. Ruined his surprise. Set a deadline for getting engaged. (*cringe*) Lost my shit when he didn’t meet it. Had many hurt feelings…/

{time to cut the ugly train wreck short, partially in a sad attempt to be concise but mostly because I’m embarrassed}

/… Then we had to back up. Take a deep breath, remember what’s most important, make it right. While nothing changed to the world, we went into pause mode in terms of planning anything. The ball went back in his court, and we agreed that he would take back my ring until we got through the drama, then we’d pick up where we left off. This step was just between us, as token step to replace a stressful memory with a good one. And, as tough as it is for me to let go, release control, and trust someone else with my life, it’s our life now.  I trust him with my heart, so I trusted him with this.

It worked!  In a quiet moment in the clearing where we’ll be married next spring, my wonderful man presented me with my ring, again.  I won’t take it off, not in that way, ever again.

Lesson: do not get ahead of yourself. Getting ahead of yourself does not, will not, cannot give you a free pass past the uncomfortable business of dealing with and closing the books on your past. Learn from your past and be better at the present not by skipping past everything but by doing the hard thing (and for me, that’s being patient). The point of an engagement, I believe, is to give you practice at living life together. You have to make decisions together, catalog your histories and your families, navigate new relationships with in-laws, focus on each other and your new relationship while standing together in the face of the drama, and GET TO THE END OF THE THING. The wedding day is the beginning of a marriage, but it’s also the end of the test that is can-we-succeed-as-a-couple.

Everyone loves a first, but me?  I love a “last,” too: the last sip of coffee, the last lick of ice cream, the last day of school… and this guy, the last man I’ll ever kiss.

Can you relate?

*skittered: a screech without the sound, like your body skittering down a not-wet-enough Slip ‘N Slide.

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Great Expectations

Posted on September 26, 2008. Filed under: screw-ups |

I bought this fabulous book on a desperate trip to B&N. One of the first exercises concerns your expectations (versus reality) of getting and being engaged.

I suppose we’re lucky in that we have a do-over, so we’ll see how reality and expectations match the second time around. In retrospect, I expected that the occasion would somehow morph us into something we’re not (although I wish we were) — sentimental.

The lesson here? If you want to be something as a couple, be it now. Don’t expect an occasion to make it happen. If you’re not a spiritual couple, I’m guessing your wedding is unlikely to feel very spiritual, in a comfortable way, anyway. If you’re not a formal couple, a formal wedding might feel… off. I want to be more spiritual, more sentimental, more connected and intimate. Is it possible to morph, as a couple, once you’re together?

{Repeat-Bride-specific note: I wasn’t proposed to the first time around. We decided together that it made sense to get married, then took my mom out to lunch to let her know. I think I sent my dad a fax. *cringe* I didn’t do much better this time. I blurted out that we’d be getting married in the fall in a hospital waiting room. Brilliant.}

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    I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and divorce papers) to prove it. Here I am again, pledging my life to my (new) love with eyes wide open (and heart racing) knowing full well how emotionally traumatic this can end… and doing it anyway.


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