The Reasons I Changed My Name. And Changed It Back.

The Reasons I Changed My Name When I Got Married

  1. It was a symbol that we were a single family.
  2. A sign of love and devotion.
  3. Almost every woman I’d ever known had done it.
  4. I’d planned to change my name my entire life.
  5. I wasn’t far enough along in my career for my last name to be widely recognized.
  6. To make it clear I was the mother of my children once they came.

The Reasons I Changed My Name Back When I Got Divorced

  1. It was mine.
  2. I missed it.
  3. Turns out, no one cares if I have a different last name from my kids. Forms aren’t any harder to fill out, conversations aren’t more confusing, life isn’t tougher.
  4. I’d never taken the time to really think about changing it when I did it the first time, and now that I had time to think about it I realized it was the wrong choice.
  5. F—- the Patriarchy. 
  6. If I get married again to a feminist who wants to take MY name, it’d be nice if it was actually mine.
  7. During all those years when I was waiting to replace my name with another one that I imagined would be a better one, I didn’t realize what I had and how much it meant to me.
  8. People call me “Mrs. Severson” or “Graham’s Mom” or whatever, but that’s okay. People call you things and it doesn’t change you. What matters about my name is what I write down and how I identify myself.
  9. Changing your name, even when your name is recognized and you’ve started to build a career with it, is okay. It’s called “rebranding” and these days it’s pretty common, so I wasn’t afraid people would forget who I was.
  10. It was a symbol of reclaiming myself.
  11. I realized that I wanted to be just one person and stay that person. I will not change my last name again.
  12. I like being at the end of the alphabet. And having the nickname J-dub or J-Wo or whatever someone comes up with tomorrow. And telling people it’s “bury as in bury the hatchet.”

 

Living Another Life and Living Mine

For two weeks I played pretend. I had the kind of normal life most bloggers have, or at least something approximating it.

I drove a minivan. I dropped the kids off at half-day camp. I worked at the dining room table whenever I got a free minute and took work calls in my bedroom. I stayed in a house with 4 (four!!!) bathrooms. There was a dog running around, and a pool in the backyard that we played in each evening as the sun got low. There were other adults around so someone could run point on getting the kids lunch or taking them to the bathroom. One night someone even put the kids to bed for me while I went out. 

It was a quick visit to the life most other “mommy bloggers” have. (I hate that term, but it shows no sign of dying.) I have never really had that life, I’ve had bits and pieces of it at one time or another, but it never materialized the way I thought it would. 

I feel the distance from that life more than I should. It feels like opposition more than it should. Especially when people buy houses with big backyards and celebrate anniversaries and take vacations. (Vacations! Besides a couple of weekends away that I squeaked out back when I was married, I haven’t had a real vacation since my honeymoon. And even that was just a 4-hour drive away.)

I am working on feeling the distance less. I am trying to compare less and focus on my future. But that’s hard.

I told someone the other day that my life feels like it’s finishing a chapter. Then they asked, “So what’s the next chapter?” 

I have no answer for that. If there’s anything I know, it’s that I can’t say how things are going to go. I never could have predicted the last 10 years. Even if I caught a glimpse of a couple things on the horizon, nothing has gone the way I thought it would.

How can I say what the next chapter will be? 

I honestly don’t even think about what it’ll be. I know some things I want to accomplish, I know some things I’d like to be lucky enough to get, but I also know that none of that is a guarantee even with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. 

8 years ago I thought I knew exactly how my life was going to play out. I won’t make that mistake again.

I take things a day or a week or a month at a time. Just little steps forward, occasionally a step back, then some more little steps forward. My eyes are on my feet, not the road, trying not to slip, trying to stay steady.

Not knowing what’s going to happen is actually one of the things I like about my life right now. And there are a lot of things I like about my life right now (independence, career, city life, time with my kids, time away from my kids) just like there are things I don’t like (loneliness, no vacations, debt, bad dates).

Who knows if one day the minivan life will be mine? Maybe it will. I can’t rule it out. I can’t even rule out the possibility that I’d love every minute of it.

My Tribe of One

You are who you are. This is a thing I know, and yet I keep waiting for things to be different. I keep waiting for circumstances to change and reveal the me that’s been hanging out just waiting to make an appearance.

I went to New York for BlogHer this year. Blog conferences can feel a lot like high school. Where out on the street everyone was the same, inside these walls there are now groups. There’s cool kids, of course, with pageviews and social media followers standing in for popularity. And like high school groups form based on similar interests or location. Then there are the people who float from group to group. I have always fallen in this last category, ever since high school. 

That doesn’t mean that I won’t walk into every conference hoping this will be the one where I’ll be at the center of a cozy group who checks in regularly and makes sure no one’s ever going it alone. 

This never happens. Of course it never happens. And it’s not because the circumstances are holding me back, it’s because that’s not who I am.

If I had a group, I would probably be sneaking off to get some alone time or to say hi to someone I haven’t seen in a long time or to go watch a musical with an ode to an old school butch lesbian.

I don’t actually like being in a cozy group who does things together. When I’m in one I feel self-conscious. I start to worry that no one actually wants to hang out with me, that they’re just humoring me. Or I can’t help but focus on how different we are and how I don’t really want to do what the group wants to do and I wish I was on my own. 

It’s really a grass-is-always-greener situation. But I always feel my lack of a group acutely when I’m on my own at a conference. That is the norm now, especially since I’m working at almost all of these conferences so I have my own schedule and my own room. 

With all that said, BlogHer was kind of a turning point. It was the first big conference I ever went to, 3 years ago. Back then I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted out of blogging. I was still learning my way around all the trappings that went along with the writing and soul-baring, which was why I got into it in the first place. 

But I’ve worked hard for the past 3 years. Really hard. I’ve even built a career. 

It turns out, all that work means something. At BlogHer it meant that I would walk around for only a few minutes before I saw someone I knew or someone stopped me to say hello. That would’ve been unheard of to 2012 Me, whose only friends were people I’d met already in Boston or the small group of Autism parents I’d bonded with on Facebook. Even knowing two dozen people feels like knowing no one when you’re in the giant crowds of BlogHer.

This year’s conference experience was great, actually. I got to see the people I wanted to see. I had long conversations with people I’d just met. I skipped sessions that didn’t excite me. I didn’t worry about anything that wasn’t important to me. And I didn’t care if I looked silly when I was dancing. I got my Broadway fix, which was terribly overdue. I read books in bed. I had a drink or two or more if I wanted to.

People talk about their tribe when they talk about blog conferences, especially BlogHer. I don’t have one tribe, but many. And that makes sense for me. It feels right, if I take the time to think about it.  So for the next conference I think I’m just going to read this post again and remind myself that this is who I am. 

Ahead of the Game

affiliate links pic Ahead of the GameEvery year my Mom asks me what I want for my birthday. Most years I do not have a good answer right away. Which is not good, because immediately after I finally decide what I want for my birthday I have to decide what I want for Christmas. This month of gift-receiving stresses me out each year.

And each year I decide to keep track of what I want earlier in the year so I’m ready. And each year I don’t.

Graham has a July birthday, perfectly timed to spread out the gift receiving. Tessa’s birthday comes 2 months after Christmas so she can see what’s missing from her haul and put it on her second list. But for me they’re less than 3 weeks apart and come in a rush. It is the burden of all December/early January babies.

So I figured I’d take a few minutes and sit down and try to figure out at least some things I’d like. Because I have five minutes, which is pretty awesome.

 Ahead of the Game Ahead of the Game
A Webcam

My laptop’s webcam sucks. I need something easier than my fancy camera. So I’d love an external webcam so I can start churning out Need to Read videos like nobody’s business. My future is on BookTube. I can feel it. (Or at least it will be fun.) My eye is on the(affiliate link!) Logitech HD Portable 1080p Webcam C615. And look, Mom, free shipping with Amazon Prime. I know you love that. 

A Haircut

I believe this was my gift last year and it’s very sad that it’s taken me almost an entire year to schedule another haircut. Haircuts are expensive when you have curly hair. Haircuts seem like a luxury I don’t have time for (along with dentist appointments and other such trivialities) I’m trying a different option this time and I have an appointment the evening before my birthday. Perfect timing. 

A Gift Card to Pretty Much Anywhere

I always need things. I still have a sadly small wardrobe that I add one or two pieces to each month. Most of them scored on sale. Occasionally one where I bite the bullet and pay full price because I need it and the sale just doesn’t come. I need clothes, shoes, jewelry, makeup, all those things that I wish I didn’t need but I do. And while I hate spending money on them, I like getting them. It’s nice doing things like this for myself. Plus I’m going to ALT in January and my closet is NOT ready. (Expect some pleas for style advice in about 6 weeks.)

Don’t give me money. Because I will use it to pay bills. Or save up for a deposit on a new apartment. And while I need to do those things, I also  need to have a birthday. I really, really do.

An Audible Subscription

I wish I could just buy books that go on sale for under $5, but I have already used up my one subscription hiatus for the year and I am becoming full on addicted to Audible Ahead of the Game. Audiobooks have been a delight and a source of amusement and happiness. (Right now I am listening to Yes Please and yes I will be writing about it soon. It is wonderful. I am starting to feel like Amy Poehler is narrating my life. I can literally hear her reading this post aloud as I’m writing it.) When the kids are gone it is very quiet in the house for days on end. I walk around with my speaker and listen to audiobooks and feel better. 

A Hardcore Winter Coat

So right now I have 3 coats, which sounds like more than enough unless you live somewhere that has a hardcore winter and then it is not nearly enough. One is my it’s-not-that-cold coat, which is cute and black and only goes to 40 degrees or so. Actually, Mom, you were there when I got it at Costco in Atlanta. Next there is my red peacoat, a go-to for much of the cold weather, especially if I’m wearing a sweater or dressing up. (Yes, this was my birthday present a couple years ago.) And then there’s my warmest coat, a red L L Bean number I got on clearance in Connecticut at the outlet store that insulates so well that I die of heat on the bus.

But the problem is that ALL of these coats only hit my waist or my hips. And when you are outside in the legit cold and ridiculous wind in a coat that goes only to your hips, you learn to hate everyone walking around with their knee-length and ankle-length coats, which were not a thing you knew existed and you lived in the Rocky Mountains for 14 years! These are the coats of the Northeast. They are the coats of Canadians. They are serious and I want one. I am tired of having cold legs. I probably need to go to the store and try some on to pick one, but all of these look so delightful.

A Gift Card Just For Going Out to Lunch

I bring my lunch most days, I eat at home on the days Tessa has therapy. But there’s usually one day each week where I just don’t have it together enough or didn’t get to shop for supplies and have to buy my lunch. Often this coincidentally overlaps with Pizza Friday, where me and some of my super cool work buds meet up and get pizza (even if we’re planning to drink our suspicious-looking green smoothie in a leftover pasta sauce jar that looks like pesto, but end up getting pizza, too, even if we’re allegedly vegan and probably shouldn’t be eating pizza, and yes I mean you, Austin). 

It would be nice to not feel guilty about Pizza Fridays. Because everyone could use one day a week where they don’t have everything all together and let one little thing (like lunch) slip. 

 

Wow, this was actually a lot easier than I expected it would be. Maybe I just need to write a blog post about what I want for my birthday every year.

Also: I would love some Christmas Eve pajamas. Every year when I don’t come home and I don’t get pajamas and everyone else does it’s wicked depressing. It’s already depressing I’m not there, and missing this one tradition makes it that much worse. However, this doesn’t mean you should get me some ridiculous pajamas, I know you love doing that. So we’re clear, this is about as festive as I’m willing to get.

I have to say, it felt kind of nice to gratuitously talk about stuff I want in a blog post.

Under the Yellow Umbrella

A week ago Saturday I was at my other other job, driving out to a delivery, and as I generally do in that situation I had the radio on. There was an interview with a musician, and she talked about one of her songs about the quintessential American woman. Somewhere along the way she said, “You can’t keep her down, you can’t hold her back,” and my already-low heart sunk a bit.

I wondered, When did I become the opposite of that?

I have been feeling pretty kept down and held back of late. I am often too busy to feel much of anything, and when I get a moment, the feelings I have are usually sadness, frustration, anger, and other negativity. 

Sure, there are explanations. Being financially unstable, working constantly to try and make up for it, being pulled in all directions, having too much to manage, and there’s also the fact that I’ve been off my antidepressants for over a month.

It sucks to have less serotonin when things are so legitimately tough. But I also know that I’m not feeling the way I’ve felt when I needed to get on meds. There are plenty of times when I’m comfortable, relaxed, happy… when I have a good day with the kids or when I’m at work (the regular job). Still, I was starting to worry. Every day I’d leave work and feel my stomach start to clench. 

If you asked people if I’m the kind of person about whom you could say, “You can’t keep her down,” I’m guessing most would say yes. And yet, it wasn’t happening. 

I decided I needed to do a little brain intervention on myself. I’ve done one before that worked out quite well. It’s basically a decision to refuse to let my brain go down certain paths, or at least to refuse to let it get stuck there. 

And luckily last week I also had a quick 2-day press trip. I knew it could be fun, different, a break in the routine, but I mostly thought about the fallout in my schedule, the craziness that would surround it, and the stress of travel.

But then I stopped myself. Take it, I thought. Take this time and use it. How often lately have you wished you could just have a few hours with nothing on your to-do list? So take them.

And I did.

I had 4 hours between the wrap-up on Thursday and my drive to the airport. With the downtime, my gracious hosts encouraged me to rent a beach chair and an umbrella and enjoy the beach. They didn’t have to tell me twice.

beach 1 e1413751082885 Under the Yellow Umbrella

20141016 131418 e1413751118661 Under the Yellow Umbrella

It’s been years since I sat on a beach. I kind of forgot how to do it. At first I wasn’t sure I could pass 3 hours just sitting there with a book and the ocean. 

But I remembered.

The key is that you don’t really concentrate on anything. You let your brain float wherever it floats. One moment you read your book, and if you look up and watch the waves for a while, it’s okay. You just watch. There’s the book, the sun, the people, the waves, the occasional doze. 

It’s almost trance-like, there’s something about letting your brain go like that. It’s not exactly what you’d call happiness, but it’s not far off from it. It’s a kind of calm that knows nothing but the moment you’re currently in. I’m guessing it’s kind of like meditation. My mind wasn’t empty, it was taking in everything around me, but it wasn’t picking things apart, it wasn’t getting distracted by anything. This was the really amazing thing, not my gorgeous surroundings, but the fact that nothing was nagging at me from the back of my mind for once. 

I felt better afterwards. Calm, clean, collected. 

On Saturday I did a delivery shift and didn’t spend the whole thing feeling bad. 

Sunday didn’t quite go so well. The work was frustrating and my shift went too long and by the time I picked up the kids I could tell that whatever peace I’d picked up was mostly gone. 

I’m still hoping that I can tap into it. That was my main goal while I was there, getting so enveloped in that feeling that I could summon it when I needed it. Or at least build up a long-empty reserve. 

I don’t really expect it to last, but it doesn’t mean I won’t work on it. 

Next time I get an opportunity for a vacation, it could be years, but whenever it is, I know a beach will be on top of my list. Sure, I love sightseeing and museums and exploring. But I get something from a beach that I can’t get anywhere else and it’s more than worth it.