What’s in a name?

Deciding to change your name is a very personal decision. Although I loved being a wife and (love being) a mother, my feeling was that if my ex didn’t want me, I no longer wanted to carry his name. Embarking on my own Shirley Valentine quest to try and rediscover the me I used to be, I would do it with my ‘own’ name.

One reaction I got from someone who had only ever known me by my married name was very inspiring.  They claimed my own name sounded like a character from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel and told me to, “Go out and be the heroine of your own story.”

So what does changing your name actually involve?  When I married in the late 70s it was easy.  I had one bank account, a driver’s licence and a passport.  Done and dusted.

Now, 40 years later, it’s more complicated.  Some of it is costly, some of it’s not.  So how do you go about it?

No matter where you live, the most important thing to start with is to collect ALL of your ORIGINAL documents; birth certificate, marriage certificate and divorce certificate.  (Some people are tempted to dispose of the latter.  Don’t!)

After that, it will depend where you live.  I live in Canada, so this is how I proceeded.

  1. Driver’s Licence.  I took along all 3 certificates and got my new driver’s licence at my local AMA office. (Free)
  2. Once I had my driver’s licence for ID, I was able to change my provincial Health Care Card.  I also did that at the AMA office.  (Free)
  3. I then visited the bank with my new ID and all three original certificates and changed all my account info including credit cards etc.  (Free.)  I also have a bank account in the UK, so I needed to visit the bank with all three ORIGINAL certificates to have that changed.  (Free – except for the cost of getting there!)  This applied to my bank, it may not be the same with others, so check out what you need with your branch.
  4. Social Insurance Number.  This is where original documents are so important, especially if you were born or married overseas.  This was done at my local government office. (Free) They assured me the change would automatically be transferred over to the Taxation Agency, but it’s a good idea to…
  5. … contact your Taxation Agency and confirm that has been done.  Especially before you file your annual taxes. (Free)
  6. Passport.  Ironically I needed less ID for my passport than my Social Insurance Number – they didn’t need my marriage certificate.  Fortunately my passport was up for renewal anyway, so it only cost me the normal amount.
  7. House title.  I’ve still to do that, so I’m not sure what the cost will be.
  8. Then come other important considerations:  car ownership, car insurance, house insurance etc.  These were all free and done at my local AMA office.
  9. Then the minor things – library cards, loyalty reward cards, membership cards. Most of these will be free.
  10. Time share property.  I co-own an overseas timeshare property with my daughter – who is also my executor.  They need original documents AND it will cost approximately $300 to change my name on our joint title.  I will do that on our next visit to the property.

There are probably other things which I haven’t factored in, but I believe these are the most common.  In general, it’s not an expensive undertaking, but it is time-consuming, and here I am, two years after beginning the process, still catching things every so often.

Was it worth it?  I have friends who kept their married names and are perfectly happy about their decisions.  But for me, changing my name has helped me move forward.

One of the last scenes in Shirley Valentine is when her husband passes her on the beach.  She calls out his name and he stops, surprised.
“I didn’t recognise you,” he says.
“I know,” she replies. “I used to be The Mother.  I used to be The Wife.  Now I’m Shirley Valentine again.”

 

Feeling Scared

My ex-husband had kidney failure. That meant he was on dialysis for almost four years until he got a transplant.  Dialysis three times a week, times fifty-two weeks a year, times four plus years…

How many times did I pick him up from the hospital?  Probably at least 300, whether it was sunny weather, or minus 30C and blizzarding.  Add to that the number of times I accompanied him to doctors’ appointments, or got a nudge in my back in the middle of the night when he thought he might be having a heart attack and needed me to take him to emerg, or watched over him after his surgeries and procedures, or carried his boxes of dialysis fluids and equipment from the basement to the bedroom when he dialysed at home, or picked him up off the floor when his blood pressure dropped so low he passed out, or helped him pump the blood back into his body when we had a power failure and the dialysis machine ‘died’….

For the fifteen years after his diagnosis, I was there as his support, his advocate… his ‘soft place to land’, my arms open to him when his tears came.  But that’s what you do, isn’t it, when you love someone.  You do it willingly and lovingly, wishing you could take their pain away.

Cut to today.

I’ve had a minor heart issue most of my life.  Apart from three visits to emerg over the decades, it’s been held stable by medication for 30 years.  But over the past couple of months, I’ve felt things weren’t quite ‘right’.  So I went to see my doctor today.  He’s not overly anxious, but he agrees things aren’t as they should be.  It’s been at least ten years since I last saw a cardiologist, so my doctor is sending me for a battery of tests. What happens next will depend on the results.  In reality, it’ll probably just mean a tweak of my meds…

I’ll be honest, I’m running scared.  What if it’s not just a tweak of my meds?

I started crying in the car afterwards because what I wanted – what I needed at that moment – was for the husband I thought I’d had to put his arms around me, hold me safe and tell me it will be all right.

But that can never happen.

I’m not alone in this experience, so I shouldn’t be such a baby.  Everyone who is on their own – whether from divorce, bereavement  – must experience moments like this where you just want that someone to hold you.  My own widowed mother went through major heart surgery when she was in her mid-70s.  My brother, sister and myself, gathered around, did everything we could for her… and I know she appreciated it. But I’m sure it wasn’t our arms she really wanted around her, comforting her.

I’ll be fine. I know I will. My kids and friends are there to love and support me.  But today I’m scared.  Today I just wish it was five years ago, before this whole divorce thing happened, and I could relax into one of his hugs, feel his arms around me, his breath against my skin… and feel I wasn’t – for today – quite so alone.

Trigger Dates

Version 2

I didn’t feel great when I woke up this morning – kind of dizzy and lightheaded. When I looked in the mirror I thought I looked a bit pale. I brushed it off, putting it down to leaving the island on the first boat today and not sleeping terribly well last night.

We were on the ferry when my daughter said Continue reading

I Feel The Island Breathing…

 

Version 2

I feel the island breathing… Bobby Watt

Our lives are constantly evolving; friends come and go, we may live in many cities in our lifetime, career paths change, parents die, jobs end, children grow up and move away, illnesses rob you of health and strength, a husband – the man you thought was your soulmate – discards you.

But today, driving off the ferry onto the Isle of Arran, I felt my soul gladden and ease. Arran has been the one, dependable, constant in my life since I was seven years-old. As my daughter and I walked along the shore this evening, we discussed how, barring a few exceptions,  I have memories from this island for every single year of my life. Continue reading

Can’t get you out of my head…

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It’s the way it sometimes catches you by surprise, isn’t it?  You’re living your life, getting on with things, and then you get an e-mail or hear word from your ex.  Your chest constricts, your head starts reeling, all those thoughts and feelings of pain wash in and you wonder… will I ever get him out of my head?

Wouldn’t it be great if – a la Harry Potter – I could just put a wand to my temple, extract all the painful memories and feelings my ex has left me with, and put them in a jar,  which I could revisit only if and when I wanted to? (Which would be rarely, if ever!!)

I’ve felt things building the past week, so I decided to make an appointment with the counsellor I saw back in 2016, when I was at my lowest. Kind of catch things before they got too bad.

I wrote to him beforehand – told him that on the outside of my life I’m doing fine, but sometimes the inside hurts really badly – and asked him for some strategies to help on days I find things really really hard.

This is what he suggested.

(Please remember I was in an upset state when I met with him, so I might not have remembered everything 100% as he said it.  This is my interpretation of his advice.)

The first thing he suggested was to actively stop when a thought about my ex comes into my head. He says some of his clients will actually raise their hand in a stopping gesture.  Stop and turn your thoughts around.

For example, think about the good things in your life now.  Things that you couldn’t do when you were married to him. For me, that includes the amount of travel I’m able to do now.

But…it still makes me think about ‘him’.  (He’s currently on a holiday with ‘her’.  A holiday he refused to take with me.  So this suggestion doesn’t work for me.)

The second thing he suggested, was to find a quote you like; something inspiring which speaks to you.  Write it down and carry it in your wallet, so it’s there if/when you need it.

Not long after my ex left me, I was talking to a friend I’ve known for over 30 years, but whom I only see occasionally.  He never liked my ex – the feeling was mutual – and his advice was to not to look back.  Keep looking forward.  Always keep looking forward.

I read recently that you feel sad when you look back and anxious when you look forward, so I’m going to try and stop doing both.  But the most important thing is not looking back into the past. Don’t look back.  Don’t you ever look back!

Which is ironic given that…

The third thing my counsellor suggested was something that really calmed me down.  He told me to think about walking into a house  Upstairs, there’s a corridor with four doors; two on the left and two on the right.

Go through the first door, and step into the room.  It’s a lovely room.  In that room, think of all the good things people have ever said about you in your life. Times when people have enjoyed being with you.  All things that are personal.

Then go into the second beautiful room.  This room holds all your ‘professional’ achievements; things like your high school diploma, badges from scouts or guides, music exams, university or college degree, professional qualifications.  Things you have achieved through hard work.

From there, cross the hall and go into the third room. This space contains your positive dreams for the person you want to be.  Do you want to be compassionate?  Brave?  A good friend?  A good grandparent? A painter? Climb a mountain? Run a mile in 10 minutes?

The fourth door opens into the bathroom.  This is where you get rid of all the s–t that you are still carrying around.

This is the strategy that I think will be most effective for me, and it got me thinking about a project my daughter did for my 60th birthday, just a few months after my husband walked out.  She contacted various friends, asked them what their memories were of me, and collected them in a box.

Here’s one from a friend from my nursing days.  Memories include the terrified look on our faces when we found ourselves sharing a bedroom for four having never shared a room with anyone in our lives on January 8th, 1973. Sitting in our tiny flat in the sunshine listening  to Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. Being able to pick up  where we left off without any difficulty no matter how long we have been apart.

I think I’m going to add to that ‘birthday’ box.  I’m going to make a second one of all my ‘achievements’;  my nursing diploma, my university degree, a speech award, my army ‘pips’, photos of my kids as babies, etc.

In a third box, I’m going to fill it with words like compassion, courage, laughter, love, sunshine, mother,  travel, music, grandmother, reading, rainbows, etc.  All things that bring joy into my life.

And then when those bad days come – as they do – when I can’t get my ex and his new wife out of my head, I will open those boxes and think of the people who mean so much to me, the things I have achieved in my life, and the person I want to become.

So yes, even though I’ve chosen my quote as  – ‘Don’t look back.  Don’t you ever look back.’  – I am going to look back.  But only at the good stuff.  Because who I was then is who I am now.

But I am going to look forward too. Because forward is where I’m going.

Where we’re going.

When The Pain Comes…

It all started last week with one of those stupid quizzes: Based on your star sign, how many times will you fall in love?

Of course, I checked out my ex’s first – his sign is before mine, astrologically speaking. His said 3. So he’s on course.

Mine? One. Because you when you love, it’s forever.

Great!

And then I had a conversation with yet another friend in this situation. There are so many of us around, aren’t there; women who’ve been married for 30+ years whose husbands move on to a younger version.

Maggie voiced something I’ve been holding secret in my head for so long, scared that if I said it aloud, people would think I was even more foolish than I usually feel. She admitted that her ex was the love of her life. That she will never – could never – love anyone the way she loved him.   Wasn’t that stupid? Wasn’t that crazy? Doesn’t that make her a grade A loser?

Well, I guess that makes two of us, because that’s exactly how I feel too. I loved my husband and I still love him. They say that hate isn’t the opposite of love. Indifference is. On the one hand, I’m mad with him, furious at him, I want to strike back and hurt him the way he hurt me.  On the other, I worry about his health and the damage he has done to our family and his relationships with our kids. So, I’m still feeling something.

He however… remains indifferent.

Over the weekend, things continued to build. Just little things; not feeling 100% physically, putting up with winter in the minus 20C range for days on end, not being able to get out the house for some fresh air because it’s so icy out, having to figure out some major financial decisions that could have long term ramifications, learning that one very dear friend has cancer while another has MS, the relentless cheery Valentine movies on TV…

…so I booked an appointment to see a counsellor later this week. I haven’t felt the need to see one for more than 2 years. I’m moving ahead. I’m travelling, teaching, doing things I never dreamt I was capable of. And yet, inside… Deep inside…  I wanted to get on top of things before I felt myself sinking under again.

And then, this morning, my ex informed me he is now off on yet another holiday with his new wife. In four years, they’ve now had more holidays than we ever had – either as a couple, or as a family – in almost 40 years. We couldn’t travel because work always came first, or the chronic illness that he had couldn’t be ‘dealt with’ anywhere else outside our home city. Forty years ago, he couldn’t even be bothered organizing a honeymoon and was back at work well within a week of our wedding.

And so I cried.

And cried.

All those doubts, all those feelings of worthlessness just hammered back down on me. I know, I know… the way a person treats you says everything about them and nothing about you, but when you’re at the receiving end of betrayal and rejection, you can’t help but wonder what was so wrong with you that he left you for someone else. What is so wonderful about her and so awful about you?

Last year I kept a jar to which I added a dime when I had a really – really – bad day, feeling upset over my ex. I’ll be honest, I seriously considered adding my first dime of the year today. But I didn’t.

These days will continue to come and go over the years. They don’t hit as often as they did, but they still hit hard. I’ve asked my counsellor for some tools and strategies to help me on days like this. Things I can do to help me get through that darkness until I step back out into the light again.  I’ll share what he says with you.

I will step out into the light again.

And so will you.