Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name

I hate to disagree with the bard, but...well... I do. Names are important and here's how I know. (Settle in for a story. It's always a story with me.)

I know I've been quiet lately, and my mother will tell you that when I disappear, it's not usually because there's good news. As I approach the actual, legal, sign-here, end of my marriage, the tasks become difficult again -and scary -and feel like a violation. As at the beginning of the process, though, when everything was terrifying and disorienting, the only thing to do is the next thing. Take the small step. Just keep moving. Perhaps because each step is so overwhelming, you can only realize that you have learned something important when you have a minute to look back. Or when something happens to cause you to turn around and look at what has happened without your paying a lot of attention. The situation is at least an order of magnitude less terrifying than those early days, but the process seems similar.

I've mentioned that I'm changing my name back to my birth name. It's not legal yet, so sometimes I get mail or must identify myself with my married name. Most people, though, have switched to using my birth name. I realized the other day that, without my paying attention really, hearing myself called by my married name felt really odd. Wrong. There was no sadness about not having that name any longer. Quite the contrary, I wanted that person to get with the program and call me the right thing. I've stepped into my new skin, apparently, and I want people to recognize that. This development feels very healthy. (Of course, it also means that pretty soon I will need to detach this blog from that name, and I don't want to lose you guys, even temporarily, so I'm dragging my heels about that.

The second thing is that I've been rethinking my house, as you also know. Rooms will be "re-purposed", re-thought, and re-decorated. It's no longer a house that needs to be child-centered; it's no longer a house that needs to be couple-centered. It's my house. It can be changed whenever and however and towards whatever end I like. At first I felt awkward calling, say, my son's old bedroom my office. It's Nicholas's room, for goodness sakes. But soon now it will be my office. (The new floor is being installed next week!!!) The former music room (where the piano and V's harp live) is now oh-so-pretentiously the morning room. It's really only habitable in the mornings, so that's where I sit for my morning reflection and write in my journal, channeling Jane Austen all the while ;) The former office will be.... something; for now I'm calling it the family room.

I realized that this naming of rooms was more than simple identification when I needed to communicate with Math-Fink about the division of the marital property. To facilitate accurate communication I needed to identify pieces of furniture as located in a room whose name he knew. It felt awkward and wrong and like I was referring to some almost-forgotten time and place. Even the house is stepping into its new skin ;)

So what, you ask? (And one could hardly blame you.) I'm starting to think that the outside is a manifestation of the inside. I've commented that things become easy to do when the time is right. But it's also true that simply sitting around waiting for the time to be right is a poor strategy. Rather, the interior work has to be completed, and then the exterior changes. When I really believed myself to be a new person, then a new name was gladly accepted and felt comfortable. When I believed that I could maintain, tend -and afford- this house, then changing it to reflect my needs and hopes simply made sense. Any reference to the old way just felt dated and clunky to my ear.

What's next? Andrea as for-real participating scholar? Andrea as healthy, fit person? Andrea as ..something I haven't even named yet??? I can't wait to find out. Naturally, I'll only recognize whatever it turns out to be three months after the fact, while accidentally looking backwards. Oh well.


Kimberly said...

I think I like "math fink" even better than AMW.

Somewhere along the line, I evolved from "Kim" to "Kimberly" and I try not to be a jerk to people who knew me back when, but I don't think of myself as "Kim," so it's hard to remember to look up when people address me. I chafe a little, it doesn't fit. It's not the name, it's the person to whom the name refers. She's not really here anymore and I don't find it easy (comfortable) when people look for her.

Loretta_S said...

Kimberly, I feel the same way about Lori, my childhood name (pre-school). I was Lori for 4 years and I've been Loretta for 41. It's no wonder I don't relate to Lori. On the rare occasion I'll hear it from a member of the extended family and it makes me realize that they don't even know me or anything about who I am. There is a lot in a name.

I like the idea of re-naming rooms. I think I'll start calling my 12'x 20' living room "the great room" or maybe "the exercise and knitting room" or maybe "the couch room"

Catherine said...

I chafed for years at giving up my *real name* - in a time when hyphenated was popular but irritating in its practical application. Divorce freed me from a struggle to *be someone else* although a new marriage without a new name irks the husband who is often referred to as Mr. Withrow....
Naming your rooms is re-claiming and I'm thrilled for you. Looking forward to hearing more of the REAL you.