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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Itsy Bitsy and Profound

Another reason why I love Chris:

He wakes up at 4am to go to work and, before he leaves, he brews a pot of coffee so that it is ready for me when I wake up.

Such small things make up who he is and remind me of how those small things remind me of why and how much I love him.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Bridal Shower

As it says on all signs in stores and in all elementary school classrooms this time of year, Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to spend time being thoughtful about the blessings and gifts in one’s life.
This Thanksgiving, I spent the few days leading up to the holiday with Chris, his immediate family and his mother’s side of the family in upstate New York.
It was lovely.
I had only been to visit with this part of his family once before, during Christmas two years ago.  Then, we were not yet engaged so because of this and because it was my first time meeting any of Chris’ extended family, I was more nervous and not quite at home (but not because his family was anything but welcoming).
This year, I felt much more comfortable.  What’s more is that his mother coordinated for me a bridal shower the day before Thanksgiving.  All the women – from Chris’ 93-year-old great-grandmother to his 1 ½-year-old cousin – attended a breakfast.  Just the fact that this was something that they all wanted to do and took time during the busy holidays to attend was heart-warming.
The shower had the effect of further facilitating my feeling of becoming part of the family in a very significant way. Something about the process of sitting down, purposefully, with these women and their great caring and warmth kindled in me a great thankfulness to be so lucky.  I am lucky not only in my partner, but in his family who have been thoughtful and welcoming to me.  This trip was only my second time seeing everyone, save for my soon-to-be mother-in-law, but I already felt included.
So, today, as I sit in the airport awaiting the flight that will carry me and Chris toward our way home on this Thanksgiving Day, I am inestimably grateful to be adding so many wonderful folks to my own family tree – folks who will be there to witness our wedding and share our happiness, who share with one another much laughter and love.

Plus, you know, as my bridal shower gift, this is what they got me:



Because, it seems, they get me.
And I’m definitely taking those bad boys dancing very soon…just to break them in before I wear them on the big day.

In all seriousness, though, I am lucky and joyous (and maybe a little teary) to be joining this family and folding them into the concept of my family…not just Chris’.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On Names

I know that I already posted about, but one of my favorite [political/feminist] bloggers just posted an article that explains my perspective more eloquently, although not all of it applies to me.

As I noted before, I do plan on changing my name and taking Chris' surname.  I am choosing this having given it much thought and reflection on the various aspects of the consideration.

This blogger, offered a list of ten potential reasons that a woman who identifies as feminist (which I do) would choose to take her husband's last name as her own (which I plan to do).

She makes many good points, but here are some of my favorites:

 ...
6. Because her maiden name was her father's name and keeping it did not feel like any more a rejection of the patriarchy than taking her husband's name did, and she liked her husband's name better.
  ...
9. Because she and her husband want the same last name, but the law makes it infinitely easier for her to change her name to his than for him to change his name to hers, or for both of them to choose a new name they share altogether.
 ...
10. Because despite knowing it comes from a weird, fucked-up patriarchal tradition, there's still some weird, fucked-up place inside her that likes the idea of taking her husband's name—and no feminist/womanist lives a life free of compliance, consciously or not, with weird, fucked-up patriarchal narratives and expectations. But unlike privately calling another woman a bitch or playing the role of Exceptional Feminist with a group of male coworkers or secretly doing all the housework in her own home, the name thing is there for everyone to see and question, every day of her life.
...Every time we publicly castigate or question women who have taken their husbands' last names [we judge and castigate them] —because there are reasons, not always evident and none of our fucking business, for that choice which can and sometimes do trump political statements on a personal, individual level.
This is not to argue that taking one's husband's name is inherently a feminist choice (although I'm not sure it's inherently not a feminist choice, either, depending on the circumstances). It is merely to say that we cannot (and should not) axiomatically assume anything about a woman who has taken her partner's name, rendering this yet another subject on which the casual passing of judgment is a pernicious affair indeed.
Quite evidently, we each have a responsibility to think critically about our individual decisions, and not pretend they happen in a void even when we make choices for no one's pleasure or security but our own. just because one is doing something for herself doesn't magically turn it into a choice without cultural implications.
But it's eminently possible to critique the culture in which individual choices are made, and the cultural narratives that may affect our decision-making processes, without condemning those individual choices. Or the womanists/feminists making them.
Not every feminist/womanist will make the same choice, nor should they be thus obliged in order to prove feminism's value. Feminism has sufficiently demonstrated its own worth by providing that spectrum of choice in the first place.
In general, I recommend this blogger's writing and find her insights quite interesting (although I do not always agree with her).   I like that she put this in terms of feminism and how we, as persons with strong ideals and points of view, forget that others can make choices that are not 100% in line with ideologies and are still legitimate and do not negate a person's identification as feminist (or belonging to some other ideology).

I just like this post and wanted to share, particularly as it pertains to me and my own personal decision...and one that I clearly felt like required an explanation of some kind.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two Hundred

As of today, there are exactly two hundred days until the wedding, and it puts me in a reflective mood.

I know that I spend much more time and mental energy on the pragmatic details of the wedding -- planning, meetings, decisions, and ideas -- than on the emotional impact.  I'm trying to change that.

Being in the mental health profession, it is incredible how much even I use the pragmatics to bypass the psychological impact of transitions and needs.  A lot of this is about control and about our culture.  Our culture focuses on getting things done, on results, on tangibles, and quantifiable actions.  This is not the most helpful or healthful way to live, from a psychological perspective.

It is much simpler to spend energy on deciding which one of these to buy and whether or not I want this or that.  And honestly, it feels like these decisions are of eminent importance.  For example, Chris and I went browsing from wedding bands the other day.  We found a few that we like, but I cannot for the life of me make a decision about what I would like to do.  I have spent a good amount of time looking at photos of the rings on the internet, and felt anxious that I will make the wrong decision.  Upon reflection, though, two things become clear: (1) I don't need to make this decision for another couple of months yet, and (2) it doesn't really matter which of the rings I choose.  If I pick the "wrong" one, I will either come to love it or we can just get another one if I don't.  Essentially, there is no wrong ring.  Whichever ring I choose, I will wear along with my engagement ring and it will still stand as a symbol of our love.

With so many messages from the media and questions from others in my life about the decisions and details of the wedding, it becomes so easy to convince myself that the anxiety I feel about choosing a wedding ring is about the wedding ring.  It is not.  That anxiety is not about the physical band and its qualities.

That anxiety, that fear of making the incorrect decision, is about me and how I am feeling in general regarding the wedding.  Before I continue I want to be clear: I love Chris, I want to marry him more than I want to do anything in this world.  And still, I cannot help but feel an impending sense of doom.  By that I mean that, in making each step towards the realization of such an important decision, transition, and step in my life, I worry.  I cannot pinpoint all of it at this moment, but I know that it's there.  And it's not about Chris.  It's not about our relationship.

It's about me and what this wedding and marriage means to me as a woman transitioning from my family being my family of origin (my parents and siblings) to "my family" first and foremost meaning me and Chris.  Even though, in reality, this has been the case for a while, the wedding represents the formal transition just as, after completing all my coursework during undergrad, pragmatically, I was just as finished with college as I was after I walked across that stage to shake hands with the provost.  The ceremony is important.  It is a marker.

As a person, I am much more likely to feel anxious when I am uncomfortable than depressed.  Most people have one tendency or another: I have the former.  I tend to get into the 'doing' or the 'avoiding of doing' and putting a lot of mental and physical energy into something other than the most important task at hand.
I often make decisions quickly and decisively, but until a decision is irrevocable (or as near to it as possible), I will question it, feel ambivalent and anxious about doing the 'wrong' thing about 'failing'.  I also worry about whether or not I will do something correctly.

To help, I make lists and I check and double-check.  I color-code, schedule, and create redundant systems.  I organize, make boxes, make labels, and go over the same ground multiple times until I'm too irritated with myself to continue.  This is how I handle stress and uncertainty.  This is what has helped me get through graduate school insanity and all the bombs that have exploded in my life.  I start with the practical and, often, this makes the anxiety go away.  Not anymore.  I know now that, while I do still need those lists, due dates, and highlighters, that is not the only thing I need to do to make my wedding day successful.

I need to spend more time on my emotions themselves.  I need to be okay with acknowledging, even just to myself, the pain of this transition and the fears of the unknown that plague me.  I need to remind myself that this anxiety is not about the fact that I'm three days late in ordering the invitations.  I also need support in the fact that, while I am enduringly thrilled about marrying Christopher, it is not simple or easy.

I need space to prepare in more than just losing weight or test-driving lipsticks.

You know what else helps?
Reminding myself of something that I heard and that resonated with me: "He always makes me feel like the prettiest girl at the party."
And he does.
I love our love.
And I love him.

That eases it, but doesn't mean that the pain and anxiety aren't there or aren't going to crop up again.