Anniversary

Today would’ve been my twelfth wedding anniversary – I got married in 2002 in a small Scottish castle hotel on a crisp, beautiful November day. There were kilts, a ceilidh, fireworks, friends and family. It still ranks as one of the best days of my life, even though the purpose of it has gone away. In many ways, it was a brilliant party that just happened to have a wedding attached to it – I thought so then, and even more so now.

I’ve often wondered why I felt such a strong urge to get married – I pride myself on not following the usual rules of behaviour –but there I was pursuing this goal because it was just ‘what you did’. All my friends had done it or were doing it, and I just had to tick that box. I decided that it had to happen before I was ‘too old’ to go down the aisle, and that thirty-five was my cut-off point. 2002 was my thirty-fifth year.

I knew it wasn’t quite right from the start and yet I pursued it relentlessly. I was the one who asked him to marry me, I was the one who made it all happen, even though he was extremely stressed with work in the year of our marriage and wanted to delay things. I just thought it was procrastination, but in retrospect, maybe he knew it wasn’t right either.

We did it anyway, and it was a huge and wonderful party for about seventy of our friends and family. Neither of us had big families, especially as my parents had died and he’d lost his dad, so there were ‘missing places’ at the wedding that we filled with friends and other loved ones. I made a speech (because of the missing persons), I took myself down the aisle, I arranged the whole thing. I even made myself stay on my own in the hotel the night before, not surrounded by friends and family, and actually a bit scared in the allegedly haunted room. This was all while he enjoyed his last night of freedom with his family and best man back in the village. What was I trying to prove? How alone I could be? I stayed awake pretty much all night.

I knew it was the wrong decision back then, I knew it was wrong on the honeymoon, and I knew for the next eight years. And yet I did it anyway. I know many people – men and women – who’ve admitted to me that they’ve done the same thing and are just going through with it, especially if they have children. It’s really scary, even considering leaving a marriage, and it took me time to gain the courage, and crucially the financial independence, to be able to do it.

When I finally did it, it was so sad. By doing what I’d done over the years, and his going along with it, we’d both lived inauthentic lives and it was time to face reality, in our forties. Essentially, we had been great friends who’d lived a great life, filled with adventure holidays, starter homes, dinner parties and burgeoning careers. There was much to be thankful for and the more distance I get on it all, the more I appreciate it for what it was, and him for what he added to my life. Thank you, if by chance you ever read this. (And by the way, I still can’t watch Out of Africa…)

What I’ve learned from it all is that your gut instinct is entirely correct, every time, in every circumstance. If your heart isn’t in something, your brain and gut know it and they tell you. You must listen to them, because they will steer you correctly through life. I’ve ignored mine in both professional and private life and it’s cost me. I suppose this mistake-making is all part of life experience and everyone does this. If only we’d listen to ourselves earlier in our lives and trust in what we hear. That so rarely happens.

I’ve applied the rule of Gut Instinct to quite a few things now – I only buy clothes if I absolutely LOVE them. Anything less, I know I’ll end up going off them and they’ll be given to charity. I only accept invitations to things I REALLY want to go to, rather than do things because I think I should, or because ‘everyone else’ is going. I only maintain friendships with people who truly add something good to my life and at the first sign of toxicity, back away fast, rather than labour away on something worthless.

The downside is that I often trust an initial feeling about something or someone and back away too quickly, making an ‘insta-decision’ that is so typically too-fast of me. I now catch myself doing it and make myself slow down to really look at the thing or the person, just to see if I’m missing something, if I’m being too hasty. This is the sort of thing I do when I visit new countries (see my Kaleidoscope Effect post) – I go there with all my preconceptions and first impressions and then wait for the reality to reveal itself.

It’s fun, waiting to be disproved about something, because you know, your gut instinct is usually telling you there’s something in there worth waiting for.

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My Name Is…

Much has been made of international human-rights lawyer, Amal Alamuddin’s decision to take the name of Clooney, following her marriage to the actor, George. The world is still divided into those who do and those who don’t take their husbands’  surname, with a venn-diagram central portion who put both names together. Cute.

It made me remember that moment when I got married and took my (now ex-) husband’s name, and how wonderful it was to state it proudly on every bit of paper, and in every situation. Hello, I’m Mrs Mudie.

I know what you’re thinking. How do you say that? It’s east-coast Scottish: pronounced Mew-dee. Every time I went anywhere or made a phone call involving stating my name I inevitably had to do two things: a) correct their pronunciation from ‘Muddy’ or ‘Moody’, and b) spell it out: M. U. D. I. E.

At first, I rather liked the novelty of it, but it soon became tiresome. Especially when I received a letter to ‘Mrs Nudie’. But we laughed about it, and all the variations on pronunciation and spelling just became a fact of life for me.

During the final year of my marriage and my push for independence and freedom I began to realise that I’d lost something of myself. Part of that self was to do with my name. The only situation I’d not changed my name in was work, and at the time, my career was burgeoning. I was working on movie tie-in publishing, getting a name for myself on the conference circuit and making my mark in the world. The person doing this wasn’t Mrs Mudie – she was very much Lisa Edwards, and still is. She was who I wanted to be.

When I became single I wanted to change my name back so badly, but there was a period where I was waiting for the divorce to come through, where I had to remain with my married name while the paperwork was completed. I went on holidays, alone, as Mrs Mudie, bought a flat as Mrs Mudie and paid my bills as Mrs Mudie. How weird to still be her and yet doing all of these independent things.

I finally changed my name back last year and it felt so good. One of my favourite bits in Sex and the City is when Carrie loses her precious ‘identity’ necklace with her name on it – the one she wears throughout the series. She is with a man whose ego – his life, his work, his needs – threaten to subsume hers and the moment is poignant. And then comes the joy of rediscovering the necklace in a hole in her vintage purse – marking the moment when she comes out of this unsatisfactory relationship to find herself again. Fairly obvious stuff, but it always makes me very happy when I watch this scene – I know how delicious that feels.

There are still a few moments when the odd bit of mail comes through from a company that still has my old name and they hit me like a tiny electric shock. Oh yes! That used to be me! I have loved getting my real name back again. Edwards. It’s such a Welsh name and I am proud of it. My grandmother’s name was Dilys Myfanwy Edwards, and I always say you can’t get much more Welsh than that (although I don’t know her maiden name – but I’m betting it was Jones, Roberts, Thomas or Davies).

I’ve recently been typing up my father’s attempt at writing a memoir – he didn’t get very far, but I loved all the names in the first part of the story – Welsh names aren’t hugely varied so the Joneses and the Roberts’s feature heavily. There’s even a Mrs Roberts the Shop, like something out of Under Milk Wood. I like that my name comes from a small pool of names that are an immediate regional identifier – of course I’m Welsh.

People ask me where I got my Twitter name from @Redwoods1 – this comes from the fact that my full name is inevitably pronounced Lisa Redwards, because there are two vowels together in Lisa Edwards so it’s easier to put an R in there when you say it out loud. Redwoods then became a bit of a nickname for me on a holiday during my final months as a married lady. I’d gone away on the spur of the moment with two work girlfriends to San Francisco. It remains one of the best things I’ve ever done – we’d decided to go during a wine-drinking session after work, and put our plan into action (I still can’t believe the company let all three of us managers go). For part of the trip we stayed in a gorgeous cabin in the forest in Sonoma. After visiting various wineries by day, we lounged outside in the hot tub, drinking Corbel sparkling wine, surrounded by Redwood trees. ‘Redwoods!’ one of my friends exclaimed. ‘Lisa Redwoods!’ The name stuck, not least because of my reddish hair.

That holiday was a turning point for me. Redwoods beckoned – the woman who wanted to experience the world as an independent person, who wanted to get on a flight to SF without thinking about it and end up in a hot tub in Sonoma with two girlfriends, a gay couple and a load of sparkling wine, smiling up at the trees.

So here I am.

Because I can.

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Why do we care so much when women change their maiden names?:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/poorna-bell/amal-alamuddin-clooney_b_5981286.html