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Pressed:  On the Other Side of Comfortable by Shelley Robinson

28 Feb

Crossing Over from 2016 to 2017:  As I transition into a new year, I realize that 2016 was challenging for me because this was the first year where I have experimented living very differently than …

Source: On the Other Side of Comfortable by Shelley Robinson

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Pressed:  A Love Letter to My Husband by Shelley Robinson

28 Feb

 

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I write this love letter to you, my new husband of one year, to remind you of our age (50 something), and as a result, our collective wisdom (over a hundred years together).  Yes, we still have lot…

Source: A Love Letter to My Husband by Shelley Robinson

Pressed:  The Forest Chapel: A Short Story

3 Aug

Source: The Forest Chapel: A Short Story

The Forest Chapel

by

Shelley Robinson

The massive front door made of Douglas fir planks blocked me from entering.  The little sign hanging from a single nail, said, “Closed Today”.  I was disappointed because I had made it my habit of coming to this heritage lodge.  It had become my rustic forest chapel surrounded by enormous legacy trees that guarded over it like faithful soldiers.  Over one hundred species of tree seeds brought back by the owners from countries around the world, had been planted here. Logging had been what helped them build their empire and beautiful home.  As a result, cedar and Douglas Fir were used to build and decorate the interior.

Today, the quiet visit that I had anticipated here was put to an unfortunate halt.  I peeked through the mottled hand-blown window glass, wondering if maybe there was a mistake.  ‘Surely there were some people inside’, I hoped.  I strained to see the grand yew staircase, with its one large bannister limb reaching down to the newel post at the bottom.  Everything about this lodge was about trees.  Trees fortified it with its posts and beams, and fuelled it in the large stone fireplace.  The energy that it imbued provided respite from a stressful life.

Because the house was closed, I was relegated to the front covered veranda.  Two drift wood lounge chairs welcomed me to sit.  I had an eery fixation with this place. Sometimes, I would come here and listen.  My adult son had commented when he had visited here, “I can feel the ghosts in this house, Mom.”   He was a big believer in the paranormal; whereas, I was a skeptical believer.  If there had been ghosts, I would have seen some by now in my five-plus decades on earth.  No angels, ghosts or demons had ever come to say hello and actually pay me a visit.  However, I had always felt some strange connections to buildings in the past.  I sometimes heard, smelled, and witnessed things that were a bit unusual.

“Is it open?”  I turned to see a tall backpacker approach.  He sported a paisley bandana and sunglasses, and carried a large overnight backpack.  He clunked up the stairs with large shoe-laceless hiking boots.

“No,” I answered disappointedly.  “It usually is, but I’m not sure what is happening today.”

He smiled slowly revealing a large toothy grin.  “That’s too bad.”  He looked to be nearly half my age and a well-seasoned traveller with all of his weathered gear.  He seemed to be relaxed in his Bohemian lifestyle that I might have embraced if I had had another lifetime to trek around the world.

I nodded, unwilling to share with him my irrational preoccupation with the estate.   He took off his pack and sat down in the other chair.  He pulled out his water bottle, and drank most of it.  He explained, “I am related to the owners.  That’s why I came.”

“Are you the long lost grandchild due to inherit all of it?”  I joked.

“Wouldn’t that be interesting if I was,” he laughed, appreciating the possibility as he looked up at the building.  “No, I am related to the cousin of the owner’s daughter somehow.  My mother used to talk about this family like they were the royal family.”

“They had a strange history.” I explained my limited knowledge of it.  “He inherited the money by marrying his wife and working his way into the family logging empire.  In the end, he was the last surviving of his two children, who died fairly young, shortly after their mother.  It was all very sad.”   I was momentarily distracted by the pretty pink hollyhocks knocking up against the porch front.

“You know quite a bit about the owners,” he mused looking around at the acres of manicured gardens leading away from the forest and down to the Comox Bay.  In the distance, the Beaufort Mountain Range and its white glacier framed this pretty ocean paradise set in the Valley of the Whale.

“Not really.  I did a bit of reading, but there’s not much to learn about it aside from what the tour guides tell us.  I just like sitting in the quiet of it when no one is around.  I suppose I come here expecting answers. I listen for some kind of advice from the walls,”  I admitted to myself and to him.

“The walls…” I could feel him summing me up as a bit odd, and he was likely correct.  He contemplated my strange disclosure for a while, and then said, “I do that too.  I look for answers in odd places, especially in nature.  What are you hoping to learn?”

“I want to learn why I keep coming back here.  Every time I do, I see things changing inside of the house.  I feel a conversation stirring inside of me as if there is something on the tip of my tongue that needs to be spoken.  There are also smells…”

“What kind of smells?”  he pondered.

“Apple pie; a man’s cologne; and roses…lots of roses…oh…and strong cigars.  I can almost see the smoke.  It all happens when no one is around, nor when anyone nearby would be making these smells,”  I tried to change the topic.  “But no matter, I just enjoy the place.”

He sat back in the chair, and folded his arms.  “I am a little bit psychic sometimes,” he spoke tentatively.  It was my turn to wonder if he was a bit daft and disoriented, or in these parts, maybe a bit under the “influence”.  “I have spoken to ghosts,” he said convincingly in a whisper as he leaned in to me to explain further.

The elderly lodge caretake interrupted coming up the steps.  “Can I help you?” the portly older man with an uncomfortable looking limp, stopped to inquire of our loitering.

“We were wondering why the house is closed,”  I prompted him to explain why to my myself and the backpacker friend who had introduced himself to me as James after complimenting on my long hair.  “This fellow here came to see the house because he is related to the owners.”

***

“You may kiss the bride,” the minister announced.  We leaned in to kiss each other very passionately, and then turned, almost surprised to see to the house full of guests.  They clapped in celebration, recognizing the joy we were experiencing together.  We had finally found each other, and we were thoroughly caught up in this special moment.  “We’d like to invite everyone into the dining room to enjoy some wine and toasts,” my new husband, Chris, cleared his voice and announced.  He was very handsome in his dark pin-stripe suit.  His red rose boutonniere complimented the white and red rose flower arrangements that had been brought in by my family.  It was Christmas time, and we stood in front of the Christmas tree, humouring my father for a couple of pictures before heading to the other room.  

“You have finally found each other…” my best friend began her toast, while my other friends filled up their glasses with champagne in preparation to raise them in good cheer.  The rest of her toast was a bit of a blur to me as she reminisced about my childhood, and some of my accomplishments.  I was also distracted by my husband who leaned in to kiss me on the head during it.  I could smell his sweet cologne, and could sense his excitement and fatigue from the many days of preparation that had led up to this special day.  It was both a triumph and a relief to have it all come together in such a beautiful venue.  I had always liked this house. I had doubted that I would ever marry at all, let alone in such a special place which sometimes felt to be more a church than a heritage home. 

We could smell my sister’s apple pies cooking in the kitchen.  It had been decided that it would be an old-fashioned wedding and what better way with which to bring in a new life together than with the taste of her nutmeg and cinnamon seasoned dessert.  However, there were more toasts, first by my husband’s brother, and then by my other friend, who broke into tears before getting very far in her speech.  It was all a bit of a dream for me, as I had wondered how it all happened so quickly.  

We met each other over coffee, and we spent our first date exploring the park around this very house.  Then, on our second date, we walked further over to the spit, and enjoyed a beach fire by the ocean.   From there, our lives together unfolded naturally, as we shared a mutual love of hiking in the trees.  He would laugh when I would go up to an old-growth Douglas Firs and sacredly hold my hands on their trunks.  I had been told that these parent trees nurtured the smaller ones in the forest.  I believed that they gave me energy too.  We were tree huggers, and for us, there was no finer place in which to share our vows than in a home and park dedicated to appreciating them right along the harbour front. 

It was raining and we wrapped our arms around each other.  The damp pungent smells of the cedar shingles, and the fragrant foliage that stayed green here even into the middle of winter, sharpened our senses to this magical evening.  We sat under the tin roof of the veranda, and Chris pulled me in to him, savouring this quiet moment together before we headed back into the lively celebration. “I love you beyond belief,” he whispered. 

***

“Just come on in,” the lodge caretaker laughed, amused by our interest in the house.  “I have dishes to clean up from the wedding this afternoon.  You can poke around.  I’ll be here an hour or so.”  He pulled out a key chain with dozens of keys on it, and opened the front door.  We were welcomed into the woody living room with hand-woven Persian rugs.  This cozy sanctuary was filled with antique, hand-made mahogany and oak furniture surrounding a large stone fire place that still burned wood on special occasions. “Please take off your shoes,” he looked at James dirty boots and backpack.

“Amazing,” James exclaimed.  We wandered into the dining room with rough cut Douglas fir planks across the ceiling.  A used silver tea service was spread out over the dining room table.  We stepped down into the little breakfast nook and admired the mosaic floor with its inlaid multi-coloured tiles.  They had been brought over in the ballast of ships from the Far East for lumber.  “There is such a powerful energy here.”  He looked carefully at the family pictures on the wall, reading about the family history.  There was one of the owner’s daughter and the owner on the front steps of the lodge where we had been sitting earlier.  She was joyful in her wedding dress, holding wild flowers.  The owner looked on at her with pride.  The photo captured this family in its golden years, and it was with sadness that I thought of everyone who had lived here, and were now gone.

He came over to me and spoke quietly so that only I could hear him.  “I think that this house holds memories of the past and the future in it.”  He reminded me of his son in his youthful belief of mysterious and unexplainable things.

“How can you have a memory of the future?”

“This house seems to have something prophetic about it.  I don’t know if I would call it a memory.  It just gives me some feelings of things to come.”  He touched the heavy wooden mantlepiece above the fireplace.

“What kinds of messages?”  I had been alone for along time.  I always liked to speculate what lay ahead me.  I had many tarot card readings foretelling pretty average events.  Most were vague and inarticulate at best.  I wished that somehow I could know what lay ahead for me.  Would I grow into my older years alone?

“I feel something about you.  You are attached to this home in the past and in the future.  Have you ever been here before?”

“I don’t think so,” but I tried to think about where I might have somehow come across this lovely place in my history.  My family had come over to the island when I was a child, but I had no real recollection of it.

***

The men’s laughter rang through the night louder than the rain that pelted overhead onto the tin roof of the veranda.  They spoke heartily about the deal of the day.  “…and I told him to bugger off if he didn’t have the cash for the lumber.”  All five older gentleman dressed in distinguished evening attire laughed in unison enjoying their whisky and lox.  He pulled out a cigar and clipped the end of it in a definitive stroke, and then handed the cigar clipper over to his friend who did the same.  They savoured the slow catching of the flames before inhaling them.  “Dad,” a woman poked her head out of the front door.  “Can I talk to you?”  

“Sure,” he responded, handing his cigar to a friend with a pat on the back, excusing himself.  He followed her into the lodge, past guests in the living room, with whom he shook hands.  They ended up in the sitting room of the master bedroom, where she sat with him on one of the sofas.  

“I am not sure that I can keep doing it,” she confided to him.  “He has been moody and unpredictable.  I am exhausted with all of the money he has been spending lately.”  She looked over as a little girl peeked around the corner, looking up at them shyly as she made her way from the bathroom back towards the living room to find her parents again.  Mary smiled and beckoned the girl over to her, and had her sit between them, playing with her long red curls as the girl looked up at them through sleepy eyes.  

“I don’t know what to tell you.  Marriage isn’t easy, Dear. It seems like yesterday when you were the bride here in this house.  I think you have to talk to him and make it work,” he looked into her sad eyes, and offered, “Would you like me to talk to him?”

“No,” she was quick to reply.  “He would be furious.”  She started to cough. “We have to get back in and pay our respects to the beautiful bride.  She is such a lovely New Year’s bride, isn’t she, Dad?  She has so much hope for the future, doesn’t she?…”  She sighed.

“Yes, she does,” he held her hand.  “1967 is going to be a good year for all of us. You lie down,” he pulled her in for a hug and then encouraged her to rest.  “You don’t look well.  I’ll pass on your best wishes to the new couple.”  

“Okay,” she agreed.  She never left a social occasion early. He held out his hand to the small girl who looked up at them with wide green eyes.  “And we need to find your parents, Missee,” he smiled down at her, and then led her out to the living room.

***

“It’s a beautiful place,” James looked around and then down at his phone where he typed a message.  He looked up at me and then spoke a bit distractedly.  “I do feel the energy that you are talking about.”  We had wandered around the upstairs and we ended up in the owner’s daughter’s bedroom.

“Apparently this room has been reported to have ‘an unexplained chilly draft in one part of this room’”, I read the description of the room posted on the wall.  “‘Over the years, various lodge caretakers and workers have reported sensing a ghostly, yet benevolent, presence about the property, particularly in the owner’s former bedroom’.  Spooky!”  I turned to James and we both looked out of the room with a stunning view of harbour.  “This is the room where I smell a lot of lavender.  I asked the lodge caretaker before if they used lavender oils or perfume in the room, and he said that they do not.  He also confirmed that there was no longer lavender on the grounds because it was sometimes invasive to other flowers.”

James turned to with a strange look in his eyes.  “I think you will have a significant moment in this room.”

“Really?  Unless I break in here at night, I don’t think anything really interesting can really happen to me here with all of the tourist traffic,”  I teased.

His phone chirped again, and he made apologies.  “My girlfriend is texting me, and I’m going to have to go.”  I was taken aback by the abrupt ending to our brief encounter.  He continued, “It was nice meeting you.  Remember, good things are going to happen to you in this house.”  He said a quick good-bye, leaving me to wonder about where he would end up.  I was left alone in the quiet of the house.  I explored the adjoining dressing room with its built-in cupboards, and coal fireplace.  I felt a presence, and heard a hint of laughter, but I wasn’t sure if it was my over-active imagination.  I stayed still, listening.

***

“She is so perfect,” I held my sleeping grand-daughter, Jane, breathing in her lavender talcum powder while her mother, Andrea, explored the room. Jane’s little eye lashes fluttered and her tiny fingers twitched while she slept in my arms.  I was in love with this little biological heirloom that my son and his wife had given our family

“This is an amazing house,” Andrea exclaimed as she wandered around the room, appreciating all of the antiques.  “Do you think this room is really haunted?” 

“I don’t know.  I’ve always felt like it had something magical about it.  Now you are here to share it with me,” I revelled in the intimacy of this moment together, just the three of us.  

“It looks like they are setting up for a wedding on the front lawn?” she pointed down to a man who was setting up a table next to a full garden of pink hollyhocks.  I leaned out of the open window, and recognized him. I couldn’t quite place where I had met him.  He looked up to the window that we were leaning from, and squinted up at us.  

“Hey, Christine,” he seemed excited to see me.  “Remember me?”  

“No,” I yelled back, smiling.  My daughter-in-law’s awkward laughter suggested that this might have been a forgotten lover from days gone by.  

“I’m James…”

Like a slow processing computer, my mind finally crunched out a memory of my very brief encounter with this man.  “James!  The backpacker.  I remember you.  God, it has been almost ten years.  Do you work here now?”

“I took over that old caretaker’s job.  It helped to be a long lost relative.  I love the trees, and hell, the pay was pretty good.   I got married too.  We live in the little cottage behind the house in the forest,” and as an after thought he blurted, “…and you still have that pretty long red hair.”

I smiled a bit awkwardly.  The dots in my head were starting to re-connect the many pieces of the puzzle of this house that we had spoken briefly about a decade ago.  “I got married too, and we got married here in this house. This is my daughter-in-law, and their baby!”  We both waved a bit awkwardly to him, holding up the sleeping baby who was oblivious to our hollering back and forth.

He gave us a thumbs up and flashed us those big white teeth.  He still wore a flannel shirt, and I wondered if he had finally gotten shoe laces for his big boots.  “You see,” he yelled up happily to remind her knowingly, “Good things did happen here, didn’t they?”  Our conversation years ago had been a foretelling of things to come for me, and stirred a memory from my childhood that I had long forgotten.

“Yes, they did!”  I gave him a thumbs up, and held my other hand to my heart at the immense realization of it all. 

Pressed:  One Week to the Wedding by Shelley Robinson

23 May

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Final Thoughts as a Single Person:  It is interesting how as I get closer to my wedding on December 19, 2015, how important the whole thing has become to both of us.  What started out as a simple “yes” to a romantic proposal has now required me to really take stock of what I value in a commitment of this nature, especially when it is not my first time around.  This time, I am heading into this marriage odyssey with my eyes wide open, and that makes it all the more interesting.

Some describe these last few days as wedding jitters and succumb to cold feet.  Others talk about it as this euphoric time of heady excitement and overlook the reality of what they are undertaking as a couple.  Interestingly, despite Chris and I having lived together before hand and having some life experience under our belts, I have been feeling a whole array of emotions from nervousness to joy.  Where before we both felt that getting married to each other was just a nice romantic gesture to “seal the deal”, we now see some larger value for each of us.  Perhaps we too have been indoctrinated, domesticated, and enculturated into a society that promotes this type of thing.  It has become evident to us that despite our initial non-challance about going through these traditional formalities, we do value the institution of marriage.

It has been interesting to watch ourselves evolve as we meet with the minister, go through the exercise of gathering our families in a small affair, and to decide how we want to commit to each other in a special sort of way.

Family Ties:   At first we were more interested in eloping.  The wedding seemed to be all about us this time.  However, when it came right down to it, we realized that where our families are all far apart, and disconnected from each other, this small affair might be the only time where they actually travel distances to meet.  Although this was not our sole purpose for marrying with friends and family, it became an important consideration.  Our children are adults, and our parents are getting older.  We grew up in different provinces, and our families have very little reason to know each other.  Therefore, we felt this a valuable opportunity to introduce them.  As well, we wanted to share this special event with our children, in particular, to model the value of this relationship experience.  We are learning that it is more than just an official photo opportunity.  It is a meaningful event that has forced us to really discuss our future in great detail and to ask our families to once again believe and support us as we make another commitment to someone new.

The Questions:    We decided to have a minister marry us.  We felt that there was a spiritual purpose in our marriage, and that a minister would be more apt to capture this essence of our union than a justice of the peace.  With this being said, we were careful about how that looked in a religious context for each of us based on our faith and beliefs.  The minister asked us some probing questions.  As well, we chose to do our own marriage preparation through some readings and questions, and the work proved to be both valuable, and challenging.  Again, this time around we recognized that part of marriage is romantic, but another part of getting married is very practical.  We were entering into a marriage of business, and at this age, impending caregiving of one or the other.  We have a window of a couple of decades before the “end is near”.  We both know that we need to use our time together wisely, and so our life priorities have been a focus of many discussions.  The link we found most valuable was the following put out by Nathan Cobb, PhD at http://www.nathancobb.com/support-files/marriagequiz.pdf.

Questions emerged over our past two months, and the really important ones in the last couple of weeks:

  • Love:  How do we meet each other’s love needs?  We talked quite a bit about hitting our love targets, and explored the idea of love languages:  http://www.5lovelanguages.com
  • Experience:  What do we want to do with our next ten years in the window of opportunity of our best health years together?
  • Time:  How do we want to prioritize our time?
  • Money:  How will we finance our lives together through sickness and in health?
  • Relationship:  How will we “do what it takes” to sustain a strong connection as friends and lovers?
  • Communication:  What works and does not work to help us align our thoughts and feelings together?
  • Self Help:  What work do we need to do to be our best selves so that we can be the best for this relationship?
  • Conflict:  How must we best address problems together so we are honest and respectful of each other?
  • Intimacy:  How should we live to insure that we cherish our intimacy together?
  • Employment:  How do we want to spend our final years before retirement?
  • Retirement:  What will we do when we retire, and how will we support our retirement years?
  • Prenuptial Agreement:  What happens should the unthinkable happen?
  • Celebration:  How do we celebrate and find joy in our wedding and honeymoon, and beyond?

What I have Learned:   It is really simple.  Marriage is a lot of work.  It requires telling someone that I will do what it takes to keep us loving, healthy, relationally functional, and financially viable for the rest of our lives together.  It is a big step for Chris coming our of a more than 25-year marriage; and a big one for me having only been married for a few years of my life, and a single mother for most of it.

Our first kick at the can involved a lot of hope, naivete, and steep learning curves.  Now, we have another chance to say “I do”.  This time, we have to develop the necessary marriage skills to be ourselves in the larger context of being a couple.  Both of us must unlearn, re-learn, and learn all of the things we will need to best be together as man and wife.  These are big steps for both of us, and as we get in the final stretch of the wedding, we see the enormity of the commitment.  It is best to admit that this is a scary proposition, but a valuable one.  I can never learn about relationships if I do not take on living one to the best of my abilities.  I am excited, happy, scared, and oddly calm, all at the same time.  How lucky am I to have this special opportunity to marry a wonderful man.

Source: One Week to the Wedding by Shelley Robinson

52 Weeks Begin Now: Week Forty-Nine: What’s in a Name? My Journey of Names

17 Jun

What’s in a Name?  My Journey of Names

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Dr. Shelley Robinson

The Significance of Titles:  Our society seems fascinated with this idea of titles or we would not keep using them.  Both women and men have been addressing each other with titles in front of sir-names for centuries.  It has been a way to formalize social significance and relevance, business prominence and academic status.  It helps people to understand that certain people fit into various social categories, perhaps due to their status by birth, marriage, caste system, regal relationships, academic performance and other.  For example, when women move from the title of Miss to Mrs., it has traditionally been the way to show that they belong to, or are (in some countries) owned by their husbands. Having a title is also a way to remind people of our roles in a hierarchical organization such as the military where there are clear chains of command.

For the “entitled” person, a title can help define us to the world in ways that mean something to us and everyone around us.  However, I have also learned that having a title can be perceived as a means of setting us apart from the people around us.  I have learned that titles can garner respect, admiration, jealousy, disinterest, curiosity, confusion and a sense of belonging in various communities.  My observations in my own experience in this journey of titles is simply this: whether we choose to take on a title, or to ignore it altogether, people pay attention.

Miss:  In the past, when people referenced me as Miss Robinson, I got the distinct impression that they were reminding me and others around me of my age and the fact that they did not see a ring on my finger.  Being a “Miss” felt as though I was very young and very single.  However, when  I was referred to as Miss Robinson by my students, as opposed to them simply referring to me as my first name, which is Shelley, I felt as though I was being treated with respect as their teacher.

I grew up in a family where I referred to all my parents’ friends by their last names.  I would not think of calling my parents’ generation (friends or otherwise) by their first names.  It just did not seem appropriate, and my parents nor their friends encouraged me to use their first names.  To this day, I have a difficult time referring to anyone who is in a higher position of authority, age or position of respect by their first names.

Mrs.:  When I was getting married, this idea of being referred to as a Mrs. was both exciting and perplexing.  I was not keen on giving up my last name as I was born with it, and had accomplished a lot in my academic and professional work with the name Robinson.  However, I found this idea of identifying myself as a married woman a very acceptable shift to everyone around me.  At my age, it was just the socially acceptable thing to do and like all rites of passage, the wedding and celebration encouraged it.

However, to give up my last name was a major life shift for me.  I struggled with this shift because I didn’t recognize myself by the name, nor did any of the music community where I had established myself as a musician.  Each time I had people refer to me by this other name, I looked around to see who it was.  I also felt as though I was giving up on the Robinson name as the oldest child.  I worried that if my sister and I changed our names, and our children took our new married names, the Robinson name would be lost.  As it happened, my son did take on the Smith name, and my sisters’ children are now Taylor, and so the Robinson name will not pass down through my father’s line.  However, I returned to my maiden name after my divorce, and continued on in my life both personally and professionally as a Robinson.  It felt like putting on an old pair of comfortable shoes, and I decided not to make another change to my last name again.  However, giving up the title and name was easier for me than the world around me.  My son then had a different last name than myself.  When I travelled, people had difficulty wondering why I was not a Mrs.  It is less common around the world to be a woman over 40 without a married title.

Ms.:  However, the conundrum of titles continued.  As I aged, it was obvious that I was not a Miss to people any longer.  People stumbled over calling me Ma’m and I had no ring on my finger to identify myself as a Mrs.  The title choice then remained to be called a Ms.  For some women, this title is a source of pride and neutrality that prevents them from falling into any social category.  I remember my French teacher demanding that her students never forget that she was a Ms.

For me, it reminded me that I was now a “mature”, unmarried, and confusing social anomaly to the general population, including myself.  I was not impressed with this idea that I had to announce on paper forms at every turn that I was now “divorced”, and a “Ms.”  In fact, I would often defiantly check off “single” and refrain from choosing off any title at all.  Whose business was my title anyway?

Dr.:   After many years of being in formal education to achieve a doctorate of education, I graduated with a PhD.  At the graduation, we were told by our valedictorian to never be embarrassed by our education and titles; rather, to be proud of our experience and knowledge in the world of academia and beyond.  It was an important name to share with others, including the younger generation of academics, and in my case, young women who aspired to the same level of education.  I was told by a couple of fellow graduands that same convocation that the title Dr. could never be taken from me.  When I returned to school the day after my graduation ceremony, the principal at that time, had my name plate on the door changed.  It now proudly announced that I was Dr. Robinson.  In Alberta, this academic status change was well-respected, and I felt good to have students calling me Doc Rob.  As well, with some relief, I no longer had to explain my lack of marital status.

However, what I have learned recently is that this title is also one that other people find intimidating.  In a world where academic accomplishment can be perceived as pretentious, we are sometimes encouraged to shed out titles.  Therefore, despite being called Dr. Robinson for a number of years in Alberta and then in BC; now in rural BC, and smaller community settings, I have been told that the norm is to refer to each other without titles, and by our first names.  For me, giving up both my title and my last name has been difficult, but I have embraced this idea given the cultural disposition and in some cases, outward hostility towards what they perceive to be an unnecessary formality.

Reclaiming My Name:  What becomes apparent to me is that my name is my own choice.  My name is also a sense of personal and professional identity.  I can choose my own name and title, and yet, I need to be thoughtful of being new to a community where this does not seem to be socially understood or acceptable.  I suppose I need to examine why the title and last name are important to me.  Do I need to be distinguished as academically superior, or is this title something that I should be proud of representing all of my hard work?  It was a very rigorous program and a huge accomplishment to complete as a single mother at a time where I was working full time.  As well, does being referred to by my first name actually strip me of my self-respect?  Has my upbringing of being referred to my last name make this my preference in the work world right?

But then after over-thinking all of the above and this matter of having had four titles and two last names in my lifetime, I find myself gravitating towards this final conclusion.  I think when I am about to turn 50 years old, I can choose to be called by any name that I choose.  Perhaps I’ll refrain from being called Queen of Sheba or Madam President and especially single names like God.  However, I think that my name Dr. Shelley Robinson needs to be reclaimed for my own re-identification.  I am a Dr. due to my academic degree because I have earned it.  As well, I am no longer a Miss, Mrs. nor Ms.  But most importantly, I want to carry on the Robinson name, and I would like to be referred to it as a form of respect when working with people in the world at large.  My first name has, and will always be Shelley, but I will continue to reserve it for those who are close to me in family, personal and professional circles.