For A River of Stones
Every word is a stone:
centuries of compressed
meaning, definitions layered,
shaped and formed
to individual distinction,
polished by repeated use.
Elizabeth Crawford 1/3/11
Journal Writing Prompt #11
A new year means new beginnings. What is the story behind your name? Do you know why that name was chosen for you? More specifically, do you know what it means? What is its definition? Do you like your name? Is there another you would prefer? Are you called, defined by a nickname, something other than the one you were given at birth? How did that come about? Do you agree with that identity for your person? How do you, does your personality, fit into the definition of your name?
These questions, as always, are simply suggestions for you to consider, think about, and then write something about. It is the beginning of a new year and it might be wise to take a new and fresh look at how you define yourself and the person that you are and are becoming. Does your name suit you and your personality? Is its fabric and texture pleasing to you, or somehow uncomfortable? Does it challenge you to grow into it, or would you rather run from that label, choose another that would be more pleasing?
Here is a brief example: My name is Elizabeth Louise. I am the only one of four children, given a name from my mother’s family, and ended up with two of them. My first name is that of my mother’s youngest sister, my middle name is that of her oldest sibling. I was raised Catholic, and in that doctrine, infants are given proper saints names. It was never intended that I be called Elizabeth, but rather Betty, and of course, that also meant Betty Lou.
When I was a child, the Betty definition worked just fine. I was a tom-boy, played softball and went fishing with my Dad. Elizabeth was far to heavy, too formal and I liked the friendly casual feel of Betty. However, I attended parochial school, which meant that the first day of the school year, and that first roll call of names, would have me first identified as Elizabeth. I would clearly state that my name was Betty, but would then have to deal with being called Liz, Lizzie, and even Lizard for the first couple of weeks, until everyone settled down and I could be Betty again.
That remained the status quo into adulthood, but when I was twenty-seven, I had a spiritual experience that altered my perspective on many things, including my name. The name Elizabeth has a history and literal meaning. It is God is my oath. That held so many possiblilities, that it was rather mind boggling in many ways. So, I looked up the literal meaning of Betty. It is believed to be a derivative of Elizabeth, but in my research, I discovered that it wasn’t that at all. As a matter of fact, Betty has no literal meaning, what so ever. Nothing.
I really felt that I had a choice to make. I could continue to introduce myself as nothing, or I could walk into that incredible world of possibilities. As circumstances will often allow, I had the opportunity to try on the name in a small group, just to see if I liked it. And oh, I liked it a lot. I was just past thirty when I made that change, and it made a profound difference. On me, and how I perceived myself, but also on how others treated and responded to me. I am sixty-four now and have never regretted that decision. I am Elizabeth and will always be Elizabeth. I am still exploring, still growing into that potential.
My family still calls me Betty, yet when they introduce me to their friends, they often identify me as Elizabeth. I consider that a sign of respect, but also accept the affection that goes with the Betty. There is an additional kicker to this story about my name. Louise means She who fights with honor. What else would, could an Elizabeth do? The possibilities are endless.
So, today’s prompt is to research and explore your own identity as it relates to your name. You can come back and share here in the comments section, or leave a URL for your blog. This is personal writing, so the choice is yours as to whether or not you want to share any part, or all, of it. If you have questions, again use the comments section, start a discussion, share your thoughts and feelings, but have fun and write.