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.
I’m falling behind, Elizabeth, after a lovely lazy week with my son. Robin has just left, with the prospect of a snowy journey home to Hertfordshire via Dieppe/Newhaven.
I did very little work – apart from getting to grips with the new laptop – though I did handwrite my piece for last week (in bed!) but have yet to transcribe it. I like the idea of writing about my name, so watch this space!
Congrats on the laptop. I looked at several, even tried a few, but prefer my tower and regular-sized keyboard. You have lots to get used to and I wish you luck. I have always found names fascinating, and will keep on eye out for you,
This makes me think, Elizabeth, as I have a problematic name situation that is likely affecting my karma and sense of self. 2011 is the year to make a change! You inspire me with the rightness of what you wrote. Time to do it now, dont want to get stuck with the wrong name on my tombstone (I told people I’ll come back to haunt them if that happens!)Great topic.
Hi Sherry, good to see you here and I agree, sometimes a name might skew things in ways we don’t understand. Perhaps the Universe knew I was supposed to be Elizabeth, not Betty and worked energies that would bring that about. Whatever, I believe that names are definitions and if we are going to explore our own person, it is a good idea to look at the definitions we accept sometimes without thought. Hope you come back and tell us the results concerning your name, and will send positive thoughts in your direction asking for a smooth path in doing so.
My parents named me Mary after the Mary in the “Mary and Martha” story in the Bible. Martha was the one who was working about and Mary was the one who was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening. It has often struck me that I should have been named Martha, as I have most often been the one who served one thing or another and the one who cleaned up. Generally not the one who has just sat and listened when there has been work to do.
Mary, that has been one of those stories that pop up periodically for me. I think I even wrote about here on this blog quite a while ago. The story has always been significant for me because I saw myself as Mary, the one who sat and listened and perhaps asked questions. Most women our age, were taught that the only role we were meant to engage in was that of Martha. But, if you read the story carefully, there is a bit of bitterness and resentment in Martha’s response. Maybe because she too really wanted to sit and listen and have someone else do all the needed chores. And Christ, in his role as teacher, said that Mary’s choice was the better of the two. We need to find a balance between the running and the down time that allows us to feed our inner needs, not just take care of everyone else’s. And it is hard to let go of a life long habit whether it is listening, or running.
Thanks for the story Mary, it is very thought provoking,
I agree there was a bit of bitterness in Martha’s response. And sometimes when I have played the ‘Martha’ I have wished just to be ‘Mary’ (my namesake) too. At other times I am glad to be ‘Martha’ because sometimes I get tired of so much conversation and would rather be doing something than shooting the breeze. I think realistically I am a combo of both Mary and Martha. I am more a listener than a talker. I am more one who asks questions, draws others out. THAT has often been my role.
And again, Mary, I agree with you. There is a need for both in every life and I think that is the point in the story. That we not be confined to one or the other, but find the balance between them. When we can be both, we become giver and recipient, and I think that is the way it should be. Thanks for coming back and commenting. I think that we are alike in that as well. I don’t always have an answer or a comeback, until hours later. I have to think it through, let it digest, before I know what I want to say. Sort of feeling my way, and sometimes very slowly, lol.
I finally caught up:
My name is Vivienne Frances, Vivienne at the instigation of my Uncle and godfather and Frances for my mother and grandmother (Fanny, but we won’t go into that). Mum and Dad wanted to call me Virginia. Uncle Bob, who was French, told them that they couldn’t saddle me with perpetual virginity!
Various versions of my name have been used at different times: mostly ViV, to which I answer readily. My first piano teacher – an adorable Montessori teacher who became a nun – called me Vivi, which always made me feel special, and I still have several treasured books, inscribed To Vivi with love from Peggy.
At school, I was known at Spiv, which was simply a rhyming device, and not an implication that I was anything like a wartime black marketeer! When I left the convent at 14 and went to a mixed grammar school (what a culture shock!) I lost my Christian name, pupils being known there by surnames only. My maiden name was Showell, and nobody ever pronounced or spelled it correctly, so it was a relief to become Smith on my first marriage, and Blake the second time around.
My Dad used to call me all sorts of weird names – the most memorable being Franchescamalina, which I adored. As a child, and sometimes even now, my daughter used to call me Mrs Morley – why, I cannot remember.
If anyone British calls me Vivienne I know that I’m in disgrace. Our French friends and neighbours call me Viviane, which is the French version of my name. I have one or two close friends who call me Veev”, which some people interpret as “lively”. I rest my case.
I love it Viv, especially that you have had different definitions at specific times and places in your existence. It shows that we are not static creatures and that we can and do change, and our energies do as well. I especially like what your uncle had to say about the name Virginia, lol. It makes such earthy common sense, doesn’t it?
I was wondering if your name actually referred to the verve for and energy of a more lively life and existence. Having come to know you through your words, I would certainly think so. Thanks Viv,
This is a wonderfully crafted, densely meaningful stone. I love it.
Thank you Kim, I am really enjoying the stones exercise. It is quick, at least in the posting part, and I have always been a collector of stones, even made them for a while.
I have also thought about names quite a bit, especially in my family. Both my parents are Jewish but we were not religious. None of my four siblings have Hebrew names. What is even more telling to me is that our names are Jane, Thomas, Wendy, Barbara, and James. In what universe would those names even hint a tiny bit of being Jewish? I think my parents kind of wanted to “pass” and for us to not be identified as Jewish. My last name is also neutral.
As for “Jane”, I don’t relate all that well to it, but after 61 years, I guess it will do. It always seemed so stern and is the opposite of lyrical to me. I do have some nicknames…JanIe; JanieO, JaneO. At work I always sign off on my E-mails as “JaneO” and that seems to fit (O being the first letter of my last name).
When I address my “child self”, it is always “Janie” or “Little Janie” so that name is a very special part of me.
It is very interesting to think about one’s “official label” and how it does or doesn’t seem to be reflective of one’s real nature/self.