Friday, October 22, 2004
Have you ever wanted a new name?
I know I have. My name is Gail. Gail - that's it. Nothing fancy. People ask me what it means and I have no coherent answer. I'm not complaining about the name my parents chose for me, but I must admit to having gone through phases when I wanted something a little more exciting - especially when I was younger. At one point I decided to change my name and have people call me by my middle name, "Nadine." I don't know what that means either, but it seemed more interesting than "Gail." Fortunately I had (and still have) kind and tolerant friends. They agreed to call me by my new name. One problem: when they said, "Nadine?" I said nothing. It wasn't what I was used to being called, so I never responded. I soon went back to "Gail." For all my high school years my track coach called me "Gailie." Even my high school boyfriend took to calling me by that name; on occasion he still does. I have never told either of them this: but that name makes me feel like a seven-year-old. One friend simply refers to me as, "G." That makes me feel mysterious, intriguing. I like that much better. It's nearly impossible for my Spanish and Italian speaking friends to pronounce my name. As they struggle to wrap their mouths around that decidedly English "ai" vowel dipthong I smile and sometimes offer them an easier option: "Just call me 'Maria.'" That never works either for the reason mentioned above. I've gotta just deal with it: I have always been, am now, and will always be "Gail." Or am I? One of my favorite songs is, "I Will Change Your Name." I have loved it from the first time I heard it. We sang it often at Trinity Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. The words are simple: "I will change your name. You shall no longer be called Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid. I will change your name. Your new name shall be Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One, Faithfulness, Friend of God, One who Seeks My Face." That song moves me to tears nearly every time I sing it. For lots of reasons: first of all, I know very well what it means to live up to every single one of the names on that first list. Secondly, I only rarely and barely live up to that second set of names. This past summer while on an extended road trip with my children, I listened to the Trinity CD that contains that song dozens of times in the minivan. While journaling one summer day I decided to list all the names I could think of that I no longer wanted to be called, the names I no longer wanted to call myself. I followed that exercise by listing all the new names I would choose for myself, the ones with which I would be christened if given the chance. I hope you don't mind if I share some of those names with you. Feel free to add your own... "I will change your name. You shall no longer be called..." Weak, sad, contrary, rebellious, selfish, divisive, a gossip, complaining, impatient, jealous, nosy, unforgiving, unloving, conceited, cold, distant, moody, unavailable, grumpy, unwilling, judgmental, uninvolved, uncaring, unkind, controlling, nagging, uncommitted, prejudiced, insensitive, unreliable, aloof, overbearing, hypocritical, intimidating, needy, clingy, demanding, inflexible, or desperate. "I will change your name. Your new name shall be..." Loyal, patient, persevering, mindful, diligent, disciplined, truthful, careful, thoughtful, joyful, helpful, generous, considerate, willing, vulnerable, open, gracious, unbiased, hospitable, transparent, honest, sincere, comfortable, comforting, attentive, persistent, reliable, warm, welcoming, meek, available, funny, gentle at heart, bold, caring, deferential, friendly, open, trustworthy, wise, vital, understanding, prayerful, humble, cheerful, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, self-sacrificing, peaceful, peace-making, and loving. I'm not always spiritual and high-minded in my naming ceremonies, believe me. I also want to be known as a good cook, an insightful writer, good looking, well groomed, well dressed, well read, well traveled, sexy, sweet-smelling, the life of the party, and an engaging conversationalist. Obviously, I won't be able to fit all of this in the "Name" blank on the form to renew my passport next year, but it's been both good fun and a serious challenge to reflect and work on this list over the past few months. How would you fill in these blanks? "You shall no longer be called _______________________________. Your new name shall be ______________________________." Hope your autumn is awesome, Gail