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


Karmen said...

So, I know this is an O.L.D post, but I decided to go back and read through your blog from the beginning. Hope you don't mind.

To answer your question, I will no longer be called: Angry, Fearful, Less than, unworthy, unhappy, fearful, trapped, empty, scarred, dirty, impatient, judgemental, hard, fat, lazy, harsh. My new name shall be: strong, faithful, Joyous, welcoming, skinny(hee hee), full up with awesomeness, clean, patient, kind, soft, free, brave, gentle, WORTHY.

GailNHB said...

Karmen, thanks so much for your attentive and slow reading of my blog. I love your comments.

Here's something amazing - just yesterday I was listening to that song in my car and I began to think about this blog post. I wanted to reread it and perhaps rewrite it in some way. But I had no idea how I would find it in the archives of my blog. And then you found it!!! What a gift. What a joyful surprise.

Peace be with you, my friend.
Deep peace.

river song said...

HI, I just found your review of Made in the USA on the Speakeasy fb page (thanks for an insightful, thoughtful review of a much needed book), and then I noticed this ancient post. As a matter of fact, I interchanged my middle and first names quite a few years ago, and about ten years ago, a couple of people suggested my name needed to be Sophia (you now how wise I am... or do you?) and even though Sophia's not part of my legal name, it has become one of my real names, and I use it on facebook, email, twitter, blogger... peace and hope to all of us