Monday, February 03, 2014

Another name change...

Every now and again, I feel the need to look backwards. To reread old blog posts. To rethink them. To rework them. To rewrite them. Recently, I republished and revised one of my earliest blog posts. Today I am revisiting another one that I think needs reconsideration, also from October of 2004.

It was entitled: "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


On this, the third day of February of 2014, I am no longer called:
* kanswer victim or kanswer patient
* ugly (I had an uncle who called me "Ugly" from when I was little until I was nearly 25 years of age. Instead of "Hey, Gail," he said, "Hey, ugly, how's school? Hey, ugly, are your parents at home?" It took me until adulthood to correct him. One day as I left my house to go to work as a teacher at my high school alma mater, he greeted me outside my house: "Hey, Ugly. How are you doing?" Deep breath - "My name is not ugly. My name is Gail.")
* fearful
* resentful
* to be quiet in church
* to try to live up to anyone and everyone else's expectations for me
* to imitate other people's lifestyles, marriages or lack thereof, writing styles, or eating choices
* to follow anyone else's advice or even entertain their opinions
* to attend every event I am invited to
* to be the only one in my house to cooks, cleans, does laundry, runs the dishwasher, or answers the phone
* to worry about the things that used to wake me up in the middle of the night: my health, our finances, problems with our house, my children's future, my future, the world in general
* to seek the approval, attention, or appreciation of others in order to do and be all that I am called to do and be

My new names include:
* kanswer survivor
* survivor of The Big Chop and proud wearer of a TWA (teeny weeny afro)
* amateur seamstress
* broken-hearted fan of Peyton Manning
* healed and whole
* one who curses every now and then
* honest
* available
* adventurous
* fearless
* courageous
* healthy
* upbeat
* funny
* grateful
* teacher
* joyful
* peaceful
* beloved daughter and cherished friend of God

These days I am called:
* to speak and teach on a regular basis
* to be willing to be wrong and willing to admit when I am wrong
* to change my ways and my attitudes when necessary
* to challenge others when I think they are wrong
* to walk away from people and situations when they are unwilling to engage in honest conversation
* to serve the needy and feed the hungry
* to enter into silence - on my own terms and in my own unique ways
* to pray without ceasing
* to keep writing and telling my story
* to learn more about writing and prayer and solitude and silence
* to love more deeply
* to forgive more quickly
* to laugh more loudly
* to eat more healthfully
* to practice yoga more regularly
* to be awake and alert not only to the many blessings, but also to the many challenges of this life
* to draw attention to the miracle that life is
* to recognize the holy in the ordinary
* to encourage others to do the same
* to do all things with gratitude and joy, all things, even the hard things, especially the hard things

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