As a person who makes up names for people, I thought I should flip the cart and look at my own names.
Recently someone asked if I preferred Carol over Carolyn and immediately I quipped about how my birth family never got that my name was Carolyn since they all still call me Carol. The truth is who cares?
I’ve been called worse, such as the childhood name used by my older siblings, CurlyBeaver. You can see in the photo that I am definitely not curly….more likely it was Curly from the Three Stooges TV show. Thanks guys. The beaver part came from the buck teeth they told me I’d have because I sucked my thumb for so long.
My Baptismal name comes from the holy day I was born near: a Christmas carol. And Carol is a beautiful name that means “song.” However, my second grade teacher was annoyed that I switched between the different spellings and said I had to decide; was my name Carol or Carolyn? I chose the latter, but it was too late; my fam continued to call me Carol.
My ancestry shows up, not only in the French version of the first name I chose, but also in my middle and confirmation names. My middle name is Ann, the name of my Bavarian grandmother. When I made my Confirmation, the sacrament of officially becoming a practicing Catholic, I chose Priscilla, the (Polish) name of my mother.
Since I was born into a traditional Roman Catholic family, I was also named for a saint. The saint that goes with Carol is St. Charles Borromeo. Now I really resented that! Named after a boy saint…ugh. To make matters worse, I was a bit of a tomboy. Lo and behold,one day long after I was grown and my kids were grown,I came across a couple of prints of my guy, Charles, at the Indiana University Art Center. He’s the patron saint of the plague! He was a healer who ventured into areas no one else dared to go. Hey, not a bad guy to be named after, I thought…smiling with pride, for a change.
Other names:I was named Sherebiah when I lived in the Atlantic City Children of God commune at 17. It means, Flame of the Lord, according to one source. He was a Levite priest, a “man of understanding” according to another source. …not a bad one to be named after either, I guess.
You probably know LaughingYogini…I gave that one up because I didn’t want my site here confused with laughter yoga, which sounds like a lot of fun therapy, but not what I practice….though I do enjoy laughing a lot and engage in comical endeavors whenever possible (on or off the mat).
Then there’s Kalyani, the Sanskrit name my meditation teacher gave when I was initiated into that lineage. Said it would be a good way to mark the changes I would undergo as I practiced. It means Beautiful; Auspicious; Blessed. It’s certainly the prettiest sounding of all my names. I’d like to think that I possess all of those attributes as well. I’m no longer a practicing member of that lineage, but I do like it the name! Feel free to use it whenever you like
So what meaning do I gather from my names? A reminder that I am all of these and probably a good many other things that folks have called me. And I am none of these as well.
I can add “I am not my name” to the set of verses I often meditate upon. Or I can spend some more time with one of the names and invite the attributes it embodies to deepen my life. Can’t go wrong either way.
Your choice: call me whatever you like.