by Lesley Ann
What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Those words of Shakespeare seem empty in the midst of an identity crisis. Names are everything. They are everywhere. They are how we determine who we are, what we do, what and how we believe. Names are important. So important, in fact, that to change them takes an act of government, both literally and figuratively.
I am going through a divorce. Hence, the issue of my name has recently come under scrutiny. It has even risen to be the subject of spirited debates in circles of friends, family, but mostly within myself. Not by the fault of anyone else, but by the self-awareness of my soul. Going through a divorce in the same ward is nothing short of a living nightmare, as one can imagine. Regardless, I hold my head high and steer clear of those who would repeat rumors and believe untruths. This leaves me reaching out to new people, who are unaware of the juiciness of my personal life. I found the typical self-introduction goes something like this:
“Hello, I’m Sister [insert awkward pause as I try to figure out who I even am.]”
My air of outer confidence is a poor match for the identity crisis I’m feeling inside. I try again,
“Hello, I’m Sister [insert married last name.] I mean, Sister [insert maiden last name.] But you can call me Sister [insert botched hybrid of married and maiden last names.]”
No, that doesn’t work either.
Who am I? I may not even know. To embrace my married name, feels too victimizing. It hurts too much. I took that name upon myself as a symbol of hope, faith, loyalty, sacrifice, and love in my marriage. Sadly, the marriage has ended because those same qualities were not reciprocated. That name was part of my promise, which I kept. But now I am releasing myself of that promise. To release myself of that name is fitting. I can feel the empowering cleanse of shedding that name. It feels like I imagine a snake must feel as she sheds her skin: renewed, refreshed, revived.
But taking back my maiden name? That’s highly problematic in its own right. I fail to recognize that young girl with that shiny maiden name who was full of innocence, bright-eyed, thinking her life would be set, after finding a returned missionary and getting a temple marriage to boot. A lifetime has passed since that girl even existed. She is gone. Surely she is, but in her place, a woman. Wise, grown, mature, with a wrinkle……or seven.
I realize that the wise woman with one (or seven) wrinkles came about in this space. The space between married and maiden. The space between separated and single. This space is her birthplace, the ambiguity her peace. She was grown from the weeds and sparked from the ashes. This space birthed a strong woman who leads her family with fierce independence. This space made way for her wings to spread. I can honor this space. I cherish this space. It made me her.
I try one more time, with my outstretched hand and a friendly smile without a trace of shame,
“Hello, I’m Sister Currently-Between-Last-Names.”
Yes, that’s me.
Lesley is an RN with ambitions to develop programs to teach emotional intelligence in the community. She freelances as a photographer and writer, along with raising her four young children who happen to love dance parties in the kitchen.