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feelings felt, resistance melts

March 14, 2013

Art starts to part the heart

It probably reads like everything’s been very negative lately, but that’s not how I feel. Or, that’s only part of how I feel. Even the parts of me that are angry and frustrated, or sad and despairing, are pleased with me overall because I’m no longer repressing them, denying them, or insisting they have no right to feel the way they do.

Instead, I’m expressing them as best I can in words. And then I’m publishing them to the world.

It’s a little scary when a post like that first goes up — all my vulnerabilities on display — but I’m getting used to it. It doesn’t hurt, precisely;  there’s just discomfort. I’m stretching my comfort zone, but already doing so is less difficult.


quarts of warts startle and dart

My attachment and allegiance to perhaps the last remaining edifice in my identity is eroding. Instead of staring into the abyss on my comfortable bridge, I’m falling through the air. Maybe my relatively recent practice of owning my feelings, no matter how challenging, has gotten me to this place where I am not terrified, but exhilarated. Enjoying the exploration with all doors wide open.

= + +

I had recently picked MiddleName2 to fit with NewName2, since NewName2 is much shorter than I’m used to, so I felt I needed more sounds and a conversation between images/meanings.

I like both, and they fit well together, but . . . they now feel like they’ve been waystations, not destinations in their own right.

More significantly, the surname I picked 21 years ago . . . feels loose. It’s been such a great companion on a long journey away from who my parents wanted me to be. It helped me not just perceive myself differently, but actually be different than anyone I’d ever known.

I thought we’d be together forever. I created a name that could grow with me, and it has, but . . . I believe I’ve grown past it.

The old me would be ransacking foreign-language dictionaries right about now, looking for replacements for every label I’d want to go by.

The new me is . . . relaxing into uncertainty. Instead of frantic manic energy, I’m going with ‘play’.

Oddly enough, I believe this new approach is possible partly because of The Artist’s Way. I’ve mentioned before this is the 5th time I’ve gone through the process. But it’s the first time I’ve ever done artist dates. Not only am I current through last week (#5), but iirc, more than half of them were done in parts, so I’ve actually participated in 8 sessions.

The session where I sat down to actually make valentines to myself for the first time in 40 years — even though I ended up with nothing permanent, nothing glued down, nothing finished — has yielded at least 4 solid ideas for future work, including 1 major conceptual breakthrough.

Without ‘play’, without a playful attitude generally, before I rediscovered Hibby, my life was qualitatively different than it is now. And now I’m recognizing that things are possible I’d not even imagined before.

Being open to whatever bubbles up — not just feeling it (although that is important), but finding ways to express it — disregarding continuity: how it fits, or (more commonly) doesn’t fit, with everything else . . . there are parts of me I never dreamed of. We’re getting to know each other. And my ego is definitely not in charge of anything. But that’s a very good thing.

So I’m learning to relax, even though I don’t “know” anything.

So many wonderful delicious ideas have bubbled up lately, I’m trusting the process. No expectations. No demands. No insistence that I have answers right now, because, omg, what do I call myself?!? What can other people call me??!? I’ve never not had a handle to go by!!!!!

Because maybe that’s a big part of my problem, metaphorically. My parents spent long months poring over a name book, to find OldName. They picked it before I was born. It had nothing to do with who I was, or could be. Or wanted to be. I never ever liked it. As a child, I constantly daydreamed about prettier names my parents could have picked. I named all my toys, anything at all that seemed like it could have a personality, and many plants that I knew — all of those names were much more like something I would’ve liked to go by. I experimented constantly with combinations: which phonemes sound good together? How much meaning can I pack into each syllable? Which cultural influences can I combine?

All of that was ‘play’. It was open-ended. It didn’t commit me to anything. It was just fun.

And, I realized just a few days ago, I didn’t utilize any of that (playful) experience when I picked out NewSurname1.

I was so desperate to get away from any association with my family (even though that explicit motivation was not something I was conscious of), that my new name search was Very Serious. I looked for meaning, through appealing imagery, first. Only when I’d constructed an entire, detailed, metaphor (or series of metaphors) that seemed ideal did I turn my attention to (what I thought of as) less significant matters like . . . what it sounds like. How to spell it.

Now, I’d always had to spell out for people at least my first name. My parents’ surname is fairly common, but I did have to spell it out occasionally as well. So spelling out my names was not a new (or specifically unwelcome) phenomenon.

But the particular phonemes required for my new surname were not particularly common in English, which makes sense given that the name derived from Irish Gaelic. And the dictionary of Irish Gaelic I originally used was published early in the 20th Century, before the Irish Gaelic language (and spellings!) were modernized: a lot of diphthongs with variable pronunciations, depending on which letters preceded or followed, were replaced with letters that were easier to figure out how to say.

My surname preserved one of those diphthongs, which, in English, would never be pronounced the way it would be in Irish Gaelic.

A second diphthong, coming hard on the heels of the first (tongue-twister), I realized, I didn’t like the sound of. It sounded like I was gargling. So I dropped the pronunciation of the first letter.

I didn’t mind spelling it out all the time. I didn’t mind that the pronunciation was arcane.

But I think it took becoming an active poet — playing with phonemes and syllables, searching for things that don’t just mean something, but are fun to say — to illuminate that . . . my surname is not fun to say, for me.

If I was just playing around with phonemes, I would never have picked probably any of them.

The meanings are lovely, and evocative — poetic even! — and I still love them. But names are fundamentally social. And most people don’t even expect that you might know what your own surname means, so name-meanings rarely come up in conversation. But every time someone talks to you, or refers to you, your name is pronounced. Usually, in my case, not just incorrectly, but horribly incorrectly. But even when the pronunciation approximates correct, I still don’t like how it sounds.

So, earnestly picking NewName2 and NewMiddleName to coordinate with Surname2 . . . seemed kind of sad and pointless. That won’t do.

I don’t have any idea how this is going to play out. That’s kind of what ‘play’ means.

I still exist. I still experience reality. I still have history. I’m still a person.

But none of my names fit anymore, so I don’t even know what to call myself.

Surname2 preserved my final initial, and ChangedFirstName preserved my first initial. Iow, my monogram never changed. But maybe it should have.

Where do I go from here? How do I proceed?

I’m going to try . . . not actively deliberately-doing anything. No dictionaries. No daydreaming about meaning.

But I am going to explore every phoneme I can find. Which ones do I really like to say? Which combinations are even more fun to say? Which combinations do I avoid? Can I figure out why I avoid them?

I think this kind of exploration will help me be a better poet. Help me have more fun being a (better) poet.

If, eventually, it also helps me pick names that seem to suit a poet — and that are fun to say! — so much the better!!

But this time, I’m not Serious. Sirius. Cereus.

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