What’s In A Name?

my name is

When we are born we are given a name.  Our parents select it and we live with it for the rest of our lives.  So what’s in a name?

It’s the first thing we tell people when we meet them.  It’s printed on our business cards.  It’s on our drivers licence.  It’s how we find people on Facebook.  For our entire lives it is our identifier.

My given names are Susan Mary.  My parents are British and, as such, chose traditional names for all of their children.  My brother’s names are Andrew Paul and my sister’s names are Cynthia Helen.  Not sure how she got the exotic name.  You know your from a boring name family when “Cynthia” is considered exotic.

My mom’s name is Jane.  Just Jane.

Last week at work I had to contact some clients to follow up on their accounts.  A couple of the names I came across were Francois Chevallier and Fantasha Kassam.  I imagined Fantasha answering the phone in flowing robes surrounded by candles and exotic looking furniture.  Casbah music playing in the background and perhaps a strange animal or bird following her around.  Francois probably has his assistant answer the phone for him while he adjusts his ascot in the mirror and pours himself a goblet of red wine.  The names, for me, emote images of glamour, mystery and excitement.  I lead a fairly sheltered life.

names

Of course there are also those endowed with what can only be called “unfortunate” names.  When my husband lived in Memphis years ago there was a player on the local baseball team named Stubby Clap.  I would consider that unfortunate.  When I googled unfortunate names their was no shortage.  Just to name a few.  Dick Assman, Uranius Johnson, Phat Ho and Yolanda Squatpump.  I did, for a moment, wonder if some of these were fabricated.  But if they weren’t…..whoa.  The ability to legally change your name was created specifically for these people.

But maybe….they don’t mind their names.  What’s to say that they don’t look at my boring name and think. “How does she live with that name?”

Plenty of famous people who have changed their names for the sake of their careers.  Elton John was once Reginald Dwight.  Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jean Mortenson.  Faith Hill was Audrey Perry.  What do you think their parents thought about these changes.  Did they wonder why the names that they had pick for their kids weren’t good enough?  Faith Hill is a lovely name.  But so is Audrey Perry.

If you had an opportunity to change your name, would you?  To what?  Why?  I remember a friend in high school who wanted to change her name to Angie.  Who wouldn’t want Mick Jagger signing about you?

It would seem that what’s in a name is different for everybody.  The Best Thing in Life is my name.  Because it’s my name.

 

 

Barbed Wire and Untied Shoe Laces

barbed wire

Over a year ago I left my job for a number of great reasons.  You can read about them here.  It’s been an amazing fourteen months but every once in a while I find myself re-reading that original blog post.  What is my thing?  And why is it so damn hard for me to find it?  I feel as if I’ve come to a point where I am no longer making progress on my own.  If I want to move forward I need a new approach.

So I went to see a friend yesterday.  Okay that’s not entirely true.  I went to see my therapist.  Yes, you heard me right.  I went to see my therapist.  Who, over the past ten years, has become a “friend”.  So, partly true.  She has helped me through way worse stuff than this over the years and always seems to zero in on exactly what is tripping me up.

I did, for a moment, think twice about writing this post. That perhaps it was too personal.  That it would leave me a bit too open and exposed.  But then I thought, “Hell, there must be other women in my position?”  I can’t be the only fifty something mom trying to figure out where she fits into this world.  (Or maybe I am)  Also, I’m not one to hide under a rock.  So here I am, baring my sole to you as I did to her.

A few weeks ago I went on a girls weekend.

A weekend away with four friends that I have known for well over ten years.  All with kids and all successful in interesting careers.  An accountant, an engineer, a speech pathologist and a marketing consultant.  Over the course of the weekend I began to feel……directionless.  Don’t get me wrong, I can hold my own with this crowd but I just felt like I could be doing more with my life.  As they were.  That I had more to offer than yoga and renovating the bathroom.

The week after that trip I had a very vivid dream.

I was in an art class at a university and the professor had asked us to start work on a project. The project was to represent our life.  He wanted us to make some notes in point form (sometimes my dreams are very precise).  As I worked away on my notes the teacher walked around the class and made comments on what we had done so far.  As he leaned over my shoulder he grunted and said “No, you can’t do that. It’s too boring.”  But it represents my life, I said.  “I know.  It’s boring.  Make it better”.  He said.  What the hell?

So I took these events and laid them out to my “friend” and asked her to help me.  She walked me though some exercises and made some observations and suggestions.  Within minutes she had figured out what she thought was holding me back.  I told you she was good.

And here is what I walked away with……..

We go through life thinking we have handled things from our past. Things that we think are behind us and dealt with.  Sometime they are.  Sometime they aren’t.  Sometime they are lurking in the shadows with a roll of barbed wire, hell-bent on keeping us from being free.  Sometime we think things are unimportant and dismiss them as irrelevant.  Like an untied shoe lace that will eventually trip you up.

I have some work to do in the next few weeks but I am confident that I can, with my “friends” help, figure out what my thing is.  This week the Best Thing in Life is knowing when to ask for help and having a resource to go to for that help.

untied shoe laces

Oh My God I’m An 18 Year Old Boy!

Me and Everett June 2104

In my ongoing search for my “thing” in life I have come to a startling realization. I am way more like my eighteen year old son than I ever thought. Last June he graduated from high school and has spent the past nine months working. He has three jobs right now, all in different fields. He got all three jobs on his own and has been incredibly responsible in keeping track of his schedule and being on time. Mostly. He is not sure, however, of his next steps. He has looked at some university programs but isn’t 100% committed. I left my job a year ago and have spent the last twelve months keeping track of my traveling husband and my active seven-year old. Oh, and writing this blog. Where are the next few years going to take me? I don’t really know, but I do feel a need to find something to set my sights on.

So, how are we alike?

1. We both feel, deep down, that we have some unique, creative thing to offer the world but we just don’t know what it is or how to get it out there. While writing this blog has been great and I continue to enjoy the process and the opportunity it has given me to reconnect with old friends, I can’t help but feel unsure of where I am heading with it. My son had thought that he might pursue a career in video game design and animation. He took a number of courses in high school and looked at continuing that into college. As its turns out, it is really more of an interest than something he felt he wanted do as a career. I think that this was largely because he is not a strong drawer. Being creative means being judged subjectively and we are both wary of that.

2.  We both gravitate towards things that offer us instant (or close to it) gratification. Probably why I never went back to school. I have, for many years, berated my poor son on his ability to sit at the computer for hours playing video games. Not the shoot ’em up kind but the multi player on-line battles like Defense of the Ancients. (go look it up) When I asked him why he loves them so much he said it was because they gave him instant gratification. Honestly, I rolled my eyes and sighed but I am now slightly embarrassed to say that I get it. I think that I too look for things in my life that give me regular reinforcement and encouraging pats on the back. I think it’s why I enjoy running so much. I can do it and instantly know exactly how far and fast I have gone. If we can’t see the goal we lose sight of the meaning.

3.  We are social but not social butterflies. I love a good party and feel that friends are an immensely important part of anybody’s life. I am also quite comfortable being alone and have been known to pass on social invitations in favor of my jammies. While my jammies are comfortable and all, I have been burnt and some times I use them as an excuse to close myself off a bit. My son has never had a large circle of friends and I often felt that he needed to be more assertive in going out and creating relationships. Now I see that he is also okay being on his own. In the past few months, through his new jobs, he has developed some friendships which is great. But I also see him holding back a bit. Not wanting to dive in too deep. Just in case.

4.  We are more than willing to work hard so long as what we need to do is clearly mapped out in front of us. Or organized. Love a well-organized project. You tell me what to do and I will work my ass off until it is done. Conversely, If I don’t have a set plan I tend to wander off and end up being unproductive. The past year has shown me that in spades. If I am being 100% honest with this I need to say that for my part,this is probably due to a of lack of confidence. In high school if my son had a project assigned to him he tended to leave it until the last-minute and then panic. Not because he didn’t want to do the work but because he often didn’t know how to get started. He is, however, happily holding down three jobs with not one complaint. In fact he has never been happier to be told what to do and get paid for it.

As I read this back to myself some things become clearer while other are still unresolved. Have I managed to make it to fifty without ever really growing up? How can I expect him to know where he is going when I don’t? Have I done enough to foster a feeling of confidence in my son?

How can I move past what is holding me back and in turn show him the way?

The Best Thing in Life is that learning never ends.

Coincidence or Kismet?

piano

Do you every think that things are just meant to happen when they happen? That the universe has a plan and you just don’t know about it? Today was one of those days for me. At a time when I was lacking motivation, questioning my decisions and wondering if the direction I was going in was leading me the right way, I had an Oprah moment. You know the one. The quintessential “aha” moment. I wasn’t unhappy, I was just unsure of where things were going or if they even needed to go anywhere. Should I soldier on or reevaluate and make a change? I felt I was lacking a focus. Then I had lunch with a very wise and lovely friend that I had been trying to connect with for months. Coincidence?

A classically trained pianist who grew up in, of all places, Prince George, Stephanie and I met when our kids attended the same pre-school. She started playing the piano when she was two and her piano teacher recognized her talent early on. By the time she was fourteen she was flying down to Vancouver once a month for lessons. She was accepted to Juliard, Peabody and Eastman – the creme de la creme of music schools in the US. After choosing and studying at Eastman she was destined for a career as a concert pianist. She, however, had a defining moment when her panic attacks started to get the best of her. She also never felt the pull that many performers feel for an adoring audience or a standing ovation. Many performers continue for the ego boost, but she realized that the direction she was heading was not meant to be. What was meant to be, was to bring the pure joy of music, that she felt, to others. As a teacher.

Her approach to teaching is truly organic. As I ate the delicious spicy Mexican soup she had made us for lunch, I listened to her explaining how learning music is not just about the notes and the technique, but the feeling you get from playing. She has been known to tell a student to “go and watch water”. The point being, to teach the lightness and finesse of playing the notes. To mimic the way the water flows and bubbles. “Some kids get it, some don’t”. She went on to say, that teaching young kids comes with a unique opportunity to mold the way they approach playing and practicing. Most would start with the easy stuff and go on from there. She encourages them to start with the most challenging part. That is a difficult thing for anybody to do at any age.

water

The most important thing she tries to instill in her students is that music should come from a place of happiness – not from a place of ego. You could win a hundred music competitions and still not understand the meaning of the music you have played. Some of the best musicians play for the pure love of it. If they are able to make a living doing it, then it really is just icing on the cake. The need for a gold star or, in my case, verification that somebody is reading my blogs and that I am making a difference, is a huge stumbling block for me. She reminded me that perhaps there was somebody out there reading my blog and thinking “wow, that’s exactly how I’m feeling too”. I could be making somebody think a different way or see a different side to something. Maybe I’m just allowing somebody to steal a few minutes from their day, read a story and enjoy the way it makes them feel.  Like a piece of music.

As usual I went into this situation with one idea and came away with a completely different point if view. I started out being envious of my friend’s passion for music and the way that she had been able to take that and use it to teach children and left feeling like maybe, just maybe, I too had a path to follow. An opportunity to catch up and learn about her music career turned into a life lesson for me. Go figure. I left her house feeling inspired, rejuvenated and happy to have reconnected with such a kind and insightful friend. Even if nobody is reading my blog, I am doing what makes me happy. Perhaps I am not “over achieving” but my family is happy too. I need to live my life for the joy and not for the gold star. The Best Thing in Life is just letting things happen the way the universe wants them to happen and enjoying the kismet.