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What's in a Name? Jan 2024


(original creator for picture is unknown)


The conversation has come up many times over the last year about given names and what people choose to “go by”. I’ve thought about this off and on for decades, particularly when I was in my pre-teens and wanted to change my name legally.

When I was a child, I spoke primarily in 3rd person – if I didn’t use my name, it seemed no one else would… (probably one of the reasons I call myself “we” as well lol). When someone would call out my given name “Mandy”, most of the time I didn’t ‘hear’ them as that sound coming from someone else was unfamiliar. There was a riddle that I learned in grade school – “What belongs to you but everyone else uses?” The answer was your name. Whenever I heard that riddle, I would joke that it was untrue in my case as no one ever seemed to know my name, so I had to use it to make sure it still existed lol.

A couple of elders in my family would occasionally say “Mandy Marie”, and you know when both names are used you’re usually in trouble right? There appears to be a certain inflection people use when they say both names that indicates we had better listen! In most cases, for me, they were only attempting to get my attention as I hadn’t heard them calling me. They would joke that I couldn’t hear them because I “had my head in the clouds”, and most times yes my mind would be wandering, but the underlying truth was that I wasn’t listening for them to use my name.

On the other hand, I loved the sound of my name when others used it – it meant they remembered and were acknowledging me as a person, at least in my mind. I felt seen and understood when I heard my name, but didn’t quite ‘know’ that’s what the feeling was as a child. I learned more about it as time went on.  It simply “felt good” to have that interaction.

About the age of 10 (maybe 12?), I dove into research about numbers and their meanings, and handwriting analysis, and the meaning of names, and all the things that go into understanding myself and others from a metaphysical perspective. My grandfather had given me one of the Time Life “Mysteries of the Unknown” books from the late 80s, and I was immediately (and forever more!) hooked on the occult and metaphysical practices. I found that M is the 13th letter of the alphabet… under normal circumstances we’re like “okay, so what?” but the number 13 has a lot of unlucky superstitions attached to it. As a pre-teen, my thoughts were that both my names start with the 13th letter of the alphabet! Ugh… does that mean I’m unlucky? And I sought ways to prove to myself that the M in my names did not mean I was unlucky. I researched numerology and tried to find the one number that the names stood for to take it away from the 13…. I researched the meanings of names themselves and where they came from… I dove into the meanings of words as a whole and why we use them the way we do. Why do people use the names they use? I honestly don’t remember much about numerology as I didn’t continue that practice into my adult life, but if you’re interested I know some wonderful people to refer you to.  As for the meanings, “Mandy” is a Latin term meaning “lovable” and “Marie” has a complicated story lol.

During these childhood times, the name “Mandy” didn’t always feel right to me. I loved it because my parents gave it to me; I had a love/hate relationship with it as I was named after the Barry Manilow song; and if someone really wanted to get me going they could assume that Mandy is short for Amanda which it absolutely IS NOT in my case. When people would call me Amanda, my only response was “Do I look like an Amanda to you?” with enough venom in my voice to remind them to think about their answer before responding.

However, it just didn’t fit – like a coat you buy at the store and it’s two sizes too big so you can grow into it…but so much more than that. And it’s possible I felt that way because people didn’t use it … People would usually say “oh, you’re that girl who (enter whatever reference here)” or “you must be Roger’s daughter. Which one are you?” It probably didn’t help that I lived in a few different states and a multitude of cities before I was 20…

During play time with my sisters, we had our pseudonyms for the stories we’d act out or tell, and I (being the oldest lol) insisted on using variations of our middle names for that and my sisters went along with it. Mine became Maria instead of Marie because I thought it sounded more exotic. :) When I started junior high, we were moving to a new state, again, and I mentioned to my dad that I wanted to change my name legally. He tried to hide his disappointment that I was rejecting the name he gave me, and I let him believe that he did a good job at that… but he was also understanding and wanted nothing more for me than what I wanted for myself. He told me I was old enough to make my own decisions and if that’s what I wanted to do then this was the perfect time – no one would know me as Mandy and the transition would be easier. He asked why I wanted to change it, and the only thing I could put into words was that Mandy sounded too plain, not quite right. Since then, I’ve often wondered how I could have explained it better and I still haven’t figured out how to put that particular feeling into words. I asked him what the process for a name change was, and he explained the legalities and the amount of money that went into that, and I decided that changing my name was too much hassle for him so I kept “Mandy”.

From that day on, my dad called me Maria… I never heard him say Mandy unless he needed to get a point across and he was seriously frustrated (which rarely happened) and when he was on his death bed, not completely on this plane. He “saw” me for who I wanted to be, adapted to the name I wanted to use as that person, and honored my choices even as a child. When I heard the name Maria from him, I felt loved, seen, whole, confident… like I could do and be anything. My sisters would call me that sometimes too, mainly because they’d say “Mandy” til they were blue in the face and I wouldn’t hear them, but I ALWAYS responded to “Maria”. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t change my name, but on the other hand I think I’ve learned a lot about me in keeping my given name.

A few years ago, I started introducing myself as Maria (spelled Miria online) mainly because I created an alter ego for my business – in the age of social media and an online presence, Miria’s existence helps keep my kids, my sisters, and their families safe. Societal standards being what they are, and the state of the world today, make it almost necessary to “hide” certain things about us… (Something I despise, but that’s a story for another time…) Anyway, this last fall some people I’ve known for a long time asked why I changed my “go by” name, and it was in explaining to them that I finally learned the “deep down why” of who I was and why I chose the name that I use. Normally I tell people the story above, about my dad honoring my choices and that I’m more comfortable with that name. However, this one person asked me in a different way than people usually do, and the feelings that came through were almost overwhelming.

I learned, from one simple question, that I now associate the name “Mandy” with the people pleaser part of myself, the one who is overly polite, self-deprecating, always smiling… who stays small, likes to hide in the background, doesn’t speak unless it’s necessary, and takes things way too personally – she’s ‘seen as’ kind, giving, and easy to walk on. Sometimes she’s ‘seen as’ stuck up and aloof, as she watches others more than she engages with them.

“Maria” (from my early teens and 20s) on the other hand, is strong-willed, has no problem speaking up, prefers to be seen (as in, refuses to play small), is comfortable standing up for herself and others, and “knows” that people’s actions and reactions are not a reflection of her – she’s ‘seen as’ aggressive, overbearing, and uncaring (because sometimes the truth hurts). She’s also ‘seen as’ obnoxious, too loud, and is “too much” for most people, but is also someone people will call on cuz they know she’ll have their back no matter what the situation is.

“Miria” is a combination of the two that is ever changing, that attempts to pull the best parts of both.

And this is why I talk about my “personalities” – who you are with me will determine which combination of the previous two you get to meet lol. When talking with another dear friend shortly after I had these realizations, I think the way she put it was just about perfect… that Mandy is the childlike one and Miria is the ‘completeness’.  Her words (these and others she spoke) struck a chord and I felt truly seen and understood, all the way to my core. I cried, I won’t lie lol. I had never heard my feelings put into words so beautifully, and I finally understood myself on a deeper level through her eyes, after 30-some years of searching. <3

Can you relate? Do you have a name, given or otherwise, that others use for you that just doesn’t ‘fit’? Maybe it feels like a coat that’s two sizes too small… that you outgrew a long time ago but still wear it cuz it’s kinda cute, even if not quite comfortable? Maybe you’ve received a nickname that sets your teeth on edge, but you allow it because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings -or- it’s a ‘special’ name just for you two that pisses you off but makes you feel loved at the same time. Do you have a name for yourself that you would like others to use, but don’t know how to tell them - One that just “feels” right? Have you ever introduced yourself like “Hi, my name’s Miranda but my friends call me Mindy”, then have to decide whether you’re allowing that person to call you Mindy or you’re sticking with Miranda?

As always, I appreciate you for hanging in there with me during my ramblings!  And as always, take what you will and leave the rest – hopefully something written here will resonate with you and bring an “ah-ha” moment into your own inner workings.  And if you find that I repeat myself based on some of my other posts, we’ll just blame that on some memory lapses and see if we can eventually put together the bigger puzzle lol. If you’re interested in some of the research and additional thoughts, these (below) are some of the things that I have found fascinating over the years and have stuck with me.  

**Some people say “it’s just a name” but…

When searching recently online for the phrase “what’s in a name”, the synopsis for one of the articles that comes up contains the words “authority” and “intimacy”. I don’t recall which one it was as I had only scanned the page, but those two words jumped out at me. My perspective is this – we hold our names as our identifier, as the piece that holds space in this world, that gives people connections to us. Isn’t it easier, years down the road, to say, “Hey, remember Bill who used to live next door to Roger? He did …these things… for us and always had the best apple pie!” instead of “Remember that guy who we used to talk to occasionally that had apple pie? I can’t remember his name, not really sure what he looks like either, but do you remember?” So for me – authority is the taking up space part, the part that makes us rememberable.  Intimacy is also tied into that – we remember more about what we did with Bill and can recall more fondly because we have a name associated with the memory. The Bill I mention in this case didn’t “look like” a Bill lol, was one of my dad’s neighbors once, and always went out of his way for others. I will never forget his name, even though I may never see him again. Intimacy is also the “knowing” of a person, we (in my perspective) are more likely to remember the things they like and don’t like if we are intimate enough to know, and USE!, their name. Intimacy in this case is not physical, but more emotional and mental – we have a link to that person through their name and they to us through ours. 

Gerald Gardner, who founded Gardnerian Wicca in the 1950s, had his followers create new names for when they gathered. They were not to use their everyday names so that people wouldn’t call them out on the street – the followers were not to appear to recognize other followers anywhere besides the gatherings – shhh, we are underground and all of this is a secret – don’t walk downtown, wave, and say “Hi Helen” to someone you met here…. (More information can be found in the book Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler).

His followers were also not allowed to call people by their “true, magic” name as that gave others power over the person whose name they spoke. We hear of this often when working with daemons and other otherworldly beings (anyone familiar with the tale of Rumpelstiltskin?) – calling their name diminishes their power over you and at times gives you more power over them.

Speaking of Rumpelstiltskin, how many other fairy tales and fantasy stories did we read growing up where someone knowing the hero or heroine’s name could cause major trouble? Or where the name had to be ‘found’ to release a curse? Cultures around the world have found ways to weave the importance of a name into their stories and practices, without always coming out to say how important the name is in most cases. I even watched a Japanese anime the other day where the “true name” was a major part of the story but was ‘just a thing’ that advanced the storyline. Is that a sleight of hand practice? Do they want people to know without knowing, or did it just evolve that way? Or is that my perception and I need to research some more? LOL

In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Juliet says “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”. She says a name is not a person’s hand, or arm, or foot, or any part belonging to the body and alludes to the possibility of shedding it completely as it is only the name that causes their division. She’s not referring to the first name though, Romeo may remain Romeo, but to shed the familial name that associates him with her perceived enemy. Family names, both our last names and for those of us who are named after others in our family, present their own stigmas, source of pride, and quandaries all their own. I believe we’ll save that one for another time too.

Food for thought ... I have been known in the past to shrug when people ask my name – that “eh, it doesn’t really matter does it” shrug we give when we don’t want to commit to something. I will say whatever name I’m going by depending on the situation (I’m still Mandy at my regular 9-5), shrug, and say “but you can call me anything but late for dinner”. Make kind of a joke out of it, steer the conversation another way, and chances are pretty high that person is not going to remember my name later. I am aware enough to know that those are the times when I’m not feeling confident, I don’t want to put out 100% effort (more than likely have something in my head I’m working through), and making a joke about it helps to put me in the right mood to continue the conversation for a short time.

And there IS something to be said about anonymity, right? We can more easily “get away” with things or “be” someone slightly different than normal when we know people won’t remember us later, so we glaze over the name… “Who was that masked person?” LOL

BUT!!!

~We assign meanings to star and planet positions in astrology – I’m ‘Sagittarius’ so my character traits are such and such.

~We assign meanings to numbers and how they appear – such as Angel numbers and numerology practices.

~We assign meanings to how animals move and where we see them.

~We assign meanings to words – if the person who discovered roses called them onions instead, we’d have never known the difference – but that’s not the way it started so now we call them roses. (Did you wrinkle your nose when I suggested calling them onions? I know I did lol). The thought of changing a name as Shakespeare suggests evokes a response, right?

~We “know” that sound vibration can change our own vibrations – it is used in healings, to determine our health ‘levels’ (kinesiology), and can alter our state of mind. Even our speech, speaking our thoughts and manifestations out loud, adds ‘power’ to the activity we’re engaged in. In the mundane world, we know how a person is feeling by the way the speak – what words they choose, what order they say them in, what inflections they use…

SO I SAY!!!

Names are not “just words” – they are a significant part of what makes you whole and dare I say, should be treated as sacred! The sound vibration and meanings we derive from a name are unique, personal, powerful, and an important and valid piece of how we view our Selves and others.

I don’t want to know what others call you, I don’t necessarily want to know your given name, I don’t want to know what you’ve settled for being called. When I’m speaking to you and about you, I want to know the name that gives you the tingle of being fully seen, that makes you feel like you are unstoppable, that helps you step fully into your whole authentic self. And if you need to try on a few names until you find that one, I will support you every step of the way! Please be patient with me if I slip though, and please speak up if I do. I won’t learn if I’m not corrected, and I wholeheartedly want to be a part of what reminds you of your Sacredness.

For me, I think I’m going to change the pronunciation of mine to match the spelling, to create this new form of me out loud. Maria with an ‘a’ is the "idgaf" person I once was before life happened, and she will never fully ‘be’ again – we can’t bring ALL of who we were forward, right?, cuz they didn’t have the experiences we have now. Mandy is who I was raised, and even though sometimes I don't 'hear' it when spoken out loud, I will eventually respond (since I still have to go by this name in some areas), and there will always be parts of her in my heart.

SO, I’d like to introduce myself :D I’m MIRIA – sounds like MEER (like mirror) – ee – uh. And I will be correcting you if I hear it mispronounced. :) I don’t mind fun nicknames - I speak mostly in movie quotes and song lyrics - my thoughts come through as pictures and sometimes it takes a few extra seconds to translate into words so I can hold a conversation (so I truly appreciate your patience when I’m trying to figure out what to say!) - and I’m re-learning how to speak my mind tactfully so please ask for clarification if something I say hits wrong.

And no matter which part of me you know, I LOVE YOU, in all your forms! Blessings to you, and stay warm!

Claim your power – SPEAK YOUR CHOSEN NAME!

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