This post will be a place-holder, a reminder and commitment to write at more length about the importance of our self-talk, especially when dealing with chronic challenges.
What I want to suggest is that we reflect on how we talk to ourselves. Do you speak to yourself kindly, compassionately? Or do phrases like “oh, you stupid stupid. . . !” or “I can’t do what I want to, I can’t move forward” come to mind much more often?
First off, do you have a name for yourself that reflects who you see yourself to be, how you want to be called? What is the etymology of your given name? Does your family name insert you in a genealogy of survivors? Or, do you have a secret name you’ve chosen, that you use to encourage yourself in the hard times? It’s never too late to call yourself by a name that calls you to your self, to your chosen self.
My last name, “Charissage”, is a chosen name. I legally had it changed from my father’s last name when I was in my early thirties, more than 25 years ago now, and I’ve never regretted it. In fact, it’s been a name that truly calls me to my Self, every single day. “Charis” is the Greek word for “grace”, and “sage” come from the Latin for a wise person. Grace and wisdom: hard to live up to, but I have my whole life to grow into it.
Every time I introduce myself it’s a reminder of who I want to be, how I want to live my life. Every time I fill in a form I have a little nudge reminding me to try to live up to my vision.
As most of you know, I studied theology for many years, 8 years and counting. Yet I have not continued practising the Catholic religion of my youth. I went through the changing of my name the year that I was leaving the formal study of theology, a year that saw many losses. By choosing “charis”, though, I was able to still bring along with me the inspirations that had brought me to the study of theology in the first place, for “charis” is the word used for God’s grace, the self-communication of God’s self to us, in mystery and paradox. It refers to the Giver, the Gift, and the ground of the acceptance of the Gift, all at once. It is gift and call, both at the same time. Even if I experience “charis” as more mystery and paradox than revelation and comfort, I’m still gonna carry that name forward —- that’s what and how I’m called, and that’s who I wanna be!
Oh, and “sage”: at the time I changed my name I was immersed in the study of midwifery and herbalism and was working as a labour coach (babies, not unions). As I examined my world under the lens of feminist critiques, I came to realize that what I wanted to know, really wanted to know, my theology teachers didn’t know to teach, and what they had to teach, I no longer cared to know. Now, those are my words of 25 year ago or more, and while I would qualify them a bit more today, there is still much truth there for me. After reading, among dozens of other books, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by B. Ehrenreich and D. English, along with their Complaints and Disorders: The Sexual Politics of Sickness, I knew that my allegiance, my heritage, was with the witches rather than with those who were so zealously burning them. The French word for midwives, sagefemme, is literally “wise woman”, an unbroken literary connection with the wise women healers of old. And that, too, was where I wanted to be, in unbroken connection with wise women healers of this world.
So: What is your name? What, how, are you called? Who calls you? If your name is not what you are deeply and truly called, find the name that calls you into the future, and into this moment.
With much warmth,