Better & Bolder the Blog

Say My Name

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I.               I tried to give my home studio a name for Zoom Nia classes. I thought it would become more dear or personal. It didn’t happen. I let it go.


II.             I tried changing my name once. I never really liked “Beth” but I wasn’t sure what to use instead. One term, I told all my CNM students that my name was Gail (my middle name). It was fine. It didn’t stick.


III.           It’s September. My gut is doing that thing where it doesn’t digest well. Everything is so slow, and my stomach acid keeps rising in my throat. I’m handling the mechanics – what I eat, the stress-reducing meditations – but what if there’s something else, something older or deeper that’s waiting for me to address it? I download a book on chakras and take it with me to read while in a hot bath. The first meditation tells me to intone my name. I think, “Beth isn’t my name.”


Instead, I intone B, long and loud, B…B…B…B…and wonder if my husband, downstairs, can hear my chanting and is wondering what the hell I’m doing.


IV.          Did you notice last Zoom class on Saturday that I started crying? It wasn’t the first, or second, or gazillionth time that I’ve cried during a Nia class. I’m a very emotional person.


V.            I say to my husband, “I’m a very emotional person.” He smiles and hugs me and says yes. He adds I’m also very dramatic, “too dramatic,” and I bristle. I was told often growing up that I was too dramatic. Being dramatic is my Super Power.


VI.          We are walking in the bosque, Kate and I. It’s just before dark. Kate’s dog Val startles an owl and we see the it fly from one tree to the next. It sits, watching us watch it, its head swiveling entirely side to side.


Walking away from the owl, I tell Kate that I know my mother loved me, and I didn’t feel my mother’s love. This also is true: I was stingy with my physical and emotional affection with my mother, though I expressed in words how much I loved and appreciated her.

 I grew up in emotional lockdown for a 1000 different reasons, and I really tried to relate to everyone through my head, which kind of sort of made me a bit of a bitch. Being dramatic is part of that. I don’t create drama. I express it. I’ve calmed down a lot, but when I think of things I want to take with me into my next three decades, being dramatic comes with me. Maybe I’ll get more dramatic, you know, if that’s even possible.


VII.        I dream of my mother. I haven’t called her in months and I sense she’s disappointed with me. I try to defend myself, telling her it’s been so intense, and I realize it’s been so intense because of her death, and I realize it’s her ghost self with me. She doesn’t say a word.


VIII.      I dream of falling into water where a shark swims by, brushing my leg. Then I wake. I don’t know what happens next.


IX.          I love it when my friends call me B, or instead of emailing and writing, “Hi, Beth,” they write, “hey, B.” I get a frisson of pleasure when I am called B. Yet I don’t know that I want to make that my name. It’s a great nickname. I have been signing all my emails as B. You can call me B if you want to. You can still call me Beth, too.


X.            I tell my daughter that I don’t like the picture of me at 3 years old. I look fragile, insecure, not at all vibrant. She says I look cute and a bit impish. I tell my therapist I don’t like 3 year old me, who just seems tentative and insecure and…wimpy. Would I kick a little puppy, too, the therapist asks with a smile?


I don’t like being fragile and vulnerable –really, none of us do. That’s how emotions can make us feel: fragile, vulnerable. I’m not truly going to break apart by feeling an emotion. It’s just a feeling. Emotions also make us feel happy, strong, awed, grateful. We have to be vulnerable to feel those things, too. And it’s our fragility that beckons us to be awed and grateful for what we have, as temporary and tentative as it is. It is now, and now is enough. I look back at the pictures and decide, okay, I can like her. I can like the name Beth and the person who has been Beth.


XI.          There’s a super fun running book called The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion. The author recommends creating an alter ego for race days because on race days, we’re often anxious and our minds get ridiculous. I don’t know how it happened, but somewhere in the days between the dream with my mother’s ghost and the dream of the shark, I land on the name Bertie. Bertie B. And I fall in love.


XII.        I go for a run and think of all the things Bertie B would do. In retirement, what will Bertie B do? If she’s lucky enough to be a grandma, how will Bertie B be? What old ideas does Bertie B shed? What does Bertie B embrace? How can I be more like Bertie B? Bertie is my future, the person into which I am transforming. There are the logistics: my mother is gone from my life, and I’m retiring from CNM at the end of this term. Both those things are happening sooner than I expected. Underneath the logistics are all the feelings and thoughts and history and identity. I’m still digging deep, and now also untangling. The armor I wound around me as a child has been melting here in my years in the New Mexico sun.


What happens when I embrace the three year old me, and the name Beth, and my authentic self – a very tender, very emotional, very dramatic little being who talks really loudly while waving her arms about?