What’s In A Name?

vcxa8286A friend recently sent me a list of The 100 Most Beautifully Unusual First Names. I was not surprise to see my given name listed. There have always been those who complimented my name when introduced, but I have never felt comfortable with  my given name. It never felt like my name. The first indication of my utter uneasiness with this name was as a child. Because of a speech impediment, I was unable to pronounce my own name. People outside of my immediate family could not understand me when I said my name or anything else. My schoolmates laugh and teased me when I talked.

After having my tongue clipped, a barbaric treatment for what in those days was referred to as a lazy tongue, years of after school speech lessons that my mother worked a second job to afford, and many trips to hearing specialists, I was by the seventh grade comfortable with telling strangers my name. I could finally say my name. However, many asked, “Is that with a ‘d’ or a ‘t'”? Sometimes I still forget to lift my lazy tongue.

As my mother told me the story, I was given the name by an old maid, a term for an unmarried woman in those days, who lived in Prospect Village where I lived until the age of four. She asked my mother if she could name her second born if I were a boy, as my brother was already named after our father? I know. I too hear the echoes of Rumpelstiltskin, but she only wanted to name me.

The woman had one true love who was killed in World War I before he could return home to be her husband. My mother said she had forgotten all about it until the day I was born and the neighbor showed up at the hospital to reminded mom of her promise. So I was given my name after her dead fiancé. A man I never met or knew. I was named to keep alive someone’s memory. Most of us are named after someone else, and not for ourselves.

The name never clicked with me so eight years ago on December 31st, 2011, following a revealing dream, I changed my name. I wanted my name to reflected who I am today, to carry me through my remaining years, and my given name was too encased in the past to carry me forward. One can outgrow a name in the same way he/she outgrows a pair of shoes, but to change one’s name is not as carefree as buying a new pair of footwear.

In the past, I admired those individuals like Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and others who changed their given names to reflect where they were going more than where they had been. It may have appeared to the world that these name changes were simply an outward, surface change but I can assure you without a doubt the change came from their soul’s core, as mine did.

As recently as a few months ago, J.K. Rowling adopted the male pseudonym of Robert Galbraith to allow her to more easily write in a different genre. This is a common practice with writers. Her name change was a business decision and not permanent. Changing one’s name is a courageous step for whatever reason it is adopted. I know this because of the various reactions I received when I announced my own name change.

Most of my friends easily adopted to the transformation, but a few had difficulty with my decision. They could not understand the why, and continue to use my given name. I have not corrected them in the past because I myself was still in the transition period. I remember how long it took me to refer to the examples above by their chosen names, but now it feels important that I notify everyone again by what name I wish to be addressed.

We don’t have the option to name ourselves when we come into the world but we do have a say concerning the name with which we go back into the world. Most of us will carry the same name for our entire physical existence as a tie to a family or tradition, and some of us for whatever reason will chose not to keep our given names. We make new entries into the Akashic Records and the government’s extensive data base. We receive mail and tax forms with an aka (also known as) following our chosen name. We have friends who cannot see we are no longer the person they once knew, and for that reason they choose to hold on to the past.

To visualize the power of a name think of Louise Ciccone. Okay, you got that? Does that name have any given power in your mind? Now think of Madonna…such is the power of a name.

Change of the past and the familiar is difficult for many, but this I know is true. In the end,

nothing is truly mine except my name. I only borrowed this dust.

My name is Tao. I am everything and I am nothing.

When Paradise Is No Longer Affordable

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAWhat does one do when the home you love is no longer affordable or when you realize your time in paradise is running out?

* Get a job so you can afford to live in “Paradise?”

* Max out your credit cards to extend “Paradise” a bit longer?

* Search for a new “Paradise?”

On my return home from one of the required every four months exit of the island, the Immigration Officer said, “You know, you can’t do this forever.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about but I pretended to be uninformed. “What is that, sir?” I answered in a non apologetic voice. My passport pages were filled with entry and exit stamps from Fiji. I had lived on the island now for over three years using only my Tourist Visa.

“You can’t stay here forever on a Tourist Visa. You need to find another way to be here if you plan on staying any longer.” He stamped my passport and handed it back to me.

“Thank you sir.” I took my passport and continued to the luggage trolly. I thought it was somewhat ironic that whenever I reenter the Unites States, the Immigration Officer almost always says, “Welcome home!” In Fiji, a place I consider home, I am told the day will come when I will no longer be permitted entry into the country on a Tourist Visa. I did’t tell him that my application for residency had been rejected because I had not invested at least two hundred thousand Fijian dollars into the economy through the purchase of land, housing, or as a business investment, nor did I have fifty thousand dollars in a US bank to qualify for residency. My income from my pension and Social Security otherwise qualified me under their guidelines.

It was not an official warning. Those, I understand, are sent by post to inform the recipient that he/she has thirty days to leave the country and must remain out for at least one year. I glanced back to the Immigration Officer as he typed something into the computer before calling for the next traveler.

Everything is a sign for something I suppose. Maybe this was my sign to start creating another home or to figure out how to stay in this one. I had managed to pay for my required exists in advance up until now, but my meager savings have run out. It is expensive having to leave the country three times a year. A two month extension is available but it can only be utilized for emergency reasons and not merely to extend my Tourist Visa. No matter where you go from an island, it costs money, and having to leave three times per year amounted to one third of my income.

So how do I stay here? Or is it time to leave? I didn’t actually come here with a plan or time frame, but there is so much I love about Fiji. The sounds of the ocean, the millions of stars in the unpolluted skies, plucking a ripe papaya from a tree in the front yard, and quenching my thirst after working in the garden with the sweet juice from a coconut. It is a simple life I live here, but the required exits have made it unaffordable.

I could marry a local and gain residence, but that option is not one I would consider. I am still an old romantic, so being in love would have to be a huge part of any decision to marry. I could extend my time using my credit cards, but that option would always keep me in debt. I thought I had the issue resolved a few months ago when Jeanette offered me a work permit, but it fell through. “Too much government paperwork,” she said. Besides, I didn’t come to Fiji to work. I came here to live my life the way I dream of my life.

Or, I can take Thoreau’s position, “that I have several more lives to live, and cannot spare any more time to this one.” I thought, for whatever reason, my major life changes and moves were over, but it seems I still have more castles to build in the sky somewhere if not here.

Sudden Insight

While living at Esalen, twenty years ago today, I had an experience which completely changed my view of the world, the way I thought things happened, and my life, forever. I still cannot completely explain it in words because it was beyond all words. It was beyond belief.

I was right there on the edge. The point of total saturation. I was alone on the bridge between worlds, between a schizophrenic crackup and a spiritual awakening. The feeling was so intense that I am not even sure that it was a feeling. I was so full of emotion that a single comment, a single rain drop, could send me tumbling into the abyss on either side of the thin tightrope upon which I was balanced. I was on the verge of complete joy, laughter, rage, sorrow, pain, love all at the same moment. I thought I was going crazy or that I might be more sane than I have ever been before in my life. I didn’t know what in the world was going on inside of me and I was scared.

I am not sure what brought all this on and in fact I am not sure if anything at all brought it about. I know now that the incidents to which I attributed this state of chaos had little or nothing to do with its cause. I know that the intensity of this state was greater than anything my own body or mind could possibly produce. I know now that this surge of emotion, this saturation of feelings, this rapture of pain, loneliness, sorrow and joy was ecstasy, but I did not know it then.

This epiphany was an awakening but at first I treated it as if it were a stranger from another planet. It was something foreign to my existence, a part of my own being of which I had no knowledge, acceptance or understanding. It swelled in my solar plexus as a fertile egg but its gestation period seemed only a few hours or perhaps it had been fifty years. I was not sure.

It was a part of me being born from those parts of me which were ready to grow; to move beyond the boundaries of this body to a greater understanding of my universal condition. I was moving farther into sky, closer to the root of my being and that is exactly what I came here to do. I just didn’t know this was the way it happens.

I could not identify this state of feelings at first. I could not find for it a rational name or point of reference but in a time period of many new adventures it was a most profound experience. There is a new part of me afloat in this world, fathered by the universal experience of all beings and mothered by the need to give birth to my own existence. The kundalini has been awakened.

epiphany – 3.a. A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. b. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization.

ecstasy – 1. Intense joy or delight. 2. A state of emotion so intense that one is carried beyond rational thought and self-control: an ecstasy of rage. 3. The trance, frenzy, or rapture associated with mystic or prophetic exaltation.