Twenty five years ago I was lying prone on my black and white tiled bathroom floor trying to comfort my six month old daughter Victoria, who was lying and crying on top of me. We were both cranky and exhausted from another in a series of sleepless nights.
I knew my daughter was suffering, but her constant wailing was wearing me down. I was trying my hardest to stay present for her, though the temptation to abandon felt overwhelming. I knew that if I checked out now, I would be repeating the cycle of leaving that began with my grandmother Gertie, who had been left motherless when her father took her and her brother to Canada, leaving their mother Ruchel behind in Poland.
That morning on my cold bathroom floor I made a promise to Victoria. I promised I would never abandon her. Chances were astronomically high that I would fail, but I would get back on course as soon as I could, no matter that I came into this world directionally challenged.
I wanted to stay present for my daughter. I needed to address my myriad mental health issues, but didn’t know were to start. I held my crying baby in one hand, and in the other looked in the Yellow Pages for a psychotherapist. I stopped at the B’s and phoned Dr. Bloom. I was hoping he might be simpatico to a fellow neurotic Hebe. I dialed his number and my journey began.
I have been addicted to so many things – food, cigarettes, shoplifting and creating stories that would inflate my life. Though I have successfully recovered from all of the above, I have not however been able to heal one very peculiar addiction: my desire to find and keep a good and true name for myself.
This name obsession has been my personal kryptonite. This story begins in the summer of 2007. My friend and mentor Jean came over to my home one hot summer morning and proclaimed “My name is now Alexandra, Jean is dead.” I was initially shocked by her decision, then I understood. Jean had just turned 50 and was feeling invisible in the way that many beautiful woman do when they reach middle age. What better way to reinvent herself than by changing her name, killing overlooked Jean then resurrecting as the alluring Alex. I immediately hopped on the name changing band wagon, destination unknown.
My issue with my name started in third grade. My mother named me Rhona Marylin after Rona Barrett the gossip columnist, and the actress Marilyn Monroe. Why she decided to add an H to Rona, and to invert the I and Y of Marilyn remains unclear. My mother never completed high school, I can only assume that proper spelling was not high on her list of priorities. The addition of the H afforded my classmates a reason to torment; calling me Ra-Hona, making me hate my name and by proxy my mother, even more.
When Jean suggested I too change my name, I agreed immediately. I thought for months about what name would best resonate with my unadulterated soul. I looked through baby name books and magazines until one day I came across the magazine Mirabella, which featured the actress Anjelica Huston on their cover.
I felt intuitively Anjelica was the name I had been searching for. I opened the magazine and began to read. Anjelica’s mother was from Spain, and every night before bed, she would whisper to Anjelica “Good night, my Anjel.” This was my heart’s desire. I wanted with every fibre in my being to have a mother who whispered those four words. I had been waiting my entire life for my own mother’s love, waiting for her to show up, waiting for her to shower me with gentleness.
I just knew that when I changed my name to Anjelica, the magic of Anjelica would call forth someone who loved me enough to whisper “I love you my Anjel”. Perhaps not in with a Spanish accent, and never from my own mother’s lips, but the name Anjelica would become a talisman, bringing forth all measure of good fortune into my life.
I was flying once a month into New York to study Reiki. I was so impressed/infatuated with my teacher Deidre that I culled together a group of women to study with her in Toronto. I couldn’t wait to share my new name news with Deidre. I picked her up at the airport, rushing through the obligatory pleasantries. “I’m changing my name to Anjelica!” I told her excitedly. “Anjelica?” she exclaimed “That is a stupid name. You should change your name to Kimberley!” I then did the only thing I could do, I jettisoned Anjelica as my sacrificial offering.
Eventually I landed on the name Cassandra, but just as the thrill of Cassandra was wearing thin, I happened upon the movie ‘The English Patient’ with the actress Kristin Scott Thomas playing Katharine Clifton. Katharine was beautiful, British and contained. Three things I was not and most desperately wanted to be. I spent the following year studying numerology in order to procure a perfectly balanced name. I decided on Katharine Angelina, then applied successfully for a legal name change.
Katharine Angelina translates numerically to a number six vibration, the six representing safety, home and family. What more could I possibly want? More than that obviously, since I’m obsessing still. I just can’t make a name stick, it slips off of me like gum on Teflon.
I understand that a new name cannot bring me a good mother, nor can any name help me to feel safe. Changing my name is akin to painting my bedroom a different colour. The colour might be different but the room stays the same.
Lately I have playing with variations of Rhona: Rhône – Rowland – Rhonwen. Perhaps I can rest here, close to my beginnings with just a slight upgrade.