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What’s in a Name?

Gift from my parents

A Gift from my parents, this tile still hangs on my wall.

When I was born, my parents decided to name me Pamela, after my aunt “Panny,” whose actual name was Frances (close enough, I guess). My middle name of Joy was said to be a celebration of their first daughter (after four boys). I was told this story many times, but somehow I never felt that I lived up to the Joy part of my name. There was a lot of dysfunction in my family – PTSD, alcoholism, intermittent poverty, fighting, shame and unhappiness. I spent my childhood just trying to stay out of the way and not cause more problems. Joy never seemed to be a priority.

This is a legacy I have been working to release all of my adult life, and especially since coming here to Sedona, a place of incredible beauty, healing, and at least the potential for great Joy. Coming from a long line of Pilgrims, Puritans, and hardworking Dutch people, it has taken some time to realize that Joy is OK to have as any kind of goal in my life, let alone accepting that joy is actually the most important expression of the unconditional love that underlies all that we are and all that we experience.

So, a few weeks ago, I felt a calling to reverse my names, and became Joy Pamela. I was not planning to do this when I went to a “spiritual baptism” ceremony at my church. As part of the ceremony, a few people got up and announced their new names and the spiritual reasons behind the change. As soon as I heard this, something inside told me it was time for me to “put the Joy first” and I got up too. If you had told me I’d be doing this before I arrived, I would not have believed it!

Unlike Pamela Joy, Joy Pamela seemed to need a third name to complete it, so I searched for some other names for happiness. Ananda is the Sanskrit word for “bliss,” but that seemed like too much (too grand perhaps, and too many syllables). Nanda, on the other hand, means “full of joy,” and was also the name of one of the Buddha’s closest disciples. Some sources say he was the Buddha’s cousin or half-brother, and was known as a “can-do” kind of person. Yes!

In the process of my name research, I also leaned that “Pamela” is a Greek name that means “made from honey.” I don’t know why I’d never looked up the meaning of my given name before. I thought it was just something I was stuck with, so why bother? One thing I’ve been learning this year is, there is nothing in my life that I’m “stuck” with! So that means the translation of my full name is now “Joy, made of honey, full of happiness.” Wow, that sounds just right for what I am envisioning in my life.

I hope you don’t mind indulging me in this transition. So far, my friends, family and clients have been so gracious about the change, and every time I hear myself addressed as “Joy,” I smile. What a beautiful statement about my life’s purpose!

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