Identity Crisis

My name is Sharon. I don’t like it much, although I suppose I have more or less made peace with it now. When I was growing up in the 70s the name Sharon, along with Tracey, was renowned for being a common name and even associated with promiscuity. I know now that it is a Hebrew name, not quite as regal as the princess Sarah, but having to do with the plain of Sharon in Israel.

I am sure I am not alone as a woman having identity crisis. Most women change their surname at least once when they marry. I’ve taken that a bit further – I have changed my first name, not just once but several times. Names are tied up with identity and it seems to me that women in particular have a challenge to decide who we are. I’m not particularly feminist, but I do feel acutely aware that my name represents my identity. Who am I? Who do I want to be?

I married early, and my first marriage broke down when I was just 23. I had already changed my surname to my husband’s and I definitely had an identity crisis. My first husband was Swedish and I loved having a Swedish name. I didn’t want to give it up even after we split up. At the time I was also intrigued by all things Celtic, and picked an Irish-sounding name completely out of the air: Shannagh. I even made up the spelling. I used it for a few months and then abandoned it, feeling that it was a little bit ridiculous and that made me a little ridiculous. I do have a vague Irish connection, but Shannagh was just made-up and it made me feel fake.

Then, in my 30s I left the church and went on a spiritual journey that culminated, in the end, in not quite converting to Judaism. I came quite close and I decided to take a Hebrew name anyway – Shoshana. Shoshana means Lily and is one of the names of God: Shoshana HaAmakim is the Lily of the Valley. What I particularly love about Shoshana is that the Lily of the Valley grows in the plain of Sharon. It is associated with the town of Shushan in Persia where Esther was Queen. It is even associated with the Apocryphal book of Susanna who was known for her purity. I’ve been Shoshana most of the time for about 5 years.

Living in this new place, I decided to revert to my own name and new my husband’s name, and make a new start. I’m getting used to it again. It’s also my ‘official’, ‘legal’ name according to the DWP as I discovered when I enquired about my pension as a stay-at-home mum. Ironically that makes me want to rebel and change my name again! I never signed anything to say I would change my surname to my new husband’s name, so it makes me a bit cross that it has been decided for me without my consent.

I did have a little bit of an epiphany though about that. If the husband symbolically represents Christ, and the wife represents the Church for whom Christ died, a woman taking her husband’s name is symbolic of the Church (the body of believers) taking on the *identity* of the people of Christ. That’s kind of beautiful, but I don’t like the State making that decision for me. What business is it of the State?

Just recently though I have started to get interested again in all things Celtic. I’m living in a Celtic country, with its own language, and history, flag, customs and traditions. There’s even a Cornish tartan.

I don’t know what made me do it, but I decided to look up the name Shannagh to see if it was a real name, and it turns out it really is. It is an Irish girl’s name denoting a descendant of Sean and meaning old and wise. Well I don’t know whether any of my Irish ancestors were named Sean, but I hope I’m wiser now. I’m definitely older. 🙂

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