What’s In A Name?

Self Portrait, Winter 2012

Pheonix Chicken
Virginia Rose
Virginia Rose Pheonix Chicken
Virginia Chicken
Pheonix Rose

Recently, I started telling folks that I would like to be called by my given middle name, “Rose”. It was an impulse that perhaps arose from some recent personal growth events. But I’ve been thinking about Rose for some time now. Waiting for the right moment to emerge.

But people are attached to Pheonix Chicken. Pheonix Chicken is still very much me. In me. On me. It begins to feel more like a title. Like a thing that I embody but is not exactly me. A thing that I do.

I took this photo in Seattle’s University District, Nov 3, 2010

Rose feels like me. The me underneath the thing that I do.

People ask, “Do you want me to stop calling you Pheonix and call you Rose instead?” And my answer is often vague and mushy. “Aaaaeeee, you know, do what you want. I’m not, not Pheonix Chicken anymore, I just want people to know who Rose is.”

And dearest folks have been taxing themselves to create space in their brains for planting a new identifier to which to attach all that they associate with the being-ness of me. And they call me Rose even though they probably still think of me as Pheonix in their heads and mentally corrected themselves before they speak.
If we practice that awkwardness long enough, then it won’t be awkward anymore, it’ll just be what is. And when people think of the totality of the being-ness that is me, they will think Rose. This is, of course harder for people who have known me longer. The grooves in the pathways are deeper. Their data sets are full of momentum. It can require more focus to shift course.

But I don’t want people to stop thinking of Pheonix Chicken when they think of the totality of my being. I don’t want people to stop calling me one thing and start calling me the other thing. I want people to call me both things. Because that’s what feels true. Not both things at the same time, but one thing or the other, depending on which of me they think they are speaking to – or would like to be speaking to – in the moment.

I want people to pause for a moment and wonder which of us is present with them. Because, while we’re not really sure where one begins and the other ends, we’re fairly sure that there is a distinction, and it is a distinction that feels good.

This may all sound like a bunch of unnecessary silliness. It is requesting an even greater imposition upon my loved ones; not just to plant one new designation by which to think about the totality of their experience of me, but that they expand the designation system and create space for more complexity in their thought pathways. And I ask for a level of awareness from them that would allow space for the distinction to be made moment by moment.

The grumpy old farts would tell me that I am silly and self-absorbed for demanding so much special attention. “Just pick something and stick with it!”

But this feels good, so I am doing it. And I say to the grumpy old farts, “Get over it. Complexity is good for your brain. Promotes neuroplasticity.”

More and more, Pheonix Chicken feels like a costume that I wear. A shield. Somewhat impractical for everyday applications. Rose feels light, simple, peaceful. Unapologetically thorny.

And Virginia Rose feels good too.

I’ve never really liked the name “Virginia”. Virgins. Virginity. The Virgin Queen. Well, I could  associate myself with a queen. But there is an older than old (or is it newer than new?) definition of the word “virgin”. The Virgin is “she who belongs to herself.” It is a title of self mastery and self sovereignty. I can think of few concepts more essentially anarchist than that. And that is something that I can lean into.

Self Portrait, June 27, 2015

I’ve gotten so used to telling people that my name is Pheonix that I keep introducing myself as Pheonix, then immediately correcting myself to Rose. Which turns into Pheonix Rose. Which I like.

Underneath it all, even though it’s a new habit that I’ve not yet fully settled into, I mostly feel like Rose. And I like it.



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