What's in a name?
Have you ever read something that completely resonated with your soul? Something so beautiful and profound that it took your breath away? From the moment I read the author's name on this poem, I knew I was about to read something that would powerfully touch my soul. Her name dripped off my tongue like warmed honey on buttered toast; and I was instantly envious that my name was so average. I mean, who would want the name Stephanie McManus when you could have a name like
Oriah Mountain Dreamer. It is the personification of artistic greatness, and when I think of beauty, I think of this name. It conjures images of Greek goddesses and noble women blazing through paths of diversity, and it makes me think of the Native American women who have suffered and survived so much. It is like a long sigh after a hard day's work, or the smell of roses after a wet summer rain. It makes me want to be a better person so I can be worthy of uttering the name out loud.
To be fair, when I first read this name, I knew nothing of the author. I decided to look her up and see who this woman was. As I was reading her online biography, it began to explain that she was actually born Caroline House. In 1984, at the age of 30, she began suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which often leaves her debilitated for years at a time. At this age and after her diagnosis, she had a dream where elderly grandmothers came to her and told her to change her name to Oriah as part of her healing. Uncertain at first, she decided to try it, desperate to do anything that would help her heal. It wasn't until 20 years later during a book tour that she learned the meaning of Oriah - "light of God" in Hebrew. She also learned that it was an ancient Jewish custom for individuals who needed healing to change their name in order to invite new healing energies. She gained "Mountain Dreamer" by a shamanic teacher she sought out a year later who gave her the medicine name, which means "One who likes to push the edge".
I resonated even further with this because I too have struggled with my name my whole life. I was born Stephanie Medina and lived by that name until I was married at 28. However, I never really felt connected to that name. My parents had me very young and I was given my mother's maiden name, but over the years, as people got married, I was the only one left with it. When I would go to California to visit my dad, there were numerous Medina's in that area. It is of Hispanic origin and because he lived only several hours from Mexico, the name is common. However, I was born and raised in a (at the time) small town in Montana, predominately Caucasian (sadly), and with (also, sadly) no connection to my Hispanic roots, so the name always felt out of place to me. Plus, it was annoying because everyone pronounced it ME-DINE_UH, always spelled it Madena, or would sing "Funky Cold Medina" by Tone Loc 🙄😂 Then, when I got married, I became Nielsen, though that never really felt right either (guess I should have listened to my intuition on that one🤦🏻♀️ ). Finally, when I got divorced, I decided to become McManus. I was very close to my grandma and grandpa McManus growing up and I idolized my dad, so it felt natural to change my name to McManus. I always wanted to be a McManus and it was a way to honor my grandparents and my dad, while claiming a name I always felt I should have had. Of course, I never thought much beyond that, which is a little unfortunate. Could you imagine if I had been Oriah Mountain Dreamer McManus? Definitely a missed opportunity, for sure 😉😂
When I read Oriah's poem, The Invitation, it felt as if she had written it just for me. It was the accumulation of everything my soul had been trying to convey to others every time I was asked, Who are you? Who is Stephanie? I felt her words resonate deep within my soul and I had a "YES!" moment, where I felt as if she had written the poem for me to share with others in explanation of who my soul really is. I think good poetry, and good writing of any kind for that matter, can have that effect on people. And this is what this poem did for me. I hope you get as much pleasure reading it as did I.
P.S. Everything is profound, but I italicized the lines that really made me catch my breath and pause 💗
“The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive!
It doesn’t interest me what “planets are squaring your moon”.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals -- or, have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to “hide it” or “fade it” or “fix it”.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and
let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes! -- without cautioning us to
“be careful”, “be realistic”, or to “remember the limitations of being human”.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you’re telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another -- to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithful, and therefore be trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your life from God’s presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of a
lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised
to the bone -- and do what needs to be done -- for the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you are or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me -- and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or “with whom you have studied”.
I want to know what sustains you -- from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep - - in the empty moments.