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What's in a Name?

Harsha Photo for Blog.JPG

Have you ever thought about  what's in a name - in particular, your name?


I've never been part of the common conversation. While others are discussing celebrities from Hollywood or the latest fads in fashion, my thoughts have always flown far outside the bell curve. As a result, I often see what others don’t and totally miss what the rest of the world is talking about.


Today, my mind is poised to write about the subject of names. I picked up on this topic two years ago with one of my Maura4u videos entitled, What Is Your Name?  I introduced the idea that we’ve all been assigned names by parents at birth; but, we are equally empowered to choose names of our own election. In particular, we can carry one legal name while defining ourselves essentially by another.


Sometimes, the name we’re given serves as a fitting designation for the person we become. As a case in point, I recently met a young woman in Boston while attending the launch of Empowered Voices, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting enterprising women in rural Uganda. My daughter and her co-founder invited a cadre of multiculturals from the greater Boston area to attend the event. As a newly installed board member, I was invited to create a welcoming atmosphere which, for me, came quite naturally.


In between playing the venue’s Steinway piano and accompanying an attendee who performed some of her favorite Broadway songs, I happily made my way around to welcome newcomers in advance of the evening’s formal presentation. One young woman, who came alone, immediately caught my eye.


She was clad in a bright red coat and an equally bright smile. I was not only drawn to say hello but to share with her what I could see of her countenance.


I extended my hand to take one of hers in my grasp. “You are an absolutely radiant young woman,” I told her. “From the time you stepped through the door, your joy came right in with you.”


The quiet, yet unusually warm, girl giggled. “Oh, that is so nice to hear. Thank you,” she blushed, beaming even further at the notion.


“My name is Maura and you are . . . ?”


“I am Harsha.”


“Harsha? That’s an unusual name. Do you have any idea what it means in English?”


“Yes,” she laughed now, even more joyously, “That is so funny you should ask. My name means ‘happiness is within us’”.


“Your parents named you ‘happiness is within us’? My, they were quite prophetic!” I told her. “Your name absolutely matches your personality!”


Harsha, a graduate student from India, was both honored and pleased. She was also amenable to my taking her smiling image and distributing it as a #Happiness picture on Twitter.


*   *   *   *   *


Returning home from my Boston trip, I joined a friend of mine, Amy Bryant, as we headed to an event in Tampa.


“Maura, I just remembered something I wanted to tell you! While you were out of town, I found myself watching an inspirational program on TV. The speaker was discussing the name Maura and how its biblical root meant sorrow. The disclosure stunned me.  I thought, ‘This is the name of my friend Maura and she is anything but sorrowful! Everything about her is happy and she brings happiness wherever she goes.’”


I laughed aloud as Amy spoke, sharing how I learned that the name Maura also meant bitter.


Amy remained animated. “There’s more. The experience was so profound that all I could think was . . . . Maura transformed her own name!


It was an insightful remark from a fellow author.


“Thank you, Amy,” I responded in full acceptance of her assessment. “I am happy!”


And so it is true. While the name Maura never fit me as a child, I fully embrace it today. If someone were to open my mind and disclose all that it contained, one would find only gratefulness. Every experience, every encounter, every life lesson I have picked up along the last half century have coalesced into an alchemic process. The child named sorrow or bitter has, almost magically, transformed herself into happy.


I learned a number of years ago that I was originally to be named Lisa. Oh, how I would have adored a more easily-identifiable name during my growing up years. How often I lamented over not being a Joanne or a Linda or just about anything else more common.  Yet, there I was, a tiny tot wearing an oblique, enigmatic and ill-fitting name that neither looked like me, sounded like me nor gave any indication of what a “Maura” was. I was without an external model of a Maura.


Had I given attention to the meanings of names back then, I might have even lamented that while the name Maura meant sorrow and bitter, the intended name Lisa would mean God’s promise or devoted to God.  Apparently, the separation from my originally intended name proved no loss: the evolution of my life has culminated in a state known as happiness that is not only mine to claim, but one I desire to share with others.


Whether you’re born with a harmonious name like Harsha (happiness is within us) or delivered an ill-fitting moniker like Maura (sorrow and bitterness), you still have a will of your own to choose a name that “speaks” of you as a matter of essence.


So what’s in a name? Perhaps the most important thing about what’s in a name is you!  You are the one who ultimately determines your thoughts, your aspirations, and the very essence you claim for yourself.


In my case, I’ll gladly accept the name Maura, for knowing it has placed me on the path to happiness.


After all these years, it’s led me to being the happy communicator known as Maura4u!

Maura Sweeney is an Author and Public Speaker.

For Maura Sweeney's Amazon book series, click here for The Art of Happiness.



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