#15. Back to Brookie
Welcome to issue #15 of my letters! (You can read the others here.) As you can see, B is for Brookie, and I've got a few funny feelings writing this, but it could just be the heat or premenstruation or the fact that I always feel a bit of nerves sharing anything I write. The letter B is also for Birthday! Because today is mine, and I'm stoked to report that I did not wake up at 3:33 am with an anxiety attack as I did last year. Instead, I woke up at 5:55, which signals change. How prescient! Even though change is happening in every moment, so, maybe not that prescient.
I'm just going to skip to the end of it all because I think my clients' collective ADHD may have been contagious, and to start from the beginning seems too onerous a task to ask of myself and perhaps you, too. I pondered as much aloud to them earlier this week above the intensity of their conversational cacophony -- "Does this feel like an ADHD group rather than art therapy?" And some looked over at me, and some kept their eyes on the prize (the art they were making), but all 13 (but what felt like 300 of them) said, "Yes."
Anyway, the end of it all is: I'm going back to Brookie. Well, I'm already there. I've always been there. But because "going back to Brookie" theoretically involves the informing of everyone outside of me who doesn't already call me Brookie (and is confused by this email) or who doesn't have an existing nickname for me (of which there are many), it requires a statement of some sort. I guess. A declaration, even. A plea? No, certainly not that one.
Because the nature of treatment centers is that there is a perpetual flow of clients coming in and out, in pretty much every group, I have to introduce myself to the new ones. Maybe two months ago, a newbie asked me my name.
"Sharon," I responded. She paused, studying me, blinked a few times, squinted, and said, in the listless monotonic slur of the heavily medicated,
"You don't look like a Sharon."
"Oh my god!" I exclaimed. I took a seat and, breathlessly and uninvited, proceeded to go into how I'd just been having all these epiphanies about my name, and how "Sharon" doesn't feel like me, has never really felt like me, and how did she know that? like, what was it about "Sharon" that didn't feel like it matched me? and how "Brookie" has always felt like a warm hug whenever someone calls me that, but now I'm here, T-20 years to my true midlife, and now it's become a whole thing -- and it feels like such a silly and self-indulgent yet also quite significant thing on which to be ruminating for the past 4 months.
I didn't get much of a response from her or anyone else, other than everyone in the group nonchalantly deciding then and thereafter to call me "Brookie" (or "Brooke" - rebels, those). They didn't make a big deal about it, the way I have an inclination towards making big deals out of, well, everything. It certainly didn't seem like a big deal to them to present to me every piece of art and every card addressed to "Brookie."
Sure, I'd sort of forced them to make me birthday art, but it still felt like a really, really big hug.
That little girl in the picture up there, looking like a cute little boy, only knew herself as Brookie. It's what family (and friends of family) have called me my whole life. For a while, some of my cousins didn't even know my first name was Sharon. So to be thrust into a scary unknown (kindergarten) with a name that felt not like my own (Sharon) created a symbiotic relationship that has lasted to this day, one in which the name has felt to me like a mask that I don, a shield that I wear, a wall built to keep protected the soft, gooey, vulnerable center inside of me that knows herself only as Brookie.
I don't feel any sort of kinship with the name Sharon, whether my own or others'. When I see the name Brookie (or Brooke) on a page or hear it in someone's voice, I know that that's me. Well, about as "me" as an arbitrary set of letters can get.
If you're a believer in the energetics of the words we speak and consume having the power to influence how we show up, then the energy of being called "Sharon" has been both a help and a hindrance. It's protected me from funky juju, but it's also somehow kept me from showing up as my rawest, truest self, and this I know to be true. So I've been experimenting the last few months with this idea that different names can create different worlds within us, and I've found that when I'm embodying Brookie, I'm more honest, more creative, more free and present, in my soul form, more... me. And when I'm embodying Sharon, I'm a bit fearful and hesitant, self-conscious and self-doubting, mired in the impiety of this human form, a bit closed off and feeling like I'm lying about something or about to steal a few things from Walmart.
I've been practicing with my clients. I let them know they can choose between Sharon or Brookie, and not one has picked Sharon so far. Further signs from the universe, I suppose! (And you know how I feel about signs from the universe, they thrill and affirm me).
My biggest wish for myself in my 39th year of this life is to be truly kind, in every possible way, to myself and to others. My other wish is, if Sharon is the shell, and Brookie is the softness underneath, to be more in touch with the sweet and tender parts of me.
I'm no longer attached, as I was months ago, to the idea that everyone change my name in their phone NOW. But I'm still sort of in the messy middle phase with this name stuff. There are still those who call me Sharon and can somehow make it feel like a hug. Maybe that's the point and the real end of it all. That you can call me whatever you like as long as you and I both remember that we're, at our highest of selves and deepest of cores, not any of these--our names, our birth dates, the masks we wear or even the faces underneath. But if we're keeping tabs, I'm shedding Sharon. Brookie is best.
As always, thank you for reading--