What’s In A Name?

Have you ever struggled to come up with a suitable name? For a child? A pet? A business? Or, a boat?

If so, did a perfect name suggest itself? Is there an interesting story behind the name you chose? Did you research names or hear one that resonated? Was your choice based on a prominent or barely discernible trait? Is the name a tribute or a remembrance to someone? Or, did you base your choice on something else…perhaps something unique that reflects who you are?

I’ve never had the opportunity and responsibility of naming children. Perhaps that’s a good thing though. As a 7-year old, I recall my parents discussing potential names for my two younger siblings. I waded in with input on the question, “How would you spell that?”; there were several possibilities. Let’s just say, I confidently chose the road less traveled. I’ve since been acutely aware of how names have the potential to change the way people perceive and interact with us.

Names are on my mind this month, as a former colleague and her husband have a new baby. Their excitement and amazement are contagious. Their sweet new photos on social media triggered an overwhelming outpouring from their friends and family. I was happy to see that they chose an imaginative, yet somehow familiar, name for their son. I hope this incredibly warm welcome and memorable moniker give him a great start in this world.

I love to hear the often-great stories behind some names – or non-names, as was the case with my former neighbor whose cat learned to answer to a noun, “Cat.” Names that I painstakingly chose for my own pets – past and present – have become part of their stories and identities. Looking back, these names also showcased qualities in myself.

I’m ever curious about the names of boats. I’ve never had the opportunity to name or christen one, but often see those that make me smile, inspire me, or cause me to want to meet (or, occasionally, not ever encounter) the owners.

Cue the photo above – the name, a timeless sentiment that is more apropos as Thanksgiving Day approaches. I’m curious; did a specific incident or a grateful mindset prompt this choice? I hope it was the latter. Regardless, I appreciate the awareness and focus on gratitude. I think it’s important to highlight and cultivate positive things in our lives…even as we work to address wrongs, problems and issues.

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving season? That is, beyond basic needs – food, shelter, health, safety – and boats?

For me, top-of-mind are moments that make me feel most alive. My list might include salt spray on my face, surprisingly great seats at a concert, a racing heartbeat after a long run, opportunities to enjoy nature, and the cozy warmth of home…especially during cold and wild weather. I’m grateful for meaningful relationships, even those which challenge or test me. I’m especially grateful for humor and laughter; for snippets of free time; for things that tug at my heartstrings; for strong connections with others; for memorable hellos and goodbyes…and for those savored, fleeting moments in-between.

As I grow older, I better understand some of the poignant and painful experiences my parents and others close to me faced – especially long-term or potentially permanent goodbyes with family members and other loved ones – the many holidays and special occasions spent apart. Mid-November marks the anniversary of my father’s arrival in the US, now decades ago, aboard the Titanic’s sister ship, R.M.S. Celtic. Fortunately, unlike many others, he did have the opportunity to return for a visit, albeit many years later. Although the timeframe, location and some of the details differ, the essence of those long years in-between is well-depicted in this powerful song, (Letters from) Kilkelly, Ireland.

As I reflect on gratitude, I also feel thankful for personal growth and insights. Despite disappointments and setbacks, I continue to develop and look for better ways to navigate this life and stay on course. What is the bigger picture? What am I here to do? Learn? Experience? Enjoy? Accomplish? Resolve? What is important now or will be later on? Rereading some of my older journals, I’m struck by what has remained vivid and meaningful over time, versus people and activities from those same days that have nearly or completely disappeared from memory. How might I leverage this knowledge to make better choices about how I spend time now and going forward?

How can any of us better navigate the figurative flotsam and jetsam in our daily lives? I strive to avoid or ignore much of it, especially those voices that attempt to coach or mentor me to view experiences through a negative lens or one of apathy. Happiness, or the lack thereof, may have a great deal to do with perception and mindset – whether we feel we have some or any control over our situation, whether we see things trending up or down, and whether we believe our efforts make a difference. I prefer to notice and celebrate our adaptability, our ability to reinvent ourselves, our personal strengths, and our increasing insights and knowledge as we age.

I took part in a “7-day B&W Photo Challenge” this month – seemingly, an easy, fun, creative and perhaps inconsequential activity on Facebook. The instructions: Seven days, seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanations. Challenge a different creative friend every day. It sounds simple, yet it has proven thought-provoking.

Why? I’ve photographed thousands of scenes, yet nearly all have been in color – similar to what I see when not behind a camera. My first monochrome shots were muddy, devoid of contrast. Nuance and subtle details lost. I’ve had to learn to compose them differently. Coincidentally, this week a friend commented on a color photo I’d taken of the bright fall foliage. He remarked that he only sees a tree, as he is color blind…a much-needed reminder that not everyone sees the world the same way as I do.

Somewhat embarrassing, I also challenged friends who were already participating. This, a result of Facebook algorithms rather than lack of attention; not every post ends up in our newsfeeds or is seen by all our friends. Not on Facebook, or wondering why this matters? I also see similar scenarios with other social media technologies – and, even with email, when filters determine what is or isn’t spam. One of my observations, and worries, is that so many of us now use Facebook, Twitter and other technologies to communicate…yet there is no certainty that our intended audience ever sees, or consistently sees, what we intend to convey. I see more wiggle room than naught for potential misunderstandings.

Last year at this time, I wrote of politics, Thanksgiving gatherings, and of my hope that boats and the many other things we have in common can help heal the divides in our country, our communities, our friendships, and our families. Those sentiments still hold true today.

What’s in a name, or a concept such as gratitude? The power of imagination, intention, insight, and so much more. If we can change the way we think, can we can change things for the better? I believe so!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Karen Berge

Karen Berge

I enjoy living in Seattle, where boating opportunities abound. My goal is to take advantage of them all!
Karen Berge

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