Maybe my book precipitated this identity crisis as I attempt to identify who my self is before I share that self so unflinchingly with the world. Maybe it’s not resonating so much with the man whose name I now share, the man who was Marcello but is, in real life, his total opposite: quiet and subdued; a man grappling with a mysterious illness, one that leaves him tired and withdrawn, barely able to manage the pain and incapacitation and leaves me alone with my thoughts.
The obvious arises: here, at 48, eleven months into what by all appearances, or lack thereof, seems to be the great transition into crone-dom, is another death. The death of youth and a certain self-image I scarcely knew I carried but quite clearly did. Maybe it is menopause that is provoking this this wondering, this desire to claim myself for myself, rather than being someone’s wife or daughter or mother for that matter.
I want a new name; this much I know. I could pick any name I want I suppose. I could make something up out of thin air, or choose something randomly: Kate de la O (just because I like it), or Kate Middleton (she’s not using it anymore), or I could go operatic, Kate Castronovo (poetic, dramatic, so Italian).
It makes sense, this wondering. As I muse, I hear an unseen entity whisper to me. “Write all this down,” the voice says. “Okay,” I reply out loud, get up, look for paper and pen, curse myself for not leaving them beside the bed, move quietly past my children’s room stopping long enough to listen for their sleeping breath, stumble downstairs, naked, searching for writing implements.
This is how I figure it out, how I’ve always, unconsciously tried to name myself into existence, by writing my way into understanding. I am dying. I am waiting to be reborn. And in the liminal, sacred space between being and becoming, here in my womb-bed, a lone lamp illuminating my words in the darkened summer night that encloses me, I embrace the constant wonder.
This time, I muse, I will name myself in a new way. This time it will be an internal force that leads me into a new incarnation, like the mysterious movement that propels all new life into the world, unbidden, unknowable. This time I will wait for the voice, the same one that told me to write this down now; the one who named my son before he was conceived, the one who called to me when I was eight and frightened after the unexpected death of my young father, called to me saying, “Kate...Kate...” but I was too scared to follow.
I realize, of course, that it doesn’t matter so much what I am called; what matters is that I am being called — by a force larger than my ego identity. I get this. And yet one’s name is a marker, a way belonging, of connecting with or distancing from family and roots. It doesn’t so much change who you are as reflect it. And maybe that’s why I am feeling nameless. Perhaps once I figure out who I am, I will find my name. Until then, I am, as Shakespeare, the originator of my naming called me, plain Kate.