Many of you have asked me why I changed my last name. I thought I could slip it under the radar since Paul and Finn are both tiny, 4-letter names, but alas… my audience is more perceptive than that, so I will explain :).
There are many reasons why, after more than two decades of marriage, I’ve decided to take my husband’s last name as my own. I’ve written dozens of pages about it in my journals, talked about it with friends, meditated and dreamed on it, and written poems about it. What follows is a brief outline of the factors that led me to this decision.
To start, I’ve never loved my last name. Paul was undoubtedly shortened somewhere along the way from a longer Eastern European Jewish last name, but I don’t know what that name was. As such, Paul doesn’t speak to my lineage and so doesn’t carry any meaning for me. The name has always felt empty to me – something that a random someone hacked off an ancestor’s documents so that he would assimilate more readily into American culture.
Finn, on the other hand, speaks to a rich lineage of Irish descent. It speaks of mythology and heroism, of nature and nobility, of many of the values that I hold most dear to my heart and which I cherish most in my husband. (See poem below)
I am proud to be a Finn.
Secondly, as I move into the second third of my life, I can feel my priorities shifting. While I’m still deeply devoted to my work in the world, there’s a shifting and softening in service of the feminine that is guiding me to offer my work from a different place inside of me. This softening is connected to holding my marriage as central, and this is represented by taking on my husband’s last name.
Lastly, with our older son Everest going to college and our younger son Asher starting high school, the urge to have one family name, which has reared its head many times since having kids, intensified. Maybe it’s knowing that our children will be spread across the globe and eventually, perhaps, through the solar system, that inspired me to unite under one family name as a way to bind us more firmly together. Of course, our bond transcends our name and is built on nineteen years of attached relationship, but there’s something about sharing a name with my children that felt non-negotiable in the months prior to Everest leaving.
Sometimes I can express myself more adequately in ritual-poetry than in prose, so I would like to share some stanzas from a piece that I wrote for a ritual that we did at the creek on our anniversary in June, the day I officially changed my last name (photo above).
Creek Ritual for our Anniversary and Name Change
Today I separate out from my father and brothers and step onto a new path –
the path and lineage
of Finn –
of Ireland and fairy folk and
and claim my place as the mother of
warriors and magicians.
I am wife and mother,
and taking this name represents my
marriage and motherhood as central in my life.
I let go of all of the father-line has carried in the name Paul
that has not served me.
I fully claim my place in my new family name and my new lineage,
my place as a female Finn.
I take my place beside my new sisters –
Kelly Finn and Perki Finn and Stephanie Finn and Liz Finn.
I have no sisters in my original family,
but today I mark my official place with Finn sisters –
the women who are carrying this last name.
I release any heaviness of Paul –
any of that energy that hangs onto me
I release now into these waters –
and open to receive the light and true place of Finn.
I am a convert now.
Just as Ruth converted to Judaism, so I convert to an Irish lineage.
Not by blood but by marriage and motherhood.
I step out of what has never fully fit
and into a new dress –
white and clean and clear and holy –
for the name Finn also means fair or white
in the sense of purity.
There is priestess in this name, and
it calls to me now –
Connected to this land the way Finn MacCool and
Osian are connected to the land,
Mother of Finns – of fauns – of magic.
When I bring my new name into my work life I bring a message that says:
“My work is important but my husband and children are central.”
I am Sheryl Lisa Finn,
on my books and work moving forward –
A declaration of who I am what I hold as holy.
Sweet creek waters:
May I release the old. I toss “Paul” into these waters.
May I be blessed with all that this new name carries. I step into “Finn”.
May our family be blessed with:
True strength and power
Today, we stand under one name,
the tallit of Finn,
never to be separated,
in this life and beyond.