The Other Side of the Couch: What’s In A Name?


Late July and early August in Nashville can be overwhelmingly humid and uncomfortable.  However, yesterday and today have been little glimpses of fall…crisp air, sunshine, and temperatures in the 70s.  How delicious!

Because of this wonderful weather I have been outside more than I normally am (I am one of those Southerners who is overloved by all insects, in particular mosquitoes and chiggers…I can literally walk across a patch of grass and get attacked, while my husband seems to be immune).  In doing so, I have been enjoying the incredible display of a special kind of lily that happens at this time of year.

These lilies have many names.  I have heard them called Surprise Lilies.  Other names that I am now hearing are:  Resurrection Lilies, Pop-up Lilies, and (my favorite) Naked Ladies.  They start out in the spring with a massive amount of greenery, and no blooms.  The greenery dies away, and sometime in late July little buds begin to poke their way through the soil.  Within a day or two they stand up to two feet tall, spilling pink profusion and a sweet , intoxicating aroma into the summer air – an incredible display.  They line my driveway on either side, cascades of pink spilling up and astounding the eye.  My late godmother planted these lilies, and every time they bloom I am reminded of her legacy of beauty.

Surprise lilies – yes, because they are so sudden and so unexpected.  Resurrection lilies – yes, because they appear to have died and disappeared, and then unexpectedly are reborn.  Pop-up lilies – yes, because they literally pop out of the ground; I think that if I were there I could see it happen. Naked Ladies – yes, only a burst of petals topping a long, green stalk…no leaves, no clothes, so to speak.

Names matter.  What we call something has resonance and connects us to a larger world.  I use “surprise lilies” because that is what Marie called them, and by using this particular name I am connected to memories of her and of her special place in my life.  A master gardener, she spent the last twenty years of her life planting perennials and bulbs, creating beauty, and digging in the dirt.  She loved being outside.  I don’t love being outside, but I love the beauty that she created, and I love remembering her when I see her lilies.

Be aware of how you name things, and of how those names can create an entire internal story of remembrance.  Just like Proust’s madeleine, names evoke more than just an object.  They take you on an internal journey, filled with sight and sound and sensations…just as I see Marie, faded red hair wrapped in a kerchief, happily kneeling in the dirt and planting bulbs for a future she would never see.

Some Additional Thoughts on Names

  1. Be aware of how you name others.  Nicknames or descriptions determine perception.  If you are calling your child “the pretty one”, you can be sure she will learn that this is what you value.
  2. Notice how you name yourself. Many of us have an internal name-caller that isn’t kind.  Work with bringing compassion to your dialogue with you.
  3. Name the things you want in life…values, goals, directions. Naming is powerful.  Give yourself that power.

What is the power of naming in your life?  I would love to know.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC, MHSP:

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.


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