(My family of origin--I am at the far left wearing the sunsuit.)
For years, whenever I heard people call my birth name, I would flinch or startle. This was because for years my mother would scream my name as she would beat me; I had such terrible memories of my childhood and I wanted to put them behind me. So, I finally changed my name when I was 33.
I picked "Olivia" partly because the name means "peace" and partly because of the "liv" in the center. Peace was what I valued above all else and what was missing from my childhood. And I wanted to live, instead of die, as my mother had raised me--my mother brought me up believing that I would die, like all of the other oldest daughters my maternal line of ancestry, shortly before my 45th birthday.
My grandmother had died a few days before she was to turn 45, as had her mother. My mother was convinced that she too would never live to see 45. She raised me to think I would not either. For example, when I said I wanted to walk with a pretty cane when I was an old lady, my mother would say, "You know you will never be old--you're going to die just like my mother and grandmother because you're an oldest daughter."
My mother looked forward to death and anticipated hers with resignation. She was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia and died on January 3rd, eight days before her 45th birthday. I remember the lessons she taught me when this time of year rolls around.
I was reminded of this also by Kim's post and her choice of the word "Live" for 2012. Writing this now, I realize that she posted this on the 30th anniversary of my mother's death.
As cruel as my mother's heritage might seem to some, she taught me many things about life and about how I wanted to be in the world. She had a horrific upbringing and truly did the best she could with what she knew. I do not miss her, but I am grateful for the lessons she left with me.
And that's how I came to be known as "Olivia".