Transformation. Reinvention. Change. These have been my constant companions over the past four decades. They are trusted guides who push me to the edge of a chasm then pull me back slowly, straightening my clothes, patting down my hair, resting hands on my pounding heart. They are equal parts pain and healing, chaos and calm, becoming and un-becoming.

Many years ago, I became a wife, and with that I became a Gobes. With an “I do” and a pen swipe, Vanessa Linsey Cronin disappeared and Vanessa Linsey Gobes emerged. I changed my name to seal my husband and me together in a partnership that the world could easily identify. It felt like the right decision, the traditional decision. I changed my name because I wanted to reinvent the young woman I’d grown into. I wasn’t happy with her. She wasn’t fulfilling my expectations. She was confused and erratic and drunk and unpredictable. I changed my name because I was ready to become someone else. Someone who was stable and promising and fresh. I changed my name because my father abandoned me and I didn’t want to wear his mantle any longer. I didn’t want to move through my life cloaked in the ashes of his failure. I changed my name because I thought it wasn’t important. I thought it didn’t matter that much. I thought my marriage would last forever.

It didn’t.

After my marriage ended, I spent months trying to figure out what to do about the last name Gobes. Maybe I should stay a Gobes for the sake of my kids. Maybe I should keep the last name for a while, in case I get married again. It’d seem silly to change it over and over. Maybe I should resurrect my maiden name… If I became a Cronin again, I could bring good karma back to my family tree. Each option made logical sense, but all were contingent on the future.

I’m not in the future. I’m here, smack in the middle of transformation. And being here requires reconciliation and introspection, not logic and planning.

I’m in the process of becoming someone else again… an individual, a sovereign, a woman, a child… but I must un-become the person I was, before envisioning who I want to be. While I love the Gobes family dearly, I was never really one of them. I don’t have Gobes blood and I wasn’t raised in Gobes tradition. The name doesn’t resonate deeply with me or feel cosmically familiar. As I un-become a wife, it feels right to release this name that is so clearly not mine, not me.

I like the word release. The last four letters are the word ease. Letting go with ease, without anger or force or question or guilt, breathes peace into this process of un-becoming. I inhale one last time, my name resting gently on a flat, upturned palm, my O shaped lips releasing an intentional, clearly directed exhale.

I stare into the empty space of my palm and consider my attachment to what was once there, my attachment to the idea that empty space must be filled by something else, something equal, something new. And I see that empty space isn’t really empty. It’s open. Open to possibilities, open to self love, open to God. As I examine that empty, open palm, I see that I don’t need to replace Gobes with anything. I’ll just leave it as it is and see what comes. 

From mine to yours,

Vanessa Linsey