I did it! I went to court and began the process of changing my name. This new name has been a journey of its own that started four years ago. On August 25, 2017, I went to the Social Security office to begin the process of removing Kimberly Waterous from my life. I realize it might seem different/strange/weird that a person would change their name in midlife, and personally, I think it is a little different. But then again, I am a little different… I also know this, if you knew my journey, changing my name, would make a lot of sense. In fact, most of the people who are close to me, have been incredibly supportive and encouraging of the change. Each of them have responded with comments about how fitting it is, how meaningful, or they have shared their pure excitement for me!
There are so many layers and facets to this story, that I could write a book alone on just this! A lot of thought goes into the choosing of a name. For those of you who are parents, you know first hand, how much time and contemplation goes in to the picking of a name. Names hold an energy, a vibration, and often, a lot of meaning. For the majority of us, we don’t get the choice of choosing our first and middle names – our parents get that honor. Well, what if you are born to a mother who resented you, felt burdened, and ultimately, you were the secret she felt the most shame about? What would that name feel like? I can tell you from experience, it never felt good. Since names are incredibly powerful and a crucial part of our identify, I felt called to change my name – to fit me, the essence of who I am.
While I was at the Social Security office, I was asked to list all of my previous last names. It felt like I was walking through all of the hardest parts of my past with a stranger – the woman sitting behind the desk, entering and confirming information. She began by asking me what my birth name was. I thought about it for a moment and froze. I told her, “I really don’t know what my birth name was, because I didn’t know who my biological father was.” The woman looked at me and said, “Who’s name was listed as the father on your birth certificate?” “Oh… Gary Schnedler,” I answered. She proceeded, “What was your next last name?” At this point, I was feeling like this is an interrogation. I could feel my anxiety start to rise and I asked her why we were going through all of this. She alternates from looking at her computer screen to me. I explained to her, all I am doing is going from Kimberly Waterous, to River Phoenix, my middle name is staying the same. I didn’t think it was that complicated and I certainly was not expecting to feel so vulnerable, raw and exposed.
I was beginning to get confused and feeling uncomfortable. Here we go, my life story with all the craziness is about to start rolling, I think to myself.
She pauses, looks at me and asks, “You love nature very much, yes?” I nod, affirmatively at her. In this moment, I begin to notice her. She is a beautiful, older, Indian woman. She has long hair dark hair, a bindi and nose ring, and deep soulful eyes. I begin to relax and notice feeling more comfortable in her presence. I have always had a special connection to Indian people, not only because I am a Yogi, but also because I love the people and the culture very much. There is something kind and special about this woman. We are both sitting there, in a moment of silence. The next part of the story is truly a Miracle, that I will keep sacred. What I will share is that it was a beautiful moment, and God was very present.
“Whatever name you were given at birth does not matter any longer. Now, you are a River, and all rivers flow to the hearts of everyone. You are the River.” She looks at me with love and compassion. I can feel it.
I don’t understand how this all just happened or what it means, but I begin to cry. My heart is so open and somehow, this woman understood. The names I have carried were not mine. They never belonged to me. My mom named me Kimberly – because she liked the name. Unfortunately, my mom has spent a lifetime struggling with accepting me, loving me, and dealing with her own guilt and shame about how I came to be in her life. I didn’t want to continue being Kimberly. It never felt like it was my name or felt good to me.
My middle name, Jane, I have always loved! My great grandmother’s middle name was Jane, and from the time I was a child, I grew up hearing stories about her. From what I was told, she was something special. When I was a little girl, I would ask my mom to change my first name to Jane. I thought the name Jane was so pretty, and I loved how my mom would just light up when she would talk about Grandmother. She really loved her and I felt the love in that name. Maybe those were the moments when she loved me…
As we continued to go through the different names, I had throughout my life, she got to hear the mini stories that went with each name. At this point, the experience began to feel very healing. It was as if I was lifting each name, the story and the energy it carried in my life up to God. Letting go of my last names (Schnedler, Mehling, Waterous) felt like liberation, freedom and peace. I felt lighter…
We finish the process and she asked if she could bless me. She tells me I have the Spirit of God with me and she wanted to hug me. Normally, I do not like being touched by people I do not know – never have. This moment feels different. She guides me back to the front and tells me she will meet me at the door. She exits from a large metal door and emerges in front of me. She is a small woman, but I can feel enormous love and strength from her. She places her tiny hands on my shoulders and tells me to flow like a river through life. She hugs me, and I mean the kind of hug that is real. We both start to cry. She looks into my eyes and tells me, “Bless you my dear. Be the River and stay in your Flow. All will be well.”
I thank her and walk outside to return to my car. I take a deep breath, and am awe struck by the power of what just occurred. There are no words that seem to capture what I am feeling in this moment. I feel tears well up in my eyes. I know that God is in every part of this journey. I begin to drive home, knowing in my heart that what I am doing has greater and deeper meaning than just a simple name change.
Finally, I am moving into a stage of my life that feels like it is really mine. I am no longer defined by the stories of my past. I am the Navigator and Director of my journey now. It’s all mine. It began with changing my name. I’ve survived a lot and learned so much. Now it is time to share with others and do what I came here to do – to make a positive difference in this world and flow like the River I was destined to be…
With Love and Gratitude,
River Jane Phoenix
Advice From A River
By, Ilan Shamir
Go with the flow
Be thoughtful of those downstream
Slow down and Meander
Follow the path of least resistance for rapid success
Immerse yourself in nature,
sparkles of light dancing on water
Delight in life’s adventures around every band
Let difficulties stream away
Live simply and gracefully in Your own True Nature
moving, flowing, allowing,
serene and on course
It takes time to carve the beauty of the canyon
Rough waters become smooth
Go around obstacles
The beauty is in the journey!