My Name Is Submission

I can’t say I was always proud of my name.

My stomach would tie itself in knots when a substitute teacher would walk into the classroom.  The other students reveled in a day of trickery and games, but I knew it would be a day of  my name being butchered to bits, beginning with the dreaded roll call.

To non-Arabic speakers, Taslim is a tricky word to pronounce correctly.  I should know.  Even I don’t pronounce it the way it is meant to be pronounced; it just isn’t natural to me.  Still, my watered down version of it is what I prefer to some of the other well-intentioned attempts.  But I wasn’t going to correct anybody in elementary school.  When my name was next in roll call, there would be the inevitable pause…a slight contortion of the teacher’s mouth…and then out it would come.  My name, sounding not quite like my name and then…wait for it…the chorus of the entire class “correcting” the teacher with another name, not quite like my name, but one that I went by as it seemed easier for everyone else.

I liked making things easier for everyone else.  It seemed to make things easier for me. (For awhile.)

I made a vow to change my name once I was legally allowed to do so and spent much time trying to figure out the perfect name for me.  When I was 5, I told all the kids in my new neighbourhood my name was Rosemary.  Later ideas of a new name were Melanie, Jenna, Jenny, and Phaedra.

Not only was my name difficult to pronounce, it has this incredible heavy meaning:  Submission (to the will of God).  I never wanted to tell people that.  I mean, submitting to anything sounded so weak.  And then the whole God part…it just felt too much for me to have such a religious name.

And then something happened by the time I was legally old enough to do anything about it.  I grew into my name.  I didn’t want to change it anymore; I wanted to change the way I carried it.  When I started college, I introduced myself to people as Taslim (tuh-slim) and helped people pronounce it when they had trouble, even resorting to using the International Phonetic Alphabet in a Linguistics class.  It turns out, it’s not as difficult as it looks!

A couple years later, I took a candle making class for fun.  Of course, that led me to think of ways to turn this into a viable business.  Well, I needed a name.  I knew the perfect one:  Submission Products.  Since that first sign of acceptance, I have been growing into the Arabic meaning of my name.  (This business didn’t go beyond selling a handful at my now mother-in-law’s candle store, by the way, but it was fun while it lasted).

Oddly enough, surrendering, submitting, giving up…to the will of God…is now my way of life.  When I resist it, I find I am pitted against more than I can handle.   When I do my part and I send out my intentions, I am much more at peace now with the “wait and see” part.  What a relief.

Surrendering in other ways, letting go of the things I don’t need in my life – toxic relationships, fear-based thoughts, anger – well, that’s a work in progress.  But I find the more I do of that, the more space I make for joy and pleasure.

The word submit has come to me in a new way in the last couple years.  Submitting to calls for magazines, anthologies, and guest posts has been rewarding to no end.  It’s a kind of release that I can only get from being who I truly am, doing what I am meant to do.  Even typing in a comment on someone’s blog and clicking Submit is a reminder of just how powerful this word is.  There is no weakness in it at all.

In fact, sometimes it takes all the strength I have to surrender.

Whether you’re Suzy, Amrit, Sean, Trang, or Boitumelo, be yourself.  Don’t suffocate who you are to make things easier for other people.  Don’t twist and contort and change yourself to fit some sort of mold that really doesn’t exist anyway.

Surrender.  Submit.  Release.  Make Space.  See what happens in exchange. 




5 thoughts on “My Name Is Submission

  1. Taslim,

    I struggled to start this reply with, “My dear Taslim” but opted for the more formal and proper, less closely acquainted beginning, since we are such new friends.

    The way you began your post had me concerned that you had not realized the beauty and strength of your name. Then almost immediately I spotted the part where, even as a child, you mentioned that you “liked making things easier for everyone else”. What a blessing, I thought. Even at such a young age you discovered that submit really means “to offer, to give” and something inside allowed you that freedom.

    However, it seems that you went away from that as you grew up, as if there was a negative connotation invisibly stitched to the prospect. Thankfully you return when life lessons showed you the joy that giving can bring. I can’t imagine you, as a wife and mother, not being very good at giving of yourself. In the little time I’ve known you, I see a person who thrives on giving, and if not, are so good at it as to have fooled us all.

    The feminist movement told the world that submission was a form of evil; indentured servitude; slavery. No other social or political force has ever seen such a negative spin on being “good” to those around you.

    As you have discovered, the spiritual implications of being submissive far outweigh the misguided ideology of a small handful of activists who spoke out just to grind their own, personal axes.

    The power and beauty of woman is encapsulated in her ability to be a giver and to draw similar strengths from all around her.

    Where we men have this perpetually stagnant pattern of “work for pay then go and play”, woman can do it all and do it in style. Yet while you still have the ability, many of your peers have traded away the desire to be all that they can be; have sold out for a poor representation of freedom in exchange for lives less fulfilled. The artist in you refuses that trade off.

    You are not only a giver, you are a mentor, a guide, a power in residence within our meager existence on this planet. Never allow yourself to confuse “giving” with “suffocating who you are”. The two are not at all the same.

    Givers do not (or should not) give for the expectation of returns. There is little joy in such practices. My own experience can paint that picture a thousand times over. But giving because you sincerely want to give, despite any hint of reward, is warm, comforting and dignified.

    Submit, give, share, . . . . . . . . Taslim

    1. Hi Richard – thank you for your comment which has inspired many thoughts. I agree that “giving” and “suffocating who you are” are two different things…however, sometimes giving in has unfortunate consequences, one of which can be a loss of identity. And yes, women can do it all, but I think we’re starting to learn that we don’t actually have to, not every single day anyway, and not at the expense of our own well-being. I think what the feminist movement was trying to teach us is that it is vital to first give enough to yourself so that you have something to give to others. I’m not sure about the details of the feminist movement and maybe there were a few people with their own agendas but I know that countless women have helped shape the role of women in society today and have empowered us. I’m sure that women did not want to stop being good to others; they just wanted others to be good to them and to give themselves permission to be kind to themselves.
      And I 100% agree with you that giving for the sake of giving is a joyful practice. Nothing else quite like it.

  2. Hello Taslim,
    You learn something new each day!! Submission, you say? I always thought it meant something quite different. I have to confess that I am guilty of having picked your name at your birth. Indian custom has it that a new born be named by the father’s sister. Please don’t ask why. I was not even going to let mum have a say in this matter.
    Let me tell you how I arrived at naming you. First, I used to love a toddler in Mombasa who was named Taslim. Second, my sales job took me to many local arab ‘dukas’ or stores. I asked some of them what tasleem meant (they really drag the ‘leem’ part). Like tasleeeeeem. I never heard the same answer from any two of them but the reason I stuck to the name was that one fellow told me quite authoritatively that tasleem meant “like cash, rock solid. dependable, ultimate………” and on and on. What intrigued me was the fact that not even people who spoke arabic quite had a handle on what tasleem meant. That fascinated me and I was now more than ever certain that this would be what you would be called.
    Incidentally, three years later and almost to the day, when your brother was born I named him Hasan. (Mum really liked the name I picked for you and let me name your brother too). Please do not ask what it means. This weekend I will google to find out for myself.
    Enjoyed reading your post and Richard’s comment.
    If you have to love to be loved, trust to be trusted then do you have to submit to conquer?
    dad aka Abdulmohamed (servant of Mohamed)

    1. Hi Dad – thank you for my name 🙂 Yes, that is the meaning of my name that I learned from a missionary at a really young age. If you google my name, you’ll probably see 3 meanings – submission to the will of God, a salutation, and peace. Taslim is derived from the root word “Islam”. And I’m quite sure Hasan means “good/handsome”…which would make his full name mean Good Friday. Reading up on names and their meanings was another weird thing I did as a child. I totally forgot about that until I wrote this post. Thanks for your comment!

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