What’s My Story?

Write my story. But which one?

The one about me growing up an American white child in black Africa, always wanting to be black because that’s what I related to? The story of my idyllic childhood years in Africa’s most peaceful nation? Or the story of earlier years, mostly dim memories now, in apartheid South Africa and its occupied Namibia, with police helicopters shooting guns at the black people my family knew and loved? The story about the horrors of Idi Amin’s rule that I pushed into my subconscious mind for decades while still allowing their influences to shape my adult fears?

The story about growing up the daughter of a bishop? (An eclectic one at that—in fact, one who ended up converting to Judaism in the last weeks of his life…surely, that in itself is a story.) The story about sitting with that same wonderful man for four days after he had chosen to take the path of assisted suicide in his final hours? The story of the joy I have felt in the months since then, every time I think about him? Or the story of someone whose “close” family got torn apart by differences after his death?

The story about falling in love with a woman for the first time in my 40s and moving to the Deep South and marrying her? The story about the love I have known with her that has blown all other loves out of the water for me? The story about having a child with her in my 50s and well past those years of my own body?

Should I tell the story of my exploration into Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Taoism, and finding God in all of it?

The story of an acupuncturist practicing in a remote area of the country and dealing with all the narrow-mindedness that accompanies that? Or the story of the joy of exposing that same population to broader thinking?

Or there’s the story of a scared girl with a new husband and a new baby listening to missiles as they passed over our sealed-in rooms in North Israel during the Gulf War—should I tell that one? Or the one about how that young girl was too shy to ever admit she was scared?

The story of a person who fell into an emotionally abusive relationship after never seeing anything like it modeled in her own life? The story of the guilt that has plagued her for how that affected her daughter?

The story of a woman who considers herself spiritually connected yet in the same moment is acutely aware of all her own judgments, guilts, faults, and resentments? The story of a person who says in one breath that she believes we are all one and in the next breath that she hates Trump? The story of the woman who says, “Accept yourself! You’re beautiful!” and at the same moment critiques her belly, her aging skin? The story of the woman who says, “Forgive! Forgive quickly!” but who still harbors those resentments that come with old pains, old expectations, old understandings?

We’re complicated. How many stories are wrapped up, bundled, hidden in our modern consciousness—the place where everything is OK and we don’t talk about anything that doesn’t fit our perfect images?

The time of the fireplace is long gone. These stories we’re all writing—they are a valiant attempt to revive the fireplace time,  to tell our stories…not because any one story is so amazing but because we are amazing. Women. We’ve held our stories inside more and more as we’ve accepted our “insignificance” in society. But the fireplace…the fireplace gives us a space to tell them all—all of our stories. Not just the stories of all of us, but all the stories of each of us.

I’ve sat for many months wanting to write my story but not knowing which story to write, because—without sounding self-deprecating—I didn’t think there was anything new under the sun about my story, so why write it?

But that’s just it: We need to hear our stories precisely because there isn’t anything new under the sun. There’s not one story in the world that can be told that won’t ring true for someone else. Different details, same stories. We need to know we aren’t alone. And we need to tell our stories so we can move on and not continue to be defined by them.

“I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother, I’m a sinner, I’m a saint…” (Thank you, Meredith Brooks.)

Keep writing your stories, sisters—this is our fireplace. We need to keep it going.

Women For One: one story, one world, one worth, one sisterhood, one life, one God, one All.

I love you.

About the Author | Clare O'Nan

Clare O'Nan was born in Africa and has lived in many countries and cultures around the world. She currently lives in Starkville, MS, with her wife, Meagan, and their soon-to-be daughter, Merit. Clare is a licensed acupuncturist and has helped forge the path for complementary medicine in Northern Mississippi. Her passions are her spirituality, reading, writing, hanging out with friends, and traveling.

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7 comments to "What’s My Story?"

  • Nancy johnson

    Wow! You are inspiring in so many ways. We differ in many of our beliefs but have certainly formed a mutual respectful friendship.
    I would love so many spots if your story filled in. After reading your Dad’s book I became intrigued with your life.
    There are not words for how much you have helped me during my cancer battle. I know you will be with me.
    Love you my special friend.

  • Barbara

    It’s so difficult for most of us to open up and really let someone, much less a group of strangers, see inside us. And it’s difficult to be the “better person” we are now without looking down on the person we were, and thereby looking down on the reader/listener who sees herself in that used-to-be person. Bravo to you, Claire, for being bold enough to step out there, not just in this writing, but in all you do. And thank you for not judging the rest of us. So, so happy to know you!

  • Tricia

    The concept of bringing women together is so powerful, yet something I’ve avoided my entire life. It’s time for a new chapter, an awakening if you will, to understand, accept, and grow from each experience. Thank you for sharing, for all the years, and the stories that have come from our lives. I love you and am grateful that you are part of my life!

  • Amanda McGinnis

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am suffering with my story aswell. I love your style & it rings very true in my life (maybe not word for word).