I knew that she had come a very long way but nothing prepared me for the strength and resilience she exhibited in that piece she posted on the popular female social media platform. I was moved by her openness and candor. I called her and told her how I felt and her response wouldn’t stop ringing in my heart. “Chi,” she said, “I have to own my story.” Those words resonated and once again I connected with Nne-Nne, my precious cousin.
I understand what it means to “own my story” because I have spent the past couple of years trying to do just that. For me, it has meant learning to face my pain, my mistakes and my weaknesses. From starting to own my story, I am beginning to come to terms with most of my “negatives” and this has freed me to start celebrating my “positives”. I have finally started to breathe out and I can hardly wait to finish exhaling.
Like Nne-Nne, “owning my story” has expedited my healing process. With her kind permission, I have replicated parts of her story:
I was born in the early 70s, just as the Nigerian civil war was wrapping up. Birthed by a “Biafran” mother and sired by a Nigerian army officer, I belonged to the group of children commonly referred to as “the bastards of Biafra”.
Growing up was particularly difficult and coming from a prominent Eastern family didn’t make it any easier. Right from a tender age, I felt unwanted, unloved and isolated. I knew what my existence encapsulated – a source of shame to the family and like a cloak, I wore it everywhere I went. I remember being frequently asked which of the men in the family was my father every time I mentioned my last name and this caused me quite a lot of shame and anxiety. Sometimes I would mumble an incoherent answer and other times I would lie and mention my mother’s big brother. I couldn’t wait to get married and drop that name, I was tired of the “who’s your father?” interrogation…
I was open to my husband about my life’s struggles; I bared it all because I felt it was okay to be vulnerable with the one you would spend the rest of your life with. I told him about how being a bastard and being called one made me feel and I made him promise he would never call me that.
The very first huge fight we had he called me just that. I remember writhing in pain for days on end. That was the beginning of many such episodes. ‘Bastard’ became his favorite pet name for me, that and other vile names. Every time he spat that name at me, something little died in me and as the years wore on, I discovered I felt nothing for him…
As for my mother, she’s failed me time and time again. I feel as though I spent most of my childhood begging for her love and offering penance for coming into her life and turning it upside down.
A loveless childhood and a loveless marriage haven’t stopped me. I’m firing on all four cylinders, making the most of my life, and being the great parent I never had to my children. I’m a work in progress no doubt, and part of this progress is that I’m able to share my story on such a huge platform and not feel shame….”
I am sure you held your breath most of the time just reading Nne-Nne’s story. For a very long time, I didn’t realize that I was living my life holding my breath too – not exhaling. But now life and a bit of science have both taught me that exhalation heals and relaxes; and “owning my story” feels like breathing out.
I celebrate the woman Nne-Nne has metamorphosed into. She has refused to be held back by the past.
Like her, you too can own your story (after all it’s yours to do with as you choose) and you can choose to exhale.