There’s a lot more to the story. Clemantine experienced unimaginably horrifying moments as just a tiny little girl. What’s remarkable to the privileged American mind is that Clemantine possesses an understanding that there are others who had it even worse. She relayed a conversation she had as an adult with another Rwandan woman who was a teenager during the genocide. As they compared stories, the woman said to her, “But Clemantine, you were lucky when you were walking. You didn’t have your period. Imagine walking through the desert and you can’t stop, and you have your period, and there’s nothing to do about it. You don’t have any pads or anything to stop it or clean yourself.”
Hearing or reading such things is uncomfortable, but they’re stories that need to be told, and hearing them gets right to the truths of where storytelling fits into our universal experiences. My girlfriends and I haven’t experienced anything close to what Clemantine and the woman above went through. But we’re women. We know the patterns of our bodies from week to week and month to month. It brings us into a biological circle of understanding, so we can imagine—on some level—what is was like for the teenage girl walking through the desert at “that time of the month.” That isn’t something you’re going to get from watching short bits about war on the evening news.
There’s a reason that storytelling is the oldest craft on the planet. Stories infuse our motions with our history, correct the wrongs of our past through our future actions and help us create our own stories to pass along in the same manner. This is a realization that finally came into full view the day after Halloween. I’d been a sullen, nervous wreck throughout our annual neighborhood festivities. My husband was treating me with kid gloves, and in his attempt to make me feel better he accidentally got every neighbor who stopped by hilariously drunk (if he ever offers you my favorite cocktail, which we named The Chappy, SIP IT VERY SLOWLY). The next morning, while the poor folks in the houses around us were still passed out, I realized that I was scribbling in my notebook before I could stop myself. After a few minutes Aaron looked at me and said, “See. You can’t not be a writer. It’s part of who you are.” I scowled and put the notebook away. And then it started to snow. On November 1. In Columbia, SC. He saw it on the weather map and practically squealed even though the snow line stopped several miles from our house. If that wasn’t God, the universe, and whatever else slapping me upside the head, well… that’s what it was, so let’s just leave it there. I knew I wasn’t quitting my vocation. But I was going to quit something.
Before my family’s stint in London I mentioned that I couldn’t quite bring myself to break away from Camille. Honestly, I felt guilty. Camille has taken me for quite a ride, and I’m thankful for that.
It’s time. I’m writing a book that’ll have my name on it, not Camille’s. I’m writing for newspapers with my name in the byline, not Camille’s. As I’ve continued to learn about effective storytelling my breadth has expanded beyond this space and it’s time to let myself grow up to whatever levels may lie ahead. Not to mention that there’s a whole group of people out in cyberspace who think Camille Maurice is a real person and that I’m her employee! I’ve always tried to be clear about who I am and what my intentions are, but naming a blog after an imaginary person confused a lot of people, despite the “about the blog” page* that had one section with my bio and another explaining the origins of the name.
You get what I’m saying, so let me tell you how I’m planning on laying Camille to rest. Blog posts will continue here until January 2, 2015. On Monday, January 5 the blog section of ShaniGilchrist.com will go live. Content from The New South and anything else I feel is pertinent will be transferred over there, and CamilleMaurice.com will be left up for at least 6 months to remind people of where I’ve moved.
But don’t think I’m ditching lifestyle-themed blog posts for good. Of course I’ll still share a Beautiful Thing or vignette if it really speaks to me. I even plan to run a series about interior designers who help their communities by giving back in a meaningful way. So don’t worry, this isn’t a complete personality change!
I hope you’ll follow me on this new path of digital storytelling. It would be my honor if you continue to learn with me, tell me when you think I’m wrong, cheer wildly (ha!) when you think I’m right and, more importantly, converse with me and with others about what we’re all learning as we move through the world.
Thank you all so much for the love and encouragement you’ve given Camille Maurice over the years. It’s been beautiful, humbling and astonishing.
PS- In the mean time, keep checking back here for a couple of other vignettes that’ll be going up in relation to the AYA Summit. In the meantime, if any of the stories I've related so far have struck a chord, sign up to become a member of ONE Girls + Women. They aren't asking for your money they're asking for something more significant when gathered in numbers. They're asking for your voice.