Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

fake smoke and cold mush

fake smoke
wafting from a thousand fires
signifies nothing

yesterday’s hot memo
is today’s cold mush
tasteless

Is this speaking truth to power? I don’t know. I do know it’s a reminder to myself that my voice matters. Especially now. Not as a way of manipulating reality, but as a way of staying honest and getting on with life at the same time.

Granted, this is life in a strange key. Academics and analysts who study patterns say we in the USA have been moving toward this social/political stand-off for a while. Still, current events are disconcerting. Sometimes it feels like a slow-motion, high-impact train wreck.

Hence my verses above. Spoken because for me, silence won’t do in this climate of intimidation tactics, fake smoke, hot memos and cold, tasteless mush.

Have I given up? Only if I fail to use my voice and cast my vote. And only if I act as though I or some other human being were God or even God’s Special Agent as defined by me.

Sabbath rest sounds like a good idea. Time to acknowledge I’m not in control, and that my voice matters. As does yours. Or, put another way, it’s time to let our lights shine.

Thanks for reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2018
Photo found at nilemuse.blogspot.com

winter haiku

snow crackles
beneath my feet
an icy carpet

trees
hibernate
motionless

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 February 2018
Photo found at all-free-download.com

Haunted by unlived history, #3

Renich Reunion in Newton, Kansas. I’m in back, just left of center. My first cousins as of July 1958 (more on the way!)

I grew up thinking love would heal everything. I also grew up believing no man in his right mind would ever love me enough to marry me.

I wasn’t a flirt or a party girl. Though I didn’t feel ugly, I didn’t consider myself pretty. I was a quiet and diligent student, a budding musician, intelligent, pleasant, and deeply ashamed.

  • Ashamed of the way my father treated me
  • Ashamed that most people didn’t seem to want me as a close friend
  • Ashamed when teams were chosen and I wasn’t anyone’s first choice. I was better than the last choice, but not by much.

I was also ashamed of our family’s social status. Yes, my father was an ordained pastor. No, he wasn’t a regular, full-time pastor. No, he didn’t have a regular, full-time income.

I sometimes thought about becoming a single missionary like some of the women missionaries I knew. That way I wouldn’t have to bother about all that social stuff. Or men.

But then there were those few boys and men who seemed to like me. Sometimes whether I liked them or not. Maybe the love thing could work for me. Maybe I didn’t have to be single all my life. But aren’t there better choices out there?

This was the beginning of my up and down history of secretly falling in and out of love with men. In no way did I want to appear needy, or look like I was chasing after them.

In the early 1990s, as part of an assignment for survivors of sexual abuse, I made a list of 30 men and boys who made an impression on me from childhood.

Then I began studying the list, looking for patterns. Of the 30 men and boys,

  • 16 were romantically attractive to me
  • 15 were men or boys I wanted to impress in some way
  • 14 were artists, poets, musicians, and/or actors
  • 13 appreciated and loved to listen to my piano playing
  • 12 pursued me (I didn’t pursue them)
  • 12 affirmed me as an individual, not as an object of their self-interest
  • 10 were ordained ministers or leaders
  • 6 were employers/supervisors
  • 6 took advantage of me
  • 4 raised fear in me
  • 4 were pursued by me
  • 4 I disliked intensely
  • 4 were ‘soul mates’
  • 3 overtly punished or humiliated me

Thinking about my relationships with these men and boys helped me make large and small changes in my relationships with men. For example,

  • I changed some unwise habits in order to maintain healthy boundaries as a professional educator and a church member.
  • I learned to recognize and honor my intuition when things didn’t feel quite right.
  • I recognized that being an agreeable, good girl woman was getting me in trouble by feeding unhealthy patterns of overwork and exhaustion. Though I made progress on this one, it wasn’t resolved until I retired in 2011.

I’ve written earlier about not having dreams for myself. Big dreams. The kind that orient life in a clear, even exciting direction. Most of my life I’ve lived by lists. Checking off long to-do lists with no big dream at the end. Just more long lists.

I want something better for myself. Today I hear my history with men fairly screaming something I couldn’t hear back then.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 February 2018
Photo taken in Newton, Kansas, July 1958 – Not yet all my first cousins on my father’s side.

Haunted by unlived history, #2

Wedding Day, 11 September 1965

When I married D I believed I’d found the answer to all my problems. I was ecstatic. Finally I had a life of my own, and a man who would love me and not try to fix me. It might not happen overnight, but eventually I would be my own woman, doing my own thing. And D would love me no matter what.

Two weeks before we married, in 1965, I told D I was afraid he would leave me behind. Here we were, getting ready to marry and move to Boston where he would pursue a graduate degree. But what would I pursue? No, I didn’t have anything in particular I was dreaming about, though someday I might want further education.

In 1973, we ended up in California with two young children, and both of us enrolled in seminary. I was ecstatic. Maybe I would find myself at seminary.

Yet my sense of being on the sidelines of life grew. Especially as D received work-related assignments to travel, while I stayed home caring for our young children and pursuing my seminary studies.

I went through periods of exhaustion, depression, bouts of anger, resentment and resignation. I felt trapped, misunderstood and lonely. Any kind word or smile that came my way, especially from men, was more than welcome, though I felt uneasy about this. Wasn’t I supposed to love D and no one else? And wasn’t his love for me more than enough?

Seamlessly and unknowingly I enacted the script of my mother’s unlived life. Not just a script about still needing love and affection, but a larger script about not having or following my dreams, not believing in or taking care of myself. I was too busy taking care of others.

I didn’t know or believe in myself, or my ability to go after large targets and impossible dreams. When opportunity knocked, my habitual responses were self-defeating.

  • Too busy to take advantage of opportunities
  • Afraid to put myself out there for consideration
  • Disbelief in my demonstrated gifts or potential
  • Feeling less than qualified
  • Changing the subject as quickly as possible
  • Finding out how I might help you follow your dream

I was in trance mode—caught in a waiting-game that feels like being on a train that moves yet never arrives because it has no known station.

I watched and cheered as other women and men pursued their dreams. I wrote hundreds if not thousands of reference letters on behalf of others. Yet never once did I write a letter in support of my dreams. I was living my mother’s unlived life. Doing what I could to support others, and choosing not to pursue anything strictly for myself.

So how does my history with men fit into all this? More to come.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 January 2018
Photo taken at our wedding, 11 September 1965

Carolina wren

Carolina wren
pierces dawn with song-burst
I smile and hit snooze

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 January 2018
Carolina Wren Song found on YouTube,
posted by the American Bird Conservancy

 

I don’t think I like your religion

I’ve included a few comments below about the context for Morton’s lyrics.

Religion

I don’t think I like your religion
Don’t always make the best decisions
Not sayin’ you don’t have good intentions
I know that you are only human

But you blame your God when it’s your own fault
Where is the love that your God spoke of?
Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them

That’s what you were told, let’s just be honest
You didn’t even take the time to find it yourself
You just took their words to be true
You don’t even know why you believe what you do

But you blame your God when it’s all your fault
Where is the love that your God spoke of?
Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them

Your God has nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them
Nothing to do with them (repeated twice)

P. J. Morton lyrics to Religion, recorded on his Grammy-nominated hip-hop album, Gumbo

This past weekend I listened to a public radio interview with hip-hop artist P. J. Morton. His father, also a musician, is an ordained clergyman. Morton talked about his commitment to hip-hop, his religious upbringing, and the way it influences his music. I didn’t make notes, but here’s part of what I heard during the interview.

The religious language of white evangelical Christians who supported Trump for president reminds Morton of the way white slavers kept Black slaves in their place. Thus, “I don’t think I like your religion.” This kind of religion became a vehicle for inhumane political ends during slavery. Today, this kind of religion is still a vehicle for inhumane political ends. It’s supported now as then by unexamined, faulty assumptions about the God of Christianity.

Morton’s response is simple: Don’t blame God “when it’s all your fault.” Don’t expect God to bless your decisions. They’re based on faulty, unexamined notions about God. What you call God’s will, supposedly being worked out through Trump, is your own uninformed will dressed up in religious language. God is not your puppet. And Trump is not God’s agent sent to do your faulty bidding.

You are, after all, “only human.” Even though you may have good intentions.

Too bad the Grammys chose to overlook Morton’s prophetic music.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 January 2018
Studio-recorded video found here on YouTube
Interview excerpt found here, plus a link to an audio of the full interview with Michel Martin on NPR’s All Things Considered

evening tide ebbs

evening tide ebbs
gently wipes the beach clean —
an old woman smiles

***

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 January 2018
Photo found at pinterest – Portrush Beach, Ireland

Haunted by unlived history

A couple of weeks ago I uncovered buried treasure. I’d stashed it away in a large envelope of notes I typed and wrote out in the early 1990s. The notes were about boys and men who made an unforgettable impression on me from childhood until the early 1990s.

This wasn’t simply a list of names. It was an itemized, annotated, categorized and coded treasure trove of information and reflection under several headings. Men I hardly knew, plus the real world of men I knew all too well.

I didn’t write this out on a whim. It was part of a therapy exercise for survivors of child sexual abuse. A way of getting to know myself better—by way of reflection on men who made an impression on me.

But before getting into that, I want to tell you about something else.

Several days ago I read about the way our parents’ unlived lives make an impact on us. Especially on our internal lives. This means that even though I appear normal on the outside, I can quickly numb out, withdraw, or shut down internally when I’m uncomfortable in a relationship. In fact, I’m skilled at this, even though it’s also a source of anguish.

The next morning I woke up and almost immediately burst into tears. My mother’s unlived life included her unlived life with me. I have no memories at all of my mother hugging, cuddling or touching me affectionately. She was industrious, resourceful, creative, and an attentive caretaker when I was sick. She was not, however, spontaneously or overtly affectionate.

My body and spirit grew up craving affection. I can’t count how many times my mother bent over to kiss me goodnight and kissed the air above my cheek instead. It still gnaws at me. A gaping hole in my heart that makes me wonder whether I was really loved.

I wasn’t simply running away from my father’s unsafe touch and punishing, overbearing, demeaning ways. I was also starving for my mother’s touch, affection, guidance and wisdom. I needed a safe haven in which I didn’t have to impress anyone, or get sick so I could be comforted.

Behind my history lies my mother’s history with her mother, my Grandma Z. One of my mother’s sad mantras was “I never had a mother.” She was correct. Grandma Z ran away with another man and divorced her first husband when my mother was very young.

My mother grew up without being cuddled, hugged or celebrated by her mother. Grandma Z favored her younger son, and treated my mother more like a toy doll. A plaything to dress up and display proudly. Not a little girl to listen to, love, comfort or encourage.

So there I was years later, a young woman. Uneasy in my body and spirit. Needy and pushing away at the same time. Haunted by my mother’s inability to affirm my body and my spirit. I didn’t think anyone would want to marry me. I also thought that having a man love me would heal my heartaches and take away the pain.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 January 2018
Photo taken when I was 9 months old, 1 month before my father returned from the TB sanatorium; July 1944 in Charlotte, NC

no poems today

no poems today –
somewhere young children
cower and weep

fear and longing
hold their collective breath
waiting the verdict

And when the verdict is in, then what?
How do bodies and souls find their way
In a world that quickly forgets
Just what the commotion was all about

Are we ready for masses of victims
Supposedly set free by newsworthy justice
Yet marked indelibly by sordid daily injustices?

And what about today’s other children
Living in bubbles of make-believe normalcy
Inhaling lies about love as an
Overnight fling or great adventure?

Every 24 hours soul-breaking rites of passage
Leave bitter spirits and aching bodies behind

Who will pick up our broken pieces
And love them back to life?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 January 2018
Image found at jewishcommunitywatch.org

raindrops

sparkling raindrops
fly headlong through sunlight —
cascade of diamonds

It happened so fast I almost missed it. Leafless trees shaking off fresh rain highlighted by a sudden burst of blazing sun that captured millions of diamonds flying through the air. Within seconds the sun had retreated behind gray storm clouds and everything looked as it was before. Wet.

It made my day. One of those sudden gifts, unanticipated, fleeting, and rare. Everything lined up just right, including my head turning to look out the window. Except for this. That’s not my photo above. It’s a substitute for the real thing stored in my memory.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 January 2018
Photo found at staticflicker.com

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