Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Abuse of Power

man walking my way

I first posted this haiku and commentary on 13 December 2013. I wish I could say women feel more secure today than we did in 2013. Sadly, the main point of this haiku was to bring my inner fears to light. I can still feel my heart pounding. It isn’t about the man. It’s about the way I was brought up female, and the mess in which we find ourselves today.

man walking my way
across deserted playground
trees inhale . . . . . . . . hold breath

Is he safe?  It’s 6:30am.  What’s he doing here at this time of day?  Looks like he’s been sleeping in the park. Rumpled work clothes—not very clean or stylish. He’s watching me. Thank goodness I’m wearing sunglasses.

I glance around, trying to seem nonchalant. No one else is in sight. He doesn’t look friendly or unfriendly. His face doesn’t register any emotion I recognize.  I’ve never seen him before.

I have my cell phone; it’s turned on. What should I do? Yes, I’m out in the open in a public space. But it’s deadly silent and I’m alone. My anxiety spikes. I know he sees me.

The distance between us is closing. If I keep walking my normal route, I’ll pass him before we pass each other.  Then I won’t see him at all–where he is or what he’s doing.

Why is he here?  Why isn’t anyone else out for an early morning walk?  The leaves on the trees are silent.  I’m holding my breath; my heart is pounding.

I walk on. Now he’s behind me.  When I turn around to walk home I see him walking out of the park.  When I get home I write the haiku above.

Even after decades of personal work I feel undone.

Is it right to call 911 when the emergency is internal, not clearly external?  How do I justify calling 911 or raising a ruckus? Is it enough that I don’t feel safe?

Moments like this remind me of the shopkeeper and other unwelcome experiences.  Some men pushed the envelope verbally or bodily, putting me on edge and on guard. Others went over the line.  Even then I didn’t raise a ruckus.

Do I really know how to take care of myself?

Is this inner turmoil common to being female?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 Dec 2013, reposted 3 June 2022
Photo found at foursquare.com

Gaping Holes

With apologies to
Chinua Achebe—
So quickly
Thing fall apart

Not once
Or twice but
Like broken records
No one wants to hear

Past promises
And dreams teeter
On the brink of
Desolation

Hearts bleed daily
Racing from one scenario
To the next Big Thing
Basking in false glory

Only to fall apart
Helpless to recreate
What can never be
repaired

Nothing but truth
Can fill gaping holes
Born yesterday
Buried today

I highly recommend Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. It’s a slow-paced examination of what happened to a community in Nigeria, Africa. It’s still happening today–the takeover of people and systems in order to assuage the insatiable hunger of those at the top.

Easter is also on my mind. Mary Oliver’s poem about The Donkey reminds me that choosing to follow the way of Jesus of Nazareth was and still is no picnic. Apart from the donkey, there weren’t many heroes in the crowds—whether they shouted Hosanna, took delight in seeing this man tortured and lynched, or ran away in fear.

If I were asked about today’s scenario in the USA and the nations of this world, I would admit to very little hope for the world as it is today. Except for this: Every day, somewhere, I know there are people doing what needs to be done. Not for themselves, but for others. It’s a sign that we haven’t been abandoned—if only we can keep our eyes on what’s close at hand. Without running away or giving up hope.

Thank you for your visits! My life has been a bit unsettled recently. I’ve missed posting as often as I would have liked. I have not, however, given up, thanks to the joy I have when I’m able to post something from my heart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 April 2022
Photo of book cover found at en.wikipedia.org

sorrow and love

When I was very young
my heart learned early
the feeling of being trapped
with no safe alternatives

I believed a lifetime of
blessed freedom was
just around the corner—
the ‘real’ life I for which
I longed and dreamed
every day and night
of my restless childhood

My time would come and
I would emerge from my
imaginary butterfly chrysalis
fluttering away on clouds
of imaginary bliss and freedom
far from my father

The older I get, the more I understand the dynamics of our small family of four daughters. Especially the mammoth workload my mother carried.

When she was 5, my mother was abandoned by her own mother. When she was 28 and I was 5, polio took over her body, including her ability to swallow safely or speak clearly. Then there was my father, whose childhood and youth were littered with brutal beatings from his own father.

Back in the 1940s and 50s I didn’t appreciate how much our mother did to keep us alive. Not because she stood in for our father, but because she cared deeply for her daughters. Each of us. No matter how we rated on Daddy’s Rules for Good Girls, and though she had never experienced safe love from her own mother.

I used to think I would get beyond the grief of our family. But here’s the deal: no pain, no gain; and, surprisingly, no true sorrow without growing love.

This week has been long and sometimes difficult. Not just here, but around the world. The numbers of families being torn apart have skyrocketed. Am I ready for whatever comes next? Somehow all this has prompted me to revisit my relationship with my mother.

My mother, in spite of her disabilities and her own sad family background, helped keep my spirit alive. She died when she was almost 78 years old. Though her body was worn out, some of her spirit still lives in me. Especially now.

Thanks for stopping by.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 March 2022
Photo found at wikimedia.com

Life gone missing

1963 Aug Elouise Double Exposure flipped

Disoriented
and out of touch
the old woman
blinks hard peering
at old photos
in scrapbooks–
traces of life
now gone missing

Is that building
still standing and
did the hurricane
demolish the
lovely roller rink
firmly rooted in
yesterday’s pristine
sand washed clean
with every tide?

Questions.
Nothing more
rises to the surface
of my weary mind trying
to visualize the way
back home

Yes, this could be about getting old. It’s also about how quickly we, as a conglomeration of nations, seem to be sinking into quicksand. Are we ready for this? How are we to live in the face of death and destruction at every turn?

Though victory has sometimes been snatched from certain defeat, I’m not convinced that will happen anytime soon.

Which brings me to the big question: Am I ready to die?

This is about more than being spiritually ready to die. It’s about not knowing what will happen next, no matter how carefully I may have planned for today or tomorrow. It’s about being bold in the way I live each day, knowing it could end at any moment. Not just from health issues, but from worldwide chaos, festering anger, lust for power, or attempts to wipe out people based on gender, color, religion, or whatever those in power love to hate.

One more question: What does it mean to make chaos my home? In the poem I end up trying to remember the way back home. Perhaps the poem is challenging me to find my way home. Not to what’s old or familiar back there, but to what’s real and certain right now, 21st-century style.

Am I ready for this? If so, how does that mean for the way I live today?
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2022
Double exposure taken (by accident) by DAFraser and a friend, August 1963 at Tybee Island Beach

I haven’t finished talking

Talking in my head
Talking in my sleep
Talking in my body language
Talking while he drones on

I try desperately not to
Break out in an avalanche
Of righteous indignation
Or galloping fear of retribution

One lesson after another
I learned to die and
How to accept living death
As my female normal

Yes, it began with my father. Sadly, it didn’t end there.

I used to think getting things straight in my head would be enough. If I could understand what happened to me, who did it and why, then I could get on with my life as an adult woman.

Tragically, that’s sheer nonsense. Every time women’s issues are raised, I’m struck by how naïve I’ve been. Talk doesn’t fix anything. It’s helpful, but by itself it isn’t a cure.

So here we are again in a nation that claims to celebrate international women and girls of all ages. It’s our one-day moment to feel accepted, needed, even courageous and bold. Then the day passes, and doors that were never fully opened slam shut yet again.

I’m not appeased by fancy talk or lovely tributes to courageous female angels out there. I want to see action that means business. Action fueled by changed hearts and minds. Plus legal action that gives teeth and dignity to women’s lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. I’m fed up with warmed-over pablum and niceties that do nothing to change harsh realities on the ground.

Ironically, this month an agreement to a cease fire in Ukraine was ignored, and a maternity hospital for women and children was bombed by Russians. Why now? And how does this tragedy alert us to women’s daily realities in our own countries? What do you think?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 March 2022
Image found at etsy.com

Warfare 101

Warfare 101 —

That’s the course we haven’t taken
living in the land of the free
and the home of the brave
for the last eight decades

Not since our parents’ and
grandparents’ days have the
stakes been so high for all
of us and our precious earth

It’s time to put aside national
addictions to cheap bargains that
promise but cannot deliver peace
or goodwill to friends and strangers

This is more a cry for sanity, than a plan. I don’t have a plan for this nation. When I was born in 1943, my mother had already started and was maintaining a Victory Garden to help with the cost of food during World War II. My father was in a tuberculosis sanitorium.

Times have changed.

It seems many in of us are addicted to owning and driving our own cars, stocking up on groceries that too often rot or get tossed into the garbage, cheap gas at the gas pump, instant access to entertainment and drugs, plus a lot more.

Last night a TV reporter interviewed a working man at the gas pump. He asked what he would do to cope with the rising cost of gasoline. His answer was straightforward. He was willing to see gas prices rise in order to support efforts on behalf of Ukraine. Furthermore, if the price of gas climbed too high, he would find other ways to get around.

There’s no one answer that’s correct. At the same time, we need more than wise leaders. We need clear thinking on the ground to shift our spending priorities outward to friends, strangers, and partners. Not just here at home, but abroad.

This isn’t just about us.

Praying for changes of heart, attitude, and habits–starting with my own.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2022
Photo of poster found at wikipedia.com

Life on the edge

The world is on edge. Refugees, weather patterns, political maneuverings, pandemic puzzles and outright war.

I hear an invitation to look into the mirror and take stock of where I am in the middle of all this. The church calendar invites me to look inward. It also invites me to ‘give up’ something between the beginning of Lent and the celebration of Easter.

For most of my early life I gave things up routinely. I was taught to live frugally. My family didn’t have much money. In fact, they considered not having much money a virtue, though we were clearly better off than our neighbors living in colored town.

That was then. What about today? We’re in a mess of gigantic proportions. So what am I to give up for Lent that both challenges me, and brings me closer to others living in this world that’s seems to be spinning out of control?

Several years ago I posted a challenging prayer that fit the spirit of Lent. It challenged me as an individual. Not once, but many times. Today, it’s challenging me as a world citizen and follower of Jesus of Nazareth. Am I willing to live as an undocumented refugee? As part of a family broken up by war, lies, and powermongers?

Everything in me wants to rage, fight back, make sure I’m on the ‘right’ side, shout back at the TV news, and run for cover. Instead, this simple prayer invites me to take another approach.

I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation.

Quoted by Cynthia Bourgeault in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 147 (Cowley Publications 2004)

Will this solve everything? Of course not. It will, however, keep me centered. Not on myself, but on Jesus of Nazareth who showed and still shows me how to do this. One day at a time.

It also occurs to me that my life is the only thing I can ‘give away.’ But only if I’m not struggling to keep it and my privileges alive at any cost.

May our Creator have mercy on each and all of us.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 March 2022
Image found at pixabay.com

Today’s nightmare

Recent news from Ukraine is beyond grim. The post below is from September 2017. It’s about a dream, and my sense of being trapped when Trump became POTUS. Now we have Putin against Ukraine and most of the world.

~~~

This morning I woke up feeling strangely empty and weeping. Partly because of a near-nightmare and partly because we’re living, it seems, in a near-nightmare.

In the dream, I’m alone in a small room, just getting ready to exit. I’ve decided this small room isn’t going to work for me. Suddenly a man I don’t know and have never seen before walks into the room. He isn’t impressive in stature or looks, yet I know in my gut that he’s potentially bad news. He immediately flops down on the single bed near the door.

As I walk toward the door to exit, he reaches out and grabs my hand. His face clouds over with contempt and a sneer. I know I’m done for if I don’t take charge. I feel small and defenseless. Caught in a nightmare not of my making. I feel his grip tightening on my hand.

I wake up not knowing what to say or do next.

The man’s eyes, the sneer on his face, and the totally invasive nature of his presence and behavior communicated his firm belief that I was totally irrelevant. In his eyes my life mattered not a whit.

It’s sometimes difficult these days, especially since I’m on the older end of the age spectrum, to maintain a sense of relevance. But this was bigger than that. It was about the invader’s power and willingness to exercise it no matter who I might have been. Though I’ll admit it didn’t help to be female.

This tired old world is in a season of growing visible and present chaos. The kind this world has seen before, though not with so many growing warehouses of nuclear arms and an over-supply of trigger-happy leaders ready to prove their supposed virility. Ordinary people seem to have become irrelevant. Except as props on a political stage.

I don’t fixate on this every day. Nonetheless, it’s always in the air begging for my addictive attention. If I remain fixated, I’m a goner, dead or alive.

Instead of playing along with the ‘dream’ man’s agenda for me, I relax, ignore his eyes and disgusting speech, and pray out loud and in a strong voice these challenging words from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Six Recognitions of the Lord.”

Oh feed me this day, Holy Spirit, with
The fragrance of the fields and the
Freshness of the oceans which you have
Made, and help me to hear and to hold
In all dearness those exacting and wonderful
Words of our Lord Christ Jesus, saying:
Follow me.

Mary Oliver, Thirst, stanza 5 from “Six Recognitions of the Lord”
Beacon Press 2006

Praying we’ll find courage to identify our True North and follow it, one day at a time.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 March 2022
Caught in a near nightmare was published on 27 September 2017
Photo found at givaudan.com

Old habits die hard

I’ve been thinking about this poem for several days. I wrote it two years ago, not expecting we would find ourselves in today’s mess. My comments follow.

The Resistance

Bursting dams explode
fueling unhinged tongues

Roiling water floods old landscapes
scarred beyond recognition

The end of this world collides
with the untimely birth
of a new world ruled by
winners of a rigged lottery

How shall we then live
with death-dealing word-bombs
hanging over our heads
seeking to silence the resistance?

I posted this poem in February 2020. That was after Mr. Trump’s loss to President Biden, and after the attack on both houses of Congress by followers of Mr. Trump. I considered myself then, as now, part of the resistance — not part of those who hoped to change the outcome of the 2020 Election.

We’re still living in the aftermath of this attack. We’ve become a country at war with itself. The war is about more than Covid masks and vaccinations, or even who won the 2020 Presidential Election.

It’s about what it means to be a law-abiding citizen of the United States, who gets to decide whether to obey the laws and requirements of citizenship, and how to deal with centuries of unequal justice.

In the end, it’s about perks that come or don’t come with money–gobs, a lot, some, or virtually none. Or what kind of attention your voice gets or does not get. Or what color your skin is, your gender, where and how you live, and whether you’re considered dispensable or not.

I don’t have answers. When I wrote this poem, I wasn’t thinking about the mess we’re in today. However, now as then, it’s still time to take risks on behalf of truth and justice. Like some of you, I was brought up in a family, religious organizations, and workplaces that expected me to sit down and keep my poor white female mouth shut.

Thanks for reading and doing what you can on behalf of truth and justice for All.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 February 2022
“The Resistance” was first published on 6 February 2020
Photo of bursting dam found at pinterest.com

unwelcome truths

Protests are never enough
Banners prod but don’t produce solutions
Anger spills from hot microphones
Releasing age-old frustrations
Captured in picture-perfect news clips

What-next moments reveal unwelcome truths
Weary eyes beg for sleep
So little energy today
Dreams are easier to entertain
Than cruel realities on the ground

As a white woman, I often find myself at a loss. What to do? What not to do? Do ‘they’ (whoever ‘they’ happen to be on any given day) really want my input or partnership? Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree. Perhaps I should take care of my own unexamined business as the white woman I am.

Right from the top, I’d say taking care of my own business isn’t just a ‘good’ thing to do. It’s a radically necessary part of becoming human regardless of my color, upbringing, beliefs, privileges, or trauma.

Nonetheless, the challenge brings up deeper issues of race, class, color, creed, privilege, political inclinations, and a lot more.

I can’t be everyone. I can only be myself. Which is a crazy thing to acknowledge, given my nearly life-long obsession with being the woman someone else thought I should be. Making you happy about me would somehow make me happy about myself. As though I’d finally ‘found’ myself.

However, I began finding myself only after I stopped trying to be the polite human female others thought I should be. Retirement and old age (78 and counting) have been tough taskmasters. My options for helping change the world are diminishing.

Given the options, I’ve chosen global climate change as a way of bringing together multiple issues. Or, to put it another way, without global climate change, other social and global issues won’t have a chance of being addressed. This includes Race, Gender, Refugees, War, Poverty, Crop Survival, Water Rights, Hoarding of Riches, Gun Violence, Voting Rights, Pandemics and more.

What does this mean for me? It means doing what I can to acknowledge the high price climate change has imposed on those with the least resources. More on that in another post. Right now it’s time to get this baby in the pipeline and eat lunch!

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 January 2022
Photo found at nationalgeographic.com

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