Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Aging

Spring madness?

Hope and despair
Layer themselves
Between beats of my heart

‘Retirement is like that’
I could but won’t say –
Determined to make
Peace with what is
Beyond and within
My control

If not This
Why not That?
My mind spins
Out of orbit as
Early Spring lures
Me beyond myself

Retirement was about more than leaving my job at the seminary. It was about my health and well-being. I desperately needed to make a clean break.

For several years I was fine. Not being there was more than good for me.

Now it isn’t so good. Don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to relive seminary politics, long-term planning or endless reports.

Nonetheless, I sometimes yearn to ‘be there.’ From 1983 until I retired in 2011, our seminary dished up a lively, sometimes contentious community of international and national students, mixed races and classes, and mixed church communities. I owe students and colleagues a huge debt of gratitude for helping grow me up into the woman I am today.

So why this yearning now? I love the church I attend. It can’t, however, give me the kind of community I experienced at the seminary, and still need.

Here’s the deal: I want to hang out at the seminary with anyone who shows up. Why? So I can practice being a stranger and welcoming strangers or near-strangers into my life. Even for a few fleeting minutes.

Maybe it’s nothing but Spring madness. Still, I like the idea and I’m already plotting ways to try this out.

Happy Monday!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 March 2019
Early Spring Photo found at Gardenia.net

Music, Butterflies and My Heart

Rising and falling
Drifting on beats of my heart
Music transports me
Flirts with moments of past lives
Not captured in retrospect

I’m reminded of butterflies. Ephemeral, delicate, not prone to being examined up close and personal, here today and gone tomorrow.

This week my heart felt like a butterfly. Sometimes happily drifting along. Other times on guard and likely to disappear into the sunset if I ignored it.

I’m still coming to terms with chronic heart challenges. Plus the reality that no matter what I do, I’m in my end game.

This week I began reading Carol A. Miele’s book, Metatastic Madness: How I Coped with a Stage 4 Cancer Diagnosis. Ironically, Miele, a nurse, worked for years with women with this diagnosis. Now she finds herself on the other side of the picture, at Stage 4 without having had a prior breast cancer diagnosis.

During the years she lives with Stage 4 breast cancer, Miele experiences five phases:

  • Phase One: Shock and Awe
  • Phase Two: Betrayal and Despair
  • Phase Three: Loneliness and Loathing
  • Phase Four: Complying and Compensating
  • Phase Five: Adapting and Advocating

I don’t have Miele’s disease. I have mine. Nonetheless, her discussion of Phase One brought me up short, beginning with this:

If you can’t get past the fear or anger in the earliest phase, you may not be able to manage your illness or its accompanying issues very effectively. (p. 13)

In her description of Phase One, Miele describes people and other support systems she set up so she wouldn’t get isolated and stuck in her emotions or in the demanding realities of life with Stage Four breast cancer.

Happily, I’ve done some things she describes. Yet there’s more to do to before I’m ready for whatever comes next. I don’t want to be stuck in Phase One.

Thanks for listening.
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 March 2019
Image found on YouTube

Land of the Brave?

My erratic heartbeats
Find calm in the sound of
Music drifting through
Air spun with gossamer webs
Transporting me through
What I experience daily
Of this life threatening to
Undo us from the inside out
Unraveling threads of truth
And justice for each and all

Waking with a start
My heart searches for
Courage and bravery to
Speak even one word against
Forces paying to play the
Game of hide and seek –
Cowards banging on the
Heart of our so-called union
And commitment to justice
For every human being

What does bravery look like
During national upheaval and
Underground warfare against
Humanity if not the constant
Repetition of what we see
Through the windows of hearts
Made brave the hard way beginning
The instant we were born into
This world of deceitful revenge
And false prophets of nirvana

Mary Tyler Moore’s well-known statement comes to mind:

“You can’t be brave if you’ve had only wonderful things happen to you.”

Perhaps this is true of each of us, no matter the circumstances of our early lives. At the same time, bravery now isn’t necessarily the same as bravery then. As a child and teenager I was brave and uncomplaining in order to stay out of trouble. Especially when someone was watching, measuring me by my father’s Rules for Good Girls.

Today, bravery is called for even when no one seems to be looking. It isn’t about staying out of trouble. It’s about being honest, no matter the consequences.

Easier said than done. For me, posting what I write is the bottom line. If I’m willing to write about it, am I willing to post it? Without turning it into harmless childhood mush? My childhood still shapes me. It doesn’t, however, control me. I  still have a lot to learn about telling the truth as I see it. Especially in today’s atmosphere.

Thanks for listening!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 March 2019
Cat image found at bookstr.com

Restless in not-yet Paradise

Feeling happily lost
Looking at this blank page
Wondering what dreams
Will reach out from
Dusty recesses of my mind
Looking for light and
Compassion or even joy
Waiting for a blind date
That turns into
The most wonderful time
In this life of daily duties
And long lists of to-dos

Will I live well?
Will I die well?
To what end is this dance?
And why does this waltz
Feel long and drawn out
As it creeps toward the final
Turn on this dance floor
Surrounded by lovely bouquets
Of flowers and smiles and hugs
From people I barely know?

The meanderings of a mind
Restless in not-yet Paradise
Loving almost every minute of it

Getting practical, here are my goals just for today:

  1. Smile at myself every time I look in the mirror.
  2. Sleep. Rest. Take it Easy as often as desired.
  3. Follow my heart to the computer keyboard even if I don’t know what, if anything, will happen next.
  4. Follow my heart to the piano when I feel the urge.
  5. Sweet-talk Smudge regularly; sweet-talk D from time to time and smile at him a lot.

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 March 2019
Image found at PBS.org

Short Update on Life and Health

I can’t believe it was just above 70 degrees Fahrenheit today! Though it won’t stick around yet, it’s a sign that Spring is just around the corner. D and I enjoyed several outdoor walks in the last two weeks. The photo at the top shows crocus exploding out of the cold ground in our back yard.

As for my daily priorities, they’re simple: sleep, eat, exercise, write, play music, and read.

My heart seems to like this agenda, though it gets tired now and then. I just finished reading a memoir about living with atrial fibrillation. The author is in her early 80s, and has lived with AFib just about as long as I have. Her situation isn’t mine. Still, her straightforward approach to doctors emboldens me to ask more questions, and expect more evidence before consenting (or not) to go down this or that path.

As for my social life, it’s not number one on my list. Nonetheless, I now have several female friends I can visit with. No fixed agenda but talking, and going out for a walk as possible. Just what I was aching for. Also, with warmer weather I’m able to stay connected with a couple of my neighbors when I’m out walking.

Writing is easy, or it isn’t. No middle ground. The biggest challenge at this age is identifying in my behavior echoes of what I experienced when I was a child and teenager. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between what was done against my will, and what I do today. I’m grateful for regular phone conversations with a friend who has helped me for years. It’s hard work. A bit like filling in the gaps in my life, though I don’t always like it.

As for music, I’ve let my piano coach off the hook. He teaches at a local university, and ended up with more students and commitments than he could handle this spring. However, I’m going gung-ho on my own, practicing regularly and loving it! Right now I’m hooked on J.S. Bach’s piano compositions. I have three well-worn (from childhood) books of preludes and fugues, enough to keep me busy for rest of my life.

If you’re interested, here’s info on the book I mentioned above: In a Heartbeat: The Ups and Downs of Life with Atrial FIB, by Rosalie Linver Ungar.

I hope this finds you content and grateful for the life you’ve been given. It all flies by quickly. Thanks for being part of my life, especially in these later years I’m calling The Last Chapter.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 March 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 14 March 2019

The Writing Life

One by one
Words spill out

One drop
At a time….
Or torrents
Of unexpected
Clarity

The beginning and the end
Of a fear-filled Heart
Mind Soul and Body
Delivered from silence
Word upon word falling
Onto the page and
Into the air

Free speech –
Visible and available
Against all odds
At great cost

I used to think writing about my life would be the end of fear. If not immediately, then over time as life moved on and I became ready and willing to write the next chapters.

I also thought I would learn to write freely, with ease and grace. Without angst or internal drama trying to redirect what wants to be direct. Without fear of consequences or kickback.

After all, there’s always this tempting possibility: Just change that small word. Or better yet, omit it. They’ll never know, and you’ll still be ‘telling the truth.’

And protecting myself from what?

There are a million ways to cover over truth—including how difficult it is to write truthfully, especially about myself. Some days content flows easily onto the page. I wake up knowing the first line or theme. Or I review yesterday evening’s journal entry and discover I’ve already pointed in a clear direction. No problem! Just pick up the pen and scribble away.

And then there are other days. Hence the poem above.

Happy Wednesday and Happy Writing!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 March 2019
Impressionist Painting of a Woman Writing, 1892, found at therumpus.net

Sometimes my voice falters

Sometimes my voice falters
Falling ten stories down
Into a desert of silence

My rattled soul teeters
On the edge of despair
Searching for a small grain
I might rightly call my own
Though nothing was ever
Mine to begin with

Still….
In the hot wind
Of my empty mind
I hear my heart
Beating
Yearning for yesterday

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 March 2019
Photo of desert drought landscape found at pixabay.com

unmapped adventure

Restless uncertainties clamor
Living reminders of death
And the loneliness of aging
I stare out the window
Looking for a sign, a thought
That points the way ahead
Through shapeless days
Living within boundaries shifting
From one day to the next

Thou shalt not taunts me
Thou shalt snaps at my heels
Dares me to veer from this
Strange path to everything
And to nothing at all—
Dreams wander without clear
Themes or destinations
Days come and go
Like all the others

One day up
The next day down
The cup is full
The cup is empty
The magic recipe eludes me
Leaving nothing
But the raw gift of life—
Becoming myself
In this unmapped adventure

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 March 2019
Image found at pinterest.com

Nibbling at edges

Nibbling at edges
A dropped heartbeat
Here . . . . . now there
Random holes of silence
Never to be filled
Gone forever
Eluding my grasp
Silently stealing life
That once seemed
Steady and sure

Several days ago I decided to wear my heart monitor. I was curious. How often and how long are these episodes of atrial fibrillation? Lucy Pacemaker takes care of the slow beats. I don’t even know when she’s doing it because I’m usually asleep.

So what’s up with those fast-beating AFib episodes? Sometimes I can tell when my heart misses beats, but not usually. Often I feel weak, especially in my legs and when I reach to get something from a high shelf. My energy level plummets, and I feel off-balance.

For three days I wore my heart monitor from the time I got up until I went to bed. Nothing. Just wonderfully steady, strong beats. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was thrilled and full of energy.

Yesterday morning things went haywire. I saw it on my heart monitor, and felt it in my body. Weak and discouraged doesn’t begin to describe the feeling.

After some tears of frustration, I decided my heart could use some comfort. I also pared down my schedule to three things: make (and enjoy!) a simple lentil soup, play the piano, and exercise indoors.

After half an hour on my semi-recumbent bike, plus walking around the house while listening to the radio, it happened. My heart suddenly settled down, more than 8 hours after the fibrillation began.

Yesterday evening I jotted down the poem at the top. An acknowledgment that I’m dying in more ways than one—and that there’s life in me, though it’s not what I expected.

As for you, dear Reader, here’s a Reader-friendly article about AFib, and how to tell, without a monitor, whether your heartbeats are steady: Stanford University Scope Blog.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 March 2019
Image found at Stanford University’s Scope Blog

heaviness of years past

It’s Monday morning
I’m still trying to
Find myself

Not lost
Perhaps misplaced
Somewhere back there?

Yesterday in church
I wept for the heaviness
Of years past

Wounds and scars
From a thousand misfired
Bullets

Invisible reminders
Deep within of tales not told
Or understood

The most difficult thing I’ve done as a follower of Jesus is to step out of my hiding places. Not primarily to face my friends or foes, but to face myself. In my family of origin, hiding was the best way I could cope and survive as a child and teenager.

As a young adult and later as a professional, I carried a weight of fear in my guts. Fear that some grand tribunal would subpoena me to testify against myself.

Sadly, I thought this process would be about my small and large transgressions, as determined by their eyes. In my worst fears, I would be shamed and punished before an audience of my peers plus strangers. They would make an example of me, much as my father tried to make an example of me as the eldest of four daughters.

Instead, as a 40-something, I found myself in Al-Anon groups of women and men struggling as I was. Listening to them helped me listen to my story. Maybe I didn’t need to fear some unknown grand tribunal.

These new friends didn’t absolve me, and they didn’t try to fix me. Instead, they listened, and showed me how they worked on their own wounds and scars. By honoring themselves, they honored me.

So there I was in church yesterday, weeping. Realizing that no matter what I do, I will be welcomed with open arms when I die.

Where will I go? I don’t know. Nonetheless, I believe I will be in the presence of The Only One who understands me fully and loves me from the inside out. I’ll also be free of wounds and scars. Free to be the beautiful woman I am.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 March 2019
Photo found at fromthegrapevine.com, Flowers on a tombstone, Czech Republic

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