Holding my breath
Never did get me very far
I know because my body
Told and tells me so
Caught in endless cycles
Of butting heads
I’ve learned the hard way
That my head
Is very hard indeed while
To concede with graceful
strength and courage
Was sorely lacking in my
Undertaken from the moment
Of my birth until
Today I woke up breathing
Your life-giving breath is better than
A thousand choke holds
While waiting for the shoe to drop
Mary Oliver’s “Of The Empire” couldn’t have been written had she not chosen decades earlier to leave home in order to save her one precious life.
A pattern runs through my life like an unnamed theme-song. Do your best to please those in authority, without giving up your integrity.
Not that this is a bad skill. It got me through many touch-and-go encounters. Integrity is important. But when it’s only skin deep, there comes a time when the wound is too great to bear.
I think Mary Oliver understood this much earlier than I.
Even my sisters understood this, each in her own way. All they did was see what didn’t work for Elouise, and then they did something else. As often as needed. Sometimes with seemingly harmless humor or deference. Other times with defiant behavior that screamed for safety and space to breathe deeply without fear.
Will I ever reach the promised land? I don’t know. I do know this point in our shared history is an opportunity I don’t want to miss. It isn’t just about me anymore. It’s about each and all of us.
With thanks to Mary Oliver, family members and friends who’ve shown me a better way.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 May 2020
Image found at theproductivewoman.com