Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Choices

Swamped

Swamped
By enthusiasm
In over my head
Planning futures
I cannot deliver

Dreams masquerade
In yesterday’s clothes;
Life stumbles into
Uncharted terrain
Grand intentions
Beg me to clip their wings
Then crash into splinters
Drowning at my feet
Screaming for mercy

Yesterday was beautiful–sunny and mild. I felt like doing anything and everything. On my feet. Until I couldn’t.

Unfortunately, D is a convenient target when things start falling apart. Which they do and did. It’s easy to pick a verbal argument with him (about him, of course).

It’s way more difficult to stop my tongue and ask myself how I got to this unhappy space. And what I must do right now to care for my aching feet.

Several days ago I posted Exiting the Room. It was, and still is, about my heart’s health. However, it’s also about exiting negative emotions or breaking vicious cycles that creep up on me. And giving D the break he deserves!

Happy Friday!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 April 2019
Image  found at imgnooz.com

The Survivors

From her wheelchair
The frail old woman
Repeats her truth

Over over and over
Eyes bright with recognition
Insist on being heard

He made me alive
He made me safe
He made me alive
He made me safe
(He didn’t kill me.)

Memory frozen with truth
And lies she survived
Trapped in her past
Body drowning yet again
In yesterday’s icy waters
At the hands of the man
Now standing before her
In the dock –
Drowning in truth

I woke up today thinking about this woman and the doctor who experimented on her body, as told in “Ancient History,” an episode of Kavanagh QC.

Both are Jews, deported and taken to the same prison camp. He, a medical doctor, accepts an offer to run horrifying medical experiments on prisoners, or die. She is one of his unfinished experiments, saved in the last days of World War II. At what temperature could a living human being be frozen in water and brought back to life?

There were no winners. There never are. In addition, there’s a strange bond between these two prisoners whose lives are thrown together in a hell-on-earth situation.

This doesn’t mean choices made in hell-on-earth situations don’t matter. They do. But not always in the ways we imagine.

Sometimes they may show the content of our character, other times they might not. They may, in fact, show how terrified and helpless we are at the hands of our tormentors. And how much we want to live and die without being compromised.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 September 2018
Photo of Russian Jews arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau; found at collections.ushmm.org

In this short life

Here’s another wise comment from Emily Dickinson, found in a volume of poetry for young people. I think it’s for us older folks, too. My comments follow.

In this short life
That only lasts an hour,
How much, how little,
Is within our power!

Emily Dickinson: Poetry for Young People
Edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin
Illustrated by Chi Chung
Sterling Publishing Co., 1994

Not much here for me to love. If life is short and only lasts an hour, and since I’m nearer the end of my hour than ever before, my time to make an impact has come and almost gone.

Or so it seems. How do we assess the impact of one human life?

It’s easy to understand the quandary Emily describes. I want to make an impact. I want to make things better. I want to do volumes of good. I want my life to count for something. I don’t want to do it all, have it all, climb every mountain or ford every stream. I just want to make a measurable difference. For good, of course.

Yet life as lived is almost unbearably repetitious and often filled with poor decisions.

Emily Dickinson spent most of her short, painfully private life taking care of others, enjoying nature, reading, scribbling words on paper, and stuffing them away unseen. Today they’re everywhere in collections and volumes. The gift of a short life now gifting us with insights into nature and human nature.

St. Thomas Aquinas suggests we can’t judge the power of one person’s life narrative at the time of his or her death. The full, true meaning of a human life can’t be known until it plays out in the lives of others. Thus our good looms longer and larger than our lives; so does our evil or neglect of the good. What we do and what we don’t do matters.

Emily’s words ring painfully true. We’re faced with an exasperating quandary. Each day the seconds tick away, presenting us with limited options, limited time and limited power.

Because of this, we can’t pronounce final judgment on ourselves, much less others. Not just judgment about the meaning of our lives, but about the meaning of any one day, hour or minute.

Instead, I choose to focus on loving God, loving myself, and loving my neighbors. Not just my next-door neighbors, but those who live on the other side of this globe or the other side of the road.

Further, I choose to do this as a woman loved in all my glory and ignominy by my Creator. Every second of every day. And yes, I still choose to make a difference for good. Even though that means making a difference for ill from time to time, regardless of my best intentions.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 June 2017
Image found at alphacoder.com 

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Volume

Slippery words

Slippery words fly through hot air
Smiles and flourishes promise happy days ahead –
But at what cost and for whom?

Another committee ‘collaborates’ behind closed doors –
Working toward freedom and justice for all?
Or for the chosen few. . . .

What would it take to halt double-speak
about things that touch all our lives?
Are we willing to pay that price?

Imagine our nation shaped by listening
rather than speaking loudest or longest –
Do we have the guts to go there?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 May 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Collaboration

It might be lonelier

emily-bp-blogspot-com-blue-peninsula

I see myself in this poem. And my mother. And other women I’ve known who seem to wear a mantel of sorrow, even when they’re happy. My comments follow.

It might be lonelier
Without the Loneliness –
I’m so accustomed to my Fate –
Perhaps the Other – Peace –

Would interrupt the Dark –
And crowd the little Room –
Too scant – by Cubits – to contain
The Sacrament – of Him –

I am not used to Hope –
It might intrude upon –
Its sweet parade – blaspheme the place –
Ordained to Suffering –

It might be easier
To fail – with Land in Sight –
Than gain – My Blue Peninsula –
To perish – of Delight –

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Emily already knows Loneliness and perhaps wants something else. Yet she fears that giving it up will lead to even greater Loneliness. Her life might not have enough room for Peace, Hope or Delight—in addition to Loneliness.

Change of that magnitude would make too much noise, demand too much space. Intrude upon the Lonely, Dark existence she experiences in her crowded little Room. Or worse, she might lose the little everyday happiness and security she already has in her crowded little Room. I take this to be her life, a life of creative solitude and family duties.

In addition, Emily says her little Room might be too crowded for Him. Who is He? Perhaps a man or someone else who wants to be in her life? Or perhaps the One who offers her the Sacrament of Peace and Hope, with or without anyone else in her life? I don’t know.

It seems a sense of Fate hangs heavy over Emily’s life, taking up almost all the room or energy she has for human emotions of Delight. Yes, she may welcome relief from time to time, but the cost of giving up her Ordination to Suffering seems too heavy to bear.

Emily hasn’t renounced happiness. It still manages to creep in. Yet giving herself completely to Delight might annihilate her. She wouldn’t be able to count on predictability or control. Perhaps she wouldn’t be able to write as much. Perhaps she wouldn’t be safe from betrayal or disappointment. Her worst fears might be realized.

In the end, Emily would rather drown with land in sight, than arrive only to “perish – of Delight.”

This poem may not be gender-specific, yet in my experience a similar debate rages inside many women. Especially when the heavy hand of authority keeps reminding them of their Fate. That to which they were Ordained–duties and distractions that don’t allow space or time to exercise personal gifts and welcome Delight into their lives.

This is Women’s History Month. I celebrate women the world over who had a late start or haven’t yet found Delight, Hope and Peace in this world. If women seem complicated and unpredictable, maybe that’s because we’ve lived multiple lives for too long. Masking and denying our true selves to survive. Creatively. The way Emily survived.

I celebrate Emily Dickinson’s creativity. Her poetry speaks to me about courage and commitment to truth. Best of all, her enigmatic voice lives on, suggesting a different, slanted way to view the natural world and the dynamics of our inner and outer lives.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2017
Photo found at bloggingdickinson.blogspot.com

The Soul selects her own Society —

house-door-1860s

I wish Emily Dickinson had left a note about this poem. It seems maddeningly ambiguous about her context and meaning. What do you think it’s about? My comments follow.

The Soul selects her own Society –
Then – shuts the Door –
To her divine Majority –
Present no more –

Unmoved – she notes the Chariots – pausing –
At her low Gate —
Unmoved – an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat –

I’ve known her – from an ample nation –
Choose One –
Then – close the Valves of her attention –
Like Stone –

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Here are my thoughts as of today—informed by my experience as a woman and by social, national and international realities.

  • Is this a riddle? I don’t think so. Riddles can have more than one true answer, but only when all clues in the riddle line up with each possible solution.
  • The subject of the poem is named immediately – “the Soul.” Everything that follows describes choices of the Soul, personified as a woman.
  • The action in the poem is simple. The Soul makes her own choice about whom she will or will not receive. She then shuts the Door, cutting off access to all others and ensuring her own Majority (of one). This isn’t a decision made by consultation or by popular vote. It’s a one-way decision of the Soul.

If this is about a human being, I celebrate our ability to choose whom we will or will not allow through the Door – into our lives. That doesn’t mean each choice we make will be wise. It means the choice is ours, for good and for ill.

On the other hand, I think Emily is suggesting more than this.

Notice these words: The Soul ‘shuts the Door’ – is ‘Unmoved’ – is ‘Unmoved’ – is ‘Like Stone.’ This suggests a one-time decision such as how the Soul choses to live her life. These words might also suggest this Soul is a snob or merciless.

Yet I see no evidence of this. She doesn’t seem to come from high Society or live in a magnificent palace (note her low Gate). She simply makes her choice and doesn’t look back. Her nay is nay, and her yes is yes. No use trying to change her mind.

It’s possible the supplicants are trying to help this Soul in some way. Or perhaps use her? They may want her vote or her support. They might promise her one thing and deliver something else. Whether the Soul knows this or not, I still applaud her courage when she shuts the Door, Unmoved.

Emily’s poem challenges me to be wise and clear about opening the door of my soul. Some bargains and sure-things end up being disastrous. Not just in our private lives, but in our national and global life.

In the end it doesn’t matter whether someone thinks I’m a snob or blind to reality (which I sometimes am). My choices aren’t always wise. Still, I believe God gave me the capacity to learn wisdom and discernment, if I’m willing to practice it. This means, as Emily’s poem implies, going against popular wishes or expectations from time to time. Especially as a woman, though also as a family member, friend, neighbor and citizen.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 February 2017
Image  found at remodelingnewburyport.com

Playing it by ear

God isn’t looking for perfection.  God is looking for me within my messy everyday life.  God is offering me an opportunity to play it by ear.  Here’s an account of an early attempt to do just that. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: