Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Decisions

Sunflowers and Cicadas

Lost in a crowd
Wondering who I am
today and what will
become of us

A sunflower dropped
into the earth by
accident or design
pays no attention

Cicadas raise their
shrill chorus and fall
back into waves of
welcome silence

Hot sunrays pierce
the haze of dawn
with a vigor I cannot
mimic or resurrect

Climbing a small hill
and moving from shade
to shade I wake up
to this burning day

What is progress? I hope I’m making some today. A recent appointment with my integrative doctor produced more follow-up than I like. It feels like being in half-here mode. Living between what I’ve been and whatever comes next. It’s pushing me back to hard questions about what I will and will not agree to at this time of my life. And, more important, what I want to do with my time right now.

In the meantime, I’m mesmerized by our impromptu sunflower family springing from the earth beneath last winter’s large bird feeder. You’d think I’d never seen a sunflower. Nevertheless, it’s magical to find unplanned beauty right in our back yard.

Hoping you’ll find beauty in small things today.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 July 2021
Backyard photo taken by DAFraser, 25 July 2021

A Birthday Gift to Myself

Dear Friends,

Yesterday I turned 75. No fanfare. Just a quiet day at home enjoying my retirement family: D, Smudge and Marie. Plus telephone conversations with our two children. And a walk outside with D in cold, windy weather.

At this age there aren’t many things I want for myself. Nonetheless, during a conversation with a friend earlier this week I identified something I’ve wanted all my life.

When I was 15 years old Mrs. Hanks, my piano teacher from when I was 9, asked about my plans after high school graduation.

‘I’m thinking about going to Bible college.’

‘Have you ever thought about going to a music conservatory and majoring in piano?’

Fear gripped my heart. I would love to do this! Yet I had no confidence in myself beyond what I’d already done, and no vision for what this might mean for me.

Mrs. Hanks said she had a friend teaching in the best music program in the state of Georgia. In fact, she’d already spoken with her, and this woman would be delighted to meet me and talk with me about scholarship possibilities.

When I told my parents about this, my father said he thought I would be better ready for life if I enrolled in a Bible college in South Carolina. Some of my friends had already studied there, and he was certain I would get a good education there.

I felt torn between fear and excitement about the unknown, and my desperate need not to fail. I also knew I would make it at the Bible college. So I chose the Bible college.

Many times I’ve looked back at that decision and wondered what might have been. Music has always been where my heart feels most at home.

Thankfully, beginning with the Bible college, music has always been part of my life. Sometimes for pay; sometimes as a volunteer. Even when I was a professor and dean at the seminary, music informed everything I did. It made its way into my thought processes, the way I said or wrote things, my imagination about this world, and about this huge universe presided over by the Greatest Musician of All.

Now I’m 75. My fingers and reflexes aren’t what they used to be. Even so, I long to recover some of the freedom I used to have at the keyboard.

Even more important, my mother wanted me to become a musician. Not a famous musician, but the musician she already heard in me at age 5 when she began teaching me to play the piano.

So a few days ago I contacted a musician friend and asked her to recommend a piano coach for me. Someone who can help me, at this age, to regain some of what the years have taken. My happy birthday gift to myself. And maybe for my mother.

Right now I’m a 75-year old kid who can’t wait to open a present I’ve wanted for too many years!

Thanks for listening,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 November 2018
Photo found at birthdaycakeformom.com

The Shape of Forgiveness | Part 1

My deceased father, an ordained clergyman, has been on my mind for the last several weeks. Especially the way his behavior toward me still affects my life.

I began blogging over three years ago because I was ready to break my silence. I wanted to tell the truth. Not just the truth about what happened to and within me back then, but the way it shaped the woman I’ve become.

If you haven’t read my earliest posts, I invite you read these, published over three years ago: Dear Dad and Rituals of Submission: Part 1 and Part 2.

Forgiveness has also been on my mind in the last few weeks. The topic almost always comes up when I describe my life as a child and young teenager.

My friends are concerned for me. It’s important, even necessary that I forgive my father. The sooner the better.

  • For some, this is the key to God forgiving me. Indeed, if I cannot forgive another human being, why should God forgive me?
  • For others, it’s important so I can ‘move on’ with my life. This means not getting stuck dwelling on this negative part of my life. Or at least not making it the leading theme of what is, after all, ‘my’ life. Even though it’s impossible for me to conceive of ‘my’ life without multiple connections with my father.
  • For friends who aren’t wired the way I am (an INFJ from way back and very happy, thank you!), forgiveness seems a reasonable exercise that would break the power of the past over me. By putting ‘his’ voice in one column, and ‘mine’ in another, I would simply clarify the truth and get on with my life. Almost like starting over with a blank slate. It sounds lovely; yet it isn’t true to reality as I experience it.

I appreciate each outlook. Yet I still get hooked by self-destructive attitudes and behaviors that arise daily.

  • My responses to these situations are rooted in my father’s attitudes and behaviors toward me.
  • Yet they seem to be my own beliefs and assumptions about myself.

Finally, I often wonder whether I can or need to forgive myself. If so, what would that look like?

As I see it, forgiveness isn’t a spiritual, intellectual, or strategic decision made once for all. It’s about my whole being and will take a lifetime. I face multiple opportunities each day to let go of my sometimes frantic desire for security and survival, affection and esteem, power and control, and my desire to change a situation.

A broken clay pot can’t be made whole by gluing it back together. No amount of glue will make it new. It’s still a damaged, cracked clay pot. The only way to repair the damage is to return the pot to the furnace, melt it down, and tenderly begin reshaping it. Not as an act of terror—though the process is terrifying—but as an act of love, acceptance and healing.

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. What might healing look like, and what kind of forgiveness would it take?

Thanks for reading, listening with your hearts, and commenting if you’d like.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2017
Image with quote found at wordsofbalance.com

If ever we meet

If ever we meet
I will milk
every drop
and then some
from your demeanor
tone of voice
and eyes 

Agonizing
Calculating
Weighing the odds
Whether to respond
and how 

Experience—
my best friend
and my enemy
Trust—
a roll of the dice
until proven over time 

I shiver inside
Is it worth the effort
at this age
putting myself out there
in full view
of myself
not just of you? 

*** 

The agony of being attentive to nuance—not a characteristic I willfully chose, but a survival skill I learned on the ground. It served me well, though it didn’t always deliver the safety I sought or the safety I was promised. 

My trust of another human being isn’t a gift to be given on demand. It’s a reward to be earned over time. Giving away unearned trust is not a sign of approval. It’s a gamble that often leads to sorrow if not disaster. One of the most difficult lessons of my life.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 March 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Nuance 

Hesitating

her eyes
scan
each faded
page

past
and future
clash
reluctant

time
runs out
wistful
she sighs

remembers
what
she had
forgotten

sees more
than
decades
before

maybe….
what if….
must I
now?

shadows
creep
toward
sunset

closing
each book
not ordained
to stay

she turns it
sideways
spine up
pages down

***

During the last several weeks, D and I (more D than I) have been weeding our home library yet again. Only this time it’s different. We’re retired. In our 70s. Not going back there again.

Our collection, well over 9,000 (yes, D keeps a record!), has been our 3rd ‘child’ since we married each other and our book collections in 1965. It grew exponentially with each new degree and each new teaching and administrative opportunity.

The most important item in any house we’ve purchased has been wall space. We’ve had bookshelves on every floor and in most rooms. Since 1983, when we moved to the Philadelphia area, we’ve put rows of them on our home-made shelves up and down our full length finished attic. Our decorating scheme has been simple: Books!

Not just professional and academic books, but collections for children, adult novels, biographies, poetry, mystery series, science fiction, philosophy, art history, music books, travel books, encyclopedias, foreign language books, world religion books, Calvin and Hobbes cartoons and Winnie the Pooh!

Big sigh. Letting go is, for me, rather emotional. These are my friends! My companions on a long journey! Just looking through them reminds me of the many wonderful women and men I’ve met along my journey—as classmates, as professors, as students and as colleagues.

Letting go has taken decades—first hundreds of books, then our first 1000, and now I can’t even count. Yes, we’re keeping some—can’t go cold turkey on everything. Have we read all of them? No. But I can say with certainty we’ve used or read most of them over our combined academic years. We’re book-worms from the inside out.

So here’s a fond farewell to the latest haul—now over 100 boxed books stacked neatly in our garage waiting for pickup by a book service that sends books like ours to majority world theological schools.

Here’s an impromptu proverb for today: She who hesitates today will regret it tomorrow (when she has to go through the same old books again)!

Yours in sickness, in health and in between!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 March 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Hesitate

A tough old hen

tough old hens

The sun is shining! I’m alive and getting clear about what to do and what not to do to help my one and only heart. Here’s a quick update just for you!

First, the good news. Read the rest of this entry »

One Day and One Dream Later

garden_adventure_of_the_little_puppy_photos_pictures_puppy_MIL56026

Sunday evening I agonized over whether to post Presence on Monday morning. Was it long enough?  Good enough? Worth anyone taking time to read? Read the rest of this entry »

Faculty Wife | Part 17

Nouthetic Counseling - guardthyheart

This is one of the more bizarre things that has happened to me. Somewhat like My First Boss. I didn’t see it coming and I could scarcely believe it was happening. Read the rest of this entry »

Faculty Wife | Part 16

1972 Oct Columbia Bible College Sherry and Scott not to be fed

What’s a Mom to do? I empathize with park authorities who post signs like this!

Spring 1973. Things are heating up. Most days I’m not on the Bible college campus. I come when I need to. Usually for social events or occasional appointments. Now that our son and daughter are older, Read the rest of this entry »

About Awards and Me

End-of-Year Awards

The first time a blogger nominated me for an award, I didn’t know what to do. Was I happy? Yes! Thrown into inner turmoil? Yes! It felt like an interruption that would derail my writing.

I decided Read the rest of this entry »

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