Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Healing

Listening to the sound of my soul

Listening to the sound of my soul
I reach for the sky and deep into earth
Stretching strings and finding notes
I never thought I would hear or play
No overnight miracles promised
Just the overwhelming satisfaction
Of moving a fraction of an inch
Closer to the woman I now am
And the young girl I longed to be

Years pile on one after another
I pause for a slow deep breath –
Raising my head and sinking my feet
Down into the ground beneath me
I reach up and out one more time for
Improbable dreams already dancing
Within my soul by heart and on pages
Of this body of graceful ligaments
Listening for the sound of my soul

With thanks to Eugene Louis (Luigi) Faccuito for this quote: “To dance, put your hand on your heart and listen to the sound of your soul.” Luigi had a long career as a dancer, choreographer and dance teacher. Most of it against great odds, due to physical challenges and limitations.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 December 2018

My Mother’s Depression

My mother’s depression
Is not my depression

It doesn’t belong to me
Nor did I invite it in to stay
Yet it lives in me now and again
A link to this woman who bore me

Deftly intertwined it moves
As though it were mine
A weight I bear unbidden
My lot in this half-life

What would it be like
To let it go as an alien?
To visit without falling into the pit?
To understand it from her point of view?

I’ve been turning things like this over in my mind and heart for the last week. The insight isn’t mine. It’s a gift from a friend who has walked with me for several decades.

‘My’ depression isn’t mine. Yes, it’s real and present. Yet it was and still is my mother’s deep depression, fed by my father’s behavior toward her and toward me.  The sad price of being a gifted white woman in post-depression (ironic) and post-World War II life in the USA.

Held back, kept in check, insanely busy with housework and babies, submissive preacher’s wife, versatile church musician without a pay check, resourceful volunteer ever ready to help others in return for nothing, cheery and even-tempered, industrious and persistent, she held it all together in her bent and broken body.

Uncomplaining, weary, in pain 24/7 and depressed. Sometimes crying herself to sleep. Other times waking with horrifying cramps.

My heart goes out to her today in ways it couldn’t years ago.

Yet I can’t accept her depression as my depression. It isn’t mine. This one insight invites me to stay connected to her reality without making it my reality. I can only breathe my air, not hers.

These days it seems ever more acceptable to trash women of all colors and make them into problems they are not. In response, I want to do justice to the woman my mother was while showing mercy to her as the woman she could not be or become.

She was not the problem then, just as I am not the problem now.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 November 2018
Book cover photo found at bookdepository.com

Moldy, moldy, moldy | Dear Friends

Dear Friends,

My body is moldy, my house is moldy, my mind is moldy and I’m not giving up!

I now have data from the first of three mold tests, with two tests to go. One of the two makes me laugh out loud every time I think about it. It’s a hair test for ‘heavy’ metals.

If you see me from time to time, you know how short my very fine (not heavy) hair is. Especially in the back. I like it that way.

So now this lab wants a measured (by weight) amount of hair from 5 to 6 places on my head, preferably from the back of my head. Each ‘strand’ should be 1 inch long! They’ll be lucky if I can find that much from the top of my head.

The worst moment will be after the deed is done and nothing can be glued back onto my head! As my trusted partner of more than 53 years, D will have the honor of clipping those precious hairs from my head. I don’t want to end up looking like a molting sheep.

The third test has to wait until I have the proper computer screen. It seems my old faithful isn’t young enough to calibrate within the limits of the vision test.

Then there was a visit with my cardiologist yesterday. Always stressful, no matter what’s going on with my heart. Especially with the added reality of almost constant work on Alzheimer-related testing. Though I don’t have it, my genes mean the risk factor rises with every year of my life. Mold is a big Alzheimer’s issue, best dealt with early and often.

I’m sleeping well most nights. Last night was an exception. I was surprised how weepy I was early this morning. I lay there thinking about my life and how difficult yet astonishingly wonderful it has been. And how many gifted, dedicated people I’ve had the privilege of working with. And how much I don’t want to leave this life just yet.

Despite all the health stuff, I turned a big corner last week. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone about myself or my worth. I already knew that in my mind. Last week my heart finally began getting and loving the message. I’ve already passed on bits and pieces here and there. It’s done, even as I keep growing like a persistent bit of mold–the good kind, of course!

Today I’m taking it easy. Practicing justice and mercy on behalf of my weary body and soul. Eager to keep moving ahead, yet no faster than my feet will take me on this damp, rainy day. The photo at the top is there just because I like it.

Happy Tuesday, and thanks for stopping by.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon, October 2012

At loose ends with myself

At loose ends with myself
Wandering up and down
The stairs of my distraction
Overturning this and that
Within my overactive mind
A clock ticks relentlessly
Counting down the corridors
Of tasks undone and words
Never recorded yet dissipating
Into a gray atmosphere silent
And secretive not yet menacing
Though the thought occurs
to me that I am being unraveled
strand by limp strand falling
to the floor of unknown reality

Unraveled. A word rich with possibilities. Terrifying and welcome all at the same time. Loss of control. Change of direction. Once-blind eyes coming out of misty half-truth and patched-together personas. Fragility unbound and hanging out there. Human. Vulnerable. Out of control in the best possible way.

All this and more went through my mind today. It isn’t just about getting older. It’s about getting real. Becoming a real rabbit, a real human being, a real baby. Not just a make-believe look-alike.

Here’s to more loose ends of the fruitful kind. Those that lead to something greater than you or I could ever become on our own.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 November 2018
Image of unraveling butterfly found at movestrongkbs.com

white affirmative action

Think of it when you go to sleep at night
Think of it when you walk or drive to the polls
Think of it when you go to church on Sunday
Think of it when you walk freely to the store
Think of it early and often and examine yourself
White gentile woman man or child that you are

By whose decree was this white affirmation
Heaped upon me and those who like me
Had no choice in the color or pedigree of our skin
Yet are heralded welcomed and protected
As the keepers and the color of purity
Angels in the making if not god almighty

Baby steps.
We need baby steps.
We need leaders who don’t look like us
Who don’t mind if our grammar isn’t perfect
Leaders who know the lay of the land
Because they’ve been there and ache
To show and tell the look of life on the other side
The toll exacted by border walls projected willy-nilly
To enhance the purity of so-called whiteness
That never existed in the first place

Humans exist in the first place
And hopefully in the last place
But only if we tend to these tiny shoots
Struggling to breathe and find sustenance
In a stingy, greedy, heads in the sand
Make-believe-we’re-OK land of no return
For this we are called
Out of ourselves and into a great
Mixed company dying to live
Before it’s too late

Thoughts on the eve of our mid-term elections. Can we find our way through this wilderness? It won’t happen overnight or without skilled leaders. Leaders who know about life because they’re already living it from the inside out. Against all odds and upstream.

Here’s how I see it. As a ‘white’ (actually German-Swiss-French) woman who is a citizen of the USA, I benefit every day from affirmative action. I’m on the lookout for skilled women, men and children who already model ways to live in a society at war with itself, without giving up hope and without being naive.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 November 2018

Shame on you – a poem and confession

Shame on you
Is not shame on me

I renounce your efforts
To fill my heart with
Your lust and shame
Bequeathed to you
By your father-preacher
When you were a sobbing
Child terrified lest you wake
Up one day in that fiery hell
You too once preached to
Children who believed the lie
That they entered this world
Sinners from the beginning
Now terrified of missing
That mercy for which you
Wept loudly and often
In the confines of your own
Terrified heart and soul

Wave your arms in the air
Send out your calls for sinners
To sob their way forward
Down the aisle filled
With shame and self-hatred
Believing a story that never
Belonged to them no matter
How many times they
Rushed down the aisle
Of your own deep shame

Somewhere along the way I lost the shame I carried from childhood. Shame that bound me as an adult, not just as a child.

Here’s how I see it now. Yes, there is right and there is wrong. No, God doesn’t create junk. Nor did God make sure I came with a bit of built-in sin for which I’m supposed to feel deep shame.

The shame came later. From others who introduced me to their shame long before I knew what was happening.

As a child, preachers and evangelists routinely reminded me that my heart was filled with sin from the day I was born. I watched other children repeatedly rushing down the aisle terrified lest they be thrown into a lake of fire when they died. I managed to raise my hand once, which felt like more than enough. After all, I got it at home, too.

At some point I had to take ownership of the woman I’d become. Still, scaring me and punishing me into repeated agonies of confession never helped me take ownership of myself. It simply kept me in a constant state of fear, shame and hyper-vigilance.

Ironically, these are the very things my Creator invites me to let go. Not because I’m a goody two-shoes, but because I’m loved just the way I am.

For that, I’m deeply grateful on this day of Sabbath rest.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 October 2018

silence of dense fog | health update

pinpoint clarity
flashes bright light on needles
silence of dense fog
wraps thick trunks in mystery
highlights tiny spider web

Despite gorgeous crystal-like drops of water, the overall scene is beautifully murky and mysterious. Which is how I’m feeling today about what’s happening in my life and in my body.

For several weeks I’ve wanted to find a few connections outside my everyday circle of friends and acquaintances. Today I have several wonderful options. Not too many, and not too few. Just the way I like it! More about that in a later post.

In addition, I’ve had some disconcerting health stuff hanging around the edges for several weeks. Nothing specific, but it all takes me to a murky place I don’t understand. Among other things this has included anxiety, lethargy, tremors, and some confusion from time to time.

On Monday I had a 3-month checkup with Dr. K, my wonderful integrative medicine doctor. She reviewed my latest blood work. It looked much better than it did when I began seeing her just over two years ago for adrenal exhaustion.

Dr. K also told me I have three of four genetic markers for CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome). Think of CIRS as cumulative, chronic inflammation that’s often mistaken for other things. The primary cause: mold buildup in the body. When unaddressed, mold-induced problems can be a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s Disease. About 25% of the population have versions of CIRS.

Unfortunately, people sometimes don’t recognize or attend to symptoms of CIRS in senior citizens. They’re interpreted as part of old age.

I’m taking a couple of easy tests to help figure out what’s going on. One involves a kit that will identify where mold resides in our house. I’m also going to take an online Vision Contrast Sensitivity Test. Then Dr. K will get me started on a treatment plan.

Today I’m cautiously hopeful, and am taking extra care to treat my body well. Like a little baby that wants to be loved and cared for.

Thanks again for listening. I decided I’d rather tell you this than sit on it and try to keep going ‘as usual’ — whatever that’s supposed to mean these days.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 October 2018
Photo found at wallpaperweb.org

Conversations that matter

On 21 April 2016, I broke my jaw and my wings were clipped. Not just by the broken jaw, but by a string of unanticipated health events that followed. Today it takes time to attend to my aging body.

So I often wonder what the meaning of my life is now. Why am I here? I know I’m going to die. So what about the meantime, in whatever time I have left on this earth? Is blogging it? I love blogging, but….

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a friend and former colleague at the seminary. Would I be willing to interview a seminarian working on her MA degree? The answer was Yes! Of course! Big smiles and happiness! A high point in my life!

So this last week I spent time on the phone with her. Lots of time. We didn’t talk about the fine points of my life as a pastor (which I am not). Instead, we talked about the not-so-fine points of my life as a survivor of childhood abuse. Especially what it took in my late 40s to begin the long process of healing while I was professor and then dean at the seminary.

Why was this conversation a high point for me? Because it let me know I still have something to say. Especially, but not only to women and men preparing for ministry in churches, or for leadership in religious organizations.

Blogging about my experience has been and still is part of my healing. Yet nothing beats a one-on-one conversation, or a small group discussion in which I’m able to talk about what it took for me to begin healing.

We’re all dealt cards we didn’t ask for, even before the moment we’re born. Going into a professional position or a new job doesn’t magically make all that disappear. In fact, it often triggers it. Understanding how trauma shaped and still shapes us is worthy of our best efforts. Not alone, but together.

I don’t know how this will play out. Nonetheless, I’m hoping for more informal opportunities in which my personal and professional experiences come together in surprising ways.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 October 2018

Inconvenient truth

Bad timing
The look on your face
The tone of your voice
Your choice of words
What you said
How you said it
And a thousand other
Inconveniences
Called upon as evidence
Against you and your kind
Will never withstand
The strength of truth
Spoken out loud
By just one survivor
With nothing to gain
And everything to lose
Including false shame

If I had to name my greatest achievements in life they are, in order:

  1. Seeking help from a psychotherapist for unrelenting IBS, depression, shame, anxiety attacks and more. I was in my late 40s.
  2. Setting up a meeting with my parents and reading to my father my two-page statement. In short, I did not deserve to be shamed, humiliated or silenced by his beatings. This meeting took place on the eve of my 50th birthday.

The poem acknowledges the excruciating reality that there will never be just the right moment to tell inconvenient truth. Or just the right way. Or with just the right looks on our faces.

I applaud survivors of life-changing events, endured at the hands of others, who do their ‘homework’ and then speak out. As many times as needed.

We are an inconvenient truth in this nation.

We’re everywhere, in sight and out of sight. We want freedom from false shame, debilitating depression, anxiety attacks, and lies we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Many of us were violated as children or babies, before we were old enough to know what was being done to us. Often violation against us preceded our own violation of others. That doesn’t get us off the hook. It just clarifies the lay of the land and what we must do to make sense of what seems senseless.

We can’t change the people who victimized us. We can, however, give ourselves the gift of facing what happened to us, getting professional help, and learning to do what we think we can’t do to make amends to ourselves and others. No matter what the consequences.

A liberated voice doesn’t come cheap.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 Oct 2018

chilled blood huddles

chilled blood huddles
beneath waves of hot anger
shot from unchecked mouths
with deadly accuracy
the clock ticks down to nothing

I wrote these words on Friday evening, the day after last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings of Dr. Christine Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. The poem attempts to capture in words the look, sound and feel of time running out.

But for whom is it running out? I don’t think we’ll know that for a while, no matter how this plays out.

In the meantime, I understand this about myself as an adult survivor of violence toward women:

My responsibility is to take care of myself,
not to change the culture of violence toward women

I didn’t think this up by myself. I heard it in a public radio interview with a woman working on behalf of sexually assaulted persons. Her comment rang true, given my sense of despair and hopelessness.

I need to keep the focus on my sanity and health. Take care of myself.

The images and words I saw and heard during the Judiciary Committee hearings took me right back to the meeting with my parents in 1993. When I left that meeting I knew I couldn’t change my father’s attitude toward me, or my mother’s loyalty to him as her husband.

Yet perhaps I might make a difference for other survivors, or even for a few perpetrators. I still think that’s possible.

Most difficult is the high level of commitment I need just to take care of myself. Daily. Especially as I age. And then there are those unpredictable bombshells that keep hitting the news.

So here I am, still committed to telling the truth about myself. Not simply as a survivor, but as a thriving adult woman given an opportunity to make a difference, beginning with herself.

Thanks again for listening.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 October 2018

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