Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Health and Wellbeing

So much for almost-raw red meat

So much for almost-raw red meat
And smashed sour cream-y potatoes

Or slices of luscious smooth
Spiced pumpkin pie topped with
Mounds of real whipped cream

Followed by unlimited spoons
Of yummy peanut butter straight
From the bottle into my mouth

Or thick slices of hot-off-the-grill
French toast drowning in butter
And swimming in maple syrup

Or those so-called health food bars
Slathered with creamy sugary icing
And held together with the goo of
Smashed dates or sticky caramel

And how could I forget fatty strips
Of sweet fried bacon beside boiled white
Grits gleaming with butter from real milk
Topped with generous shakes of salt
and maybe a few turns of the pepper mill

Written immediately after finishing my super-healthy breakfast smoothie. No, I don’t crave all those things. I haven’t eaten most of them for decades. However, I do enjoy feeling deprived from time to time!

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 March 2019
Photo found at Today.com

Behind the window shade

Behind the window shade
Dawn gleams deep blue
In dim morning light

The moon’s half face glows
At the sight of Jupiter
Hanging off to the right
Just left of the dark spruce
Looming tall beneath the sky

Suddenly a black crow
Streaks through subfreezing air
Landing in the top branches
Of a giant Eastern Pine
Silhouetted against the eastern sky
Sturdy branches raised to
Catch morning’s first sunlight

Closer to home a single dove sits
Atop the power cable next door
Quietly waiting with feathers plumped
Against ice-cold temperature
Hungry for the sun’s early rays

As seen from my bathroom window this morning at 6:10. A gorgeous sight and reminder of why I love the early morning sky. In addition to calming and mesmerizing me, it invites me to focus on true North. Not on noise and commotion already waiting in the wings.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 March 2019
Diagram found at EarthSky.org

Exiting the Room

My heart doesn’t lie
The signals are clear
This situation is damaging
If not deadly
Yet I don’t get up
Walk out the door
Follow my heart

Childhood PTSD is a harsh taskmaster
One lesson bleeds into another
Something else reaches out its tentacles
Trying to keep or put me in my place
My heart remembers the terror
It can’t tolerate another second
Of helpless hopeless angst about
What ‘they’ might think or do
When I stand up and exit the premises

It’s not about you or them
It’s about me
It’s about taking my heart seriously
Standing up and walking out the door
Finding a quiet place somewhere else
Acknowledging my terrified heartbeat
Showing it and myself I’m not afraid
Though I don’t understand all the connections
Between this present terror
And the terrors of girlhood

Living with my heart these last few weeks was like enduring an unpredictable roller coaster ride. Lovely moments of normalcy punctuated with the anxiety of a heart out of control. I saw it happening on my heart monitor and felt it in my chest.

My biggest challenge isn’t what to do when this happens at home. It’s what to do when I’m in a public gathering and my heart suddenly goes haywire.

From childhood I’ve known the terror of feeling trapped. No exit. Often in church. Not just at home.

As an adult woman, I’ve also experienced feeling trapped in punishing work and worship situations. I could, and occasionally did get up and leave the room. Though not until I was falling apart.

So what’s needed today? I need to exit the room. Take my heart to a safe place. I don’t need to explain or apologize. It doesn’t even matter that I don’t understand what’s going on. It’s time to follow my heart, and see what happens next.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 March 2019
Photo found at tripadvisor.com

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

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

Woman Work | Maya Angelou

In honor of women everywhere who, against all odds, hold life together one day at a time. In this poem, Maya Angelou speaks for women everywhere – country, town, city, suburbs. My brief comments follow.

I’ve got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I’ve got the shirts to press
The tots to dress
The cane to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
Till I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.
Sun, rain, curving sky

Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
Your’re all that I can call my own.

I’ve got to open the shop
Harvest the crop
Clean out the pool
Visit the jail
Get to the school
Teach all the classes
Pick up the mail
Raise food for the masses
I’ve got children to tend
The clothes to mend
I got to
I got to
I got to

Maya Angelou, in Poetry for Young People, p. 19
Published by Sterling Children’s Books in 2013

I resonate with Maya Angelou’s emphasis on the role of nature. Not simply as the truly beautiful and awe-inspiring reality it is, but as solace. A power that takes us out of ourselves. Or better, helps us find our true selves. Not as any human being, but as the one-of-a-kind person each of us was created to be.

True, nature sometimes wreaks horrific havoc. Yet not even Angelou’s “fiercest wind” meets the standard for tornado or tsunami status. Rather, she sees changes of weather as invitations to reconnect with nature. Not to slack off, but to rest in the only thing she can “call my own.”

Finally, did you notice how the poem loops back to the top near the very end?

If you’d like to know more about how we’ve failed worldwide to account for women’s unpaid work, check out this June 2018 article.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2019
Photo found at newsdeeply.com in an article on women’s unpaid work

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

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