Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Human Confusion

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind — | Emily Dickinson

chaos-in-markets-britain

I wrote this immediately after the November 2016 election of Mr. Trump. It still rings true–no matter who wins the November 2020 election. 

Here’s a timely poem from Emily Dickinson. What’s it like to be at loose ends? My comments follow.

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind –
As if my Brain had split –
I tried to match it – Seam by Seam –
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before –
But Sequence raveled out of Sound
Like Balls – upon a Floor.

c. 1864

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

Things undone aren’t easily put back together. Especially when accompanied by relentless news reports and photos I’d rather not see. Faces of jubilation; women and men in shocked disbelief; children weeping from fear. The presidential election was a massive Cleaving in my Mind.

Is this our new reality? Out of control. Out of bounds. Out of patience. Out of solutions. Out of hope. Out of compassion. Out of generosity. Out of truth-telling. Our deficits are phenomenal.

Yet I’m called to faithfulness, courage, boldness and creativity.

There isn’t a magic or even supernatural solution to all this confusion. Human confusion is our normal state of being. Confusion about who I am, who you are, what’s going on, who’s in charge, what’s right and what’s wrong, what will bring me happiness, and how to get out of this mess.

I know one thing: I won’t get out of this confusion. Though my thoughts and emotions are important, they don’t offer answers that dispel all confusion. Even my best efforts won’t drive confusion away. They may, in fact, make things worse.

The answer isn’t about what I do, feel or think. It’s about who I am. Right now. True, this affects what I do, feel and think. Yet the starting point is always ‘Who am I right now?’

Thankfully, this hasn’t changed. No election can take this away. I’m God’s beloved daughter child. Not by privilege, but by grace. I’m not God’s only or special child. God has more than enough love, patience, mercy and kindness for each of us. In a strange way, it isn’t about us; it’s about God.

I don’t know what this looks like from one day to the next, or exactly where it’s leading. I do know that moving forward one tiny step each day as God’s beloved daughter child is more than enough. All I need to do is keep taking baby steps. Especially when the mist is so dense I can’t see where this is leading, and ocean swells rise deep within me.

Knowledge about who I am doesn’t reconstruct my brain and it won’t restring the tiny beads that just skittered all over the floor. It does, however, refocus my anxiety and confusion. I am responsible for three things: loving God with all my heart; loving myself, and loving my neighbor as I love myself.

I don’t need to understand everything. I do need to keep inching forward step by step, based on the situation I’m facing. I can’t control human confusion—mine or anyone else’s. But I can speak with my neighbor, comfort a child, offer a listening ear or send up a silent prayer.

I pray this finds you listening and trusting, no matter how bleak or uncertain things look right now.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 November 2016, lightly edited and reposted 1 September 2020
Image found at wsj.com (Wall Street Journal)

Upside down and inside out

The glories of being intuitive do not include being correct. As I’ve noted before, intuition is as flawed as any other remarkable gift. My intuition is prone to wander, prone to read things wrong, prone to finding a way to make it all work out so I’m still on the ‘right’ side of things.

I didn’t choose this. It’s how I survived childhood and youth as the first-born daughter of a clergyman who believed he was right and I was wrong.

My instincts back then were correct: I was NOT always wrong. Not that I could do much about it back then except pray for the day when I would be an Adult Woman. An Independent Agent living by her own instincts, not yours or anyone else’s. And, of course, with God’s blessing.

I had no idea what it would mean to live according to instincts and intuitions shaped by years of resistance to homegrown and social trauma. Even so, I was often on target, especially when I was dealing with other people and their situations.

Going through old notes from 1994, I recently discovered a small phrase I used in a forum. The phrase is simple: ‘upside down and inside out.’

The notes referred to Karl Barth, German theologian of the mid-20th century. He wrote and taught during Hitler’s reign, the Holocaust, and in the aftermath of World War II. Plenty of trauma going on there, don’t you think?

In the 1980s, when I was a graduate student, Barth invited me to turn my mind ‘upside down and inside out.’ Not to play tricks on reality, but to discover a different way of discovering and naming truth.

He argued that because of human confusion in and around us, we cannot trust our instincts. His theology is a grand effort to show how this works—turning our minds upside down and inside out. So that what we call good or even ‘normal’ is not necessarily that.

So today I’m back to thinking about my instincts. Instincts honed and shaped by what we now call childhood PTSD.

Back then it was all about survival. Getting through without falling apart (even though I fell apart regularly, especially on the inside). I dreamed of arriving at the magic moment when I could live without threat of imminent punishment or humiliation.

I left home at 16 years of age to go to college, never dreaming what my lifetime learning agenda would be. Especially about myself and my instincts. I thought thriving meant living on my own, having a job and maybe even a boyfriend.

Yet thriving isn’t about having a life or even letting go of things programmed into me as a child. It’s about welcoming, affirming and living as the woman I already am.

Put another way, it’s about living on the other side of letting go. I want to name and own what I love about myself and about life. I welcome this opportunity to turn my let-go thoughts and feelings upside down and inside out. I have much to put to rest, and much to bring back to life. Just like those beautifully upside down, inside out flowers and plants in the artwork above.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 March 2017
Lovely artwork found at akiane.com

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Instinct

Still Learning to Pray

learning-to-pray-by-talking-less

Today is a quiet day. Not because I’m sick, but because I need to take care of myself. So I’m revisiting several books on prayer. Why? Because current events in the USA tug me this way and that way. Sometimes I feel as though I’m wandering, lost in the trees. Uncertain how to pray or how that might help my focus from one day to the next.

Here’s what I’m certain of today.

  • The human confusion into which I was born multiples daily, and isn’t going away of its own accord. Ever. There are things I’d like to undo and re-do in this world and in myself. I want us to sort things out and be good neighbors. Yet I fear it isn’t going to happen, even though we’re all part of God’s good if not perfect creation, and need each other to survive.
  • Human confusion seems to have a life of its own. It feeds on itself, creating ever-more-shocking statements, behaviors, attitudes and reactions. It thrives when we’re fearful and distracted. On guard. Looking over our shoulders as we try to figure out what just happened, and miss what’s already brewing for tomorrow.
  • In my small world, confusion shows up in anguish about what I’m to do from one day to the next. I’m not utterly lost or clueless; yet I don’t feel grounded in a clear approach to what’s happening around me. I don’t have a clear goal for each day that calms my heart and helps shape my actions. I often feel uncertain and lost, especially when I start checking out tantalizing, infuriating headlines that pop up every minute of the day.

For the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about prayer. Granted, our pastor is preaching about it every Sunday, so it’s difficult not to think about it! At the same time, I wonder how I am to pray, given confusion around and within me.

I used to think once I learned to pray, I’d have it all figured out. As though it were like theology. I think about theology as dialogue with Scripture, traditional documents, other conversation partners, the newspaper and my experience as a woman. It works!

However, when I consider prayer, my major dialogue partners have been God or Scripture or what my parents or the church told me to do. The newspaper has been a secondary partner. And though I’m aware of myself as this woman (not just any woman), I haven’t figured out how that shapes my approach to prayer. Sometimes I fear there’s something wrong with me–even though I know there is not.

So I’ve decided to look into this and begin writing about it from time to time. I want to live boldly with the courage of my convictions, as this follower of Jesus Christ who is this woman living in these troubled times. Somehow, I believe my dilemma about prayer lies at the center of my anguish about who I am and how that shapes my prayers from day to day. Especially now.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 February 2017
Photo found at parentingupstream.com

Advent and Post-Election Questions

light-shining-in-the-darkness

The votes are cast; the election is over. I feel lost. Not because of changes in me, but in my context. Who am I now? Which way will I go? What about tomorrow?

I want to plead with God for a different outcome. But heaven is silent. The votes were cast, and the election is over. Read the rest of this entry »

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind —

chaos-in-markets-britain

Here’s a timely poem from Emily Dickinson. She captures what it’s like to be at loose ends. Unable to think straight, sort out feelings, or fit oneself into the new reality. My personal comments follow.

I felt a Cleaving in my Mind –
As if my Brain had split –
I tried to match it – Seam by Seam –
But could not make them fit.

The thought behind, I strove to join
Unto the thought before –
But Sequence raveled out of Sound
Like Balls – upon a Floor.

c. 1864

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

Things undone aren’t easily put back together. Especially when accompanied by Read the rest of this entry »

Love’s Knowledge | From an Old Soul

Can we reason or debate our way to the truth about ourselves and God? George MacDonald doesn’t think so. My comments follow.

July 27

The love of thee will set all notions right.
Right save by love no thought can be or may;
Only love’s knowledge is the primal light.
Questions keep camp along love’s shining coast—
Challenge my love and would my entrance stay;
Across the buzzing, doubting, challenging host,
I rush to thee, and cling, and cry: Thou know’st.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: