Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Intuition

Haunted by unlived history, #3

Renich Reunion in Newton, Kansas. I’m in back, just left of center. My first cousins as of July 1958 (more on the way!)

I grew up thinking love would heal everything. I also grew up believing no man in his right mind would ever love me enough to marry me.

I wasn’t a flirt or a party girl. Though I didn’t feel ugly, I didn’t consider myself pretty. I was a quiet and diligent student, a budding musician, intelligent, pleasant, and deeply ashamed.

  • Ashamed of the way my father treated me
  • Ashamed that most people didn’t seem to want me as a close friend
  • Ashamed when teams were chosen and I wasn’t anyone’s first choice. I was better than the last choice, but not by much.

I was also ashamed of our family’s social status. Yes, my father was an ordained pastor. No, he wasn’t a regular, full-time pastor. No, he didn’t have a regular, full-time income.

I sometimes thought about becoming a single missionary like some of the women missionaries I knew. That way I wouldn’t have to bother about all that social stuff. Or men.

But then there were those few boys and men who seemed to like me. Sometimes whether I liked them or not. Maybe the love thing could work for me. Maybe I didn’t have to be single all my life. But aren’t there better choices out there?

This was the beginning of my up and down history of secretly falling in and out of love with men. In no way did I want to appear needy, or look like I was chasing after them.

In the early 1990s, as part of an assignment for survivors of sexual abuse, I made a list of 30 men and boys who made an impression on me from childhood.

Then I began studying the list, looking for patterns. Of the 30 men and boys,

  • 16 were romantically attractive to me
  • 15 were men or boys I wanted to impress in some way
  • 14 were artists, poets, musicians, and/or actors
  • 13 appreciated and loved to listen to my piano playing
  • 12 pursued me (I didn’t pursue them)
  • 12 affirmed me as an individual, not as an object of their self-interest
  • 10 were ordained ministers or leaders
  • 6 were employers/supervisors
  • 6 took advantage of me
  • 4 raised fear in me
  • 4 were pursued by me
  • 4 I disliked intensely
  • 4 were ‘soul mates’
  • 3 overtly punished or humiliated me

Thinking about my relationships with these men and boys helped me make large and small changes in my relationships with men. For example,

  • I changed some unwise habits in order to maintain healthy boundaries as a professional educator and a church member.
  • I learned to recognize and honor my intuition when things didn’t feel quite right.
  • I recognized that being an agreeable, good girl woman was getting me in trouble by feeding unhealthy patterns of overwork and exhaustion. Though I made progress on this one, it wasn’t resolved until I retired in 2011.

I’ve written earlier about not having dreams for myself. Big dreams. The kind that orient life in a clear, even exciting direction. Most of my life I’ve lived by lists. Checking off long to-do lists with no big dream at the end. Just more long lists.

I want something better for myself. Today I hear my history with men fairly screaming something I couldn’t hear back then.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 February 2018
Photo taken in Newton, Kansas, July 1958 – Not yet all my first cousins on my father’s side.

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 Renich Fraser, 15 March 2017
Lovely artwork found at

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Instinct

If ever we meet

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

Weighing the odds
Whether to respond
and how 

my best friend
and my enemy
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 


never-never land

of premonitions

whispers of the soul

almost precursors



© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 November 2016
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Liminal


%d bloggers like this: