Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Memories

color me fragile

color me fragile
transparent windows open
to waves of music
floating through winter’s cold nights
from stars and planets waiting
to welcome me home

I think often of death these days. Not as something to fear, but as a reminder that today’s music won’t wait for tomorrow. It’s here. Now. Waiting to be experienced, honored, held close. A reminder of the good that has come my way and the good people who still sing to me when I feel lonely, scared or overwhelmed. Many now wait to welcome me home.

Morose? No. It’s food for my soul. A warm fuzzy blanket to wrap around me when I begin to falter. It’s the reason I greet each day with expectancy and hope mixed with sadness. Life sometimes feels heavy to bear. Then those reminders come floating in. A gift, if not proof, that I’ve had and have a life beyond the life I see and remember.

Praying your day is filled with graceful music from unexpected sources.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 January 2019
Image found at wallpaperup.com

through fading light

She drifts through fading light
Heavy with good old days
And nights of celestial fare
When aging memories signified
Faded minds and shrinking lives
Cemented in the here and now
Reliving ghosts of yesterdays
Remnants of fruit gone sweetly sour
With age and bitter longing

Written on the airplane after reading yet again Emily Dickinson’s poem “These are the days….”

My poem is a comment on aging and the conceit of the young. I’m thinking of the way my own young eyeballs used to roll in their sockets when the “old” folks got going. Relentlessly they recalled and relived their happiest, most longed-for yesterdays. How silly! Don’t they know the past is gone? And then there are all those not-so-longed-for yesterdays.

To my mind these aging relics were out of touch. Couldn’t they see the relentless coming and going of life’s seasons? Yet even then I was already collecting and hoarding my own memories. Preparing for days when I, like all those old folks, revisit the glories and not-so-glorious memories of yesterday that hover just beyond my grasp.

We can’t relive the past, We can, however, go back the way a short Indian summer takes us back to a bit of warmth and beauty before cold winter sets in. We can take that brief, spectacular look into the rear-view mirror of our lives and connect with ourselves yet again. This time with eyes more forgiving and content than we ever dreamed possible.

This week we’re on the West Coast, visiting our daughter and her husband. Being with them reminds me again that life is short and precious. I pray for you and for all of us the courage to stop and look back from time to time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 December 2018

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

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

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

What next?

Standing alone
Holding what’s left
Of a lovely old body
Weary and dependent
She now begs for mercy
And justice from me
Her semi-absent keeper
Of too many years

What now?
Where now?
What next?
I haven’t a clue.
Have you?

The dilemma of each day. I don’t feel sorry; I feel sad. Last night I had a plan. Then I woke up this morning and my body begged for mercy and justice. My plan changed.

I want to save the world. Or at least what’s left of it. Now. Not later. My body stands there staring at me in the mirror. And what about me? Don’t I count for something?

The responsibility to take care of myself, not the rest of the world, weighs heavy. Not because I don’t know what to do, but because I’d rather be out there fighting for justice and mercy!

How ironic. Looking back, I see patterns that drove me. I also see the high cost my body is paying. Then I think of all the students and friends I’ve exhorted over the years to ‘take care of themselves.’

The title of a book I read in the last year or so comes back to haunt me: The Body Keeps the Score. Indeed it does keep the score. Mercilessly, yet mercifully when I’m willing to pay attention. This is now. Not then. I have choices.

So this morning I cancelled my plan and am listening to my body. Keenly aware that my new baby doll stand-in for me, 10-month old Marie, knows exactly what it means to be abused and taken for granted by someone who claims to love her. Sadly, I have sometimes been my complicit enemy, especially as an adult driven by ghosts from my past.

The sun is out; fall is almost in the air; it looks like a good day for a walk in the neighborhood! And a long look at that lovely photo at the top–a dock that reminds me of my favorite childhood getaway.

Happy Thursday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 October 2018
Photo found at pinterest
Dock on the Skidaway River, Isle of Hope, Georgia

remnants transformed

She dwells in days
Layered with moss memories
Accumulated remnants
Transformed into melodies
Of mercy and grace

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 September 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser in September 2016, roof of an old house at Loch an Eilein, Scotland 

Loch an Eilein, Scotland | Photos

This week I enjoyed looking back through photos D took on our 50th wedding anniversary trip to Scotland three years ago. If I had to pick one place I’d love to revisit, it would be Loch an Eilein. It’s got everything–mystery, 15th century small castle ruins on an island, and a gorgeous 4.5 mile hiking trail around the lake.

The proud male duck at the top is guarding his mate who’s hidden in the marsh grass, sitting on at least one egg.

For perspective, here’s an overview of the lake, with that mysterious island in the distance. Can you see the bit of stone emerging from the trees? The hiking path goes right around the perimeter, offering several views of the island and castle.

So here we go…one foot after another. Loaded with water and snacks. Sometimes the path was smooth. Sometimes it wasn’t. Good hiking shoes required. We walked through stands of towering pines and meadow-like blankets of heather and thistles.

Here’s the best view we had of the castle ruins. Make up your own mysterious, romantic story….

From this point, we walked around the top of the lake and followed the path on the opposite side of the island. The path so far had been friendly for wheelchairs or walkers, if a bit bumpy. Beyond this point we went through several rough, rocky patches along with a few uphill climbs. Still, it was beautiful, and gave us one more good look at the castle ruins.


Finally, after walking for what seemed an eternity, we came to the end of the hike. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. Well, most of it anyway….

Happy Friday! Here’s to a weekend of dreams come true and the creative rewriting of our worst nightmares.

Thanks to D for all these photos, and thanks to you for visiting the gallery!

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 September 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser, September 2015 in Scotland

For my own good?

Invisible fumes
Flavor my world
With chemical smog
Poisonous leftovers
Yesterday’s garbage
Thrown my way
By friendly fire

Gagging
I reach for tissues
Disintegrating
Into air thick
With hypocrisy
Greed and lust

This
Is for your own good
Swallow it
Or die

Walking to the edge
Of the set
I lean over the edge
And vomit what
I will not swallow

The poem resonates with my childhood and youth. And with increasingly horrific reports of widespread clergy sexual abuse. Part of a complex history hidden in full view. Aided and abetted by Predators United in Silence.

When I was 4-7 (1940s) we lived in the Los Angeles area. Smog alerts were common. Warm air got caught below the mountains, contaminated with industrial soot plus heavy moisture from the ocean. It hung over the LA basin like sick grayish fog. And it stank. Each day we blew and cleaned the toxic dark gunk out of our sore nostrils as often as possible.

Later, in the 1950s, we lived about 15 miles southeast of Savannah, Georgia. We always knew when humid, heavy air was blowing from the northwest, just outside Savannah. It didn’t matter that we’d shut all windows. Putrid, rotten-egg air from the Union Bag Company found every crack and invaded our lungs. Along with chemical fumes that were then considered ‘harmless.’

The other image comes from a documentary I watched several years ago when I was learning about human trafficking. The film shows ways women are trapped and then lured into ‘starring’ in porn films. This will make you famous, and you’ll earn a lot of money!

The documentary included outtakes from an actual porn filming. During a break in the porn filming, one of the women (‘stars’) walks to the edge of the set, leans through the curtains, and vomits violently. She’s promptly ordered to return, put a smile on her face, and get on with the show. No matter what is done to her in the name of ‘entertainment.’

Sometimes I read the news and feel like gagging. How did we get to this point? What is all this toxicity costing us? We have midterm elections coming up. I want politicians who get it and are committed to supporting US (the US in USA), not Themselves, Inc., or some other Big Boss.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 September 2018
Photo of Union Bag Company in Savannah, GA, found at georgiaencyclopedia.org

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