Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Relationships

Empty words

How quickly things fall apart
Cloaked in bravado and mis-speak –
Brash promises shatter beneath the weight
Of human ineptitude and fierce
Reality on the ground

And yet

Each day the drone goes on
For hours weighty with words
Full of fury plus silence about
What really matters most in this
Nation dying for straight answers

Yet again

Another wandering bombardment
Of jumbled prevarications interrupts
Painting the most upbeat scenarios
We can’t possibly believe —
Empty words drunk on themselves

No, I don’t listen to or watch the “daily briefings” from the White House anymore. They sound more like run-on election-rally speeches (without the hoopla of the crowds), than steady, well-informed updates on COVID-19 and what we can or must do to protect ourselves and others.

The poem is an effort to capture what I’ve seen and heard for myself. Living 76 years has its rewards. One is a long memory of times when our Presidents (of both parties) stepped up to the microphone and helped us join hands as a nation during times of disaster.

No, none of our Presidents has been perfect. Some have been corrupt. Yet on the whole, none in my memory has been as egregiously uncaring about the majority population of this nation as Mr. Trump. His behavior right now is not helpful, not healing, and not encouraging for the short or long-term future.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 April 2020
Photo of White House Press Briefing Podium found at politico.com

Are you willing to be condemned? | Lent, Holy Week and Life

I learned condemnation from my father. When I was very young I heard and felt it in his voice and punishments. Or was it the day I was born female? I wasn’t the son my father hoped for.

If only you would keep your mouth shut and play the piano more often! I really like it when you play the piano. It makes everybody happy and proud. And don’t forget to listen to the men. I like that, too!

No, sweetheart, you don’t need to read all those books. Though we’re proud when you make the honor roll. Still, I don’t think you’ll find what you’re looking for at a big university.

You want to be what???? A theologian? A professor? But you’re married aren’t you? Well….if your husband approves of it, who am I to stand in your way?

How dare you cut your parents off until you’re willing to talk with us again? You need to wake up and remember who you are! You were always rebellious and angry. Too bad you couldn’t be more like your sisters.

Am I willing to be condemned? It’s the question I’ve lived with for years. Not because I live in the past, but because I’m always in the present.

Condemnation can arrive cloaked as something else: being overlooked, underestimated, disbelieved, targeted for harassment.

So…For what am I willing to be condemned? For being the woman I am, fully accepted and loved by our Creator. Not always right; not always wrong. Always one of our Creator’s beloved daughters.

In the meantime, my goal is to keep True North in view, and put one foot, one word, one poem, one truth in front of another.

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2020
Image found at kissclipart.com

Being Great Again

Quietly
The world intrudes
With vain ideas
Of grace if not glory
Old paths and old ways
Seemingly gone forever
In the blink of an eye
Some say Allelulia

Being Great Again
Takes its toll on
Good will toward all
And hopes for
Better than this
Pomposity about
Our glorious deeds
Especially those
Perpetrated behind
Closed doors and
Without our consent

Standing before
The camera
Yet again
Clothes arranged
Just so
Each re-dyed
Hair touched up
And weary face
Held together –
We look into
The mirror
Of our sure demise
Without a thousand
Interventions and
Hail Mary’s

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 April 2020
Photo of Lynching Memorial in Alabama found at al.com

Wandering thoughts on 31 March 2020

heaviness hangs in the air
relieved by brief moments
of sunshine or the smile
of a neighbor

relief and angst meet
on the corner of
truth-telling and fear
that it would be like this

now we know what
we don’t know
a step more than we knew
yesterday

solace comes slowly
if at all to people
used to being used
forgotten or despised

unthinkable thoughts
emerge such as
is this a plot to
reshape our country

I wait
For the shoe to drop
In our vast midlands
And wonder

what will the election
look like if we survive
to participate much less
hear about it

Most of the time my mind is focused on everyday realities, and staying in touch with myself and people I love. Still, every now and then the big picture presents itself. Not the big health picture, but the Big Government picture. The drama we never wanted to see or hear.

Praying for internal peace today for you and for me.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 31 March 2020
Image found at mydayswelllived.com

Beneath trees of my childhood | Photos

Beneath trees
of my childhood
memories flood
my eyes with
dreams and sorrows
packed within
the space of one life
gazing at tamed
and untamed beauty
underestimated
until this moment
of imminent loss

Below are photos of old trees, including palmettos and water oaks, plus the river in front of the house my family lived in during the 1950s. Even though years have passed, and the old house has been turned into an elegant piece of real estate, the trees we played under are still standing. The final photo is an unexpected gift from one of our visits—a mama carrying her two opossum babies.

I grew up under these trees every day from age 7 l/2 to 13. The Spanish moss is probably the same moss, or at least its prolific offspring.

I’ve included one photo from 1996, the year Sister #3, Diane, came to Savannah for a last visit. She had learned weeks earlier that she had ALS. At her request, we drove out to the old Montgomery house for her last visit, this time in mid-winter, at low tide.

Nature and old photos have a way of cleansing us. Cherish your old photos if you still have them. And remember that someday you, too will be cherished in old photos.

Happy Monday, and thanks for visiting.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2020
Photos taken near Savannah, Georgia, by DAFraser in 1996 (Diane), and 2010, following my father’s memorial service

dispensable? | today’s thoughts

Yesterday I wrote about the dilemma of being a senior citizen during this pandemic. The issue is about ending lives in order to focus more care on younger people. As much as I despise pitting older people against younger people, the dilemma is real. A reader left a comment based on her own experience. Here’s a slightly revised version of my response.

Thanks for this comment. I hear your dilemmas, some of which are my own as well. I’m fairly clear about end of life decisions when we’re in our ‘normal’ mode (whatever that is!). If the issue is about doing “everything we can to extend life,” without meaningful markers to let us know what we’re after, or when we’ve arrived, I have no desire to extend my life.

I watched one of my sisters die of ALS — according to her own clear markers. They had nothing to do with the ventilator that helped keep her alive for ten years. They had to do with a simple question only she could answer. Am I still able to communicate (by any means possible) with my family and friends? If not, give me comfort care and fluids, but no meds or liquid food through my feeding tube.

Nonetheless, this coronavirus pandemic has shaken my confidence in nearly all my carefully worded directives. Right now I’m thinking that, with regard to the current pandemic, the marker might be the need for a ventilator. Then again, I haven’t put this in writing, or communicated it to those who will need to speak with and for me. I don’t believe that fighting death at all costs is helpful or fair to others. As a Christian, I believe Jesus died ‘voluntarily.’ I do not, however, believe that his decision was without angst or fear.

Your last line is so important: “However, we need to keep asking the questions to stay in the moment and on the right path with our faith in our Creator.” To that I can only say Amen! Not an easy path. I pray you’ll find some clarity for the present moment in history.

Please feel free to add your voice to this conversation.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 March 2020
Image of social distancing found at nytimes.com

We don’t marry disaster | Happy Monday!

I wrote this poem in September 2017, nearly one year after our 2016 Presidential Election. The situation today is no better than it was then. Even so, there’s reason to hope on this Monday Morning, March 2020.

We don’t marry disaster
It marries us
Unrelenting drought
Genocidal ethnic cleansing
Polio and opioid epidemics
Avalanches of pain and anguish
Wild fires breathing fury
Hurricanes and floods of destruction
Nature’s fury turned inward
Human fury turned outward
Multiplied exponentially

See the pictures in my scrapbook?
Like pages of a newspaper
Good news one day
Disaster the next
See that man who’s smiling?
That beautiful woman over there?
Those precious children looking your way?
The young people who think no one is looking?
There they were just yesterday
And now…..

What’s to become of us?
The ‘us’ that doesn’t exist anymore
Families torn apart
Friends for life now foes forever
Enemies within and without
In whom do we trust?
In whom do we place our hope?
False saviors arise from glowing ashes
Snake oil dealers hawk their sleazy wares

I get up in the morning
And look outside, up toward the heavens
Where the bright face of a newly waning moon
Reflects the light of a new day just dawning.
Two birds swoop silently together into an oak tree
High overhead a silver airplane leaves a misty trail
Fluffy clouds drift beneath a deep blue sky
Signs of hope and reason enough to get up
And live yet another day in my small corner
Of this world filled with small people,
Large hearts and infectious smiles.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 September 2017, reposted 23 September, 2020
Waning Moon image found at moodymoons.com

Sunday morning silence

Small floor heater hums
Smudge rearranges himself
Next to radiator pipes
Refrigerator labors to maintain chill
Table clock whispers each tiny tick
Silence seeps through my bones

Outside my kitchen window
Neighborly trees stand at attention
Calm surveyors from above
Testing winds of change
And chance encounters
A dog barks in the near distance

All things considered, I stayed home this Sunday. What will happen next? The question is on my mind in more ways than one.

As for today, I’m grateful to be alive, awake and able to write.

As a writer, I’m turning a corner. Though I’m not sure what to call it, I know what it isn’t about.

It isn’t about feeling good. Nor is it about highlighting lovely side roads without acknowledging exactly where we find ourselves today.

It isn’t about making myself or you happy, or trying to keep myself out of trouble when trouble is spelled t-r-u-t-h.

Not just truth about what’s on the surface, but truth hidden at the heart of what feels normal but is not.

Easier said than done, I know. Yet that’s part of the tug. Trance is a tricky subject, with tentacles that reach everywhere.

The future of our neighbors, our country and this globe is worth our best efforts. Beginning with Sunday morning silence.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2020
Photo taken by me this morning, 8 March 2020

That time of year again

I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that paid much attention to Lent. A few childhood friends, usually Roman Catholic, talked about giving up things like cake, ice cream or cookies. They almost always fell off the wagon within a week or so. So why bother in the first place?

Nearly three years ago I revisited Lent. The short litany below challenged me to give up several things I greatly desire.

I let go my desire for security and survival.
I let go my desire for esteem and affection.
I let go my desire for power and control.
I let go my desire to change the situation.

Quoted by Cynthia Bourgeault in Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, p. 147 (Cowley Publications 2004)

Several weeks ago I attended a Sunday morning worship service at a nearby African American church. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I was warmly welcomed, and also felt somewhat lost. The pastor had invited me to hear a guest speaker/preacher.

I was happy to be there. Most attendees were African Americans. They didn’t worship according to spoken or unspoken rules and traditions of churches I’ve been in most of my life. I was out of my comfort zone, not always sure what to do next.

I’d like to believe I’m not part of racial tension in the USA today. Yet I know this isn’t true. In some ways, it chose me; I didn’t choose it. Still, I’m aware of my resistance to changing the comfortable routine I enjoy, especially on Sundays.

So I’ve been asking what I can do to get out of one of my favorite comfort zones, churches that worship the way I worship. It matters where and with whom I worship, and according to whose traditions. It also has the potential to change me yet again, from the inside out.

I don’t know how this will play out. Nonetheless, I’m beginning again with the prayer above, and another visit to this church.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 February 2020
Image found at bonhoefferblog.wordpress.com

Thank you, Anita Hill

I’m reposting this in honor of women who stand up to power today,
and in light of news about the Harvey Weinstein case.
 

In October 1991 I listened to your courageous testimony about Clarence Thomas. Your words took me back to my first boss. It was 1960. I’d just graduated from high school and was now a clerk in a bankruptcy court. We called the boss ‘Judge,’ though he was actually a referee in bankruptcy. He’d held this governmental appointment for years. He was about 60 years old; I was 16.

By 1991 I’d told only my husband the truth about my first boss. From the beginning, the Judge was on a mission to take me down a notch or two by way of sexual innuendo and outright inappropriate behavior toward me. He knew I was under-age, that my father was an ordained minister, and that I was a Christian. He said he was a Christian, too, and reminded me from time to time of his church membership.

I didn’t know what hit me. I got through three summers plus one full year, thanks to the friendship of other women working in the office, and the kindness of a few male attorneys who knew the Judge and witnessed some of his behavior toward me.

Back then the term ‘sexual harassment’ hadn’t been invented, or connected to Abuse of Power as an issue in the workplace. In addition, my childhood home where I still lived didn’t offer a safe place to talk about anything related to sex.

Flash forward to October 1991, and your testimony before the Senate Committee. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for at least two things.

  • First, your personal account was the first I’d ever heard from a professional woman talking about repeated sexual innuendo and inappropriate behavior in the work place.
  • Second, your courage gave me courage to begin talking about this without fear or shame.

I’m sad this happened to you. I’m sad things happened to me. I’m sad things like this still happen every day to others.

Am I angry? Yes, I am. Angry that even in today’s reports from powerful women about powerful men, we’re still using the language of “if this is true.” Which conveniently overlooks the power imbalance that was in place when the alleged behavior happened. To say nothing of optics and the appearance of evil that seems now to be embraced, not avoided. Embraced, and laughed at in a zillion cartoonish ways.

We are not the world’s latest sleazy entertainment opportunity. We are women with every right to stand up and tell the truth about what happened and didn’t happen to us. And why it must stop now if we’re ever to be Great. Not again, but for the first time ever.

May God grant us serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Thank you for showing me how this is done. Not just then, but throughout your professional career.

Respectfully,
Elouise Renich Fraser

For a 2016 PBS News Hour video discussion between Gwen Ifill and Anita Hill, click here. It’s outstanding.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 November 2017, reposted 25 February 2020
Photo found at gq.com

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