Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Relationships

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

This deadly pretense

Can’t we all kiss and make up?

Or how about just getting along
I’ll let you be you and
You’ll let me be me

Is there really no hate spoken here?

If not how then will we learn
To hate what must be hated?
Or love what must be loved?

I used to think some glad day
We would all grow up
And leave our troubles behind

You know – letting bygones
Be bygones even though
They still hide in closets, or don’t

My world of yesterday was
Ordered and predictable
Until I grew up and knew better

Some say no news is good news
I say we could all do with bad news
Rather than this deadly pretense

It’s difficult to find my way in our increasingly fractured world. Sometimes I feel weighed down beneath layers of deceit, corruption and pretense. I want to play the blame game, making this mess into someone else’s responsibility.

Now we’re beginning yet another election cycle with slogans and promises aplenty. Vision is important. Still, I’m not impressed by versions of progress or greatness that ignore bad news. Not ‘their’ bad news, but our bad news.

The next national election is about more than political parties or who will be the next POTUS. It’s about our hearts, and whether we’re willing to take on harsh realities that won’t disappear on their own. We don’t need a huge army. We need one person, one attitude, one act, one crazy prayer or dream piled up one after another.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2019
Photo of book cover found at amazon.com

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

How loud the storm sounds | Emily Brontë

For weeks, this short poem by Emily Brontë has haunted me. With a small handful of simple words Emily evokes feelings of grief and shock that come from unexpected death. My comments follow.

How loud the storm sounds round the Hall!
From arch to arch from door to door
Pillar and roof and granite wall
Rock like a cradle in its roar

That Elm tree by the haunted well
Greets no returning summer skies
Down with a rush the giant fell
And stretched athwart the path it lies

Hardly had passed the funeral train
So long delayed by wind and snow
And how they’ll reach the house again
Tomorrow’s dawn perhaps will show

From selected poems of Emily Brontë
Published in Everyman’s Library by Alfred A. Knopf, 1996

Perhaps it seems strange to talk about unexpected death, especially during a powerful storm that shakes foundations and roars as it gathers speed.

Yet of all the things that might have fallen, it was “That Elm tree by the haunted well.” A giant. A fixture in the landscape.

In addition, it fell across not just any path, but the path between house and Hall. That would be the Brontë house (church parsonage), and the church Hall where father Brontë served as a parson.

The house stands at the opposite end of a path leading to the church Hall. Besides getting to the church for services, it was also the pathway down which deceased members of the Brontë family were carried to be laid to rest in the family vault.

Emily refers to a funeral, already delayed by wind and snow. It’s finally taking place in the church Hall. Whose funeral? Emily doesn’t say.

Suddenly a furious storm erupts, and “That Elm tree by the haunted well” comes crashing down across the path. It seems the only solution is to stay in the church Hall until tomorrow. Perhaps by then we’ll be able to find a way back to the house.

So what does this poem suggest? Perhaps the giant Elm’s sudden death refers to a person whose life touches everyone. This could be a family member, such as Emily’s mother, or one of Emily’s siblings. We might also ask whether it’s possible to return the house as it was.

The poem describes the way we often experience death. It leaves us feeling lost and uncertain. Without a compass, or a clear map for how we’ll proceed from here.

The poem also invites us to consider each day precious. The end often comes without warning. Especially to those we most love and depend upon. Or to ourselves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 March 2019
Photo found at pinterest.com 

heaviness of years past

It’s Monday morning
I’m still trying to
Find myself

Not lost
Perhaps misplaced
Somewhere back there?

Yesterday in church
I wept for the heaviness
Of years past

Wounds and scars
From a thousand misfired
Bullets

Invisible reminders
Deep within of tales not told
Or understood

The most difficult thing I’ve done as a follower of Jesus is to step out of my hiding places. Not primarily to face my friends or foes, but to face myself. In my family of origin, hiding was the best way I could cope and survive as a child and teenager.

As a young adult and later as a professional, I carried a weight of fear in my guts. Fear that some grand tribunal would subpoena me to testify against myself.

Sadly, I thought this process would be about my small and large transgressions, as determined by their eyes. In my worst fears, I would be shamed and punished before an audience of my peers plus strangers. They would make an example of me, much as my father tried to make an example of me as the eldest of four daughters.

Instead, as a 40-something, I found myself in Al-Anon groups of women and men struggling as I was. Listening to them helped me listen to my story. Maybe I didn’t need to fear some unknown grand tribunal.

These new friends didn’t absolve me, and they didn’t try to fix me. Instead, they listened, and showed me how they worked on their own wounds and scars. By honoring themselves, they honored me.

So there I was in church yesterday, weeping. Realizing that no matter what I do, I will be welcomed with open arms when I die.

Where will I go? I don’t know. Nonetheless, I believe I will be in the presence of The Only One who understands me fully and loves me from the inside out. I’ll also be free of wounds and scars. Free to be the beautiful woman I am.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 March 2019
Photo found at fromthegrapevine.com, Flowers on a tombstone, Czech Republic

Looking for friends

During the last several weeks I’ve been restless and lonely. I’m sleeping better and feeling more energetic than I have in the last four years. The weather, on the other hand, has been wildly unpredictable, requiring more in-house activity than usual. Still….

Retirement is heaven on earth. Right? Wrong.

My body has changed and my age keeps creeping ever higher. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t return to academic life with its regular access to interesting students and colleagues. My retirement playground sometimes feels like punishing confinement.

As a child and teenager, I felt left out and lonely most of the time. Not invited to parties, not allowed to go to movies, and not allowed many close friends. Not that there was a long line knocking on my door.

I thought I was over those childhood feelings. Yet they came crashing in on me this past week. Triggered by more than one conversation about a wonderful dinner party or get-together I knew I couldn’t attend even if I wanted to.

The truth is, I don’t want and can’t survive a busy social life. Neither do I want to become someone’s project. I want women friends. A few interesting, trustworthy women. Not for a fabulous dinner out, a trip to the latest show, or even to reminisce about old times.

I’m past the years of being a hostess. I’m beyond cleaning up for company, or trying to transform myself into the social butterfly I’ve never been. I’m also beyond being part of a church visitation team.

This is about connecting in person over a cup of tea or glass of water, going for a walk or not. It’s about regular face to face time with women who might also feel left out, forgotten, or simply in need of female company.

And no, I don’t expect you, my readers, to solve this for me. Though perhaps some of you have felt this way from time to time?

Thanks for taking time to listen.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2019
Photo found at nationalpost.com

Yesterday and today

The beginning and the end
One day follows another

A hand reaches out
Eyes meet yet again

One true note after another
moves through time after time

A small bud bursts open
on trees swaying in the wind

The sun set in the west
and rose in the east
yesterday and today

Yesterday I accompanied D to a doctor’s appointment, and watched a procedure on his back. It wasn’t pretty or pain-free. It was, however, successful. We came home relieved and weary.

It got me thinking about times D has accompanied me in the last four years to appointments with a variety of doctors, including emergency room and surgical procedures. Some planned, some not planned.

I’ve always prided myself on being healthy. Looking back, however, I’d say I was fighting to hold it together as best I could, given the circumstances of my childhood, and my workplace. I didn’t expect retirement would surface so many health challenges.

Nonetheless, D was there for me. It felt wonderful to be there for him yesterday. A small way I could do for him what he has willingly and mostly gladly done for me, especially in the last several years.

This little poem came to mind while I was sitting at my kitchen window this morning. The minute it was on paper I knew it was for D. And for you, my friends and visitors who have your own lives, dreams, sorrows and joys.

Take care of someone you love today–or your pet. And don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 February 2019
Photo found at clicknmoms.com

Off-balance

Turned tables
Throw me off-balance
Disrupt my rhythm

Stumbling along
Through gray haze
The sun strains to shine

Overcast Winter
Sifts through misty air
Chilled to the bone
Searching for rhyme
If not reason

What would we do
Without daily routines
Holding us together
Like friendly glue
Warm to the touch
Made sweet with
Familiar music
And the sound of our cat
Purring across our laps

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 February 2019
“Foggy Mood” oil on canvas painted by Bekir Smolski, found at art.mine.com

On listening to my father

My father’s shame, like mine, went back to his childhood. He endured family hardships as one child of many. These included things like carrying lard sandwiches to school and being ashamed to let classmates see him eating them; wearing winter ‘shoes’ made from pieces of old rubber and ropes; and living in fear of being shamed and beaten by his father.

Childhood shame became envy. One opportunity after another slipped through his fingers. He was a proud man, filled with deep-seated resentments. Then there were dreams he couldn’t give up even though they weren’t going to happen. On top of this, the older I became, the more difficult it was for him to celebrate my accomplishments.

In this slightly revised poem I’m inviting him to join me. I first wrote it about a poor woman in a portrait. I recognized myself in her. I know what it’s like to live with shame that feeds envy. I can’t change what happened between my father and me; I can, however, change the way my heart sees him today. I can also listen to him now in ways he couldn’t listen to me. Perhaps I might even weep with him.

Suffering from Obsessive Envy

I know this proud man
The look in his eyes
The slightly raised brow
The unsmiling mouth.

Heavy with envy,
His eyes keep sharp watch
Marking my own good fortune
As were it his loss.

Am I not entitled?
Do I not slave harder?
How dare she be happy
At my poor expense.

Dear father, I know you.
You cower in my heart;
Your anger, your silence,
Your pride, your fierce want.

Look at me if you dare
Look me straight in the eye
Describe your resentments,
The dreams you saw die.

Weep long if you must
For the life you have led;
Sit here on this bench
Let me wipe your tears dry.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 February 2019

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