Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Self-reflection

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

Wayward sheep and frolicking lambs

Equanimity —
They say it’s
Calm composure
Regardless

Drowning in pain
Ecstatic with joy
Beginning a journey
Relaxing into dusk
Fighting for my life
Bearing life in me

I want to stand
before You
With calm composure
Because You alone
Are my advocate
The gracious Shepherd
Of wayward sheep
And frolicking lambs

Dear Shepherd of sheep and lambs,

Is it well with You today?

It’s easy for me to experience equanimity when the sun is shining. Right now it’s gorgeous. Bright, warm and inviting.

Yesterday was a drippy mess of clouds and chilly air. Music helped. So did writing. And making a big pot of soup. Yet in the end, even this can’t last forever.

I wonder what You did when things didn’t seem to go as planned? I already know You prayed a lot. What else did You do as You approached death?

You see, I don’t want to die. I don’t think You did, either. Even before the birth of COVID-19 (such a cold name for this vicious virus), I didn’t want to die.

Before You were so rudely arrested, were Your tears a sign of calm composure? I wonder if equanimity in the face of death is overrated. Not necessarily bad, but overrated. So many people are dying ‘early’ these days.

Please advise.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 April 2020
Photo found at edgarsmission.org.au

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

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

dispensable

stripped bare
windblown leaves
fall where they will
cascading quickly
descending
into darkness

let them rest
in peace
unidentified remnants
of another age
when we were
very young

my eyes blur over
stung by truth
too bitter to ignore
despite the cost
to our humanity
some are dispensable

Recent discussions about triaging elderly coronavirus patients are on my mind. Given my admirable age, it seems I’m in the endangered species category.

I don’t know what to make of this. I just reviewed my Living Will. No help there. It never heard of a pandemic like this.

Nor do I relish the idea of being involuntarily hooked to life support at the expense of someone who hasn’t lived as long as I.

Regardless of what I decide for myself, I’m troubled by the stark naked truth these conversations make painfully visible. Old age isn’t necessarily honored in this country, except in ethnic groups or tribes that actively honor their seniors. Not once a year, but daily. Whether they’re ill or not.

That’s what’s on my mind today. Meanwhile, identified coronavirus patient numbers skyrocket, and limited medical resources diminish daily.

Have you thought about your own wishes? What would you do/not do?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 March 2020
Photo found at pinterest.com

another free concert

Feeling my way
down unexplored paths
nature surprises me
with unexpected glory

Songbirds clear their throats
early in the morning
tuning up for a day-long
cacophony of competing trills

Trees once bare lift up
spring’s new growth
reaching for the sun
to warm chilled bones

Here and there
early-bird trees burst
into bloom eager to be
the first with the most

Unorchestrated beauty
combines its collective throat
to offer another free concert
no tickets required

There’s much to be said for living in the moment. There’s also much to be said for the orderly parade of seasons. Not because they’ll always be with us, but because they remind us we’re in the hands of a Power greater than ourselves. A Power already present whether we see or feel it right now.

Nature’s annual spring gala invites me to take deep breaths and exhale. I’m not responsible for holding everything together, or changing the course of world history, or what other people do or don’t do, no matter how distressed I feel about it.

Praying each of you has a day filled with unexpected beauty.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 March 2020
Photo of Spring in Bucks County, Pennsylvania found at wallcoo.net.

without a flight plan

Disoriented
Suspended in space and time
Where are we going?

Calm and mindful
In a holding pattern
Waiting to land

Circling landmarks
Every twenty-four hours
Drones in the sky

Specks of dust
In an ocean of dismay
Looking for home

I woke up to the sun shining brightly, and these words from one of my daily meditation resources.

Psalm 21:8-9 and 12, rewritten by the author as a prayer for today

….You root out my fears; standing
firm beside me as I face
the shadows within.

Like a blazing sun your light shines.
My fears flee from your sight;
your fire consumes them.

….For You put fears to flight, that
love and justice might reign….

1996 by Nan C. Merrill
Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness
Published in 2003 by Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc. (New York)

So here I am, “sheltering in place” in Pennsylvania. Alone with D, Smudge and myself. Taking walks outside as the weather permits. Doing what we can to be ready for anything.

Even though we don’t live on the edge, fear weighs on me. This isn’t the way I want to die. Followed, of course, by a thousand unanswerable questions.

But the prayer above isn’t about answering my questions. It’s about our Creator putting my fears to flight, making room for love and justice. Especially now, when the mandate to shelter in place already isolates us, and leaves many more vulnerable than I am.

Praying my fears will be sent packing, clearing the air bit by bit for something new to happen.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2020
Photo of Snow Geese flying near Mount Baker in Washington State found at correre.org

uncertainty

silence tiptoes
through the valley
searches for truth
hidden beneath
veiled madness
reverberating
through airwaves
relentless and
undisciplined
first one thing
and then another
without rhyme
or reason
torn into pieces
lives and hearts
skip beats waiting
for the next
moment to fall
redefining
everything

That’s how I’m feeling today. Listening to POTUS talk about the corona virus, it seems he’s making it up as he goes along from one day to the next. Picking and choosing what he thinks someone out there wants to hear? Wanting to show he’s in charge?

I’m reminded again that my life isn’t defined by POTUS. Yes, his behavior and undisciplined mind and feelings matter. Yes, he makes what’s already difficult even more difficult.

Still, he doesn’t have the power to define who I am. Today is Sunday. A day to be wise, truthful and happy as I learn to enter the fray one fiery sunrise after another.

Parts of Psalm 23 come to mind, reworded a bit.

Because You alone are leading me,
I have more than enough
to walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
especially when I fear I don’t have
what I need to get from here
to the end of my earthly journey.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 March 2020
Photo found at churchofthemessiah.com

Unwelcome truth

Sometimes truth
drops bursting
through dark layers
deep beneath
my sea of normal

What is this and
why now and am I
all washed up
flailing uselessly
in this murky sludge?

Tentacles reach out
pulling in strained
nets of strangers and
enemies I’ve never
Seen or met before

Looking around
I take stock of
unwelcome truth
long gone underground
waiting to be acknowledged

I want to rant and rave about something. Or swim in an ocean of poetic images. But the ‘something’ that keeps haunting me is Trance.

Why? Because it’s complex at every level. A reality that both attracts and puts me off.

But Trance won’t be kept waiting. What self-evident truths already swim beneath the surface of my everyday life, unacknowledged?

This might be a slow process. Nonetheless, I’d rather be a turtle making it across the road than a squirrel, possum, or crow caught in the headlights. Though there is something to be said for flaming out.

Thanks for visiting and reading!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 March 2020
Photo found at shutterstock.com

A note to Mary Oliver

This morning
I woke with a start
Already caught up in
The impossible tug between
Daily upkeep and writing
Now in danger of starvation
Thanks to inedible pieces
Unredeemed if not forgotten
Standing at my heart’s door
Begging for a breath of air

Yes, Mary, you found a way to live with disciplined abandon. Doing what you loved most. Though it wasn’t easy, you found a way.

I want to believe there’s a way for me. Not to be you, but to be the writer I am, the woman I am, the mother, sister, and grandmother I am.

I was happy to retire from my professional life. It wasn’t all bad. I can’t imagine myself today without it. It was, however, punishingly difficult work, sometimes even outrageous.

So here I am, wondering how I might relate to you except in some far-off never never land.

It pains me to admit this: In spite of the inspiration and insights I gain from your writing, I might be happier if I’d never discovered you. Then again, this is probably the highest compliment I could give you.

I don’t hate my life, and I have no plans to give up. It’s just that every time I read Upstream, I realize how much of life I’ve missed, and how little time is left for me.

Gratefully,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2020
Photo found at labmonline.co.uk

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