Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Self-reflection

Loneliness | Mary Oliver

I still tear up when I read this lovely, perceptive poem from Mary Oliver. My comments follow.

Loneliness

I too have known loneliness.
I too have known what it is to feel
misunderstood,
rejected, and suddenly
not at all beautiful.
Oh, mother earth,
your comfort is great, your arms never withhold.
It has saved my life to know this.
Your rivers flowing, your roses opening in the morning.
Oh, motions of tenderness!

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Blue Horses (2014)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 23

When we’re born we have one chance. One chance to hit the jackpot of perfect parents, perfect siblings, perfect grandparents and all the other stuff that comes with perfection.

Yes, it includes gender, color of skin, color of hair, cuteness or ugliness, fat or skinny. You name it, and someone somewhere has known loneliness over these or other unchosen marks of our supposed superiority or lack thereof.

I grew up feeling like a fat girl with three younger sisters who were invariably cuter and more exciting than I was. To be fair, the preferred family term that stuck with me wasn’t ‘fat.’ It was ‘pleasantly plump.’

Every dress my mother made for me was ‘adjusted’ to mask my pleasant plumpness. My thin, straight hair was subjected to permanents every three months, even though the perms disappeared down the bathroom sink within two or three weeks. I never seemed to smile enough, laugh enough, or have enough girlfriends or boyfriends.

Yet thanks to our living arrangements, mother earth was always right there waiting for me. Unlike my father, she never told me to suck in my stomach, stand up straight, or wipe that frown off my face. Never.

Nor did she say “I told you so” when I was one of the last girls chosen for athletic teams. She just kept showing up, giving me time and space to turn my loneliness into freedom and a life of my own.

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for this heartwarming poem. I cried the first time I read it, and the second, and the third…. What a gift we have in rivers and roses. The handiwork of a Creator who understands us better than we understand ourselves.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 May 2021
Photo by Phil Banks, pixels.com

Breakfast with the Birds

brazen bold bluejay
hogs large birdfeeder
grabs one seed and bolts

small chipping sparrow
flees to small feeding window
to make a withdrawal or two

quick brown chipmunk
vacuums between green grass blades
packing cheek pouches with loot

one male blackbird
flashes bright red wing bars
coming in for fast food takeout

I sit behind my kitchen window
grateful to be alive
and eating indoors

Most days I’m mesmerized by the way birds cooperate in order to get a bite to eat. Actually, I’m not sure they’re cooperating. They seem to love or at least tolerate their unspoken pecking order, which lies at the bottom of most of their unruly behavior.

Almost every day I wonder what it would take to live in a different human pecking order. One based on need and the desire to survive together. Not on our current order driven by size, brilliant feathers, or loud, rude voices.

Last night I was feeling down. Having my computer keyboard die on me yesterday was more than I’d planned on. Most evenings, I write in my journal. Last night I decided to read from Without a Flight Plan. It was just what the doctor ordered. A bit of birdseed to get me through the night.

This post was created with thanks to D for loaning me his ThinkPad.
Thanks to you for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 April 2021
Photo found at ebay.com

The Gift | Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s poem is for anyone who is, as she was then, aware of the clock ticking down. My comments follow.

The Gift

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Felicity (2015)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 14

When I read this poem, I tear up. Of all the things on my daily to-do lists, not once have I included “Love…as once you loved, deeply and without patience.”

From my perspective, slowing down means giving up some of my most loved habits and wants. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The puzzle of my life shrinks with each passing day. If I can’t do this, can I do that? If not, what other options do I have?

Mary’s poem jolts me out of resignation mode. Yes, my walk, “that was confident and quick, has become slow.” Just ask D when we go out for a walk in the neighborhood. Or observe me agonizing between doing this or that. It isn’t because I don’t want to do this or that. It’s because I still want it all (or most of it!), yet don’t have the energy I had just yesterday.

I imagine Mary looking at me and saying,

So what?! Even if you slow down, that doesn’t mean your heart’s ability to love “deeply and without patience” has slowed down. If anything, it’s stronger now than ever!

And yes, time is running out. Today, in my imagination, I’m a tiny wren. The kind that can’t stop letting everyone know what a beautiful life this is, and how grateful I am for our Creator, and for you. Especially in the midst of pandemic tragedy, uncertainty, and diminishing energy.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 April 2021
Photo of House Wren found at welcomewildlife.com

Just as I am

My unquiet mind
Spins out of control
Restless and uneasy

Unvoiced conversations
Saturate space yearning
For calm silence

When did it begin?
When will it end?

An old habit from childhood,
I explain myself to myself
As though minus these many words
I would not exist or be believed
Or convince myself or others
Of my worthiness

Like comfortable old clothes
I pull them close
Trying to assure myself
That I am worthy
Just as I am

The older I get, the more likely it is that ‘just as I am’ can’t possibly be good enough. Too much water down the river and over the dam. Too many roads not taken. Too many opportunities turned down because I was too busy, or afraid. And too many mistakes and unhappy chapters already written into my life.

I want to believe that the older I become, the less I need to prove my worth as a human being. I want to say without hesitation, “It doesn’t matter what you (or I) think about my life.”

I also want to accept the daily invitation to be who I am today in the eyes of my Creator. Not who I wish I were. And not who I might have been in the eyes of my father, my worst boss, or any other human being who has tried to make me into their image of me.

Surely the Judge of all the earth will do right. Not just by me, but by each of us.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 April 2021
Photo found at medium.com

For the Women and Girls

No matter who you are,
No matter how you came to be
where you are,
No matter what you look like
or how many times you’ve said
‘I am a Full Human Being’,
I have old news, though not of great joy.

The fight makes us who we are,
Punches land on our guts,
Especially when we think we’ve
finally arrived in Paradise
rather than make-believe
pie in the sky, someday-soon status
that never arrives on time.

I’m disheartened though not surprised by our lack-luster pursuit of women’s equality in these so-called United States. We’re addicted to finding ways of turning back the tide of women’s rights. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about abortion, equal pay, or who will be the church pastor.

Too many people of ‘good will’ are unwilling to admit girls and women into the ranks of full human beings. Or they don’t know how to do it so everyone has equal rights in the workplace. It’s easier to hire tokens here and there, than to do the right thing for everyone.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, I thought we would get there in my lifetime. Today I’m not so hopeful. At the same time, if you’re a younger woman, and you’re looking for something worth fighting about, join up! It can make you a better, stronger woman, no matter what happens in the unknown future.

Why this post? D and I have been looking through old files from the 1970s. They were related to D’s first teaching job at a Christian college in the South. While he taught and attended endless faculty meeting, I was finding out what it means to be a stay-at-home mom (and so-called “faculty wife”) changing diapers and trying to maintain a semblance of normality.

You can read about my last straw breaking point in Faculty Wife: Part 17.

Despite everything, I’m grateful that those four years shaped me into one of those beautifully irritating women who can’t stop promoting full rights for all human beings.

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 April 2012
Photo found at theeverygirl.com

Weariness

Cape May Warbler

Weariness
Floods my body

Lethargy tells
Me to stop now
Before I collapse
Without anything
Coherent on this
Page of my life
Waiting to be
Lived

I hear birds
Outside the window
Their insistent beautiful
Songs float through
Early morning air
Searching for a
Place to land

Half asleep
My mind floats at will
Reassuring me
That all will be well
That is well

I want to believe
Yet cannot stop pondering
The fate of all that
Is not well now
And forever

I don’t think I’m hitting rock bottom. I am, however, weary in body and spirit. Sometimes I’m standing still. Going nowhere. Other times I’m on a roller coaster swinging wildly between slow, difficult climbs uphill, and furious descents to whatever awaits me.

My mind tries naming things I’ve accomplished this day, this week, this month, this year. Yet the litany of things done doesn’t relieve the anguish of this heavy, relentless tug at my body and spirit.

We here in the USA are in a mess. We don’t know how to get out of it. Whether we like it or not, it colors every day of our lives.

Nonetheless, I believe our Creator and Redeemer understands the big picture, and invites me to trust that all will be well. One day, one breath, one weariness and one joy at a time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 April 2021
Photo found at birdsandblooms.com

Life on whose terms?

Falling asleep,
my body cries
for attention
and the comfort
of doing nothing
while awaiting new life
and energy that endures
forever and ever

Listening to the news,
I hear the beginning
of the end in post-Easter air—
especially if Jesus of Nazareth
isn’t allowed to rise from his
unseemly death and confront
our lackluster attempts
to live life on our own terms

I’m struck by how busy things become each year as Easter Sunday approaches. Part of the busyness is about special church services for those able and willing to attend.

But that isn’t what catches my eye. Instead, we have the tug of Easter egg hunts, Easter dinner arrangements, fancy Easter clothes or even mini-vacations that can suck the life blood out of Easter.

I like to enjoy life on my terms. However, Easter challenges me to look beyond myself and my limited resources. I wonder what it would look like for me to keep up with Jesus instead of the current idols of this world?

Thanks for visiting and reading.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 April 2021
Image found at anona.com

About my book of poems

Dear Friends,

The last few weeks have been hectic. Not with busy work, but with my book of poetry! It’s not yet out there, but forthcoming. Title: Without a Flight Plan.

What I’ve learned:

  1. Writing poetry is easy, compared with preparing it for publication.
  2. Though self-publishing through Lulu is a blessing, it’s also a hassle. Not with them, but with back and forth electronic clarification or correction of anything at all. After proof-reading and fiddling with four trial copies, I’m ready to let it go. But see #3!
  3. Before I sign off on the book, I must supply (for outlets that offer the book) a brief description of what the reader can expect to find in my poetry. Expletive deleted.

Several years ago I decided I would not try to publish a book of my poetry. It felt like a huge interruption and a hassle I didn’t want to invite into my life.

That was then; this is now; and yes, I’ve changed my mind.

Why? Partly due to choices made and not made by our former POTUS. His lack-luster response to Covid-19 will haunt us for years. As will his unprofessional behavior in front of cameras eager to catch every glimmer of the Trump circus.

Still, the bottom line isn’t Trump, it’s how I experienced life during 2020. A great mish-mash of ups and downs, disappointments and unexpected gifts.

When I was teaching seminarians in the 1990s, I had two books published. One (coauthored) was called Making Friends with the Bible. The other, Confessions of a Beginning Theologian, was about how I became and was still becoming a theologian. Both books drew on personal experience and observations. In addition, each was judiciously worded. I didn’t want to upset my father or anyone in authority over me.

In this collection of poems, I don’t hold back or try to dress up what I wish I could say out loud. Even better, I no longer wonder what my father would say if he ever read these poems. Nor do I worry about what family, friends or strangers might think of me. So yes, it’s time to get one more book out there!

Thanks again for visiting, and listening not just to me but to your own heart.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 March 2021
Photo taken by DAFraser at Longwood Gardens, March 2016

What’s a senior citizen to do?

Wheels rush downhill
Splashing through
Early Spring water

My mind travels
Backward through time
Now gone forever

Last night our cat
Conquered and ate
Yet another mouse

All except his head
And tail and a few entrails
Yet to be identified

It’s downhill all the way
No chance to return
To the beginning

I thought I would fear
This end of life scenario
Hurtling toward me

And yet…

I’m caught between the joys and agonies of this life.
Right now the agonies seem to be outpacing the joys.
Even so, I want to live forever, joys and sorrows included.

So what’s a senior citizen to do?

Keep my head above water and my eyes wide open; support the next generations; and have my pen ready to capture truth in words I didn’t know were in me.

On balance, after removing D from the equation, blogging saved my life. It gave me a life I never dreamed I would have, and friends I never thought I would meet.

Thanks for stopping by. Your visits and comments give me hope for this tired old world. The same world for which Jesus of Nazareth lived and died.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 March 2021
Image found at steemit.com

Who am I now?

My computer screen
Is as blank as my mind
Weary and disoriented

Even the weather
Can’t decide whether
It’s mid-winter or early spring

Days pass in a chaotic
Parade of not knowing the
End from the beginning

Inviting me to look beyond
Myself and my small world
To the dead and the dying

Since early March 2020, I’ve taken Covid-19 restrictions seriously. I’ve also had both shots, so I’m now in a relatively safe category. Plus I’m white, have a retirement income, and live in a relatively safe neighborhood.

So how do I assess what’s good and right for me to do with regard to Covid-19? Are we at a turning point for the better? Or are we on the verge of yet another spike in deaths and confirmed cases? What about the majority of citizens who haven’t received a vaccination?

Or from another angle, have we begun an undeclared war in this country? A war in which Covid-19 attitudes and behaviors stand in for Us against Them? A war in which winning is defined by overt defiance, fake bravado, and making the headlines?

Nation-wide, I wonder what our churches and religious organizations are doing today to push back against the kind of thinking that helped get us into this mess in the first place.

Yes, we had a POTUS who failed the test of leadership when we most needed it. Now we have President Biden and a new team. However, it takes an entire country to meet a pandemic crisis head on. This includes churches and church leaders with guts and vision to do what still needs to be done.

To our chagrin, we are not a country that offers liberty and justice for all. Strangely, we have Covid-19 to thank for making this unwelcome truth painfully visible. So what can we do about this as individuals?

Just some of what’s going through my mind these days. More questions than answers. How about you?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2021
Illustration by Brian Stauffer for foreignpolicy.com

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