Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Self-reflection

Land of the Brave?

My erratic heartbeats
Find calm in the sound of
Music drifting through
Air spun with gossamer webs
Transporting me through
What I experience daily
Of this life threatening to
Undo us from the inside out
Unraveling threads of truth
And justice for each and all

Waking with a start
My heart searches for
Courage and bravery to
Speak even one word against
Forces paying to play the
Game of hide and seek –
Cowards banging on the
Heart of our so-called union
And commitment to justice
For every human being

What does bravery look like
During national upheaval and
Underground warfare against
Humanity if not the constant
Repetition of what we see
Through the windows of hearts
Made brave the hard way beginning
The instant we were born into
This world of deceitful revenge
And false prophets of nirvana

Mary Tyler Moore’s well-known statement comes to mind:

“You can’t be brave if you’ve had only wonderful things happen to you.”

Perhaps this is true of each of us, no matter the circumstances of our early lives. At the same time, bravery now isn’t necessarily the same as bravery then. As a child and teenager I was brave and uncomplaining in order to stay out of trouble. Especially when someone was watching, measuring me by my father’s Rules for Good Girls.

Today, bravery is called for even when no one seems to be looking. It isn’t about staying out of trouble. It’s about being honest, no matter the consequences.

Easier said than done. For me, posting what I write is the bottom line. If I’m willing to write about it, am I willing to post it? Without turning it into harmless childhood mush? My childhood still shapes me. It doesn’t, however, control me. I  still have a lot to learn about telling the truth as I see it. Especially in today’s atmosphere.

Thanks for listening!

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 March 2019
Cat image found at bookstr.com

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

The Writing Life

One by one
Words spill out

One drop
At a time….
Or torrents
Of unexpected
Clarity

The beginning and the end
Of a fear-filled Heart
Mind Soul and Body
Delivered from silence
Word upon word falling
Onto the page and
Into the air

Free speech –
Visible and available
Against all odds
At great cost

I used to think writing about my life would be the end of fear. If not immediately, then over time as life moved on and I became ready and willing to write the next chapters.

I also thought I would learn to write freely, with ease and grace. Without angst or internal drama trying to redirect what wants to be direct. Without fear of consequences or kickback.

After all, there’s always this tempting possibility: Just change that small word. Or better yet, omit it. They’ll never know, and you’ll still be ‘telling the truth.’

And protecting myself from what?

There are a million ways to cover over truth—including how difficult it is to write truthfully, especially about myself. Some days content flows easily onto the page. I wake up knowing the first line or theme. Or I review yesterday evening’s journal entry and discover I’ve already pointed in a clear direction. No problem! Just pick up the pen and scribble away.

And then there are other days. Hence the poem above.

Happy Wednesday and Happy Writing!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 March 2019
Impressionist Painting of a Woman Writing, 1892, found at therumpus.net

Sometimes my voice falters

Sometimes my voice falters
Falling ten stories down
Into a desert of silence

My rattled soul teeters
On the edge of despair
Searching for a small grain
I might rightly call my own
Though nothing was ever
Mine to begin with

Still….
In the hot wind
Of my empty mind
I hear my heart
Beating
Yearning for yesterday

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 March 2019
Photo of desert drought landscape found at pixabay.com

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

The coming storm

Silent as snow
Trees stand motionless
At attention
Scarcely breathing
Gray chill air
Of the coming storm

These days it’s difficult to read or listen to the news without descending one step deeper into the eye of a coming storm.

Nature’s weather events regularly point to the chaos and destruction of large, uncontrollable storms. Especially those that enter lashing out in one direction, and exit lashing out in another direction.

As it happens, today we’re in the leading edge of a large weather event coming at us from the south and west. The signs are all there, just outside my kitchen window and on countless weather updates .

So what’s it all about?

I can’t help thinking about  our nation. Especially the rapid deterioration of discipline, trust and good will we witness daily, beginning at the top and flowing out and down. As a young nation among older nations, we don’t seem ready to weather future storms that grow larger and more inevitable each day.

When I looked out my kitchen window this morning, I saw the trees. They were standing at attention, calm, silent, waiting to see what this storm will bring. For some it may spell disaster. For others, it will blow over and life will go on as usual.

Right now snow plows are going up and down the road outside our house. The snow is beautiful and heavy with moisture. Sleet and freezing rain will come later.

In the end, what I saw outside my kitchen window challenged me to be what I’ve often longed to be — a poem lovely as a tree. Vulnerable, strong, graceful, able to weather storms, and willing to die. No matter what happens next for me or our nation, and no matter who happens to be in the White House.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 February 2019
Photo found at elizabethatkinson.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

For tongue-tied women of a certain age

Oh, Honey!
How polite we’ve been
All these years
Voices tripping lightly
Over rotten eggshells
And around huge cow pies
Plopped in our paths
Unceremoniously
By fawning faces
And genteel souls
Killing us softly with
Promises and thinly veiled
Threats cold and dagger-sharp

These words came springing to mind yesterday afternoon. Here we are in the 21st century, deep into the age of Trump, and I’ve been taught to be polite. To defer to those in authority over me, and keep my mouth shut.

Not that I’ve always been a good white girl. Still, on the scale of niceness I’ve probably been about 9 out of 10 on the side of the angels. Especially when dealing with men intent on keeping me in my place (wherever that is), or promising me heaven on earth.

Strangely, my father comes to mind, right up there with my worst boss ever and other men who tried over the years to shame or sweet-talk me into compliance with their wishes.

Today I’m wondering what I have yet to say to my father. Not to scorn or shame him, but to turn the tables and own the power of my voice. Along with the power of truth and good will. Not just for his sake, but for mine.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 February 2019

%d bloggers like this: