Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Shame

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

The Ring of Truth

Yesterday morning I brainstormed themes and titles for a post—all over the page of my spiral notebook. The page got more crowded by the minute. So I gave up, and began writing my Memo to White Women in the USA.

Today our national controversy is even greater than it was yesterday. For some it’s all about party politics and the next Supreme Court Justice.

For others, it’s about the need to take seriously what Dr. Anita Hill and Dr. Christine Ford talked about. Right now, everyday women and their supporters are coming out of the woodwork. Galvanized. Ready to insist on truth no matter how much it may cost them personally.

So I’m back to my page of unused themes and titles. But first I have a challenge. If you’ve never written out your story, at least for yourself, I challenge you to do that now, not later. Not just what happened to you, but how it made you feel.

There’s power in the act of writing your story down. Making it visible. Word by word. Line upon line. As it comes out, unedited and raw. It doesn’t matter whether it’s poetry or prose. Just so it rings true to you. You don’t have to show it to anyone at all. Especially if they’re people you don’t trust.

I wept gallons working on what became some of my early posts. I also had a trusted professional who worked with me when my writing raised things I had to deal with. Sometimes they were about unfinished business. Other times they were about how to take care of myself. I highly recommend seeking trustworthy professional help. Especially when past experiences keep spilling over into the present.

So here are several titles without stories. Maybe they’ll get you thinking, or coming up with your own better titles for your story. They might even prompt you to begin a list of things you remember and wish you could forget.

The Ring of Truth
Against All Odds
Marked for Life
Strength in Weakness
This Woman’s Burden
Broken not Bent
No Prize for a Good Performance
I Dared Say No
At Great Cost
Free at Last
Daddy’s Little Girl
I Married a Predator
I Thought He Loved Me

Perhaps you don’t think this is all that important. Well….You’re important, and that’s enough all by itself.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 September 2018
Image found at India.com

seeping through pores

Seeping through pores
The virus takes root
Invisible at first
A sense of not being
At home or abroad
In this sea of strangers
Wandering in and out
Filled with good will
They come and  go
Dry and desolate
A thought takes root
Without reason
The only welcome visitor
Whose words unheard
Make perfect sense
In this dying hope for miracles
That never arrive on time

In recognition of our most recent national upsurge in suicides attempted and/or completed, and in honor of family members and friends who ended their lives on this earth, or made the attempt and failed.

Always a thousand unanswered questions. Always a sense of ‘what could I or we have done differently?’ Always a desire to go to sleep and hope for something better when I wake up.

Multiple resources are available online. Hotlines and chat rooms are open night and day. Sitting there, waiting to be used. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2018

morning alarm and my father’s shame

chasing me from bed
sun rays dance across my face
catbirds clear their throats

Today is Thursday. Market day. And there I was this morning, sound asleep. What a wonderful feeling. My sleep patterns have inched in the right direction for the last several months, and last night was the best yet.

The Market will wait. It’s almost time for lunch, and I’m just poking along without shame, enjoying the sun (not yet too hot) and the morning light. And thinking about my father and me. And shame. Partly because of recent posts about how women and girls are often shamed, and partly because Sunday is Father’s Day here in the USA.

I woke up thinking about my father’s shame. It was there long before I arrived. Shame about his father mercilessly shaming him. Shame about his face and crooked teeth that weren’t as handsome as he thought he might have been. Shame about not having at least one son. Shame about his social awkwardness and so much more.

From the moment I was born, my father’s shame was in the air. I believe it began with his father passing his own shame on to my father. I remember suggesting this to him when I was older. He thought my idea was nonsense. Yet I can’t ignore the reality that children are the recipients of unfinished business between their parents and grandparents. My father’s unfinished business was Shame.

From my childhood on, I believe my father projected a heavy dose of his shame on me. Sadly, I could never be the submissive little girl he believed I should be. In addition, my mother was never able (to her shame?) to present to him the son he desperately wanted. Score: 4 daughters, 0 sons. He joked about it sometimes. Yet living with him was no joke.

If there’s one thing I would wish for Dad on Father’s Day, it’s that he would look into a mirror, smile at himself without seeing all his defects, and see instead a man loved and sought by his Creator.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 June 2018
Gray Catbird photo found at Birds of North America Online

Drifting

Drifting —
Her uneasy spirit
Ticks off tasks
And activities
Afraid of being alone
Doing nothing
Weary of running
All her life
Reluctant to stop
Or listen
For fear she’ll hear
Nothing
Though everything
Surrounds her
Longing to be seen
Heard and loved
Just as it is –
Just as she is

Rarely in my lifetime have I described myself as drifting. I was diligent, dutiful, loyal and above all, busy. I was also filled with fear, driven consciously and unconsciously by the need for acceptance, affirmation and love.

The cost I paid for this approach to life didn’t seem high until later in life when things began falling apart. In fact, I thought that by excelling I wouldn’t have to pay a cost. Instead, I would make for myself another life. A happy life in which I was accepted, valued and loved by others.

The thought of loving and accepting myself was foreign, if not evidence of a falsely proud heart. Whatever Christian Scripture means when it says we’re to love our neighbors as ourselves, it couldn’t possibly mean loving myself. Especially just as I was and am. Self-indulgence was like worshiping another god.

I tend to internalize my world. Partly because of my personality, and partly from leftover shame (never good enough). This means, oddly, that something as simple as sitting quietly, listening to whatever I hear, feels dangerous. Maybe I’m not a good listener. (I don’t hear anything but my discomfort.) Or maybe I’m not as relaxed as I think I am. (My attention keeps wandering.)

Last week and this week I’m practicing doing as little as possible. I want to drift in a way that honors who I am. That means taking small opportunities to be alone with myself. Not to prove I can do this, but as a way of accepting who I am today, where I am, why I’m here, and loving what I discover.

Happy Monday, and happy drifting!

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 June 2018
Photo found at salainart.blogspot.com

Scars upon scars

Scars upon scars
cover futile attempts
to distance pain
of yet another blow
to my body, soul, dreams
or soothing denial

It’s nothing
I can take this
I don’t need to talk about it
I dealt with that long ago
Didn’t I?

And how can I help you today?
I have plenty of time.
I can proofread that if you’d like.
It’s nothing. Really. Nothing at all.
No problem. It won’t take long.
No need to apologize
for anything, really.
We all make mistakes.

Time passes
skin thickens
spine goes rigid
demeanor tentative
neutral eyes scan
from the periphery
avoid other eyes
awkward at best
antennae soar heavenward
nothing and nobody is
safe but this last remnant of
body-soul on alert
not to be lulled into
carelessness

It wasn’t being born female that scarred me. It was overtime, double duty hyper-vigilance plastered layer upon layer with each attempt to control, use or fix me.

Over time petrified limbs of my body and soul cowered whether I wanted them to or not. I fell into protective behaviors that stifled every hint of unhappiness or, God forbid, revulsion. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

Each woman is different. Internal scars from child abuse, and sexual harassment or unjust workplace practices that disadvantage women are not the same as external scars or physical challenges. Sometimes the best way to begin healing is to find a trusted friend or referral service to suggest next steps that might work for you.

I was initially helped by a twelve-step group of over 20 women meeting weekly in a church basement. It didn’t cost me anything but my pride plus $1 a week (optional) in the basket. For 5 years I showed up 2 or 3 times each week for this and other twelve-step meetings. All while I was teaching full-time at a seminary. It took me that long to realize I needed professional help. By then I was in my late 40s.

I began blogging four years ago to break silence about my childhood and teenage years. Today it’s about more than that—though dealing with my past helped free me to write as I do today.

When we women invest wisely in our emotional, spiritual and physical health, we do the most important work of our lives. We don’t deserve to carry heavy layers of scars. Some can be laid aside. Others we get to keep. They connect us to sisters and brothers, and can, from time to time, add to our beauty and wisdom.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 January 2018
Photo taken by my father, 1954/55, my youngest sister and I, Savannah, Georgia

A Blank Canvas | Part 2

Small Islands from the air

~~~Islands of Palau in the South Pacific

In 1984, one year after I began teaching, I attended a gathering of faculty from 6 or 7 sister seminaries. We were together for one weekend. There weren’t many women professors in the group.

Because I was the newest female professor Read the rest of this entry »

Early Marriage | Haiku and Poem

Last December I published a longer version of this post. The portion below covers the period of time I’m writing about, our first year of marriage. Directly across the street from our apartment was an auto body shop open 24 hours a day. That’s because wrecks happen 24/7. Read the rest of this entry »

The Face of Contempt | Part 2 of 2

Self-contempt has been my primary issue for years.  Until I learned to have compassion on myself, it was almost impossible not to have contempt for others.  Here’s what self-contempt has looked like Read the rest of this entry »

About You and Human Trafficking | Truth #2

Truth #1 – When you or I touch the life of just one person who has been trafficked or who is at risk of being trafficked, that’s more than enough!

Truth #2 – We need trafficking victims as much as they need us to remind us of our deep need for healing of all kinds.

This includes sexual healing Read the rest of this entry »

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