Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: speaking in my own voice

the red cardinal revisited

the red cardinal
sings his bright clear spring song
perched on bare branches

When I published my first post, Dear Dad, on 27 Dec 2013, my voice was anything but bright and clear. Singing was definitely out of the question. As a survivor of childhood PTSD, I used an elaborate strategy of calculated silence and half-truth.

How much did I owe the world? How much did I owe my family? How much did I owe the church? My father was a clergyman. Revered, respected, loved and sought after by people with sorrows such as mine.

But I wasn’t one of his followers. I was his first-born of four daughters. I watched my tongue constantly. Smiled when expected. Stifled tears. Did as I was told. Set an example. And took the beatings like the contrite spirit I was not.

Breaking my silence of decades took decades. It started in my 40s, with trips to Al-Anon meetings for five years. There I learned to relax and share things I’d never told anyone. Then I worked with an intern therapist who helped me complete a genogram (family tree, with notes). Finally, in the early 1990s, I began working with a psychotherapist.

I put in hours and years of work. Did tons of homework. Cried buckets of tears. Filled unnumbered journals with dreams and personal entries.

Yet my recovery isn’t measured in months, years or numbers of pages written in journals. It’s measured in my voice. At first feeble, halting, self-conscious and terrified. Beginning with my husband and immediate family, then with my sisters and parents, slowly but surely with several trusted friends, and finally, a few years before I began blogging, with my large extended family on my father’s side.

My voice is the measure of my recovery.

Regardless of the weather, the political climate or my health, the question is the same: How free am I to tell the truth? That’s the thermometer that matters.

I’ve always cared about issues that have to do with women. I used to think getting a decent academic position would somehow ‘prove’ my worth. Or set me free. Especially if I was granted tenure.

Well, that wasn’t my riddle to solve. My riddle was my voice.

I began blogging because I knew it would challenge me to tell the truth freely, with words chosen by me, not by someone else.

So the little red cardinal outside my window caught my attention. The ground was covered with snow, and the laurel bush had been beaten down by more than one Nor’easter. Yet the little red cardinal sang his heart out. Freely. Telling his truth about life and announcing his territory and the hope of spring.

Though I’m a follower of Jesus, this doesn’t make life easier. In fact, it’s more difficult because it means both living and telling the truth. Especially when it’s most unwelcome or unexpected.

I still owe Candice thanks for this topic! Though I’ve written elsewhere about this blog, this is another way of looking at it. Equally true and challenging. Especially today.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2018, lightly edited and reposted 7 September 2020
Cardinal duet found on YouTube

Working on My Nightmare

This morning I poured creative energy into rewriting a nightmare I had over a week ago. In the dream I was in charge, and found myself suddenly in a situation of growing danger. Yet I couldn’t speak directly and clearly to the danger. Not just danger to me, but to others.

This inability to speak clearly and directly in situations of danger is the most difficult damage I carried into my adult life. I don’t like the physical, spiritual and health fallout from being abused in body and spirit, but I can handle it.

Yet when it comes to my voice, whether written or spoken, I sometimes flinch when dealing with difficult issues. Or I speak out, followed too often by loss of confidence and the urge to sit down and shut up. Or stop being so emotional.

We live in a shrinking world tormented by personal, familial, national and global horror. It stares us in the face every day. Almost like a nightmarish taunt that won’t go away.

So I had this nightmare that began badly, became even worse, and finally woke me with my heart pounding, afraid for my life. It was all about threatening men, or so it seemed.

Since then, I’ve thought about a nightmare I had back in the 1990s, after I’d begun working with my psychotherapist. In it I’m running for my life from two or three men carrying loaded rifles, determined to silence me. I’m carrying a large umbrella. Hardly a match for loaded rifles.

I run into a room with an exit door at the top of concrete steps. The men are close behind me. There’s no way I can fight them off or stop them physically. I race up the stairs to exit the room and discover to my horror that the door is locked.

Of course I wake up with my heart pounding, afraid for my life.

Back then (as now), my psychotherapist encouraged me to rewrite the nightmare. Creatively, using only the material I have in the nightmare. Which includes my voice.

I’ll never forget how excited I was when I figured out what to do. I was at the top of the steps. Suddenly I turned around and pressed the button on my large umbrella. It flew open immediately, and I danced and, as I recall, sang my way back down the stairs and into the small room. The more I danced, the happier I was. I even invited my pursuers to dance with me!

The men were so flabbergasted they didn’t know what to do next, and I was suddenly in charge of my voice and the situation.

That’s the kind of ending I want for this nightmare. And I think I’ve got it! Which is for another post.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 November 2017
Image found at

Don’t lose heart!

Renewal: urban renewal, spiritual renewal, book renewals (from the library), renewed vision, renewed strength, and renewed energy.

A-ha! Renewed energy! I long for it, yet experience it these days in tantalizing bits that often dissipate overnight.

From the day I was born in 1943, I began dying. Stranger still, everyone around me thought I was just revving up. Maturing. Developing. Becoming a mature, responsible adult woman.

Which means on my way to death. Right?

No one lasts on this earth forever. How dismal can it get? I’m not a pessimist, but I’m also not a gung-ho optimist, so finding my balance from day to day is dicey.

My tock is ticking down. Relentlessly.

Yet I feel more myself than ever before. More at peace with who I am, if not at peace with everything that happens to me. And yes, I want to be renewed. Who doesn’t?

Renewal hurts. Something has to go. Or be altered. Even then, renewal isn’t guaranteed. Especially if I think I’ll get back what I just lost. So that my life can go on ‘as usual.’

Things falling apart is usual. Making do is usual. Total restoration of all bits and pieces of me is neither usual nor guaranteed in this life.

This past year, things fell apart. Unexpected visitors (heart problems, broken jaw, Lucy pacemaker) moved in to stay. When I’m willing to stop, accept, and listen to them, they free my spirit and my writing voice in ways I don’t understand.

So I haven’t lost heart, and I pray you haven’t either. For me, renewal is happening alongside things falling apart internally and externally. Especially renewal of my inner-woman voice that leaps out of my fingers when I sit down at my computer.

Thanks for reading and listening!


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 December 2016
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Renewal

My voice is my Treasure

All my life I’ve lived under a shadow of silence. I don’t even know what to call it. It was my hiding place. A gigantic dark place. A cloud of thunder and lightning. Winds whipping trees in the night. Holding my breath until I thought I would burst. Watching my back lest I be caught unawares.

I began this blog because I wanted to find my voice. Not my professional voice, but my personal voice. It peeked out from time to time, but quickly retreated when challenged or under threat. I loved my voice, but I didn’t yet treasure it. Nor did I see it as a treasure.

I’ve been blogging for nearly three years. At first Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Readers | Kickback

I know ‘kickback’ isn’t exactly the right word. But it captures how I’ve been feeling today after posting For the Child’s Sake. I’ve been having stomach punches.

Not literally, but psychically. In my mind and my emotions. Second guessing. Fearful that I’ve said too much. That the wrong people will take it the wrong way.

None of this, mind you, is rational. It’s my hyper-sensitive reaction to speaking truth that’s deeply personal to me.

I’ve had this reaction before. So many times I can’t even count them. In the classroom, in small groups, in one-on-one conversations, and when I make my writing public. Especially if it’s about a sensitive topic. Which, in my world, could be anything at all—especially if it’s about me or people I know.

I’m hyper-vigilant. This means, given the content of my Divide and Conquer post, it takes a massive effort to speak truth forthrightly. And then close my mouth.

I’d much rather word-smith every statement with explanations that eventually deprive what I’ve said of its power to convey truth.

So I spent most of this afternoon ruminating about the post. Running scenarios in my mind about what might happen if the ‘wrong’ people read it, or if I’m ‘wrong’ in my account of what happened.

Yet it isn’t about accuracy or logic or sane precautions. It’s about the habits of my mind that conjure up worst-case scenarios, realistic and unrealistic. They didn’t just show up one day on their own. They’ve been with me since I was a child, and may have helped me survive back then.

Now, however, these habits often work against me. I don’t want people to take offence at what I write. Yet in the end, it may not be clear exactly what I’m trying to communicate.

It’s difficult to be clear, and then let my words sit there. Not softened or ratcheted down. Not edited for niceness to avoid offending people who may take me to task or simply disagree with me and write me off.

So that’s the stew I’ve been working on all afternoon. I think it’s a sign that what I wrote in that post matters deeply to me. Especially because I’ve been there, too. A child in need of an adult ally.

Here’s the bottom line for now. I know I’m a highly sensitive person. I won’t always have another highly sensitive person around to help me through my doubts and fears. This suggests I must be my own adult ally. The sensitive child in me (yes, she’s still there!) needs this ally. So does the sensitive adult woman who’s typing these words right now.

Thanks for listening.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 June 2015

The Christmas Present

This story is from a book I wrote in the 1990s.  It’s my most vivid childhood memory of Christmas.

I couldn’t forget the look on my mother’s face when I opened my Christmas present from my grandfather.  I was about 12 years old.  My mother’s father lived in California; we now lived in Georgia.  Gifts and letters had replaced lively visits to his apartment.  Read the rest of this entry »

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