Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Survival Skills

Why this sudden lethargy?

Why this sudden lethargy
Unable to read today
A book that kept me awake
Yesterday riveted and alert

There is no cure it seems
For this childhood dis-ease
Struggling to be heard
Above distracting noise

That never ends beneath
The skins of white women
Caught looking back on life
Far from home and short on rest

Where did this come from? It feels like a bad dream or even a nightmare. Trapped in a situation not of my making, without survival skills, and unable to find or make my way home. Yes, it could be about Covid-19 or the state of our disunion. But it’s deeper than that.

Most of my early life was about mastering behaviors and attitudes that would insure my silence, cooperation, and ‘purity.’ The goal was put before me every day of my life. I was to be the opposite of cheeky females who dared speak and act for themselves or registered outrage at outrageous acts of neglect and violence toward themselves and others.

How many white women born in the USA look back and wonder, What was it all about? And have I yet found my way home to the voice and work I was meant to have from the beginning?

I’m not despondent. I’m angry. I don’t always know what to do with this anger of not being prepared for whatever ‘the real world’ was and still is. So I write.

And then I get on with the life I now have, for which I’m grateful.

Thanks for listening.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 January 2021
Image found at medium.com

startled birds

startled birds swerve
surfing updrafts and downdrafts —
thick tree trunks sway

As seen early this morning. Birds and trees dealing with a turbulent, invisible ocean of air.

I’m looking out a window in our heated house, wondering whether I could survive outdoors. It’s hard enough to survive inside.

Life is turbulent. It isn’t easy to surf icy blasts of unexpected change and disorientation. Witness the last few weeks and years, with more to come.

Sometimes I wish I were more like birds riding updrafts and downdrafts, swerving and turning with the wind. Or like huge tree trunks that sway precariously, yet survive virtually unscathed.

Then again, maybe they figured it out ages ago, and have tried for decades to show me how it’s done. I think I’m beginning to catch on, though it still takes my breath away.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 December 2017
Photo found at pinterest.com

Defending My Space

I’m about eight years old. I’m sitting at the dinner table, just around the corner from my father. The table is set, the food is spread before us, and we’re all in our seats waiting to begin. We haven’t yet asked the blessing. I’m playing with my dinner fork, just to the left of my plate. I’ve moved it a few inches away from my plate.

My father’s voice interrupts me. “Elouise, put the fork back where it belongs.”

I move it to the right, in the direction of my plate. “Elouise, put the fork back where it belongs.”

I move it slightly closer. My father’s voice remains firm and controlled. “Elouise, put the fork back where it belongs.”

By now my sisters are watching to see what will become of me. My mother is silent. This has become an event. Slowly I raise my hand to my fork and move it ever so slightly closer to my plate.

My father persists. So do I. Many repetitions later he’s satisfied; the fork has been returned to its proper place.

He proceeds with the blessing. He doesn’t know what I know: the fork is ever so slightly to the left of its proper place.

My father’s mission as a parent was to train us to keep the rules. My mission as his child was to break and keep the rules simultaneously.

Back then, perseverance meant getting through another day, using whatever survival skills lay close at hand.

If my father was persistent, I would be more persistent. If outward rebellions were too costly, I would invent creatively invisible yet superbly effective inward rebellions. If I was ordered to sit down and stop talking, I could continue standing and talking on the inside for as long as it took to comfort myself.

Indeed, this was the better way. In the private spaces of my mind no one could put me down, refuse to listen to me or try to break my will. In a family system intent on turning out obedient daughters, I survived by being secretly disobedient.

This memory from the 1950s, published nearly 20 years ago, is as vivid today as it was then.

The territory I defended was interior. I applaud the little girl who figured out how to do this. Nonetheless, my efforts were costly. They required constant vigilance, no matter where I was.

Abuse of power destroys safe space. It expects and demands behaviors, words, looks on faces, subtle and open signs of unquestioning and subservient submission.

What does it take to create and maintain safe space? Not just in our marriages and families, but in neighborhoods, nations, churches and schools? And how does my personal history connect with the racial history of the USA?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 March 2017
Photo of 1938 family dinner found at bbc.com
Story excerpted from my book, Confessions of a Beginning Theologian (InterVarsity Press 1998)
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Territory

If ever we meet

If ever we meet
I will milk
every drop
and then some
from your demeanor
tone of voice
and eyes 

Agonizing
Calculating
Weighing the odds
Whether to respond
and how 

Experience—
my best friend
and my enemy
Trust—
a roll of the dice
until proven over time 

I shiver inside
Is it worth the effort
at this age
putting myself out there
in full view
of myself
not just of you? 

*** 

The agony of being attentive to nuance—not a characteristic I willfully chose, but a survival skill I learned on the ground. It served me well, though it didn’t always deliver the safety I sought or the safety I was promised. 

My trust of another human being isn’t a gift to be given on demand. It’s a reward to be earned over time. Giving away unearned trust is not a sign of approval. It’s a gamble that often leads to sorrow if not disaster. One of the most difficult lessons of my life.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 March 2017
Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Nuance 

Going to Seminary | Perfectionism

perfectionism quote

Perfectionism is cowardly, not brave.

  • It avoids looking at mistakes
  • Seeks growth without painful truth
  • Wants progress without failures
  • Breeds insanity, not humanity
  • Drains energy without mercy
  • Gets stuck working harder
  • Is strategic, not forthcoming
  • Would rather hide than be wrong
  • Fears failure and success
  • Kills joy and compassion

Read the rest of this entry »

Suddenly it all made sense

My heart was broken
Long before the cracks began to show

Holding my breath
To get through harsh punishment

Quiet shallow breathing
To ensure I’m not noticed or called out Read the rest of this entry »

Contempt wears many faces | A Dream, Part 5 of 5

Dawn's Place circle of friends making paper flowers february 2014

~~Unchained Women! Unrecognized, under-rated power to change the subject

I’m on a public street. I’ve just witnessed brutality against two young women, not in real time but in my dream. Now, out of my dream, what to do next? I pull out my cell phone and call 911. Will anyone respond? This isn’t an upscale area.

I kneel beside the sobbing woman Read the rest of this entry »

large brown eye

P1010243

large brown eye keeps watch
through dew-laced grass-green cover
screening nearby nest

* * *

Do you see the handy nest? Read the rest of this entry »

wren pecks iced suet

Carolina Wren 2, P1050130

wren pecks iced suet

flicker picks frozen berries

I pick up hot tea

* * *

Flicker in the holly tree

Click on flicker photo to see how cold it was–
fluffed feathers, scrunched neck and, as I recall,
a blustery -5 degrees Fahrenheit.

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 February 2015
Photo credit:  DAFraser, February 2015

Coded Language

Powerful, Moving
Ambiguous, Interpretive
Heard, Hidden

Stripped, Caged
Imprisoned, Locked
Unheard, Unknown
Screaming, Silent Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: