Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Survivors

The Collage revisited

“Writing when Awake is dangerous.” I wrote this piece years ago, while Awake. When you get to the collage, click on it for a close-up.

*****

I agonized about whether to begin this blog.  Not because I had nothing to say, but because I was terrified.  Of what?  I’m not sure.  Probably the concreteness of truth.  Even though I lived with it all my life, putting truth out there in concrete words is different.

The words below are from my journal.  I made the entry on 19 July 2012, about 18 months before I published my first post, Dear Dad.  It’s a one-hour, non-stop writing exercise.  What you see is nearly every word I wrote—reformatted.  I made the collage in the early 1990s.

I’m at my desk, keyboard in my lap, eyes closed most of the time—except to check the clock.  The collage is on the wall just above my desk.  Nothing but bits and pieces cut out of old magazines.  It’s not a lovely work of art, but a crude icon.  It reminds me of where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

* * *

8:53am
Showing up.
Facing my fear and inhibitions.
All my life.
Small, invisible, insignificant, scared,
trying to fit in while desperately longing to stand out—
to be counted as somebody—
to make a difference.
A big difference.

Telephone ringing.
I’m a writer.  First.
Not afraid to let the phone ring,
to close the door,
to do what wants to be done.

Write.
Big.
Bold.
Unashamed.
More willing to live with the
consequences of big and bold,
than small and insignificant—
lost in the noise.

Shout it from the rooftop.
Hit the front pages of the newspaper.
Unavoidable and compelling.
A wake-up call not just for ‘them,’
but for me!!!!
Especially for me.

To tell the truth—
not for the faint-hearted
or for those like me given to
strategic choices of words that mask,
hide and protect the reality of what is—
whether we/I like it or not.

The truth not just about what happened
and is happening,
but the truth about what it takes—
the cost of belonging to the human race.
From the inside out—
not simply about them,
but about me.

Without fear or holding back;
without malice of mindfulness;
and without any agenda but one—
to bear witness in a way that
forges solidarity with others.

I’ve always wanted to belong—
to be normal—rather than strange,
set-apart, holy or the preacher’s kid.
The only way to get there, I think,
is to strengthen to completion
the bridge I can build
between myself and people I may never know.

A bridge of understanding,
of sisterly compassion,
of challenge,
and seemingly unending damage and pain.
A bridge of respect for survivors.
A bridge of honesty about my past
and the people who damaged me
and prepared me for the life I now live.

Am I looking for healing?
When that means acceptance, yes.
If it means pressing a restart button, no.
Things done and internal wiring completed
can’t be undone so easily.

If, however, it means healing
of my self as God’s beloved daughter child,
Yes.
This life was entrusted to me.
Not to anyone else.
Only I can live it.
Which includes/entails telling
the sad and sorry truth about growing up female.

Suddenly feeling drowsy.
Do I want to just stop and start over
on another topic/project?
Yes.
This feels way out of control and out of reach.
So yes, I have a strong desire
to put my head down and snooze.

(I just caught myself not sitting up straight.  Interesting.)

It’s now 9:15 am—
not quite halfway through this exercise.
I need to sit a bit and collect my scattered self.
I am a writer!

Centering Prayer.
Mindful breathing.
Surrender.
This is a practice I need as I write.

9:21am.
Back to it
Not sure where I am except for this:
To belong to the human race takes audacious courage.
Courage to do what doesn’t come naturally and is not always rewarded.
Bottom line:  Which price am I prepared to pay?
There’s a price for me either way.

Still struggling with drowsiness.
I ate breakfast before writing—
and now I’m struggling to stay present.
Feeling a tingly desire to go to sleep and not wake up!
Wakefulness—mindful wakefulness—
is worse than a nightmare.

9:26.
The clock seems slow today.
I need to just sit.  Drink Water.
Keep my body and mind awake,
open and receptive.

Drinking water.  Good.
I’m thirsty.  For what?
For something to calm my heart and mind
that wants to shut down just now.
Something to keep me going.
Alive.  Functioning.  Processing.  Growing.
Eliminating what is poison or no longer of use to me.
Water.

9:31am
The collage comes to mind.  I’m looking at it, getting teary.

The Collage

  • Life can be murder
  • Without Clear Proof
  • The Secret Within a Secret
  • DANGER
  • Somewhere in your house a battery is dying….
  • Lost.  Lost.
  • Failure
  • Stuck in Neutral
  • Defend Yourself
  • Sometimes you can tell what’s missing.
  • Much Less Than Meets the Eye
  • Someone Who Really Likes to Stay in Touch
  • For a Child’s Sake

The collage wakes me up!
Brings tears to my mind [sic].
This is reality.
My reality—about which only I can bear witness.
There’s no prettying up the truth.
There may be understanding,
but in no way is this a pretty picture.
Or a pretty story.
Telling it will not be pretty.
It will be dangerous.
And it keeps telling me it wants to be told!
Not hidden away like some shameful piece of my life.

I don’t like having to tell the truth
about things that may seem ‘sensational.’
They weren’t.
They were the sad and sorry everyday reality
of my everyday life.
Some things can’t be omitted.
To leave them out is to betray myself.
In some ways this writing is a plea for understanding.
This is who I am.
Late start telling the story,
but right on time in God’s economy.
9:51am

Journal entry written 19 June 2012
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 August 2014, re-posted 11 February 2019

Inconvenient truth

Bad timing
The look on your face
The tone of your voice
Your choice of words
What you said
How you said it
And a thousand other
Inconveniences
Called upon as evidence
Against you and your kind
Will never withstand
The strength of truth
Spoken out loud
By just one survivor
With nothing to gain
And everything to lose
Including false shame

If I had to name my greatest achievements in life they are, in order:

  1. Seeking help from a psychotherapist for unrelenting IBS, depression, shame, anxiety attacks and more. I was in my late 40s.
  2. Setting up a meeting with my parents and reading to my father my two-page statement. In short, I did not deserve to be shamed, humiliated or silenced by his beatings. This meeting took place on the eve of my 50th birthday.

The poem acknowledges the excruciating reality that there will never be just the right moment to tell inconvenient truth. Or just the right way. Or with just the right looks on our faces.

I applaud survivors of life-changing events, endured at the hands of others, who do their ‘homework’ and then speak out. As many times as needed.

We are an inconvenient truth in this nation.

We’re everywhere, in sight and out of sight. We want freedom from false shame, debilitating depression, anxiety attacks, and lies we tell ourselves about ourselves.

Many of us were violated as children or babies, before we were old enough to know what was being done to us. Often violation against us preceded our own violation of others. That doesn’t get us off the hook. It just clarifies the lay of the land and what we must do to make sense of what seems senseless.

We can’t change the people who victimized us. We can, however, give ourselves the gift of facing what happened to us, getting professional help, and learning to do what we think we can’t do to make amends to ourselves and others. No matter what the consequences.

A liberated voice doesn’t come cheap.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 Oct 2018

The Shape of Forgiveness | Part 2

“Forgiving is a journey; the deeper the wound, the longer the journey”
“We do not forgive because we are supposed to; we forgive when we are ready to be healed.”
Lewis Smedes, in The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Don’t Know How, published by Moorings, 1996

When I was a child, my father required me to beg forgiveness from him and from God. Most often after a beating, or as the so-called resolution of a sisterly argument about an alleged offence. This was often tricky, because I knew the facts as presented weren’t quite all the facts.

I’m grateful forgiveness isn’t a required event. Especially forgiveness of my father.

I didn’t know it then, but my process of forgiveness began the day I confronted my now-deceased parents about being shamed, humiliated and silenced. The process isn’t yet completed, but I’ve made unexpected, life-giving progress.

The meeting I set up with my parents took place the eve of my 50th birthday in 1993, more than 23 years ago. During the meeting I asked for my father’s apology, with no expectation that he would apologize. My husband, my sister Diane, my mother, and a trusted pastor witnessed the conversation between my father and me. It lasted for 1 ½ hours.

My father refused to apologize for anything. He wasn’t interested in revisiting what happened between the two of us or between him and my sisters. He’d already done all his business with God, privately. Nothing I said or did would change his mind.

I was on my own, without my father’s blessing. Disappointed but not surprised. Still determined to work on my healing.

We say punishment should fit the crime. Even so, I believe forgiveness must fit each situation, especially those with life-changing consequences. This isn’t about mistakes or forgetfulness. It’s about the Big Stuff we wish had never happened to us.

Forgiving my father has been a long, sometimes painful process. I’m not yet there. Still, looking back, I see several areas of progress. Sometimes with lightening-speed insight; most of the time with determination, grit and courage to take the next painful look at him and at myself.

Since that historic meeting in 1993, I’ve made progress in at least the following areas.

  • Acceptance of the life-changing enormity of what his behavior meant for me then and now
  • Interest in my father’s life story
  • Appreciation for his wounds, including his determination not to ask for help
  • Awareness of his deeply rooted shame
  • Compassion for him as another human being

I was surprised at how much more comfortable I became around my father, even though his opinions about me never changed. I enjoyed being in interview mode, though I didn’t always like what I heard. I was also comfortable being in the compassion mode. Especially because he carried many griefs, sorrows and disappointments similar to mine.

Nonetheless, I knew this change for the better wasn’t yet forgiveness, much less reconciliation. It was more like a cessation of warfare and a sometimes uneasy truce. I still had work to do.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 April 2017

in the presence of elders

forest_in_winter-wallpaper-1920x1080

in the presence of elders
a bench awaits me
small among survivors
of what I cannot see
silent they surround me
bear scars made beautiful
newly touched by pure
wool of soft winter snow
steady they line the way
ahead through crystal mists
calm healing presence
towers above me far
from places long called home

*** Read the rest of this entry »

My storm has passed

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My storm has passed
Vision returns
Uncontaminated by rage
Against what I cannot change
Lament descends

A comforting quilt
Enfolds my aching body
With sweet solemn sorrow
For what might have been
Now a mere shadow
In this dying day

***

About a year ago Read the rest of this entry »

James DePreist’s Precipice Garden

I’m looking at This Precipice Garden, a slim volume of 42 poems written by James DePreist. One of my friends gave it to me in 1988. I’d never heard of DePreist.

James DePreist was African-American. Born in Philadelphia on November 21, 1936. Nephew of Marian Anderson, also a Philadelphian and role model for young black musicians. When he died in 2013 he was 76 years old.

DePreist’s life was shaped by two realities: Read the rest of this entry »

desolate landscape

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crow surveys

desolate landscape

slim pickings

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 January 2015
Photo credit:  DAFraser, September 2014, Crater Lake, Oregon

The Collage

I agonized about whether to begin this blog.  Not because I had nothing to say, but because I was terrified.  Of what?  I’m not sure.  Probably the concreteness of truth.  Even though I lived with it all my life, putting truth out there in concrete words is different.

The words below are from my journal.  I made the entry on 19 July 2012, about 18 months before I published my first post, Dear Dad. Read the rest of this entry »

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