Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: telling the truth

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

Everything isn’t always beautiful

This morning I’ve been thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem, Everlasting. On first reading, it may seem Mary is accepting and putting a positive spin on everything. Making things pretty.

Yes, there’s always hope for something better. Nonetheless, Mary focuses intently on what’s in front of her. Nothing is too fleeting or small to notice.

Much, if not most of her poetry captures the small details and stories of nature’s wonders. Yet she also describes the horror and ugliness of human behavior. Some of it shows up in nature as well, putting beauty at risk.

I picture her with a ‘camera’ (her ever-present writing notebook), in which she records everything she observes. The good, the beautiful, the bad, the unexpected and the ugly. She doesn’t flinch or soften the blow of reality.

Mary challenges me most when she lets her unvarnished truth go public. Truth about herself, her family, her father (A Bitterness), and small scenarios playing out in predatory behaviors in the non-human world (Small Bodies).

Beginning with me, there’s so much we humans hide, or carefully dress up to mask our neediness. Mary invites us to find ourselves in the midst of whatever we’re dealing with or see in the mirror. Sometimes it’s a real mirror. Other times, it can be the mirror of Mary’s poetry. Or the morning news. Or an unplanned trip to the doctor.

Hoping your day is thoughtful and rewarding, no matter the cost.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 July 2020
Invasive Mission Grass image found at 123RF.com

Things I wonder about

How much and how often should I tell my story?
Or is it time to be the strong woman I was and am
Say directly what I’m thinking
rather than dropping a thousand hints, suggestions
or thinly veiled leading questions
in the vain hope of miraculous intervention
that won’t require me to take risks
or pay prices I don’t want to pay

Since when was I afraid to take risks?
My female life has always been about risk-taking
With due deference to powers higher than I
Or so I thought back then

What is deference anyway?
Maybe it’s my masquerade for fear
My easy way out of what’s looking like
A fraught, uncomfortable collision
Of what?
And at what cost?

Does everyone have a yearning to go back
and begin again, without apology or kissing up
to the so-called powers that be?

When something is blatantly wrong,
why doesn’t someone else step forward who has
credibility and guts to take the first step?

Do I have guts?
If not, have I lost my credibility?

I’m a late learner, not without reason. Even so, what am I to do now? I could rehearse my life story. It was worth writing. Reading it today strengthens and softens me.

I’ve learned the hard way what it means to tell the truth. In person. Face to face. Today, as back then, I don’t deserve to be shamed, humiliated or silenced. By anyone.

So what’s happening now? Not just in Washington, DC, but in our backyards, churches and places of worship, private and public spaces. Do I have the guts to speak up now, and refuse to sit down? I’ll let you know when I find out.

As always, thanks for visiting and reading.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 November 2019
George Orwell quote found at maura4u.com

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

A vision for the last chapter

What is my vision for Telling the Truth? Many thanks to Lea, one of my followers, for this question!

As it happens, it’s timely. Not because I’m changing course, but because I’m finally beginning to feel I’m on course. Not that I was totally lost. I wasn’t. I was, however, writing what I needed and wanted to write to get from there to here.

So now here I am, in the final chapter of my life. Now what?

Here’s what I envision going forward.

No matter what I write, each post will love, honor and respect my voice at this age, not someone else’s and not the voice I think you might prefer to hear. I can’t control what happens when you read what I write. Nonetheless, I want my posts to encourage, challenge or cheer you along wherever you are. Just the way many of you cheer me along with your distinct voices.

I can’t do this if I write in a whisper, halfheartedly, coyly, or with malice. Or if I choose not to write about something because it’s controversial.

Rather, I envision my voice coming straight from my heart, with my mind acting as a midwife, not as a gatekeeper. I can’t afford speaking from fear, or with too much confidence.

Whatever I choose to write, I envision it having heart and soul up front. Poetry. Commentary about the state of things in this world. Memories. Photos I love. Self-reflection. Devotional writing. All of it.

This vision challenges my family upbringing, my college years, and most of my graduate work and teaching years. If I learned anything well, it was how to speak and write strategically. It was exhausting and harmful to my health. It also demeaned my voice and was unfair to my audience.

At my age, it would be foolish and self-defeating in the extreme to leave things festering in my mind that need clear expression. It isn’t about being or sounding sure of myself. And it isn’t about changing you or anyone else.

This is about loving my voice. Standing up and having my say, without fear or shame.

To those who follow and read regularly, I can’t thank you enough for your presence in my life. If you’re visiting, I hope you’ll consider joining this group of diverse human beings scattered around the globe. Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together. And my pledge to you is that I’ll dish up whatever’s happening in my small corner of the world.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 June 2018
Photo taken by DAFraser, June 2018 – Oak-leaf Hydrangea blossoms in our front yard

Comin’ Up From Behind – Sherry Fraser/Two Ton Boa

I’ve been singing this in my head all week! My favorite line: “She’s got the truth and her tongue for a slingshot.” All put together in a rollicking score by our daughter, Sherry Fraser of Two Ton Boa. I’ve included the lyrics below my comments.

Sherry published this in May 2000 (Kill Rock Stars). It was later re-recorded by her old boyfriend, John Wozniak of Marcy Playground, as the trailer to the movie “Cruel Intentions.”

I prefer Sherry’s original recording. Not just because she’s my daughter (!), but because this is a woman’s song. It captures the anger and fury of a woman who’s being used and abused, plus her determination to “take a mighty swipe at the high hogs….” All in a lively, upbeat rag that throws the words right down there in front of you—dished up hot on your plate whether you like them or not.

I’ll never have Sherry’s voice. But I have her spirit and her determination. Thank you, Sherry, for showing me how it’s done.

Comin’ Up From Behind – Sherry Fraser/Two Ton Boa

She’s an eight ball
She’s rolling faster than a whitewall
She’s got an avalanche packed in a snowball
She’s losing all her leeches like a stonewall…she’s loaded up

She’s the underdog
Gonna take a mighty swipe at the high hogs
While they’re sipping on their tricks in a thick fog
Making eyes at the girls like bullfrogs…I’m telling you sir

She’s coming up from, coming up from,
Comin’ up, coming up from behind, yeah!
She’s coming up from, coming up from, coming up
Coming up from behind

You’d like her hanging
Like a sneaker on a live wire dangling
While your wall street pockets are jangling
With the hollow jackpot of your rich kid games

It’s a longshot
She’s got the truth and her tongue for a slingshot
But she’s taking steady aim at the big shots
It’s hard to miss the ruling bullies on the blacktop…

You better pocket your turf
She’s coming up from behind

You had her hanging
Like a sneaker on a live wire dangling
While your gold lined pockets were jangling
With the hollow jackpot of your wretched games

She caught your sick lie
It was creeping in the shadow of your white smile
Lurking underneath the cover of your bedroom eyes
Were you greasing up plans for your small fry?

You want her talking up to you
Where you float like a royal balloon-o
Your ego swollen to the size of the moon…well
I think you found somebody to cut you down to size!

Wishing you a happy weekend!

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 March 2018

the red cardinal

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 the first-born of four daughters. I had to watch my tongue constantly. Smile when expected. Stifle tears. Do as I was told. Set an example. And take the beatings like the contrite spirit I was not.

Breaking my silence of decades took decades. It started when I was 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 with whom I’m still connected.

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 that 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 was singing 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, I don’t believe this makes my life easier. In fact, I’d suggest it makes it more difficult because it means both living and telling the truth. Especially when it’s most unwelcome or unexpected.

Many thanks to Candice for this topic! Though I’ve already written elsewhere about this blog, this is another way of looking at it. Equally true and challenging.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 March 2018
Cardinal duet found on YouTube

mountain of sorrow

mountain of sorrow
strewn with graves of the slaughtered
cannot forget

I wrote this after watching a special report last night on the PBS News Hour. It included video of hastily dug stone-marked graves for men and boys slaughtered on Sinjar Mountain during genocidal war against Yazidis in Sinjar District, Iraq.

It caught my attention because it happened in the last several years, just ‘yesterday,’ right before our eyes. Genocide is an attempt by some human beings to disappear other human beings from the face of the earth. Uncounted numbers of men, boys, women and girls were found unworthy of belonging to the human race. Their crime: being Yazidis.

Advent has its dark side. A Jewish baby born to a young unmarried Jewish woman will one day be judged by his own people and others, and declared unworthy to belong to the human race.

His crime? Speaking the truth about people who populated his world. Sometimes it was unwelcome truth, delivered in unconventional ways. He didn’t hold back or grease the hands and reputations of religious leaders, politicians, or everyday human beings like you and like I.

Nor did he hold back in showing us how to live, speak, and die for truth. Especially when other human beings are being disappeared.

This challenges me. I don’t want to be among the disappeared. Nor do I want to collude in the disappearance of others. What does this mean for me, looking ahead?

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 December 2017
Photo found at thestar.com

Queen for a Day Proclamation

I, Queen Elouise,
do solemnly proclaim via my faithful town crier
the following:

On this very day,
Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Leaders of all nations, fiefdoms,
clans, tribes, and houses of worship –
NOT excluding the President of the United States of America –
shall promptly and without demur
stand before a full-length mirror
and practice articulating in full voice
each of the following statements
a minimum of three times:

I need help.
I was wrong.
You deserve better.
I let you down.
I have no excuses.
I resign.

Furthermore –
I solemnly urge each of them,
not excluding POTUS,
to practice this spiritual and political discipline
for as long as he or she remains in office

***

Guarantee of Effectiveness:

When publicly delivered as needed,
these words, any or all, are guaranteed to
make headlines and elevate truth
everywhere

Long Live True Greatness!

QE, Queen for a Day

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 September 2017
Image found at clipart-library.com

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Elevate

Teach us to number our days

teach-us-to-number-our-days

One year ago I celebrated a birthday. Today I’m celebrating birthday #73, yet it feels as though decades have passed since 20 November 2015.

I’m writing this on Saturday evening. A cold front is moving in, and a strong, cold gusty wind is already whirling around in the dark. Read the rest of this entry »

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