Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Trauma

Clouds hang heavy

Clouds hang heavy
with moisture waiting
for release into
an atmosphere of
winter snow and ice

My heart beats heavy
with tears for those
who know not what they do
even though I’m also in
the same sinking boat

Is it this person or that
who will point us home
somewhere or anywhere
within the space of this
world trembling on the brink

What a strange season this is. We live in the aftermath of a contentious election. At the same time, we’re charged with the task of helping inhibit Covid-19’s still inflating whirlwind of death, destruction and denial. It seems attacking this sickness unto death is more than we’re able or prepared to accomplish on our own.

Will we make it as a nation? In the meantime, people are hungry, thirsty, living and dying on the streets, in mansions, or in temporary shelters. Do they have hope? Do you? Do I?

One thing I know for certain. Praying might not change things overnight. It can, however, force me to be truthful not so much about ‘them’ as about myself. I don’t have a clue how to point the way home in our present catastrophe.

All I can do is follow the example of my leader, Jesus of Nazareth, for whom nothing was impossible. The secret? One faithful step after another, no matter how I feel about it. Plus prayer for our new POTUS and his team, charged with addressing the death that is upon us if we fail to find common ground and a reason to work together.

Happy Tuesday to each of you, and a prayer that each of us will find our way one faithful step after another.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 26 January 2021
Image found at youtube.jpg

How are you doing today?

Our pastor asked this at the beginning of today’s online sermon. It caught me by surprise. It’s also better than a thousand other things we might talk about. So I’m going to begin, and invite you to respond about yourself.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being Great, I’m scoring about 6 or 7 on most days. Why?

~Sometimes winter weather is harsh, meaning no outdoor walk with D
~My health, which requires constant attention 24/7
~The sudden unraveling last March of regular social life (Covid-19)
~Reverberations from chaos recently unleashed on Capitol Hill
~No in-person visits with family members or friends
~Grief that comes with acknowledging I won’t be here forever, which will come sooner, not later

Grief, disappointment, sadness, weariness, uncertainty, loneliness, heartache, fear. I could pretend they don’t bother me. But that wouldn’t be telling the truth.

Thankfully, things like the following bring me joy or gratitude.

~Having enough food (most of it prepared by me)
~Walking outside with David when the weather is decent
~Seeing neighbors and chatting a bit on the street
~Phone calls and email from family members and friends
~Playing with Smudge or holding him on my lap while he sleeps
~Watching birds on our backyard feeders
~Reading a good book and playing the piano
~Listening to music any time of day

Still, good times won’t cancel out down times. Nor do they answer all my questions about life and the world as we know it today. Each day is different. Making plans is difficult. At the same time, Christian faith gives me a foundation I sorely need every day. Scripture, music, devotional reading and journaling.

What about you? How are you getting through this long passage of time, including loss of people you know and love?

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 January 2021
Image found at makeameme.org

Alas, Mr. Trump

Alas, Mr. Trump
You are Not the Only Problem
I know you won’t like it
But it’s the naked truth

They smiled and cheered
And raised their weapons
Of warfare screaming
Bravo as you preened

Forgive me for being
So blunt or don’t forgive me
Because it really doesn’t matter
You are Not the Only Problem

In the chaos of last week’s attack on Congress, it was crystal clear. Several weaponed-up angry white men shouted, ‘This isn’t Trump’s war. It’s ours!’ They’d moved way beyond Trump who, it seems, was the high-ranking inciter and/or supporter of violence they’d dreamed of for years. A cover and a disposable figure. An excuse for mayhem and murder.

Before and after becoming POTUS, Mr. Trump was and still is an inciter of white, mostly male pride, privilege, and crude violence unleashed, unafraid, and unrepentant. Is impeachment enough to satisfy the last four years of incitement to violence and disdain?

I don’t have answers. Nor will we find answers until we white citizens take seriously the history of the USA. For decades we’ve endured or ignored regular disruptions of mostly white “I’ll do it my way” men and women. Including standoffs by white men armed with rifles in this ‘land of the free and home of the brave.’

For the most part, they got away with it then and they get away with it now. Yes, a token number of people are being arrested for last week’s attack on Congress. Still, many have disappeared into the woodwork. There’s no way this attack would have happened if the perpetrators had been black.

Here’s now W. E. B. Du Bois puts it in his early 1900’s essay, “The Souls of White Folk” (emphasis mine).

Murder may swagger, theft may rule and prostitution may flourish and the nation gives but spasmodic, intermittent and lukewarm attention. But let the murderer be black or the thief be brown or the violator of womanhood have a drop of Negro blood, and the righteousness of the indignation sweeps the world. Nor would this fact make the indignation less justifiable did not we all know that it was blackness that was condemned and not crime.

Do we have the guts to condemn white crime? And to hold white Mr. Trump accountable for collusion, if not incitement?

Praying for courage to change the things we can,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 13 January 2021
Image found at nytimes.com

James Baldwin | The Fire Next Time

In the mid-1960s I first read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, a collection of two published pieces. Each deals with how to survive as a black person in the USA. The first is a painfully realistic letter to James Baldwin’s nephew. The second describes Baldwin’s own struggle as a black Christian, beginning at age 14.

Now, at the end of 2020, I’m reading Baldwin’s small book again. Sadly, most white citizens of the USA still haven’t figured out how to do the right thing by our black citizens.

Instead, we’ve formed factions for which we ‘need’ an enemy (who isn’t necessarily our enemy). Something or someone to squabble about. A diversion from painful realities. Sadly it seems to offer a way of winning, even though we’re all losing.

Remember divide and conquer? As children, we played it all the time.

Sadly, people in power love to see us fighting each other instead of fighting against an unjust system in which some human beings continue to pay an unjust price. Given our history, it seems white citizens would rather fight each other than deal with injustice to people of color.

Early in his second essay, Down at the Cross, James Baldwin describes our perennial problem. I’ve highlighted the line that caught my attention.

There appears to be a vast amount of confusion on this point, but I do not know many Negroes who are eager to be “accepted” by white people, still less to be loved by them; they, the blacks, simply don’t wish to be beaten over the head by the whites every instant of our brief passage on this planet. White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.

The Fire Next Time, pp 21-22;
First published by The Dial Press, NY, 1963
Vintage International Edition first published 1993

If this is the biggest question we white citizens face, it doesn’t matter which way we voted. What matters is whether we can learn to “accept and love ourselves and each other.”

We don’t need our perennial “Negro problem” in order to feel good about ourselves. Why not? Because this never was a “Negro problem.” It’s been a White problem from the very beginning.

Highly recommended, even if you read it way back when.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 December 2020
Book cover image found at amazon.com

squabbling sparrows

outside my window
squabbling sparrows fight for food –
silence reigns within

Onlooker. That’s what I am these days. Not when it comes to local stuff, but the other stuff. Frankly, I’d rather be a sparrow right now than a politician or public official.

Whatever this year has been on the outside, I’m grateful for time to examine my life as a white woman. All without the expectations or interruptions of ‘normal’ daily life.

Put another way, I don’t want to be out there squabbling over the 2020 Election, or suddenly find myself without a job or a sensible plan for the future.

Being a senior citizen has its drawbacks. For one, we don’t get much overt respect, especially in our modern-day young and (especially) white culture. When respect happens, it tastes really good. So far, D and I have been able to navigate this bizarre Covid-19 world. It helps that we’re both introverts with tons of books, and the desire to read and write.

Back to the standoff  and squabbling that’s playing out before our eyes. It’s deadly. No good will come of it. I’m praying justice will be done when Mr. Trump is no longer POTUS, and he can no longer evade courts of law. Still, the behavior of his extremely disaffected followers isn’t a promising sign.

While watching the sparrows squabble with each other, I heard and saw a large blue jay squawk its worst as it landed on the bird feeder and sent all the sparrows fleeing. Everything wasn’t great before the male jay arrived, but at least there was food on the table. And no big bullies in sight.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 November 2020
Photo found at thespruce.com

At the Purchaser’s Option | Rhiannon Giddens

It’s worth the fight. I can’t get this phrase out of my mind as we wait. Not just for the announcement about who will be our next President, but for the backlash that will surely follow.

Rhiannon Giddens’ song is about slave trade in the USA. Blatant back then, it’s somewhat more sophisticated today. Yet the bottom line is the same. Being disenfranchised isn’t only about voting. It’s also about being denied full humanity because of race, color, gender, age, religion, wealth, or any other test for who counts most.

Yes, we need a President and Vice President who can help us move in a humane direction. Still, we can’t afford to sit back and coast. The evils of yesterday’s blatant racism are still with us in a thousand permutations, compounded by Covid-19.

In the meantime, here’s a song that invites me to stay strong and focused on the work ahead, not on the ever-present backlash.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 November 2020
Rhianna Gibbon’s song found on YouTube

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 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.

I first posted this poem with comments in June 2018. Now it’s October 2020, and the number of USA deaths by suicide is climbing. How would you respond if a family member or friend confided in you? What would you say? What would you do?

Every situation is different. However, based on experience, here’s a way to begin conversation immediately. Don’t forget to take notes, including the date and time.

  • What’s your plan?
  • How would you do that? (Describe the process and preparation as of right now.)
  • Have you talked with anyone else about this? (If so, with whom did you talk, and what did they say?)
  • Do you have the suicide hot-line number? (If not, give them the number. You can’t force them to use it.)
  • Promise you’ll call me before you carry out your plan.

We’re not trained to have these conversations. Nonetheless, it’s important to make this real and present. The worst thing would be to commiserate (I call this ‘polishing the furniture’), and then hang up because it seems your friend or family member is feeling ‘better.’ Now we have two people in denial. Hardly a good outcome.

Bottom line: An awkward one-to-one conversation is the best possible place to begin. Honor their pain. They’ve just reached out for help. Not for a feel-better conversation.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2018, expanded and reposted 30 October 2020
Signs of Suicide found at mentalhealthfirstaid.org
Chart found at Wikipedia.eng

To fight aloud, is very brave — | Emily Dickinson

charge_of_the_light_brigade

~~~Charge of the Light Brigade, painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.

What does it mean to be brave? Emily Dickinson gets right to the heart of things with her focus on true heroes. My comments follow.

To fight aloud, is very brave –
But gallanter, I know
Who charge within the bosom
The Cavalry of Woe –

Who win, and nations do not see –
Who fall – and none observe –
Whose dying eyes, no Country
Regards with patriot love –

We trust, in plumed procession
For such, the Angels go –
Rank after Rank, with even feet –
And Uniforms of Snow.

c. 1859

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

The USA is besotted with romantic notions of Bravery. Captivated by monuments to those who fell to ‘ensure our freedom.’ Memorials to those who displayed Bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

We pause to honor those who stood or fell on our behalf. And yet….Who are the true heroes among us?

Emily’s poem is a slow, pensive hymn of remembrance for individuals who fought and fight battles, unseen and unacknowledged. Women, men, girls and boys more gallant than national heroes. In their hearts they charge daily against The Cavalry of Woe that would take them down in misery, sorrow, despair, pain, agony and defeat.

The poem, written in about 1859, brought to mind Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade,” along with paintings that memorialize tragedies.

Emily’s poem could also be a eulogy for uncounted heroes and heroines who bravely fought their internal enemies. Few, if any, know their names or the stories of their gallant deeds. Unseen and unsung, they remain hidden. Small bits of unexplored or never remembered history.

Does anyone notice or care? Emily does. She is one of these more gallant souls. Her poems remind us of her internal battles, though we don’t know what each was about.

Emily’s final stanza lifts up internal bravery for our respect, perhaps also for her personal comfort. She sees more than one Angel per warrior. Imagine it: unnumbered ranks of Angels process reverently in soft, snowy plumes. Their uniforms drop blankets of snow around and over uncounted heroes and heroines. Snowy flags of honor drape each unsung warrior who charged bravely ahead against all odds.

Angels also recognize the bravery of patriotic heroes, though not because of visible service. No one gets a pass when dealing with the internal Cavalry of Woe threatening daily to undo us.

My heart has been an unseen battlefield most of my life. It’s littered with spoils of war—war I’ve waged against my Cavalry of Woe. I fought much of it silently, assuming I was a loser. The woes weren’t strange or unusual, but common and everyday. Things like Fear of Harsh Punishment, Getting through Harsh Punishment, Perfectionism, Depression, Self-loathing, Self-doubt, Fear of Abandonment, Fear of Speaking in My Own Voice.

Whether we believe we’re gallant or not, Emily invites us to trust the cloud of Angel witnesses passing by, clothed in snow-white plumes. Reverently and respectfully they accompany us in life and in death. Honoring us as patriots who fought and still fight gallantly on behalf of our true selves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 Sept 2016, edited and reposted 8 Oct 2020
Painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.,
found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade

No matter who wins the 2020 Election

Here’s a short list of things that matter to me, going into the 2020 Election.

First, a battle is on for the heart and soul of this country, no matter who wins the 2020 Election. Conflict isn’t going away. It may, in fact, get worse.

Second, those of us who’ve been raised to believe in the rule of justice, or the rightness of law and order need to think again. We can’t afford to dismiss the way our current justice and legal systems too frequently favor white (or any color) money and stature.

Third, we already have among us a great company of witnesses. They’ve lived with injustice most if not all their lives. In the unlikely case you don’t know who they are, meet your black, brown, American Indian, and immigrant neighbors. Many are skilled in the kind of spiritual discipline it takes to live in an unjust world.

Fourth, it would be foolish to ignore neighbors and strangers. Some know me better than I know myself. Still, even they can’t do for me what I must do. They might, however, stand with me in spirit, and pray for me.

As a white woman, my life has been shaped by so-called national realities, and figments of human imagination. Now I must question them. Daily. In writing if needed.

As a senior citizen, I can’t afford to tie my hopes to the outcomes of the 2020 Election. No matter who wins, we’ll have a mess to clean up, a pandemic to attend to, and divisions in this country that are eating away at our soul.

Praying we’ll get through another week, one day at a time, and that we’ll find small ways to make a difference.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 September 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

This season of lament

I’m frozen
Cut off from reality
Not sure where I am
Or where I’m going
Deep sadness wells up
Ancient dikes breach
Cracks in dishonest walls
That tried to contain a world
Held together by lies and
Decay deliberate and brutal
Now breaking through
Elephant-size breaches
Lying before me in shambles
Buried by an unrelenting
Avalanche of disinformation
Grinding us down to
Our lowest common
Denominator

The odds aren’t on our side. Especially if we rely on our limited understanding. Which is all we have on any day of the week.

There is no Top Genius of this world. No Strong Man or Strong Woman of this world who knows or understands the past, present and future with utmost clarity. All we have is what’s left of what we received the moment we were born, and what we’ve been given or taken. For good and for ill.

So here I am with you, in a season of Lament. Without a clue whether we’ll be spared the consequences of actions never taken, taken too quickly, or taken in spite.

Am I without hope? Not unless I try to carry on with life or business as usual. So yes, I’m muddling through with everyone else. Praying, and watching for moments of grace and unexpected connections. Small signs that our Creator is still at work.

Praying your day contains some of those small signs.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 September 2020
Image found at pinterest.com

%d bloggers like this: