Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Truth

Empty words

How quickly things fall apart
Cloaked in bravado and mis-speak –
Brash promises shatter beneath the weight
Of human ineptitude and fierce
Reality on the ground

And yet

Each day the drone goes on
For hours weighty with words
Full of fury plus silence about
What really matters most in this
Nation dying for straight answers

Yet again

Another wandering bombardment
Of jumbled prevarications interrupts
Painting the most upbeat scenarios
We can’t possibly believe —
Empty words drunk on themselves

No, I don’t listen to or watch the “daily briefings” from the White House anymore. They sound more like run-on election-rally speeches (without the hoopla of the crowds), than steady, well-informed updates on COVID-19 and what we can or must do to protect ourselves and others.

The poem is an effort to capture what I’ve seen and heard for myself. Living 76 years has its rewards. One is a long memory of times when our Presidents (of both parties) stepped up to the microphone and helped us join hands as a nation during times of disaster.

No, none of our Presidents has been perfect. Some have been corrupt. Yet on the whole, none in my memory has been as egregiously uncaring about the majority population of this nation as Mr. Trump. His behavior right now is not helpful, not healing, and not encouraging for the short or long-term future.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 April 2020
Photo of White House Press Briefing Podium found at politico.com

Sunday morning silence

Small floor heater hums
Smudge rearranges himself
Next to radiator pipes
Refrigerator labors to maintain chill
Table clock whispers each tiny tick
Silence seeps through my bones

Outside my kitchen window
Neighborly trees stand at attention
Calm surveyors from above
Testing winds of change
And chance encounters
A dog barks in the near distance

All things considered, I stayed home this Sunday. What will happen next? The question is on my mind in more ways than one.

As for today, I’m grateful to be alive, awake and able to write.

As a writer, I’m turning a corner. Though I’m not sure what to call it, I know what it isn’t about.

It isn’t about feeling good. Nor is it about highlighting lovely side roads without acknowledging exactly where we find ourselves today.

It isn’t about making myself or you happy, or trying to keep myself out of trouble when trouble is spelled t-r-u-t-h.

Not just truth about what’s on the surface, but truth hidden at the heart of what feels normal but is not.

Easier said than done, I know. Yet that’s part of the tug. Trance is a tricky subject, with tentacles that reach everywhere.

The future of our neighbors, our country and this globe is worth our best efforts. Beginning with Sunday morning silence.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 March 2020
Photo taken by me this morning, 8 March 2020

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

I like a look of Agony

It’s been a while since I’ve commented on one of Emily Dickinson’s poems. Here’s one that seems right for this season of national and international rhetoric. My comments follow, in free-verse form.

I like a look of Agony,
Because I know it’s true –
Men do not sham Convulsion,
Nor simulate, a Throe –

The Eyes glaze once – and that is Death –
Impossible to feign
The Beads upon the Forehead
By homely Anguish strung.

c. 1861

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

Emily doesn’t like false feelings or pretense. In this poem she looks to Death for an example of true feelings. Not expressed in words, but literally, on the forehead of a dying person. No one can possibly play make-believe when it comes time to die. Convulsions and the intense agonies of death, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, can’t be faked.

Nor can those telltale ‘Beads upon the Forehead’ of the dying person. Even silent Anguish cries out with tears that leak through the skin. Beads of Anguish strung upon the Brow. Thus Death gives strange birth to Truth. The truth of Agony and Anguish.

Below is my free-verse response to Emily’s poem. I’m struck by how many ‘fake’ emotions parade before our eyes and ears each day. We live in an age that celebrates Faux or at least Exaggerated Feelings. Perhaps to such an extent that we no longer discern what is Manufactured from what is Real.

With apologies to Emily:

We live in an age of Faux Feelings
Or at least an age that rewards them
Not with congratulations but with Attention
and Faux Gasps of Horror or Delight

Perhaps we forgot or never knew
How to have, much less allow air time
For True Feelings not ratcheted up
To the nth degree — especially True Agony

The kind not found by looking in a mirror
Trying to get just the right look that will
land just the right response be it Attention,
Applause, Laughter or the Disgust of the Moment

Unsocial Commandments hamstring us
Pulling chains that avert our eyes instead of
Encouraging us toward each other in life and
In death as family and next of kin, not strangers

Life and Death itself seem to propel us toward
Ever-greater depths of make-believe and denial –
Hiding behind masks that mimic or minimize feelings
We most fear to acknowledge, sit with or name

Perhaps our Deaths are the only unscripted
Roles we play with unfiltered, uncosmeticized
Feelings of True Agony, Grief, Pain and Love,
Finally crossing all sides of divides that bind us

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 May 2018
Photo found at blog.xuite.net

yesterday’s memories


bluer than blue
greener than green
yesterday’s memories
filter deep water
refocus depth of perception
brilliance and light
shadows and darkness
in this transient season
not of our making
or understanding

Photos of reflections on water often capture more depth of perspective and color, along with greater detail than we could see in the moment the camera clicked. And, strangely, there’s often truth and beauty in these photos that captures my heart even more than it did when the camera clicked.

In the end, Truth lives beyond our individual perceptions. All the more reason for humility, openness, and listening ears. For me, this means at least a twofold commitment to spiritual elasticity that

  • doesn’t give away or abandon Truth,
  • and fully understands and even loves that it cannot see or own all Truth.

It isn’t all up to me. My part is to follow Truth and report what I’m seeing. Not what you’re seeing.

The Truth I follow is a person, Jesus Christ, who leads by way of life wisdom, not folly. The path is difficult. Never crystal clear, not engraved in stone, always dangerous and always evolving. I pray for spiritual elasticity to yield and stretch faithfully, in keeping with Jesus’ life, death and deceptively brief ministry on this earth.

A few thoughts for this weekend and Sabbath rest, given the world in which I find myself today. Not bereft of beauty, comfort and hope, and equally no longer the world I thought I knew. Now, more than ever, I need and am grateful for companions on this journey.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 October 2017
Photo taken by DAFraser, May 2017 at Longwood Gardens
Daily Prompt: Elastic

Tough words for tough times

Words are actions. Written, spoken or springing to our minds, they aren’t make-believe. They convey intentions. They can’t be taken back, whether delivered flawlessly, flippantly or in jest. The large or small grain of truth has already been fired from the well-aimed barrel of a well-oiled tongue.

This morning I read Psalm 12. It invited me to ponder not just my tongue and what it reveals about me, but the cacophony of words flying about us on any given day.

  • Cutting. Slicing. Insinuating.
  • Demolishing. Killing. Maiming.
  • Flattering. Deceiving. Boasting.
  • Lording it over others.
  • Maligning the needy and the poor.
  • Decrying the rich and the famous.
  • Strutting. Preening.
  • Poisoning the air with intent to kill, maim, prevail at any cost.

Truth is difficult. It takes an effort. A clear head and a clear heart. Self-knowledge. Honesty and humility.

Here’s the full text of Psalm 12. The psalmist speaks passionately, with hyperbole, so great is his despair as well as trust in the Lord. His despair is not an exaggeration. Neither is his faith.

Psalm 12 (New International Version)

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
Those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
Everyone lies to their neighbor;
They flatter with their lips
But harbor deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips
And every boastful tongue—
Those who say
“By our tongues we will prevail;
Our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
I will now arise,” says the Lord.
“I will protect them from those who malign them.”
And the words of the Lord are flawless,
Like silver purified in a crucible,
Like gold refined seven times.

You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
And will protect us forever from the wicked,
Who freely strut about
When what is vile is honored by the human race.

Tough words for tough times, yes. Though not without hope for all of us. The damage doesn’t fall simply on the poor and needy. It falls on all of us–those who use their tongues and pens as weapons of war, or those who prefer firing bullets in the privacy of their minds and hearts.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 June 2017
Image found at pinterest

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson!

emily-dickinson-stars

Yes, it’s Emily’s 154th birthday anniversary today! I’d hoped the Google Gang would mark the day with one of their short and fancy celebration videos for all us Googlers. Too bad. They missed their chance.

I barely know Emily. Read the rest of this entry »

Before I got my eye put out

Hummingbird Courtship Display.jpeg

How is your sight? What captures your attention? Despite Emily Dickinson’s opening phrase, I don’t think her poem is a lament for lost eyesight. What do you think? My comments follow her poem. Read the rest of this entry »

old women’s visions

Abandoned-Places-From-Around-The-World-22-An-abandoned-house-in-the-forest

old women’s visions
sigh in abandoned forests
of dreams and regrets

***

Does this sound like a downer? I don’t intend it as a downer. The truth is simple: Read the rest of this entry »

All things are shadows | From an Old Soul

July 21, Diary of an Old Soul

All things are shadows of the shining true:
Sun, sea, and air—close, potent, hurtless fire—
Flowers from their mother’s prison—dove, and dew—
Every thing holds a slender guiding clue
Back to the mighty oneness: hearts of faith
Know thee than light, than heat, endlessly nigher,
Our life’s life, carpenter of Nazareth.

George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994

* * *

This sonnet makes my heart sing.
As wonderful as nature is,
with its “slender guiding clues,”
One rises above all others.
More than a shadow of shining truth,
The heart of every flower or drop of dew,
holding all things together,
Life of my life: “carpenter of Nazareth.”

I can’t help asking why? Why this man Jesus, carpenter of Nazareth, who lived for so few years on this earth? Why this man on his way to death from the beginning? Not known for being beautiful or easy to follow. Why this carpenter of Nazareth?

I’m not given to rational answers or apologetic reasoning. Yet without this carpenter of Nazareth in my life, I would have no life.

Without him I would see shadows,
but not the “shining true” within the shadows.
I would miss the “slender guiding clues” that point beyond.
Beyond the sun, sea and air;
beyond the flowers, doves and dew
to One who is closer and dearer than light and heat,
breath of my breath—“carpenter of Nazareth.”

A carpenter, vulnerable as am I. Not visibly glorious like a sunset, or majestic like galaxies spread over the universe. Vulnerable. Like a newborn infant, a flower or dove. Vulnerable like a frightened child, a painfully self-conscious teenager, a clueless young adult or new parent, a jaded war-weary adult, or an aging senior citizen.

Vulnerable to what? Being mocked, loved, rejected, abandoned, hated, ignored, disbelieved, understood, misunderstood, sick, hungry, thirsty, weary, sad, forsaken, fed up, angry, passionate, stalked, watched, betrayed, arrested without cause, convicted in a mock trial, beaten, paraded as a criminal, strung up to die.

He wasn’t a power-monger; he lived a human life and dealt with his human situation as one of us. A carpenter of Nazareth doing his best to remain faithful to God who gave him life and a seemingly impossible mission.

He showed us what to do and what not to do, how to be and how not to be. He showed us the way home and the way to die, and offered to walk with us.

I know him because he first knows me. His life tells me so.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 21 November 2015

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