Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Vulnerability

Short Update on Life and Health

I can’t believe it was just above 70 degrees Fahrenheit today! Though it won’t stick around yet, it’s a sign that Spring is just around the corner. D and I enjoyed several outdoor walks in the last two weeks. The photo at the top shows crocus exploding out of the cold ground in our back yard.

As for my daily priorities, they’re simple: sleep, eat, exercise, write, play music, and read.

My heart seems to like this agenda, though it gets tired now and then. I just finished reading a memoir about living with atrial fibrillation. The author is in her early 80s, and has lived with AFib just about as long as I have. Her situation isn’t mine. Still, her straightforward approach to doctors emboldens me to ask more questions, and expect more evidence before consenting (or not) to go down this or that path.

As for my social life, it’s not number one on my list. Nonetheless, I now have several female friends I can visit with. No fixed agenda but talking, and going out for a walk as possible. Just what I was aching for. Also, with warmer weather I’m able to stay connected with a couple of my neighbors when I’m out walking.

Writing is easy, or it isn’t. No middle ground. The biggest challenge at this age is identifying in my behavior echoes of what I experienced when I was a child and teenager. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between what was done against my will, and what I do today. I’m grateful for regular phone conversations with a friend who has helped me for years. It’s hard work. A bit like filling in the gaps in my life, though I don’t always like it.

As for music, I’ve let my piano coach off the hook. He teaches at a local university, and ended up with more students and commitments than he could handle this spring. However, I’m going gung-ho on my own, practicing regularly and loving it! Right now I’m hooked on J.S. Bach’s piano compositions. I have three well-worn (from childhood) books of preludes and fugues, enough to keep me busy for rest of my life.

If you’re interested, here’s info on the book I mentioned above: In a Heartbeat: The Ups and Downs of Life with Atrial FIB, by Rosalie Linver Ungar.

I hope this finds you content and grateful for the life you’ve been given. It all flies by quickly. Thanks for being part of my life, especially in these later years I’m calling The Last Chapter.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 March 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, 14 March 2019

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

How loud the storm sounds | Emily Brontë

For weeks, this short poem by Emily Brontë has haunted me. With a small handful of simple words Emily evokes feelings of grief and shock that come from unexpected death. My comments follow.

How loud the storm sounds round the Hall!
From arch to arch from door to door
Pillar and roof and granite wall
Rock like a cradle in its roar

That Elm tree by the haunted well
Greets no returning summer skies
Down with a rush the giant fell
And stretched athwart the path it lies

Hardly had passed the funeral train
So long delayed by wind and snow
And how they’ll reach the house again
Tomorrow’s dawn perhaps will show

From selected poems of Emily Brontë
Published in Everyman’s Library by Alfred A. Knopf, 1996

Perhaps it seems strange to talk about unexpected death, especially during a powerful storm that shakes foundations and roars as it gathers speed.

Yet of all the things that might have fallen, it was “That Elm tree by the haunted well.” A giant. A fixture in the landscape.

In addition, it fell across not just any path, but the path between house and Hall. That would be the Brontë house (church parsonage), and the church Hall where father Brontë served as a parson.

The house stands at the opposite end of a path leading to the church Hall. Besides getting to the church for services, it was also the pathway down which deceased members of the Brontë family were carried to be laid to rest in the family vault.

Emily refers to a funeral, already delayed by wind and snow. It’s finally taking place in the church Hall. Whose funeral? Emily doesn’t say.

Suddenly a furious storm erupts, and “That Elm tree by the haunted well” comes crashing down across the path. It seems the only solution is to stay in the church Hall until tomorrow. Perhaps by then we’ll be able to find a way back to the house.

So what does this poem suggest? Perhaps the giant Elm’s sudden death refers to a person whose life touches everyone. This could be a family member, such as Emily’s mother, or one of Emily’s siblings. We might also ask whether it’s possible to return the house as it was.

The poem describes the way we often experience death. It leaves us feeling lost and uncertain. Without a compass, or a clear map for how we’ll proceed from here.

The poem also invites us to consider each day precious. The end often comes without warning. Especially to those we most love and depend upon. Or to ourselves.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 March 2019
Photo found at pinterest.com 

Sometimes my voice falters

Sometimes my voice falters
Falling ten stories down
Into a desert of silence

My rattled soul teeters
On the edge of despair
Searching for a small grain
I might rightly call my own
Though nothing was ever
Mine to begin with

Still….
In the hot wind
Of my empty mind
I hear my heart
Beating
Yearning for yesterday

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 March 2019
Photo of desert drought landscape found at pixabay.com

unmapped adventure

Restless uncertainties clamor
Living reminders of death
And the loneliness of aging
I stare out the window
Looking for a sign, a thought
That points the way ahead
Through shapeless days
Living within boundaries shifting
From one day to the next

Thou shalt not taunts me
Thou shalt snaps at my heels
Dares me to veer from this
Strange path to everything
And to nothing at all—
Dreams wander without clear
Themes or destinations
Days come and go
Like all the others

One day up
The next day down
The cup is full
The cup is empty
The magic recipe eludes me
Leaving nothing
But the raw gift of life—
Becoming myself
In this unmapped adventure

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 March 2019
Image found at pinterest.com

Nibbling at edges

Nibbling at edges
A dropped heartbeat
Here . . . . . now there
Random holes of silence
Never to be filled
Gone forever
Eluding my grasp
Silently stealing life
That once seemed
Steady and sure

Several days ago I decided to wear my heart monitor. I was curious. How often and how long are these episodes of atrial fibrillation? Lucy Pacemaker takes care of the slow beats. I don’t even know when she’s doing it because I’m usually asleep.

So what’s up with those fast-beating AFib episodes? Sometimes I can tell when my heart misses beats, but not usually. Often I feel weak, especially in my legs and when I reach to get something from a high shelf. My energy level plummets, and I feel off-balance.

For three days I wore my heart monitor from the time I got up until I went to bed. Nothing. Just wonderfully steady, strong beats. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was thrilled and full of energy.

Yesterday morning things went haywire. I saw it on my heart monitor, and felt it in my body. Weak and discouraged doesn’t begin to describe the feeling.

After some tears of frustration, I decided my heart could use some comfort. I also pared down my schedule to three things: make (and enjoy!) a simple lentil soup, play the piano, and exercise indoors.

After half an hour on my semi-recumbent bike, plus walking around the house while listening to the radio, it happened. My heart suddenly settled down, more than 8 hours after the fibrillation began.

Yesterday evening I jotted down the poem at the top. An acknowledgment that I’m dying in more ways than one—and that there’s life in me, though it’s not what I expected.

As for you, dear Reader, here’s a Reader-friendly article about AFib, and how to tell, without a monitor, whether your heartbeats are steady: Stanford University Scope Blog.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 March 2019
Image found at Stanford University’s Scope Blog

heaviness of years past

It’s Monday morning
I’m still trying to
Find myself

Not lost
Perhaps misplaced
Somewhere back there?

Yesterday in church
I wept for the heaviness
Of years past

Wounds and scars
From a thousand misfired
Bullets

Invisible reminders
Deep within of tales not told
Or understood

The most difficult thing I’ve done as a follower of Jesus is to step out of my hiding places. Not primarily to face my friends or foes, but to face myself. In my family of origin, hiding was the best way I could cope and survive as a child and teenager.

As a young adult and later as a professional, I carried a weight of fear in my guts. Fear that some grand tribunal would subpoena me to testify against myself.

Sadly, I thought this process would be about my small and large transgressions, as determined by their eyes. In my worst fears, I would be shamed and punished before an audience of my peers plus strangers. They would make an example of me, much as my father tried to make an example of me as the eldest of four daughters.

Instead, as a 40-something, I found myself in Al-Anon groups of women and men struggling as I was. Listening to them helped me listen to my story. Maybe I didn’t need to fear some unknown grand tribunal.

These new friends didn’t absolve me, and they didn’t try to fix me. Instead, they listened, and showed me how they worked on their own wounds and scars. By honoring themselves, they honored me.

So there I was in church yesterday, weeping. Realizing that no matter what I do, I will be welcomed with open arms when I die.

Where will I go? I don’t know. Nonetheless, I believe I will be in the presence of The Only One who understands me fully and loves me from the inside out. I’ll also be free of wounds and scars. Free to be the beautiful woman I am.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 March 2019
Photo found at fromthegrapevine.com, Flowers on a tombstone, Czech Republic

Looking for friends

During the last several weeks I’ve been restless and lonely. I’m sleeping better and feeling more energetic than I have in the last four years. The weather, on the other hand, has been wildly unpredictable, requiring more in-house activity than usual. Still….

Retirement is heaven on earth. Right? Wrong.

My body has changed and my age keeps creeping ever higher. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t return to academic life with its regular access to interesting students and colleagues. My retirement playground sometimes feels like punishing confinement.

As a child and teenager, I felt left out and lonely most of the time. Not invited to parties, not allowed to go to movies, and not allowed many close friends. Not that there was a long line knocking on my door.

I thought I was over those childhood feelings. Yet they came crashing in on me this past week. Triggered by more than one conversation about a wonderful dinner party or get-together I knew I couldn’t attend even if I wanted to.

The truth is, I don’t want and can’t survive a busy social life. Neither do I want to become someone’s project. I want women friends. A few interesting, trustworthy women. Not for a fabulous dinner out, a trip to the latest show, or even to reminisce about old times.

I’m past the years of being a hostess. I’m beyond cleaning up for company, or trying to transform myself into the social butterfly I’ve never been. I’m also beyond being part of a church visitation team.

This is about connecting in person over a cup of tea or glass of water, going for a walk or not. It’s about regular face to face time with women who might also feel left out, forgotten, or simply in need of female company.

And no, I don’t expect you, my readers, to solve this for me. Though perhaps some of you have felt this way from time to time?

Thanks for taking time to listen.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2019
Photo found at nationalpost.com

Yesterday and today

The beginning and the end
One day follows another

A hand reaches out
Eyes meet yet again

One true note after another
moves through time after time

A small bud bursts open
on trees swaying in the wind

The sun set in the west
and rose in the east
yesterday and today

Yesterday I accompanied D to a doctor’s appointment, and watched a procedure on his back. It wasn’t pretty or pain-free. It was, however, successful. We came home relieved and weary.

It got me thinking about times D has accompanied me in the last four years to appointments with a variety of doctors, including emergency room and surgical procedures. Some planned, some not planned.

I’ve always prided myself on being healthy. Looking back, however, I’d say I was fighting to hold it together as best I could, given the circumstances of my childhood, and my workplace. I didn’t expect retirement would surface so many health challenges.

Nonetheless, D was there for me. It felt wonderful to be there for him yesterday. A small way I could do for him what he has willingly and mostly gladly done for me, especially in the last several years.

This little poem came to mind while I was sitting at my kitchen window this morning. The minute it was on paper I knew it was for D. And for you, my friends and visitors who have your own lives, dreams, sorrows and joys.

Take care of someone you love today–or your pet. And don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 February 2019
Photo found at clicknmoms.com

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