Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Women’s Lives

Sorting through closets

Sorting through closets
I’m overcome by sadness
about what?

Beloved outfits, yes
And also reminders of a time
when I was what?

Somebody?
A worker bee all dressed up for slaughter?
A shining star in someone else’s grand career?

I need another outlook
On these outgrown outfits
Consciously assembled to cover
A harmless woman
Not seeking glory or fame
Easy to work with
A good team player
Not given to outlandish clothes
Or calling attention to herself

I’m not mean
I’m neat and tidy
Unpretentious
Don’t mess with me
And by the way
I’m not sure who I am

Today’s work isn’t the end
It’s a beginning
An expansion
Not of what’s in my closet
But in my spirit —
The spirit of our Creator
Whose expansiveness goes
Beyond the boundaries of my small world
Into the vast unexplored territory
Of the woman I am already becoming

Most of my time right now is spent getting things ready for the contractors. They’ll begin work this coming Monday. In the meantime, we’ve been sorting things out, making another dent in our worldly goods.

As relieved as I am to be doing all this, I’m also grieving. The poem above is about going beyond my small world. Still, I carry happy memories of past collaborations with colleagues, and lively courses with students. My clothes are a reminder of good times, not just the other times.

Today I’m expanding. I also feel the drag of my upbringing and life as a woman in college, seminary-land, church, and society in general. I remind myself that our Creator is constantly expanding, moving into new territory, and calling out to us to follow, ready or not.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 September 2019
Image found at pixabay.com

One of a kind

Grounded in gratitude
and the painfilled joy
of being female

Can these things coexist
in one body?

Yes, my daughter,
though you must never forget:
Pain is a necessary thorn in
tender female flesh for reasons
not understood by mere mortals

My mind does not accept this verdict –
drowning in ignorance about me
and the course of my life on this earth

How many of us are there?
Each necessary to the great vine of life
Hanging on for dear life

I’m struck by the strange mix of gratitude and pain uncovered in me on any day of the year. It doesn’t take much. A news item, an ad, an assumption about me or all women, or the absence of everyday examples that might connect with real women and girls. Is this what it means to be human and female?

I’ve given up trying to understand the self-serving, convoluted logic I often hear about being female. Instead, I’m aiming each day for a calm mind, a relaxed body, a singing heart, and a trusting spirit. Whatever it takes, for as long as it takes.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 September 2019
Image of caged bird found at asfmtech.org

What next?

Standing alone
Holding what’s left
Of a lovely old body
Weary and dependent
She now begs for mercy
And justice from me
Her semi-absent keeper
Of too many years

What now?
Where now?
What next?
I haven’t a clue.
Have you?

The dilemma of each day. I don’t feel sorry; I feel sad. Last night I had a plan. Then I woke up this morning and my body begged for mercy and justice. My plan changed.

I want to save the world. Or at least what’s left of it. Now. Not later. My body stands there staring at me in the mirror. And what about me? Don’t I count for something?

The responsibility to take care of myself, not the rest of the world, weighs heavy. Not because I don’t know what to do, but because I’d rather be out there fighting for justice and mercy!

How ironic. Looking back, I see patterns that drove me. I also see the high cost my body is paying. Then I think of all the students and friends I’ve exhorted over the years to ‘take care of themselves.’

The title of a book I read in the last year or so comes back to haunt me: The Body Keeps the Score. Indeed it does keep the score. Mercilessly, yet mercifully when I’m willing to pay attention. This is now. Not then. I have choices.

So this morning I cancelled my plan and am listening to my body. Keenly aware that my new baby doll stand-in for me, 10-month old Marie, knows exactly what it means to be abused and taken for granted by someone who claims to love her. Sadly, I have sometimes been my complicit enemy, especially as an adult driven by ghosts from my past.

The sun is out; fall is almost in the air; it looks like a good day for a walk in the neighborhood! And a long look at that lovely photo at the top–a dock that reminds me of my favorite childhood getaway.

Happy Thursday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 October 2018
Photo found at pinterest
Dock on the Skidaway River, Isle of Hope, Georgia

Voices long silent

Dawn's Place circle of friends making paper flowers february 2014

Voices long silent
Spill over each other
Dying to be heard

Sisters on a mission
To recover lost youth
Find each other instead

Secrets never shared
Comfort never given
Tears never cried
Sink into the ground
Of love-starved hearts

How many of us are there? Blood relatives or total strangers, it doesn’t matter. The more I read and hear about the untold lives of women, the more horrified I am at the way we’ve been silenced. I also wonder how long we’ve taken it out on each other?

Starving for sisterly conversation. That’s how I grew up. Silence was enforced and reinforced a thousand ways. Not just at home but in church, in school and in every social or public setting of my life. Even, strangely, in settings that seemed to be made up of women only.

As a child and teenager I was surrounded by a seen and unseen assemblage of rules, shaming rituals and periodic public displays of what happens to strong women. Especially women who speak their minds and make trouble for the rest of us.

Fast forward, and it feels too familiar. Not so much from the bottom up as from the top down. It doesn’t take many men and like-minded women to turn the tide. Especially when women can easily be publicly shamed, if not ruined, in this age of social media.

Many, if not most of us are starving for love. Not for glory or fame, but for safety, acceptance and affection. We’re dying for a listening ear. At least one other woman who will confirm our experience. Laugh and weep with us. Comfort and support us. Especially now, when female life around the world is still fragile, no matter how many grand laws are on the books. Including right here at home in these United States of America.

I know. There are all kinds of barriers and circumstances that seem to discourage this. Yet a smile and a warm hello might be that last drop that turns the tide for another woman. I’d even suggest it’s a way of knocking on a door. Especially in a country gone sour on social niceties.

With hope and persistence,
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 June 2018
Photo: Women at Dawn’s Place, a therapeutic residential program for women

Playing my card – a poem

,

Is being born female a scar?
A blemish a blot an
unfortunate role of the dice?
Something to disguise or
hope might fade over time?

Mind your scar dear
You wouldn’t want to be
laughed at, jeered at, taken
for granted or trashed

Here love let me help you make
the most of your scar perhaps
then they won’t notice it so much

Who knows
you might even win adulation
and a real man if you play
your scar card just right

Remember you’re in this
for the long haul so buck up
and smile like a million dollars
someday you’ll be rewarded for
your dumbed down version of
the woman every man wants

Not to worry there’s still plenty
of time to make your mark you
just need to keep at it no cracks
in the façade

Don’t get me wrong dear I’m not
saying you haven’t been doing it
the right way

It’s just that the cracks in your
scar are showing and we wouldn’t
want you to bleed all over the place
and your clothes

So you’ll just have to stop picking
at it and let it heal the way it’s
supposed to heal all flat and flawless and
invisible just like you

This is my attempt to capture the ethos that informed my growing-up years, as seen today through my adult eyes. I would be less than truthful if I said this kind of approach wasn’t also part of my professional life. It was. Gratefully, by then I had a company of women and some men who helped me make it through. Not as a scar on the face of humanity, and not all flat, flawless and invisible.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 January 2018
Photo taken by my father in 1947 — Seattle, Washington, with Daughter #2 (of 4) and a young friend

It might be lonelier

emily-bp-blogspot-com-blue-peninsula

I see myself in this poem. And my mother. And other women I’ve known who seem to wear a mantel of sorrow, even when they’re happy. My comments follow.

It might be lonelier
Without the Loneliness –
I’m so accustomed to my Fate –
Perhaps the Other – Peace –

Would interrupt the Dark –
And crowd the little Room –
Too scant – by Cubits – to contain
The Sacrament – of Him –

I am not used to Hope –
It might intrude upon –
Its sweet parade – blaspheme the place –
Ordained to Suffering –

It might be easier
To fail – with Land in Sight –
Than gain – My Blue Peninsula –
To perish – of Delight –

c. 1862

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

Emily already knows Loneliness and perhaps wants something else. Yet she fears that giving it up will lead to even greater Loneliness. Her life might not have enough room for Peace, Hope or Delight—in addition to Loneliness.

Change of that magnitude would make too much noise, demand too much space. Intrude upon the Lonely, Dark existence she experiences in her crowded little Room. Or worse, she might lose the little everyday happiness and security she already has in her crowded little Room. I take this to be her life, a life of creative solitude and family duties.

In addition, Emily says her little Room might be too crowded for Him. Who is He? Perhaps a man or someone else who wants to be in her life? Or perhaps the One who offers her the Sacrament of Peace and Hope, with or without anyone else in her life? I don’t know.

It seems a sense of Fate hangs heavy over Emily’s life, taking up almost all the room or energy she has for human emotions of Delight. Yes, she may welcome relief from time to time, but the cost of giving up her Ordination to Suffering seems too heavy to bear.

Emily hasn’t renounced happiness. It still manages to creep in. Yet giving herself completely to Delight might annihilate her. She wouldn’t be able to count on predictability or control. Perhaps she wouldn’t be able to write as much. Perhaps she wouldn’t be safe from betrayal or disappointment. Her worst fears might be realized.

In the end, Emily would rather drown with land in sight, than arrive only to “perish – of Delight.”

This poem may not be gender-specific, yet in my experience a similar debate rages inside many women. Especially when the heavy hand of authority keeps reminding them of their Fate. That to which they were Ordained–duties and distractions that don’t allow space or time to exercise personal gifts and welcome Delight into their lives.

This is Women’s History Month. I celebrate women the world over who had a late start or haven’t yet found Delight, Hope and Peace in this world. If women seem complicated and unpredictable, maybe that’s because we’ve lived multiple lives for too long. Masking and denying our true selves to survive. Creatively. The way Emily survived.

I celebrate Emily Dickinson’s creativity. Her poetry speaks to me about courage and commitment to truth. Best of all, her enigmatic voice lives on, suggesting a different, slanted way to view the natural world and the dynamics of our inner and outer lives.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 March 2017
Photo found at bloggingdickinson.blogspot.com

arms folded

P1010843

arms folded
woman deep in thought
ponders life

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