Flashback

Flashback

The flashback. It came out of nowhere. One second I was fine, the next I was back in that room. It started to spin and collapse in on me. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think. I had to get out. I had to get out now.

The place felt off as soon as we walked through the door. We have stayed in Airbnbs instead of hotels the last few times we visited. This one just didn’t feel right. The urns with the fake ferns might have done it. The “collectables” of alcohol displayed in the kitchen might have started the trigger.

Upstairs, the bedroom was not well lit. It was overly decorated with more urns and fake ferns, too much drapery, too many pillows, too much of everything. I brushed my teeth, changed into my pjs, pulled the sheet back, and lay down. I could feel it rising up from a place I thought no longer existed.

Then it hit me like a demolition ball.

This room, this place, reminded me of my abuser’s house.

The dark drapes, the ridiculous crown molding, all of the pillows and dramatic comforter.

My husband was brushing his teeth when it happened. In a very quiet voice I said, “This room reminds me of my abuser’s room. I can’t stay.”

I got up, got dressed, and threw all of my things into my bag. I couldn’t stay one more second. While I was making my escape to the car, my husband was able to find a room at a local hotel. It was midnight. Thankfully, a room was available.

The next morning, I struggled to function. My soul was raw. I felt hung over from the adrenaline rush the night before.

But I did what I’ve always done. I got up, got ready, and went on with my day.

It was a good day. I spent it with my little brother and my husband with a short visit at lunch with my big brother. Seeing them doing well helped me calm down.

We three, the Wilson kids, have survived trauma in one form or fashion.  We get up. It’s what we do. We get up and keep getting back up.

 

For more of my story, click here. And here.

 

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Commuting, in Two Parts

Commuting, in Two Parts

Part One: A.M.

Water bottle? Check.
Room temp Coke Zero? Check.
Crunchy snacks? Check.

Oh Shit! It’s already 7:15!!!

Traffic leaving town is light,
The lake is beautiful glass
Reflecting ancient palisades decades old

Are you really driving the SPEED LIMIT??!!!!

The sun is beautiful as it rises in the east
Reflecting red
Yellow
Orange
Rorange

Ah. Four lanes.

In the distance, the fog
Lays, or lies, softly in the valley
An ephemeral cloud
Waiting to terrify the timid left-lane drivers into going even slower up the fucking hill.

The National Cemetery on the right stands guard, silently, reverently, in peace

My friends keep me company
Krista, On Being, who teaches me about mindfulness
What It Takes, where I learn about Bill Russell, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and
Les Wexner (the Victoria’s Secret owner)

I fall in love with John B.
only to have him crush my soul
Shit Town

The Christmas tree strip is waiting to test my reflexes
Can I get to the front?
Can I beat the TPT (tiny penis truck) off the line?

YES!!!

The dump trucks turn in front of me at the light
Going uphill
In the right lane.

Life is good.

Brannon Crossing
South Point
Man O War
Nicholasville Road
Eight lanes going the speed limit

ARE YOU KIDDING ME???!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New Circle Road offers respite
The on-ramp beckons
“Come here, Sweet Child.”
“Enjoy my four lanes with no traffic lights.”
I yield, then stop, because the driver in front of me thinks yield means stop.

Bless her heart.

Finally,
tree-lined, shaded, majestic Richmond Road
where driving in the left land is a requirement
in order to not pass the vehicle in the right one

I pull into the parking lot.
8:05
Boss’s car is parked close to the door
Dammit.
I was going to tell him I got in at 7:50.

That is all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tests test test-taking skills

Tests test test-taking skills

On May 3, 2014, I graduated from an American Bar Association accredited law school While in said law school, I passed every single class I took. I also completed law school in two years, not the traditional three. AND, I was 51-years old when I graduated.

As required by 49 of the 50 states, I took the bar exam in July, 2014. I passed the essay portion on my first effort. That means I studied 22 areas of law, from which I wrote 12 essays in 6 hours. AND passed.

I also took the MBE- the multiple choice test required by 48 states to become a licensed attorney.  I did not pass the MBE, therefore I did not become a licensed attorney in the state of Kentucky.

The Supreme Court of Kentucky allows prospective Kentucky attorneys to take their bar exam five times, part of which includes the multiple choice MBE.

I took the MBE four additional times. This last time, I missed the passing score by two points.

Dear God, WTH???

Here is the rant:

  1. How can it be that because of two points, it has been deemed that I am not fit to be a lawyer in Kentucky?
  2. Previous to July, 2014, the National Council of Bar Examiners (NCBE) would release data to individuals who didn’t pass the MBE. If I had taken the bar in February of 2014 and not passed the MBE, I would have received a breakdown of percentage of correct to incorrect answers for each of the seven subjects. That service was stopped after the release of the February, 2014 results.
  3. The national mean score of the July, 2014 MBE dropped more than the in previous 10 years. The NCBE blamed law schools for admitted sub-par students. The law schools blamed the NCBE for tinkering with the test. (The irony is that the woman who is currently the CEO of the NCBE has NEVER taken the test she oversees.)
  4. An additional subject was added to the bar exam for the February 2017 test. That meant eight subjects, 190 questions over two 3-hour sessions. The ABA, NCBE, Kentucky Bar Association, or Supreme Court of Kentucky made no change in the required minimum score.
  5. In the past, the NCBE added 10 “pretest” questions which were not scored. The questions are tested for validity on actual test-takers, who have no idea which questions are scored and which ones are not.
  6. For the February, 2017 exam, the NCBE added 15 more pre-test questions. This meant that those taking the test had FEWER actual questions that could be scored. It also meant that more exam time was used on the pre-test questions, meaning less exam time for the scored questions. And no change from the ABA, NCBE, Kentucky Bar Association, or the Supreme Court of Kentucky on scoring.

The MBE score is scaled, or curved. The pre-test questions are removed. Questions that have a high incidence of incorrect answers are removed.  Once those two actions occur, the test is scored. No two tests are scored the same since each test has questions removed and added. I compare it to shooting at a moving target while blindfolded.

If I thought I it would make any difference, I would send all of this to the ABA, the NCBE, the Kentucky Bar Association, and the Supreme Court of Kentucky. Since people in general push back against change, it would be a Sisyphean ordeal.

Real lawyers say that law school has very little to do with lawyering and the test has nothing to with it. I suck at test-taking. Therefore, I cannot be a lawyer in Kentucky.

I’m mad. I’m frustrated. I’m disillusioned.

I am trying to move on.

 

 

 

Root Canal for the Soul

Root Canal for the Soul

Four months ago I went public with my story of being sexual abused by my junior high/high school band director. This is the link if you want to read that post.

A lot has happened since posting the story: I found a wonderful therapist who is helping me wade through the effects of sexual abuse. Many of my closest friends have embraced me even more.Other survivors have shared their stories. My husband, who has always been my safe place to land, kicked that up to a new level I didn’t know existed.

The Letters
The healing process began in full force at the end of October of last year, 2016. I became brave enough to send a letter to my abuser. I told him I knew what he did was wrong, but going to law school taught me it was illegal.

In that letter, I included the O.C.G.A. (the law for the State of Georgia). I told him I would prosecute. Unfortunately, after talking with the district attorney’s office in Macon,  I learned that the statute of limitation won’t allow him to be tried in criminal or civil court.

To my surprise, he sent a reply to my letter. It went to my work address which he must have found through Google since it was not the return address used on the letter to him. As soon as I saw the handwriting, I knew who it was from. I started to tremble and my heart was pounding.

The letter sat, unopened, for several minutes. I was so afraid of what it might say. I fully expected denial and blame. I expected him to accuse me of being the one who initiated the contact. I was afraid he would lash out at me in anger.

I was shocked when I read, in his handwriting, a confession.

“Mrs. Wilson-Reddy,
        The information you sent me is true. I felt your anger. I am so very sorry about what happened. Had I known then how it would have affected you, it would not have occurred.”

So smug. I was 14-years old. He was 36.

I was PISSED!!!

I knew it was time to start telling my story to get rid of the anger, the guilt, the shame, and the self-blame.

Therapy
With the help of my therapist, I am starting my soul root canal. We are beginning to dig really deep to remove the rotted, dead places and make it clean and healthy. Like a root canal, it’s very uncomfortable and occasionally hurts.

I have been vaguely aware of the effects of the abuse, but have tried to keep that Pandora’s Box closed. It’s always been difficult to trust others much deeper than surface-level. Deep down, soulful feeling and expressing emotions? You might as well ask me to speak Mandarin Chinese or Vulcan.

Those are the effects I have always known. But after my most recent therapy session, I have learned the situation is much more complex.

Great. Dear God, WTH?

The abuse began when I was 14 years old and lasted for four years. These are important years of brain development. The human brain stops developing around 25 years. Needless to say, he not only stole part of my childhood, he also deeply affected up my adult life.

News for me: His abuse created an inability to stand up for myself. He had power and was in a position of authority over me. I didn’t say no. I couldn’t say no.

I have been an advocate for underdogs as long as I can remember. Speaking up for the rights of those marginalized is easy and natural. Ironically, standing up for myself is something I don’t do very well. If I am criticized, confronted, or challenged, I withdraw and don’t push back. I assume the other person is correct. So I take on the blame, shame, guilt, and burden of my lack of competency.

There is a reel of vignettes looping through my brain of the times I didn’t push back. Some instances were insignificant and others have been life altering. Every time I needed to stand up for myself, my gut was screaming for me to push back. I knew what to say but didn’t have the strength, skill, or capacity.

I wonder who that young girl would be now if she had said NO. HELL NO!!!

The professionals call this ability “agency”. “One’s agency is one’s independent capability or ability to act on one’s will. This ability is affected by the cognitive belief structure which one has formed through one’s experiences, and the perceptions held by the society and the individual, of the structures and circumstances of the environment one is in and the position they are born into.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agency_(sociology)

This is a simplistic view of a complex situation. My upbringing was a catalyst to being vulnerable. My abuser was a person who had power over me. He used his power and my need for attention to abuse me.

We are just beginning to dig into the dark places. It’s scary and anxiety-producing. However, I have discovered by unpacking Pandora’s Box, once scary secrets are released, they don’t haunt or hurt as much.  I hate it, but I look forward to being free.

I’m healing. The more of my story I tell, the stronger I become.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes (This is not a post about Trump)

Ch- Ch- Ch- Changes (This is not a post about Trump)

How do you approach change? When I was younger, I LOVED change. I LIVED for change. One glance at my two-page resume affirms my former need for change.

But something in my soul is different now. Change looms large, like that alien spaceship in Independence Day. It’s all I can see and don’t want to see it at all.

independence-day

I will retake the Kentucky Bar Exam in a few days for my final effort. The Kentucky State Bar allows candidates to sit for the exam five times. After that, pass or fail, you are done.

My life getting ready to change. When the bar results are posted in April, my life will change, pass or fail. A chapter will end, a new one will begin. Ugh. Change is exhausting.

When I was younger, change was effortless. When something blew up at a job- a disagreeable parent, unruly students, clueless administrators- boom! I was gone and on to the next program where I found disagreeable parents, unruly students, and clueless administrators.

After I decided there were too many disagreeable parents, unruly students, and clueless administrators, I turned my sights to the world of non-profits. Guess what I found? Yes. Everywhere I turned there were people who got in my way.

I finally realized the common denominator in all of the change: ME

I was chasing the proverbial brass ring. I wanted it all: a highly successful band program, great camaraderie with my colleagues, a wonderful relationship with my students and their parents, a perfect marriage, a clean house, and an uncomplicated life.

I was Type-A Elaine through and through.

Then I was blessed with The Great Cosmic Bitchslap- depression

I was exhausted. I was tired of the facade of perfection. I was tired of dragging my personal shame, blame, and guilt. I was bone weary from trying to make other people happy. I could not take another step.

That was six and a half years ago. Since that time, I’ve quit one job, graduated from law school, founded a non-profit, married my incredible husband and his three amazing daughters. Change, but with a lot less drama.

I have also taken the Kentucky Bar Exam four times.

Specifically, I have taken the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) four times. I passed the twelve essays of the bar exam on my first effort. The MBE is a special kind of hell that is honed and sharpened by law professors hired to continue the hell of law school exams.

The MBE is a 200-question, multiple choice test that ALL candidates for ALL state bars must pass. I know what you’re thinking: “Multiple choice? Who can’t guess their way through a multiple choice test? What is wrong with this woman?”

That’s okay. I thought the same thing until yesterday. I now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Pass or fail, this journey will end in April.  I cleaned out all of my study notebooks yesterday. I threw away notes and books and flashcards that have accumulated over the past three years.  To my surprise, it felt as if I were losing a friend.

Do you keep the monster you know or change to one that’s unknown?

This journey to pass the bar exam has been hard, long, expensive, emotional, and soul-depleting. But for some unknown-to-me reason, it’s a chapter in my life.

It’s akin to when my ex-husband and I were trying to have a baby. We did all of the infertility treatments, including two rounds of IVF. Every negative pregnancy test was a kick in the gut. But I survived and ended up with three intelligent, caring, beautiful-souled stepdaughters.

Four times, I’ve taken the exam. Four times, my number has not been on the list.

Will this be the time I pass, or will this be the time I turn my back on being an attorney?

I have no idea. What I do know is that pass or fail, my life is going to change in April. And it will be okay.

 

We The People

We The People

WHAT IF?

What if the American people formed their own political party called We The PEOPLE? Not about liberal, conservative, or independent ideals, but about taking back our government? Putting forth grassroots candidates supported by everyday hardworking Americans. The goal would be to rid our state capitals and Washington, D.C. of career political welfare recipients.

The party would run on what’s best for those of us who live where the majority of America lives- in suburbs, in cities, towns, and rural villages. It would truly be about taking care of our neighbors, not putting more money in the pockets of lobbyists, huge conglomerates, and career political welfare recipients.

I honestly believe there are more of us who understand the art of compromise and the need to work together because WE DO IT EVERYDAY!!!!!

I am tired of taking it from the top 1%. It’s the 1%. They are not the majority. They do not represent us. When was the last time they had to worry about having quality health care, or being able to afford healthy food for their families, or even went to the grocery store to see what food costs today?

WE THE PEOPLE. It’s not about liberal, conservative, independent, or any current political ideology. It’s about taking back our government. It’s about the 99%. It’s literally about me and you.

 

 

40 Years of Silence and Thriving in spite of it all

40 Years of Silence and Thriving in spite of it all

“No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” I Corinthians 10:13, NRSV

I have struggled for years with how to write this particular post.

Forty years ago I was 14 years old, in the ninth grade at Ballard A Junior High School in Macon, Georgia, and in the band. I loved band for many reasons: I was really good at it, it was an escape from life at home, and I truly believed it would be my ticket out.

Forty years ago was also when my junior high school band director began grooming me for what would become four years of sexual abuse. Four years of being a vulnerable young girl who craved the love, affection, and attention she did not get at home. Four years that impacted my life so much deeper than I have ever understood.

Life at home was difficult. My mother suffered from debilitating depression and schizophrenia. She tried to commit suicide three times that I know of. My father worked on logging equipment in the woods of central Georgia. That was long before the days of cell phones, and even C.B. radios. Once he left for work in the morning, he would be out of contact until he came home, whenever that may be in the evening.

Our family was not affectionate. We never said “I love you” to each other. We very rarely hugged. As I realize now, my dad was in survival mode. His burden was heavy. It wasn’t that he didn’t love us. I think he loved us so much he was overwhelmed and probably depressed himself. And he was an introvert, as am I. Damn silence.

My mom was on heavy anti-psychotic medication, which made her sleep a lot and very forgetful. My dad would ignore us, literally act as if we did not exist sometimes. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I camped out on the second level, with an occasional visit to level three.

Band was my escape and the attention from my band director made me feel special. He complimented my talent. He encouraged me to learn new instruments. I became obsessed with pleasing him. Then he kissed me. I was 14.

For the next four years, I did everything I could to spend time with him. My parents, especially my dad, thought the world of him. He was charming and an expert manipulator. As things evolved and became physical, I would wait for him in the junior high school band room office. When I was in high school, he would take me to his house after the jazz band played at basketball games, then drop me off in front of my house. My parents had no clue. I was 15, 16, 17-years old.

I was able to break away when I went away to college. I thought it would be the end of something I knew was wrong. The abuse ended but the trauma had just begun.

I set out to find true, real love, but had no clue what that even meant.

I dated a lot in college, had a lot of first dates with no second date in sight. The soundtrack in my brain became, “I’m a whore. I’m a bad person”. I was a mess.

I started asking, “Dear God, WTH?”

The 70s and 80s in the Deep South of Georgia were still very much about appearances. Girls never had sex until they were married (wink, wink) and boys could cat around as much they liked. That was always so funny to me- the girls weren’t having sex but the boys had all they wanted. Who were they with? Really????

So the shame, blame, and guilt piled onto my consciousness like layers of fine snow. It grew slowly, imperceptibly, microscopically, until it weighed me down. Blame, because I thought I was somehow complicit. Shame and guilt, knowing it wrong, but needing and craving the attention.

I lived for forty years with a millstone around my neck, dragging it everywhere I went.  The older I got, the heavier that damn millstone became.

But I thrived.

I have earned three degrees: my Bachelor and Master degrees in Music Education and a law degree, all while dragging that millstone.

I taught middle school and high school band for 16 years and had some incredible band programs. I still call former students “my kids”. I am extremely fortunate to have close relationships with many of them, some by way of Facebook and some here where I live. I treasure my time as a teacher and those priceless moments with my students, all while that millstone was trying to pull me down.

I had very few close friends until recently. My ex-husband could never understand why I had only one close friend in each place we lived. Fucking millstone.

I never told my ex about the abuse the I suffered. I was terrified of anyone finding out that I was a whore and a really bad person. I had to keep it secret because I knew he would hate me and leave me.

Oh, the irony.Really? Dear God, WTH?

I left the classroom in 2003 and began working in non-profit. My life’s work has always focused on helping others improve their lives. In spite of the millstone, I was able to help a lot people. I worked for Meals on Wheels because my mom got meals delivered to her. I worked for the Alzheimer’s Association because my mom had Parkinson’s Disease. I worked for Big Brothers and Big Sisters because I knew how important it was for children to have an adult they could trust and count on.

I thrived.

In addition to my work life, I stayed busy with personal projects. I was the president of a local women’s club and helped reorganize the local food pantry. I hiked the Grand Canyon, from the rim to the river back to the rim in a single day. I ran races- 5Ks, 10Ks, 10 milers, half and full marathons. I qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon. I volunteered for the local NAMI chapter and helped organize their fund raiser walk. I went to Paris, alone.

I thrived.

In July, 2010, my thriving became surviving as I began the process of chiseling the millstone away. I came to realize I was deeply unhappy in my marriage of 25 years. I hated the job I was in, and became so depressed I could hardly move.

I remember making a call to my doctor’s office on a Friday afternoon. I told the receptionist that if I didn’t see the doctor that afternoon, I did not know if I would make it through the weekend.

I separated from my husband and we eventually divorced. He still did not know of the weight I had been dragging throughout our entire relationship.

I quit my job, applied to law school, and started dating the man who would eventually become my safe place to be, my soft place to land.

I began to thrive again.

I decided to tell my story of abuse when the women who accused Donald Trump of sexual abuse started to tell their stories. They were courageous. I could be, too. It’s hard, knowing that our society defaults to blaming the female for the transgressions of the males. Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Brock Turner,  Bill Clinton.

There are, sadly, countless instances of students who have been abused by those in authority.Just Google band director sexual abuse. It’s sickening.

This is what I have learned so far:

I am not to blame for what happened to me as a 14 year old. I was a child. He was an adult who was in a position of power. He was, and still is, a predator and a criminal.

I am not that horrible self-talk of being a whore and bad person. I never was, but trauma is evil when it isn’t dealt with in a healthy way.

My instinct to fight is stronger than my instinct of flight.

Being abused is not who I am, it is something that happened to me. I’m just beginning to heal after 40 years of silence. The millstone is still here, but it’s getting smaller and smaller.

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26