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A World of Miss Othmars: "I am wounded. I am not stupid. Please respect me."


            Last week I was half asleep with the radio on when a woman came on, talking about her stroke. I started to listen because my uncle had a stroke eight years ago and I’m always interested in stroke information. The woman was named Jill Bolte Taylor, and she talked about how the stroke affected the left part of her brain. This time I really perked up, for personal reasons.

            I’ve talked on this blog about having learning differences, namely NVLD-non verbal learning disorder. It pretty much means that my left and right sides of my brain doesn’t work well, due to a smash up with the white matter in the brain’s neutral matter. Okay, in English this means my right side of the brain is just dandy, my left side? Not so much. I’ve always had problems with math, my handwriting, and motor skills. Never ask me to do calligraphy, cut in a straight line, or do linear algebra. I also have a delay in getting information from people, like they don’t understand what they are saying.

            Which is another reason why I liked what Dr. Taylor said when she called someone about her stroke-she couldn’t understand what the person was saying, like they were a golden retriever or Miss Othmar teaching Charlie Brown’s friends. This is how it’s been all my life, a ten second delay in getting information, where there have been times where I am surrounded by Miss Othmars.

            Dr. Taylor had to relearn everything-how to walk, talk. I wanted to hear more but it was pledge time on my station and I didn’t have the money to pledge to get the book, so I looked her up at the library. The book hadn’t been ordered yet, so I didn’t think about it until I was looking something up on Itunes and Oprah has a new “Spirit Channel” and guess who her guest was? Dr. Taylor.

            I started to listen to her story, how when her mother came she didn’t recognize her mother, but she knew the woman was kind, and she would take good care of her. How the nurses who took care of her would just tell her, over and over again, “Jill, it’s going to be okay. You’re going to be just fine.” Dr. Taylor believes it was that positive energy that helped her recover helped her get better. Then she said something that I could so relate to, something she tells people while she travels: “I am wounded. I am not stupid. Please respect me.”

            I had to put the book I was reading down and I had a good cry. This is what I’ve been fighting for, all my life, in my academic and work lives, and my social life as well. The journey hasn’t been easy. I’ve lost jobs and sometimes friends because of stupid misunderstandings due to my part of not getting what was going on, and although I’ve tried to make amends, it hasn’t been easy.

            For years, I wouldn’t admit I had learning disabilities. I was fine, thank you very much. I was scared that I would be found out, scared that I could get fired, be exposed, whatever. I did enroll in my school’s disability program but except for some tutoring, I was just fine.  On work applications I wouldn’t put down I had learning disabilities, I wouldn’t tell anyone. Can you see now why I lost two jobs? It had nothing to do with my stubbornness, no ma’am!

            But five years ago after a disastrous teaching experience, I knew I had to tell the truth about myself, otherwise I didn’t know what would happen to me.  I started to put down on applications I had learning disabilities. Friends told me I was crazy. What if they didn’t hire me? I told this to a work counselor and she told me something that changed my outlook: “Do you want to work for a company that wouldn’t hire someone just because they had learning disabilities?” Of course not.

            I always have to work at getting stuff, improving myself. Sometimes it’s just tiring. Sometimes it’s fun. To improve my balance I do yoga and piliates, and I take medication to deal with other stuff that comes up. There are times when I know what I am going to say but I can’t say it, or I forget something that I’ve done so many times. Yet I always get up again and bounce back. You have no other choice.

            I’m going to have to bite the bullet and buy Dr. Taylor’s book. I recommend you do the same.