I’m Still Standing – For Military Justice

I realized in December 2018 that I have largely been living in a state of trespass. What do I mean by this? Well, I have been occupying space in my head, in my heart, and in my soul that was entrenched in discord and feelings of constantly being wronged. Professionally as well as personally.

In December, I attended the two-week Master Resiliency Trainer’s Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. As is typical of my (then) mindset I entered the class thinking, “I don’t have time for this. This will only be a waste. I have so many other more important things that I should be doing.” As it turns out, it was precisely where I needed to be.

The class instructors all possessed a minimum of a Masters Degree in Sports Psychology. I was shocked. I had believed this class would be nothing more than the Army’s (mostly) ineffective “suicide prevention” training wrapped up in some soggy bacon.

I was wrong.

As we poured over terms like “thinking traps” and “mental cues” I realized over and over how guilty I was at allowing my mind state to inform on the reality I thought I was living. Jumping to conclusions? All over that one. Being fueled by feelings of trespass? Right here. Catastrophizing? Hard to say, but so easy to do.

I became energized at being able to assimilate the lessons I was learning into training for counsel. We become so exhausted fighting the fights that we really need not be fighting. When to schedule an Article 32(b) preliminary hearing should not be a duel of memos and protestations; it should be a phone call between colleagues for scheduling. And those lessons will come.

But what I learned most from my MRTC experience was that I had allowed my most important personal relationship to deteriorate (read crumble, pulverize, and burn) in large part because of disruptive thinking traps. I expected him to see my pain. I had built up so many facades that I would not let anyone see, not even the one that was supposed to be my person. And I was unforgiving that he had not seen through my walls.  My realizations came too late to salvage that union, so much resentment built up on both sides.

On April 29th I bid farewell to my partner of eleven years and a relationship of thirteen; we share four children. Even in the divorce process, despite all of my education at MRTC, I fell into (read jumped, plummeted, and immersed myself in) terrible feelings of trespass and betrayal. So much pain that at times it felt unbearable, like it was nearly impossible to breathe.

In sitting down to write and to refine this post, I hesitated to let anyone in my professional world know about these struggles, lest I be labeled as someone that was not emotionally poised to take on cases. Some knew and to a one were each supportive, showing generosity of spirit and kindness.

And through it, I carried many on my shoulders, whose truths I have been so immensely privileged to speak.

I’m still standing.

And I’m a better person for having come to a place that shares in the responsibility of a relationship’s demise. So many lessons learned.

And sure, I will make mistakes in the future. I am only human, and I am far from perfect.

But I have found strength in vulnerability.

Recently I shared part of what I have been carrying with a colleague; he was shocked. To him, he replied I have a mountainous presence, seemingly unshakable.

I do not regret letting others behind the curtain. None of us is impervious to pain. And I hope that by allowing a glimpse into my experience that others will feel they can admit their struggle. I dared to do it; and I’m still standing.