Kay Rosenkranz is a graduate of the Truth Be Told Let’s Get Real program and a current member of the Keep on Talking program, where women who have been released from prison connect by phone once a week to talk about their strengths and challenges.
Kay talked to Truth Be Told about her experience with the program in prison and how it helped her reconnect to her “magic.”
Kay always loved learning. Before she went to prison, she was in her second master’s degree program. She was gaining academic knowledge, but what she later realized was that academics was just another way to disconnect from her life.
“At the same time I was getting A’s in my classes, I was abusing Xanax. It was a way for me to escape from the real world. It was good in some sense—I excelled in the academic community—but it was a bit of a shelter. I was working as a waitress and was much older than the other servers there. I felt like I was wasting all my knowledge by working there.
In my younger life, I felt magical and connected, and I was aware during my drug life that the magic was gone, that my creativity only raised its head every once in a while, specifically in flower arranging. “In drugging myself, I totally lost the magic. The drugs robbed me of magic”.
“What I’ve learned is that this is a problem that’s way deeper than a drug problem because it is my nature to think of all the things that can go wrong. I get overwhelmed and don’t see the things that are right, only those that are wrong”.
“I wasn’t solving any problems, and I wasn’t impacting anyone’s life—at least that’s what I thought. That made me feel empty. I have learned through this process of being in prison that being of service to others is really the key to making me shine. It’s really what brings me joy”.
Learning to see what can go right is an important part of Kay’s healing. It helps her show up even when she doesn’t want to, even when it’s hard.
“In the first Let’s Get Real class that I took, we were to explore our greatest passion. Carol and Julie asked us “What would you do if you could not fail?” I hadn’t dreamed like that since I was going to save the world in the 1970s—since I was at UT. It was such a daunting assignment to even think about something I would do if I couldn’t fail, to look at, ‘What do I dream about’”?
Kay began to see a vast difference between the academic learning that she hadn’t been applying in her life and the learning she was putting to use in Let’s Get Real. Through her addiction, she had lost touch with the deeply personal learning that connected her to her true self.
“Learning about myself and opening my heart to other people’s suffering was the kind of learning that was missing from my life in my addiction. In our Truth Be Told classes, we had to sign an agreement to make it a safe community. We talked about being impeccable: that we tell the truth, that we don’t take things personally, that whatever’s being said, even if it hits your skin, is not about you. It’s about who ever says it and what’s going on with them at the time.”
After two years in the Truth Be Told program, at the end of the second Let’s Get Real class, Kay wrote:
“Willing to evolve, I am.
Only and always searching for peace, I am.
Willing wisdom and truth, I am”.
“Through Truth Be Told, I learned I could write again. I used to write poetry and prose in the seventies. I thought that voice was totally gone. It was way deep inside, but it could come out at times when I was inspired”.
“A lot of people will tell you routines are good. But if we just become like robots, going through our daily lives in a routine, we can find that we have become the routine, getting up at a certain time, going to work, saying the same things to the same people every day. Then we don’t push the envelope and learn things about ourselves. We don’t learn about the divine connection we all have.”
Truth Be Told also offers three Exploring Creativity workshops a year, and Sherry Gingras and Djembabes helped Kay regain her experience to that divine connection.
“The ladies of the drum circle told the stories about where the drums came from in Africa. We realized that every girl had a handcrafted drum in her hands. Someone had spent time honing each drum to make the perfect wood, and someone had skinned a goat to make the perfect top piece. The drummers told us stories and taught us rhythms, and to me, it became the beat of the earth. I felt that the earth is alive, and we’re all part of the earth. I learned a lot that day. It brought me to the point where I felt levitated, like I had left my body and become some part of oneness with the earth and all the experiences with all the people everywhere.”
Truth Be Told made prison a really positive experience for Kay. She counted weeks between TBT classes and wrote in one of her classes:
“I now know that what I needed to learn is that my opinions have value to others. My next phase is going to be “learning to trust my opinions and myself”, and acting in the knowledge that what I share is valuable to others. After that, I want to focus on being in service to others.”
Truth Be Told classes helped Kay remember the person she was, who had just been asleep for a long time. It is important to her to keep her connection to Truth Be Told through the Keep on Talking Classes.
“When I first got out, I found that between classes I would lose momentum. The Keep on Talking class is very important to me, even though I sometimes get low and don’t make it to the phone”.
“This last week in Keep on Talking, the toastmaster spoke about the three elements of fear: motivation, sabotage: paralysis. I identified with the paralysis. I’d never looked at fear as being a motivator, so I’m still learning. This week, instead of hiding behind the computer and turning in applications online, I turned in an application in person and got two interviews. During the second interview, I was told I would be called back. I had to take tests and reveal my history. I had to work at having a different attitude. I had to go and try because I have all these years of experience to offer. I have to use self-talking to encourage myself. It turned out to be a three-hour interview. It was a good experience. I turned fear into a motivator.”
Kay has learned that she has a choice about whether or not to be miserable. Making a gratitude list can shift the axis of her entire experience. She is so grateful that the man she hit on the motorcycle lived and that he came to court and forgave her.
“We can choose to be miserable, or we can choose to show up and make a connection with other people and find the magic. We can choose to stay home because it’s safe and comfortable, but it’s miserable. Who wants to be miserable?”