Sometimes, you have to hear words from someone else to realize what you need to do or what you have been missing in life. You have to see things from another person’s perspective and then you realize what you are missing out on in your very own day to day life.
I recently connected with an old friend who has a very long sentence in prison. When we talk on the phone, I laugh and joke as if he is right there in the room. I try to be mindful and not say all the “Hey, you hang in there!” Or “Be strong.” cliche bullshit that people take to saying to someone who is doing time. I know they don’t mean to but it is so annoying because on the real, you are already being strong every minute of the day. You wake up and realize you are not home, you go to bed in a bunk bed among strangers who suddenly, whether you like it or not have become your family.
People who are doing time, are away from everything and everybody they love. They are away from every single freedom they had and despite that, they wake up and if their mind is on the right place, they try to make the best of that day. Be productive, work out, laugh. whatever they can to keep the looming thought of their children, their home, their joys and small comforts and everything that they miss on the back burner. Because those thoughts do not leave. As soon as you let your mind wander, you remember how your child laughs, or how the stars looks and twinkle at night, you remember how it is to walk in the grass barefoot. You remember how it is to open a refrigerator and look for ten minutes as if there is nothing to eat, and then look again five minutes later. You remember how it is to answer a phone, take a bath, pet an animal, be in love, the feel of money, cooking, making our home look nice, and how it is to not stand up and be counted.
So that is why you get a routine, that is why you don’t want pity, and that is why when you talk to family or loved ones, you don’t want to hear them say “hang in there” because you are and you have been. You want to know, even though life goes on without you that they are ok, that they don’t feel pain for you all the time, even though you worry about what you are not capable of doing anymore. And that is taking care of them.
So my friend wrote me a wonderful letter, missing the sunrise as he hunts deer in the winter, missing fishing on the river and know that was dinner, missing the smell of coffee brewing, missing the sound of dogs barking and the feel of a horse underneath him, feeling every muscle that horse used as he rode on the prairies and the wind was in his face.
He wondered why he didn’t do more, see more while he had his freedom. He thanked me for talking to him like usual. But he also still has hope, I know he does.
He made me realize upon my release freedom was the sweetest feeling. I was so overjoyed, to be outside of a razor wire fence and see people that the taxpayers did not pay to keep locked up, whether as a paycheck or punishment. Then I checked into the halfway house, which was tough. If you ever need to be kicked in the gut and made to feel like shit in your life. Check into a halfway house. I have never understood why they hire 20 somethings to tell you how to live your life, or counselors who blink at you with big eyes waiting to hear you cry about your problems when they never had a problem in their life, except maybe their parents try to control them too much.
Either way the PTSD of being locked up, in a halfway house, my PO breathing down my neck and knocking on the door all the time like she is taking me back, has kept me home. So in a fucked up turnabout way, I experienced the sweet, sweet taste of freedom, only to lock myself up at home and I never go anywhere.
I don’t think anyone can understand that. I leave through my writing and when I have to. As soon as my paper is up, I made a promise to him. I will see more of this world while I have a chance to.
PRAYERS and PEACE to EVERY NATIVE doing time!