Earlier this week I was at work call and the compound was eerily quiet. We are held up and not allowed out on the compound for one and a half hours. Shortly thereafter, we’re told to go to the gym and wait there. We walk in to find all the other inmates from our unit standing around.
There was a shakedown. The correctional officers were looking for contraband and searching the entire building. It is a somewhat violating feeling, knowing people can rumage through all your possessions at any time. But then you realize you’re in a federal prison, not Disney Land, and that’s how it goes.
Using the new found mindset I am developing helped me stay pretty calm about the situation. I quickly realized, and accepted, I have no control over this. I have no control over whether or not a shakedown occurs. If it does, I don’t know if my locker will end up intact or with my possessions strewn about the floor. It’s not up to me…so as the thinking goes, it means nothing to me. Overall, I feel I did a good job staying especially indifferent about it.
There was a very odd energy in the gym with everybody mulling about, watching the time go by, and all of us having no idea when it would be done. The whole process ended up taking almost three and a half hours. What really caught me off guard, however, was when I started thinking about what recently happened in New Orleans, and how many people have spent time in crowded gyms seeking refuge from natural disasters. The difference being, a lot of those people aren’t coming back to any possessions. Instead of a CO rummaging through my things and them all being there later, they may have lost their home, all their possessions, and have nowhere to go. They may very well be interested in trading places with me if it was possible. I knew I would leave that gym in a reasonable amount of time and get back to my time here. And that my time here will eventually end. Spending the morning in the gym gave me a while to put into perspective the challenges that people all over the world are facing, and how for many of them, they are abruptly thrown into the thick of it and have a long road of uncertainty ahead.
Take Kabul for example. That is beyond devastating, dangerous, and life altering. People are leaving their lives and their homes with nothing more than what they can carry. There is a chance they will get separated from family members, lose everything they value, and suffer to build a new life. Their old way of life was taken away from them through no fault of their own. So can I really get upset about what happened that morning? No, I can’t. I’m glad I didn’t. I stayed calm, let it roll off me, and sat down to read a book. It passed, we went to lunch, and the day went on. Just like that. Everyone in the above situation wishes they could have as easy a resolution to the problems they are facing.
I am learning that while exercise helps keep me sane, it is no match for making my mind strong and the benefits I get from that pursuit. Wednesday we were on our lockdown day (which is an every other day occurrence) and I started reading after dinner. I read for 3-4 hours then went to bed. That was it, the whole night. I had that same good feeling you get after exercise, but after reading. I’m really enjoying that. Just as exercise keeps my body healthy, the reading and contemplating keeps my mind healthy, and I’m starting to see the changes.
I found out today that the dog program is a getting a new dog soon, which is happy news. The dog is from….Louisiana. I don’t know more – maybe he and his family were split up, possibly the human society down there was damaged in the storm. His former owners have no idea where he is, and now he’s coming to South Dakota. Everyone here will take good care of him, but I definitely feel for the people who are missing their dog.