Last week, Monday morning was my day to shop at commissary.
In standard commissary day fashion I woke up at 5:30am and waited in the entrance to our unit starting at 5:40. A controlled move was called at 6:02 am and we walked to the building in which the “store” is located. It’s not much of a store per se – you do not walk inside and shop. You hand in your order sheet through a 1 inch by 12 inch slot in what appears to be bullet proof glass. So I give them my sheet and began to wait. I wasn’t called until some time after 7:00am. This means I missed the call for mainline (breakfast at the chow hall), would not be able to eat that morning, and started my day by standing around for one and half hours.
The day did not begin the way I had hoped for. I have little control over what time I have to wake up to get there, when I am called to pick up my order, and what time breakfast is. I also didn’t want to have a bad Monday. I mean, it was only 7:30 in the morning by the time this was all done – far too early to throw in the towel.
Fall is definitely here and the temps are dropping. I ordered a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt. The sweatpants were out of stock and for some reason I was incorrectly given a size 2XL sweatshirt – wonderful. I am thrilled.
As I look back on the last several months I can’t quite say if they went by fast or slow. On many days, my answer would be that time is moving slowly. It could seem as if the days went by fast, but I feel that is because we cannot possibly remember every hour, day or week in such great detail. Therefore, time becomes blurred together. Over the last several months I’ve had good days, but I’ve also had hard days – frustration, longing, despair. What do I get when I walk around here with those emotions? I’m not saying that I should bury them. However, what did any of the bad days actually get me?
It’s a beautiful fall night and I’m locked inside, riding an exercise bike in a basement
My bunkie is snoring and I can’t sleep
People are yelling in the phone room and I can’t hear the person on the other line talking to me
The loud intercom pages people all morning long, starting at 5:50am
The bathroom smells like fish (more on that later)
Those are rough feelings but that barely scratches the surface of what can go through your head in a given day. When all those thoughts put me in a funk I’m no better off for it. That has been the tricky part. How to balance everyone I miss, everything I am missing, the pain I have caused, and how it makes me feel compared with the stark reality of being away and trying to ‘make the best of it’.
I have friends here who have been down five plus years and I cannot fathom that. Some of them don’t worry about anything – life back home, their loved ones, relationships, job prospects. Are they that confident in the future? Are they that carefree about whatever life may hold for them? I’m more tempted to fight for the life I want but these guys walk around here in semi-blissful peace induced by a sheer indifference towards anything not in the now. They’re doing “easy time” and they are good at it. The masters of being present. The thing is, this time ends and you get to live free again, so is complete indifference with the benefit of easy time worth it? What’s the happy medium?
I am finding solace in a part of my journal where I write down whatever or whoever I miss – it gets detailed as well. When I arrive back in Boise, I can open that up and eventually enjoy all those aspects of life, or most of them, with a newfound appreciation. The thing that is catching me off guard is how the list is transitioning. At first, it was larger, more tangible things. As time has gone by, it’s becoming the smaller parts of life – the minor, the subtle, the free. The little nuances that warrant our deepest appreciation. I also write down patterns of thinking and behavior that I’m looking forward to leaving in the past.
In these moments, I don’t gain anything for being in a bad mood or having a rough day. There is also far too much joy and beauty back in Boise, and in the world, to completely disregard everything and throw my hands up in the air. So a focus on being present yet writing in my journal feels like a reasonable compromise considering the situation. I will most definitely have a humble respect for many moments and subsequent decisions which I previously let daily life get in the way of. It is eye opening to be reminded of what living well really comes to when you strip away all the nonsense.
Prison can be a time for growth, but I think more importantly, a time for transformation. Growth would be “I went to commissary and the morning didn’t start my way, but I am deciding that I will not let it bother me.” That’s good, it is a start. Transformation would be “I went to commissary, things didn’t go my way, I am indifferent to it.” Done, not phased. Growth in that instance is noticing something you do not desire (to be upset) and not letting the causal event affect you. Transformation is not being affected. It is a change in how I perceive challenging situations and how I subsequently experience them. This is one of many parts of this time that I am excited to carry back home with me, albeit, I still need more practice. At times I catch myself, and at least I can get back on the path quicker each time. This place provides plenty of opportunities for that. If I can manage more of life’s unnecessary or minor self-induced “struggles” then hopefully they won’t get in the way of all the aspects of existence that warrant our full attention and love.