CARRYING ON

My first super bowl behind bars. Probably will note several other landmarks along the way of this bumpy ride, but this is the first after the ugly holidays spent inside corrections. Ugly because they were pretty barren, lonely and empty in here with little celebration save what the church tried to offer and well meaning friends provided in the way of Christmas cards. I remember I did have a surprise visit from my former pastor and her family, and my wife came before Christmas, but it certainly wasn’t the same as being home with all sorts of family around. The true meaning behind the Christmas celebration was all but lost for the majority of guys inside. I asked several why we celebrated the holiday and several really hadn’t given it much thought but remarked it was about some baby being born.

Yeah, some baby. Only the King of Kings, God in the flesh, our Savior born of a virgin as predicted 400 years earlier in Isaiah. The only bigger day of celebration is His resurrection from the grave, defeating death, sin and the grave, but that was way beyond the comprehension of most in here. Yeah some baby.

Also ugly was my birthday celebration, or lack of it. Oh I did get several cards from people on the outside, many beyond my family. At mail call the CO made a game of announcing my name, then waiting till I stepped back to announce it yet again, and again. Guys knew it was either my birthday or some celebration. But no cake, party or anything. Actually it was the first time in a long time I wanted to celebrate my day of birth, as usually I down play it. Guess it was the nature of where I am and my mental state.

Now it is one of the biggest days of the year on the outside, when so many televisions sets around the globe tune in to the final championship game of the football season. Many inside corrections are planning to watch, though it was destined to be shut off before the ending till an edict came out at the twelfth hour that would enable us to watch the game to it’s completion. I know several guys have bets on the game, more flags and food than real money, though I do hear some of that is wagered as well. Being a New Yorker, I favor the Giants over the new England Patriots. Some guys in here want New England, but time will tell this Sunday in Super Bowl XLII.

Meantime my program keeps rolling along. Each day we discuss various topics presented by the counselors in hopes of viewing determining factors that led us to our IO. We can then, hopefully, in their jargon, defuse any future potential incidents that might cause us to offend. We are to look for hidden triggers, watch seemingly unimportant decisions, and stay tuned to our thoughts and thought progressions. The work is basic but interesting, and I take copious notes. Along with the handouts they give I have already compiled a large folder full of information which I frequently review as I pore over information that helps me understand what I did and why. It isn’t pretty, that’s for sure, and I fight the guilt and shame everyday with God’s help. We have plenty of free time and it’s up to us how to use it. As mentioned previously, so many guys do so many things with their time, mostly wasting it. I have never been one to sit by and watch the world go by, so I am constantly active with working out, writing, reading or the above studying. I normally watch very little television not only because there is only one but also because it usually is tuned to stuff I don’t care to watch (cops, Jerry Springer, Wheel of Fortune, etc). The writing I have done is what you are reading now as well as letters, other thoughts, dreams and documentation. Unfortunately when my bags were stolen on the move to this dorm, a couple of notebooks were with the missing stuff. I know some of what was in there but am so sorry I lost the musings when I was on drugs and simply terrified of coming into a place I knew nothing about and was so foreign to me. I remember bits and pieces of things, but I also remember some things I wrote during that period didn’t seem to always make sense. Of course I was reading with a clearer mind things written when not so clear which matters little as they are gone now and I have had to recreate old news. I can imagine someone trying to decipher what I was talking about and not having a clue.

Dorm life is getting a little easier as people are getting to know each other. There are a couple of guys “graduating” from the program after over a year in it, one because he is scheduled to go home soon, so I hear rumors that there will be some room changes. It sure would be great to get out of this 12 man room even though I finally am on the bottom bunk. I actually have been pretty blessed – a term instead of luck or fortune which my favorite outside pastor always uses when he comes here on Thursdays – as my bunkie was in the infirmary for a few days and I was alone. No movements or noises to wake or disturb me, which was almost heaven on earth.

The Structure Team that governs the dorm has changed some people and I have just been named a Librarian, someone who generates historical data for the program’s in-house meeting and keeps track of any in-house books for circulation as well as a couple other duties. Each Friday afternoon we stay in the dorm for special Structure meetings and in-house work and discussions. Led by inmate leaders picked by the counselors, we sit in rows behind the officials and follow rules read at the beginning of each meeting. I guess that will be one of my jobs now starting this Friday the first. I am not nervous at all at being in front of this group of guys. Some get terrified. Others, I noticed, sweat profusely. Regardless, I have had tons of practice.
Being the boss of my own manufacturers representative company on the outside gave me numerous opportunities speak to groups, interact with officials as well as supervise my 1 1/2 employees I had at various times. I further was president of the local Chamber of Commerce, been a school board member and then president at the private school my children attended as well as chairman of various church committees over the course of my life. And I couldn’t forget the fact that I was trained as an English teacher, teaching and coaching in high school for six years. So I felt I would be able to represent any position in this Structure system of our dorm very well. I had read that less than one percent of all inmates have a college education prior to their incarceration, in fact over 50% were illiterate, so I knew I had to be careful not to ‘lord’ it over anyone. After all, they had degrees in street education that I lacked, and many had prison credentials that in here would trump any sheepskin I possessed.

So reading a sheet of rules did not seem to be a big deal to me when given the position by the counselors. They stressed the importance of these rules and seemed to want to make sure I was up to the task. I assured them I was, and since I think they are getting to know me in the program because of my responses and participation, I think they agreed.

My goal is still to complete the program and make my first board next March, getting home to get on with my life and make things right with my wife. I truly feel God is turning my life around and giving me new hope to carry beyond these prison walls. I’m not exactly sure how that will all work, but I know it starts with my family. I need to stay right with them, God and everyone or nothing will matter. So doing the right thing in here is vital. I keep below the radar and stay compliant in everything. Do the most menial of custodial tasks – cleaning toilets – and I make them shine, giving glory to God in everything I do. I do not want to get tripped up by anyone’s game playing or antics, so I steer clear of drama queens and the day room, as that is where most shenanigans occur, even though it is in plain site of the CO’s bubble.

Being here gives me plenty of time to practice my new mantra as stated before, Proverbs v 3-5, which requires inside corrections in my thoughts and actions. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”
It is so true, and I now practice doing it and not just thinking it, carrying on inside corrections.