December 8th, 2009
Good day to all. I want to share a little something with you. This year is coming to an end, and after all, I would have to say that this year has been a hard one. Isolation can effect us in so many ways, and on so many levels, and sometimes we don't even realize how much until something happens that reminds us of who we are.
When I was out there in the free world, I thought I had a pretty good life. I had pretty good friends, a good job, and like most of us, I took a lot of it for granted. Especially the closeness of someone I really cared about, and how we hugged each other whenever wee would meet up. How we expressed how much we cared. That part of my life is almost non-existent now, (or it feels that way in isolation). So I rarely ever get to hug or touch another human being anymore, unless someone comes to visit me. In here you just don't do that. The more emotion you display, the weaker you are portrayed as a man. As silly as that sounds, it is the reality we live in here.
I had a lovely visit a couple of days ago from a really good friend and her 4 year old son. I was feeling really bad, and quite alone before their visit. It's difficult to put into words my state of mind at the time, but two people I had known for many years passed away from cancer (a week prior to this visit). That they both died of cancer is disturbing enough, (Cancer is the #1 cause of death on the row), but it was more they way everyone seemed to just take it all in stride, like, "Oh well", that really got my attention. There was no moment of silence, no wake, no memorial service, no gathering of friends and family to send them off in some kind of dignified manner. One day they were here, occupying a cell, and the next they were just gone. And the runners (The clean up crew) were in there cells picking through their personal belongings... taking what they wanted of value, and tossing the rest into garbage bags. No emotions. No respect for whose property it was. It was just garbage to them. Then they prepare the cell for the next occupant.
These men who lived and died in these cells, I don't know how they ended up here. I only know that they were human beings with families, wives, children, brothers, sisters, and they died... alone, without so much as a hug or a goodbye. To most people in here it was so routine, It made me realize that we're all just waiting for the same fate. How many of us sit here 10, 20, 30 years and never get a visit from anyone? No human contact at all.
No holding someones hand
No meaningful conversations
No sitting together and eating junk food with someone
The simple human gestures most of us take for granted everyday, just do not happen here. It didn't really dawn on me until I was sitting there next to my friend, watching her incredibly happy son playing games, just how lucky I am to have someone in my life, who cares that much about me... That would go to such lengths to visit me and hug me and let me know I am loved.
I really needed that reminder that week. I needed that human contact. I was feeling really bad about the pressure of this environment and how vulnerable we really are in here. I know in my heart that if something happened to me in here, that I would be missed a great deal. But, sometimes I think about some of the men around me, who get no visits (and some, no mail either), or any human contact at all, and I wonder, "who if anyone will miss them"? The truth is that people who used to care about them, love them, miss them, forgot about them long ago. Most of the time, when someone back here passes away, I'm as much a part of the "it's routine" mentality as the next guy... on the outside anyway.
I guess that most men back here would confess that it's much easier not to allow yourself to feel anything for anyone. But we're not really built like that are we? Because no matter how much we try to man up and hide our feelings from one another, when someone around us dies, all alone like that, it does effect us. It effects each and every one of us, because we all know that next time, it could easily be any one of us... and that we are not as invincible as we act on the outside. Even those of us who are really good at acting the part. Normally, I'm as good as the next guy, but this past weekend, when I was playing word games and hide and seek and looking out the window with my friend and her son, I was reminded of just how much of a human being still exists inside me. And how much I need and crave that human contact. All it took was a simple hug from a child to remind me that I haven't lost sight of myself like so many men around me have.
Most people in society would look at us and see cold uncaring remorseless individuals, but what they don't see, is that under the surface of each one, is a scared and helpless person who doesn't know any other way to be in this environment except to shut everyone and everything down inside and just survive. I know how easy it is to go to that place.... but for the wonderful friends I have in my life who never allow me to forget how much I'm loved, that I matter, I could easily see myself there... walking around like a zombie. I have been there.
I'm reminded with each letter and each visit how fortunate I am to get a hug or just hold someone's hand and hear those words, "I love you". These simple gestures are what make us all human, in here and out there. Like water, we also need physical contact, even if it's just a hug to remind us that we matter. I'm so very grateful that I haven't lost sight of that part of me... and I haven't become the monster the system has portrayed me to be.
Much peace and love, and a happy holiday wish.