Picture this... Me... Richmond City Jail...40 of the longest days of my life...never to be re-lived or won-back from time.
I honestly don't even want to write about my experience there, but I'm sure that some type of revelation can come through a cathartic session like this one. There were so many different areas where I felt tested and tried while incarcerated, but to point out one as more important than another would do them all injustice.
I definitely learned my lesson. Watching HOW I SAY things to people makes a big difference. WHAT I SAY to them can be done without putting myself in a situation where they have a reason or the motivation to take what I've said to the authorities. And being able to recognize when something or someone is not even worth the dignity of a response would be an asset. I'm intelligent enough to choose my words wisely, and to know when the situation is beneath my involvement.
I gained an opportunity to meet people who saw the outside world from a completely different perspective than my own. Even though we were all male, and a majority of us were Black, I found myself feeling like I was from a completely different culture than these people. I found myself trying to understand the disadvantaged situations they came from but failing to be able to completely empathize. My hopes that my attempts at understanding the point of view of others would gain reciprocity from them to me were cut down after realizing that many of these people don't even know that there's another way or any other life than the ones the live on the outside.
I had ample time to do "an inventory" on myself, and even though I'm nowhere near where I want to be as a person, I know that I'm capable and headed in the right direction. My anger and my addictive personality have run rampant in my life recently, allowing me to be oblivious to the ways I hurt people who are close to me and probably are the last ones to be standing in support of me when I've found myself fallen face first. While there, I honestly thought that I would be able to just make a change overnight (or even over 40 nights), but it's true that things on the outside come at a much quicker pace than anyone truly understands, and we really don't know how to deal with them most times. For me, I just appreciate being more aware of myself and the world in which I live. Now I feel like I know that not everyone who looks like me thinks like me. It shouldn't be a shock, but it is. Coming from where I'm from, I've never known people who are so ignorant to the better things that they claim they have no access to. I've never known people to simply accept the position they are currently in, and never allow anyone with a different idea tell them they can choose one over the other.
I definitely understood that I need to continue working on being more patient and tolerant with all kinds of people. Just because I've convinced myself of how wonderful and intelligent and charismatic I am, doesn't mean that gives me the right to judge someone without getting to know them first, or even to judge them after I've had more than enough time to allow them to show me how stupid, or ghetto, or unmannerly, or illiterate they are. Chances are, God has blessed them with an ability or two that I don't have, and one day I might have to call on them to teach me something that the middle class or college didn't see the need to do.
I realized that I needed to mend my relationships. All of them. Not just the romantic relationship I have with my husband and partner of 5 years, but those other intimate relationships I have with family and close friends. I had lied and used EVERYONE as part of my insanity. All because I put getting high in front of everything else in my life, everything I touched (including those people who love and care for me) was harmed by my selfishness. Phone calls I should have made didn't get made. Events I was supposed to attend weren't on my agenda. Kids who I'd made promises to were let down and disappointed. But in my mind, it was okay because I just needed to chill and ease my mind.... as if everyone else was having a wonderful day with no problems and no issues. Crazy way of thinking right?
The entire experience changed the way I think, the way I see myself in the spectrum of Black men, and the way that I plan to deal with my behavior in the world moving forward. I definitely need to put my intelligence to use over my emotion, because that's been the one thing that seems to land me in the most trouble, the most amount of times.
I gained a better understanding of how people must have a unique and personal relationship with their God, because someone else's faith can't get you through anything. You definitely need your own prayers and your own acts and faith if you want something in return from God. Prayer definitely works, but like any other program, 12-step or 2..., it only works when you work it!
I'm doing all I can to look forward. I know that every day isn't going to be bright and shiny. But I know that every new days that dawns means that I get another chance at making things right; another chance at putting a smile one someone's face; and another chance at being a blessing to one of God's children.
While I was in jail and came to see that I was so blessed beyond what I could imagine, I started asking God to make me a blessing to someone else while there. And time after time He allowed me to do just that. I found though, I had to be able to recognize the moments that God gives me as opportunities to be a blessing to someone. It didn't always mean giving someone an item of food or clothing, but rather just to be a listening ear, or a voice of reason and support. I found myself using my academic talents to help people do things that to me were small, but to them were huge issues that they feared would not be done properly by anyone else they knew. That made me feel good even in a time of tribulation.
I know that my addiction to smoking isn't going to be an overnight fix either. I really thought that I would give it up once I'd been so long without it, but I seriously underestimated the hold it gained on me after all these years, and even when given a head start it manages to grab hold once again. This time, I know what the problem looks like, and I know how addiction works. So making the right choices can affect how my life goes from here on...and I don't have to be victim to my obsessions and compulsions ever again.
I just hope that in all I have to go through in life, God allows me to remain close and in contact with my family and friends. Having other people around me means more than anything now that I've had the experience of not being able to pick and choose who I talk to and eat with or confide in. That might seem minute or unimportant to many, but when it's taken away from you, even for a short period of time, the luxury of picking one's associates gets kicked a little higher in the order of importance.