My goodness y’all this year has flown. Is it really August of 2020? Are we really more than halfway through that year that was going to be the MOST epic of all years? Its been epic all right. A straight up challenge from the Hunger Games complete with uprisings, strange sicknesses, and tracker jackers (murder hornets). This has been a year of intensity. It has been intense for everyone, but once again we, the supporters of incarcerated persons, get an extra helping of stress. We are praying for our loved ones that many of us haven’t and won’t see for over a year, we are parenting, homeschooling, laid off or essential, isolated and often handling all of this alone. We are accustomed to taking on more than our fair share, but the added tribulation of the times we live in has really exposed the grit we all have. We see you; it feels like no one understands but we do. You have a tribe through SPWF that is here for you. Maybe it’s odd that a person who has your back the most, lives a world away, but what about prison wife life isn’t a bit odd?
It is important, critically important, that you surround yourself with love and support during this time and remember not to lose yourself. We can all identify with the feeling that mom’s spaghetti might end up on our sweater…already, and that’s ok, but hang on to yourself. Remember who you are/were, before your loved one, before your babies, before your experience with the injustice system, before this virus robbed you of human connection, or worse the life of a loved one, before we were all running around like Chicken Little feeling like the sky is falling on our heads, before a political climate that made us all feel like we have to fight each other. We can’t forget we have to fight FOR each other but first that means you have to fight for yourself.
In times where things crumble around us, we are given the opportunity to rebuild. Things that weren’t as solid the first time around can be restructured, strengthened, or a whole new design can be put in their place. I invite you all to sit within the rubble and envision what you want for your life, as if nothing could prevent you from getting it, but wait, it can’t include your loved one. Hear me out… I am the same, I picture my future and when I do my husband is by my side, but I stopped thinking about him when planning my personal goals and this is why. My husband is a quiet, peaceful, path of least resistance and routine oriented type. I am an advocate, goal oriented, and what is important to me is fighting what I see wrong in this sick world. I want to be an attorney, I want to work with the Innocence Project, he wants to sit in front of his cabin in the woods and just appreciate breathing in nature. If I were to plan my future in terms of “us” or deferring to his wants and ideals, I would not be fulfilled, I would be resentful, and we wouldn’t work. If I plan my life to support who I am as an individual person, I accept that he will enjoy time alone in nature while I go slay dragons and we meet up at the end of the day as complete people able to pour from a full cup into one another.
Maybe you are in a place of fulfillment, and if you are I am excited for you and proud of you, if you are not I am also excited for you and proud of you because in these moments where we sit alone, we have the opportunity to dive deep and make change. Some of you know my story, but others may not. I am a career dog groomer, I went very far in my field, and have done well in competitions against people from all over the world, but it was never what I wanted for myself. I couldn’t seem to find what was right for me though. I knew I had a soft spot for those who struggle, and you can ask my friends, you don’t want to come for someone I care about. When my husband was bullied by the “United States of America” to take a plea for a crime he didn’t commit, the federal defense refused to fight for a trial. Legal Eagle didn’t feel he could win, and you can’t when exonerating evidence is intentionally left out of discovery. When 5 years was better than the longer mandatory minimum/trial punishments he was facing for claiming innocence he took a plea. The judge would have given time served if his hands weren’t tied, I was shaking, livid, and heartbroken. I literally had a friend on either side holding me down, and I was medicated. I kept saying “if I were younger, I’d go to law school. This wasn’t justice!? This was a scam!” After I dropped my husband off at his new home, decorated in razor wire, I was numb. I had been fighting so long beside him, now what? More poodle haircuts? 4 more years of mind-numbing work, until his halfway house date. Then what? A lifetime of judgement because of his record while I did more poodle haircuts? I was withering away feeling a lack of purpose.
My internal dialogue kept repeating, “law school takes 7 years counting undergraduate work.” I would be 46 by the time I could take the bar. One day while I was staring blankly out my window resolve settled down around me. My husband was going to be gone for exactly the amount of time it would take to earn my bachelorette degree and in 7 years I was going to be 46 anyway. It was my choice; I could be 46 doing my 6 millionth poodle cut or I could be 46 and taking the bar exam. My youngest child will be 18 the year I complete law school which frees me up to take my fight for justice anywhere I want to.
Maybe you aren’t the type to desire those types of goals, maybe a more traditional family dynamic is where you feel fulfilled, maybe doing the perfect poodle cut is your dream, and if so, that is amazing too. You are uniquely and wonderfully made. You need to explore your wants, needs, and desires to make yourself the best version of you. We have nothing to give to someone else if we don’t first pour into ourselves. While we are apart from our loved ones, we do have the gift of being able to do that, to use the time wisely for the benefit of everyone around us.
Maybe it’s school; there are wonderful on-line programs available to start right now while safely social distancing. Maybe depression has beat up on your health and mindset; Ro and Adam are bringing their health and lifestyle coaching right to your social media very soon. Maybe it is developing a peer group; some of my best friends are right here within the boundaries of this community. Whatever YOU need to be the best YOU, in the words of our own Cat, DO YOU BOO! Don’t lose yourself (I mean you can in that Eminem song, but I draw the line after that;)