#188 Prison Talk: Staying positive (new)

May 14, 2010 at 4:53 am Leave a comment

Prison Talk: Staying Positive

It’s likely going to be past midnight before I put this up, since I just finished watching the Celtics knock off the Cavs. I kinda feel sorry for Lebron James, because there is much talk about whether he will leave the Cavaliers or not…the last couple of games seemed like a guy going through the motions, rather than taking over as the leader…I like both teams, but was kinda pulling for a game 7.

Today was pretty busy, in a good way I guess, as far as my writing. I blogged earlier today about receiving a gift from a reader, and it really encouraged me to strive forward. Later this afternoon, I went to the post office to send a free prison encouragement certificate to a reader, in hopes to encourage her son.

I also got a few emails from people asking me about my books and certificates, and a request to explain something in my last blog. I’ll get to that in a second.

My “Grades of Honor” books are now available, as well as prison cards and prison encouragement certificates. A couple of you have asked me about that, let me extend a free offer to those of you that asked…

Give me a chance to win you over before you send me any money. Let me send you a free prison encouragement certificate, on me. Now this is not for everybody that requests, because if I get 20 people asking, I don’t think I can afford that. But the encouragement I got from a gift from a person gives me the ability to do something for others when I can. Now don’t get me wrong, I can use the money to buy more supplies, or buy some new jeans, or, dare I dream….a video game….

(he said foolishly)

But there are times where you have to put charity first because it’s the right thing to do, and it can also be an investment on faith. I am believing that if you let me send you something for free, I just might be able to win you over so that you will want to purchase a book or cards from me, or just send a gift to support my blogs.

So email me and give me a chance to send you something first, before purchasing anything from me. I am asking to give this ex felon a chance to win you over, to give you my sincerity so that hopefully there is no question that I am really trying to help.

Once you are convinced, feel free to order my “Grades of Honor” books, or prison encouragement certificates or my prison cards…and other things I am working on.

Again, email me directly so I can share as much as I can. I am always most delighted to share that info with you.

Now, about tonight’s blog….
The title I want to tie in with a question a reader had about my last blog. I mentioned about the “big house” and the other camp while I was at Pasquotank Correctional. A question was asked what was the difference between the two. I will tie that in with the title, and how important it was to stay positive.

My first book of “Grades of Honor” covers my time while at Craven Correctional, the very first prison during my incarceration. Its actually a processing prison, where many inmates go to be “processed”, assimilated, if you will. Once the prison gets the basic info and intel out of you, they ship you to your more permanent prison. In my case, it was Pasquotank Correctional.

Folks, you REALLY have to understand my state of mind at this period of time. I had just spent 17 months in a jail cell praying to God for help, but fighting between two lines of thought: that God could do anything, but also that sometimes God needs people to be in specific places for reasons He knows about.

That alone is a long blog, and part of my first book, but at the moment I was shipped to prison, I gave up on God…in fact I hated Him. I felt that He let me down and my prayers meant absolutely nothing to Him.

I spent many weeks at Craven in that mind frame, but my anger was directed ONLY at God…I was not mad at anyone, although disappointed in myself. When I got to Pasquotank, my mentality was based on ignoring God, and doing what my heart led me to do. But in light of all this failure in my life, and my anger against God, how in the world was I supposed to stay positive?

Pasquotank Correctional, in Elizabeth City, is a large prison camp, but technically is two camps. If you can visualize the camp, the larger part of the prison housed all the close and medium custody inmates. It was also where the administration was located, and the other main parts of the prison. There were, as I recall, five units…If I can correct, Unit one was segregation (or the HOLE, as some know them). Unit 2 was medium custody, where I was located. Unit 3 was Close custody, and I think Unit 4 was another close custody group, I’d have to check. All of these units were in one area, one large building…thus the name, “the big house”. The fifth unit was the minimum custody inmates, which were located across the way, separate from the larger part of the prison.

I can’t tell you what it was like to walk in a prison as a first time felon, seeing all kinds of guys looking at you. I think I was afraid, but at the time all I could do was walk forward, holding my personal belongings, until I was led to my cell.

I’m not the kinda guy to say I wasn’t afraid of anything…I WAS afraid, but somehow, during those times there was a calmness about me, something I just cannot explain. I’d argue with you that it was God, because at the time, I didn’t like Him, and apparently had completely rejected Him.

But what explains how I was able to endure those initial days? The first few weeks there I was just going with the flow. I barely went out on the yard because I was afraid to be shanked. There was no reason to think that way, it was just how I thought. So for many days, I stayed to myself, not wanting to conversate with anyone.

You notice that so far, very little has anything to do with being positive while in prison? There is a reason for this. I think that there has to be a slow acceptance to the situation before you can get into the frame of mind of being positive. I mean, if its about being positive while in prison, you kinda have to know what prison is about, don’t you?

Maybe that was what HAD to happen with me, those first several weeks there was no real positive energy in me…just a neutral sense of existing. But then, that can’t be true either. It wasn’t like I lived in prison not caring about anybody, my foolish butt still dared to believe that if you can help someone, then to do it.

But…isn’t that a God-like trait…to CARE about others? How can you say you hated God, when you still cared about others? I don’t know…I just don’t know.

And I say for the 10000th time, there is no halo around my head, but even in prison, there are times where you have to help someone simply because it is the right thing to do.

The odd thing about my time at Pasquotank, in the “big house” was that while in medium custody, while not caring about God, I was actually doing fine. In fact, better than fine. Things were going pretty well for me, and prison wasn’t looking so bad. Why were things going so well for me, considering how I then felt about God?

I think maybe because God wasn’t looking at what I FELT, He was looking at something much deeper inside me. Stuff I could not tell you about me, because I had no idea.

The great irony folks, was that I was doing FINE while in medium custody, and things were going well. I talk in more detail in “Grades of Honor” 2 and 3, because it covers the details of that time. But even then, you have to ask, how did you stay positive while in prison?

I had nothing to look forward to.

I had lost everything in my life.

I was worthless.

How do you find the strength to be positive in one of the most negative places around? To be very honest folks, as of 11:54pm, as I am writing this, I had to stop and think about it. How was I able to stay positive during this time? I really don’t know… I really just don’t know. But part of me wants to say that maybe it wasn’t MY strength that gave me that ability to be positive…maybe it was something greater.

It is possible that God can look out for us, even when we rebel against Him? Is it possible that He can see through the flesh and see the REAL person, rather than the faults of man? If so, then is it possible that God saw me, the real me, and knew something I didn’t?

I think some call it God’s grace and mercy.

I think God knows how much we are able to handle, if we have faith in Him, and He may know the limits of the spirit of man, while all we know is the limits of man. Don’t get lost with me folks, I am trying to understand how a guy like me, who at the time hated God, was able to endure medium custody so well.

I didn’t go around cursing, or being mean or starting fights, I simply did my time as best I could, making light conversations with guys when I had to. Again, you’d have to read my 2nd and 3rd books to get an idea of what I was going through. But being positive was a part of that. I had nothing to look forward to, if I had the chance to attempt suicide, I might have done it again. And if you read the part about how I broke down and cried in the shower, it might touch home to some of you.

Yet in all that, my time in prison was not bad, in fact better than average. I had money, was promoted in my job to a better one, had friends in the dorm…what could be better if you had to do time…

Then it all changed.

I was “promoted” from medium security to minimum security. I hated the idea…HATED IT. I was now leaving an area of comfort and control to one that is unsure and new. The adjustment from medium to minimum should have been easier, but it was much harder. I wondered if God was the reason for my sudden change of misfortune, because before I was promoted, I had started going back to reading scriptures and writing to ministries. I was trying to move back to God….

And for that, I was put in a more difficult situation.

I was moved to Unit 5, the minimum custody camp, and regretted it nearly every day. I had no choice, I had to go, unless I was willing to intentionally break some rules and get sent back…not a good idea. That time spent in Pasquotank Correctional while in minimum custody was not easy…yet I continued to read faith filled letters and magazines as often as I could.

Why would I do this, when nothing had gotten better? What was the motivation to stay positive? To be honest, I think I stayed positive simply because I HAD to. I mean, what do you gain when you stress yourself out? Your day doesn’t get any easier, in fact it gets worse. I figured if I can find things to be positive about, then the days might not be so bad. So I watched sports, I watched cartoons, I made friends on the camp, I spent time in the minimum custody classroom as a volunteer tutor, and did many things to keep my spirits up.

But being positive didn’t mean that I was happy every day…in fact there were numerous days where I had no money, and life was really the pits. Working as a dorm janitor paid $2 a week in minimum custody, which is LESS than what I was making in medium custody.

(Note: From what I understand, Pasquotank changed the security levels about 2000 or 2001, moving out all medium custody inmates and how houses only close custody in the “big house”. The minimum custody camp, as I understand it, is still there)

So ask me again how I stayed positive when I still had nothing to look forward to, and now in a worse situation than when I was in medium custody. I might say that I tried to find the lighter side of life while doing my time. Its funny because I actually taught some guys on the camp how to play “Magic The Gathering” which is a card game that was very popular. It caught on and we had a lot of guys on the camp playing it. The irony of that was the first guy I taught the game to, I saw near the end of my incarceration at Dan River Prison Work Farm. We ended up teaching a few other inmates how to play it.

Sometimes folks, being positive isn’t so intellectual…sometimes it’s taking the best of yourself and moving forward with it. What makes you happy? What gives you hope? These are the things that are embedded inside each of us as inmates, and we choose whether to embrace them, or the problem of being in prison.

For that reason, I can’t give you a single answer to how I was able to stay positive, because there may well have been many reasons. One day it might have been a good talk with a guy in prison that you just felt comfortable with. Another day it might be that your favorite show came on tv and you were able to enjoy it. Yet another day it might be that the weather was just perfect for you to enjoy. Still another day might be because you got some money, or a card, or a letter, or was able to call home.

But maybe to answer that question (as it is now 12:18) is to ask the opposite of the title…why didn’t I just give up on my life?

To be honest…that would have been far easier.

But even though I attempted suicide in county jail, I just could not give up on myself…for what reason I knew not, because as I said, I truly believed I lost my life anyway.

I didn’t give up on me because maybe deep down, I wanted to see something change….I needed to see things change. I needed to see a win out of this terrible experience. It was why I read so much of those faith filled books, booklets and magazines, I was desperate for something to give me hope. All I had was a dream, a hope that maybe things will end far better than it currently was.

I say all this folks, from a time where there was no way I could have seen myself writing these blogs. Yet is it possible that God knew long ago that I would be here doing this? Again folks, please don’t make me out to be a saint, I am just a guy that truly wanted to do something to help others…but perhaps didn’t know what God knew.

Consider for a moment…if I had done all my time in medium custody, with the advantages I had, I am pretty sure I would have done alright, and would have served my time and got out…but in that level of comfort, I likely would not have written nearly as much as I did while in prison.

It is possible that sometimes God has to move us from a level of comfort to a level not so comfortable, because there are also people there that just might need help? I mean, who would God send, if NOBODY wants to go? How then do those without hope GET hope?

One of my friends works at a plant, and his crew, as he told me, works very well together. But another group was not doing so well, and had guys there that were lazy and didn’t work well. So the idea was to take a couple from my friend’s crew and switch them with the “bad” crew.

Nobody wanted to go, because they knew the bad crew was lazy. The supervisor of my friend’s crew didn’t want to give up anyone , because everybody worked hard. Ultimately, the head boss had to step in, and take two guys from my friend’s crew and switch them with the bad crew…no debates about it.

My friend was one of those two.

He was very worried because he had gotten used to working with those guys, and was now comfortable with it…now he was moving to a bad situation, and was nervous about losing is comfort level. I talked with him and told him that maybe the reason why he was one of the two picked was because they needed a positive light in a darker place. He had very good work ethics and didn’t play around. He was a model worker, and was respected, even though he had the least experience. What he lacked in experience, he made up for in his work.

But he was worried about it, and didn’t want to go. I explained to him that the guy who is in charge of the business can’t let the bad crew continue to get worse, it would not help anybody, and in fact hurt the business as a whole. To help them, SOMEBODY had to go, and he picked him and another guy with 30 years experience to help. I think he kinda understood that him being moved wasn’t a punishment, it was a chance to help the business because he was in fact quite respected for his work.

But spiritually I think God does the same thing. The problem is we more often than not, refuse to go. There are lots of places where some Christians think they are too good, too righteous to deal with. Thank God there are many churches that do help inmates, I am proof of that.

But I think sometimes God touches people who are inmates, to be able to help those that are in prison. He has to, because most people wouldn’t dare volunteer to go to prison. But if nobody wants to go, whom shall He send?

So I think to help others in need, sometimes God has to move us from a place of comfort, to a place that is not so comfortable, so that He can get you to do what He wants you to do. For me, I was comfortable in medium custody, but when I was moved to minimum, everything went south. But ironically, it was during that time that I really began to see what prison was about, and began to write grievances, letter and journals about what I was going through.

It is quite possible that if I didn’t go through that experience, I might not be writing prison blogs today. I’d have to think God saw that, because I certainly didn’t…nor would have wanted to.

So how did I stay positive…I honestly don’t know how to answer that, but for sure I did my time as best I could. But my foundation of being positive might have been in my faith in God that somehow, someway, things had to get better. Being kicked out of several prisons was hard, and there were times I was retaliated against, but as I continued in my incarceration, I was leaning more on God…because I had nothing else to trust in. I loved my mom and my family, but I knew they could not understand what I was going through. And I dare not tell them how bad I felt, because I didn’t want them to worry about me. So being positive might have just been a frame of mind to make do, but to not lose hope in life itself. To trust that God is doing more than just watching, He is personally involved in my life for a reason.

Thousands of pages online later, here I am, still writing. Its quite likely I had to experience prison in a difficult way in order to be able to talk about it the way I have. If it was too easy, I might not have cared to share any info about it. So maybe, just maybe, God knew what He was doing. It seems that every time I get a “God bless you” from a reader, it seems to imply that maybe He DID know more about me than I knew about myself. I can’t say for sure, because to say that implies that I know a lot of stuff.

But something has to explain why I write so much about prison issues, and why, even after all this writing, there is much more to share. And the purpose of my writing is in fact to keep you positive about a loved one in prison, and to not give up….similar traits I had to have while I was doing time myself.

Even now I have to be positive while blogging, since I am not where I want to be financially. I have to believe that regardless of how things look, I just have to have faith that God can…and will make a way, not just for me, but for those who put some faith in them.

And look folks, I am not talking only about people that are in the front pew every Sunday, this applies to ANYONE who is willing to put some faith in God. I mean, what else you got to lose? Its better than living in fear and depression!

So don’t give up folks, you just can’t fold up on your faith. I’m here if you need me to talk about a subject, there are prison support sites out there (although I have been banned from most of them) that might help. But don’t give up. Stay positive and be encouraged that if there is a God (and there is) then anything is possible.

As usual, email me about my books, cards, prison encouragement certificates and other products. If you want to support my blogs, I am always glad to accept your help. Well, its 12:49 and my eyes are heavy…time to go to bed. Until then…..

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Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#187 Letters from prison: flood #189 Lost posts on PTO: Uncertainty pt 1

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