Well here I am in the parking lot at counseling a little early again with a few thoughts to express here real quick. With the holidays being here, it’s been pretty crazy. I’m becoming more and more involved in my inmate wife support groups and am even an administrator on one! That’s pretty cool but the thing that strikes me the most is just generally how much better I have been feeling since making connections with more folks in the same boat as me. I feel more optimistic than ever before and also significantly less isolated which is a pretty huge deal for me. I’m officially a member of TIFA (Texas Inmate Fsmilies Association) and through them I have been able to send some Christmas cards to inmates who have no one and that has made me feel really good too. I helped coordinate a Christmas card exchange between the wives and girlfriends in one of my groups and am just feeling incredibly in the holiday spirit because of the sense of community and belonging I feel. Some of the wonderful ladies praise me for my support and I’m grateful for the accolades but keep telling them that I am the one who is blessed by having found them and the opportunity to know them! As a survivor, it gets pretty lonely in my little world and I feel so much more liberated than I have felt in a long time.

I’ll be attending TIFA’s monthly meeting this evening and will have the opportunity to meet some of these women in the flesh as well as share some more holiday cheer with Texas inmates via our Christmas card initiative. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!

I guess to summarize, I am feeling more than fortunate this season, despite our present predicament with him being gone and my ongoing hunt for new icing arrangements. I feel more equipped to handle the normal curveballs of life and that is a sensation that money simply cannot buy.

So thank you, everyone. Old friends and new, and even those of you I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting: thank you for being you and for making this world a better place simply by being. I am grateful beyond words for you and consider you to be a blessing of the truest and purest kind.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each and every one of you. May this season bring as much fortune and blessings as it has brought me!

image

Advertisements

Your Pit Bull

Posted: December 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

This almost brought tears to my eyes. People, animals… it doesn’t matter. Stop drawing lines. Stop discriminating.

The Dad Letters

Dear River,

I want to tell you a story about your dog, Zoe. We found her cowering at the pound. She wasn’t barking like the other dogs. She was simply laying there, looking up at us. The tag said, “lab mix” and she was slated to be killed in a week. We fell for it, thinking we were buying a lab.

She is not a lab. She is a pit bull.

Zoe_2

As Zoe grew, we came to realize the pound had lied. I was scared. I felt irresponsible for letting this type of dog into my home. All of the stereotypes, preconceptions and worries filled my mind. Should I take her back? What would people think of us?

She is the definition of disenfranchised. When first time guests visit we lock her in her cage, not because she is dangerous, but because of unspoken fears. She receives wary glances from strangers as…

View original post 637 more words

A finely tuned, carefully honed plan is one of my strongest addictions. I feel damn near omnipotent when I marvel at the finely crafted fruit of my labors. Whether it be time management, budgeting or work flow, I like to have an order of operations for everything. I feel like I am in control and sitting in the driver’s seat with a plan, and I also feel better equipped to handle curve balls and unforeseen variables that inevitably arise in every facet of life, whether it be an urgent matter at the office that needs attending, or a slow leak in a tire that needs patching before it grows into a bigger problem. When I have a plan in place, these things are almost anticipated, though the form they will take is not usually known to me before it happens.

One such plan was my living arrangements. In May 2014, I was approved for my first lease since moving state side. I signed on the dotted line and initialed at least two dozen pages and moved into what I call home that weekend. I was new to Dallas, and my new home was just a short commute to my place of employment. It isn’t the best neighborhood, but it definitely isn’t the worst either. It would definitely suit my needs, at the very least for the 9 month term of my lease.

We are now in December of 2014, and I have received multiple notices regarding the quick approach of renewal time. The first had increased rates that steadily decreased as the length of the terms increased. Last week, I received a “holiday special” notice suggesting that if I renewed my lease for any term by 12/15, my rate would remain the same. I was planning on renewing, but I wanted to find out about the policy on upgrading to the next size up whenever one became available either on my floor or above me, and whether that would be a breech of contract or whether they would work with me etc. My husband had also suggested that I offer to sign the longest lease they have if they give me the bigger unit at my current rate. I was going to discuss all of this with them this coming Monday or Tuesday, as I have those days booked off from work for my finals anyway, and would be around during their business hours. In fact, I was in the leasing office on Monday this week to pick up a package that had been too big for the mail man to put in my mail slot, and while there, I advised the manager that I wasn’t ignoring them, and that I would be in to speak with them next week regarding my renewal. (Unbeknownst to them, I had also planned to discuss the possibility of my husband paroling to this address in the future. If that were to happen, they’d be getting $600+/month from us for the foreseeable future. Steady income is steady income, amirite?)

We are now Wednesday, and I have been to my weekly counseling appointment, and would ordinarily be in class now, however I finished all my course work for my first class this evening, and am not due in my second class until 7. I opted to come home, relax, shower, etc. Well, much to my annoyance I arrived home to find a piece of paper stuck in my door. This piece of paper says there will be mandatory inspections of the units randomly selected by the inspectors tomorrow, and to please have my unit available. Of the 4 doors on my floor, mine was the only one with this paper stuck in it.

Let me step back for a moment and explain why this is an issue for me:

Approximately six weeks ago, we all received a similar notice, citing some bullshit about the city requiring annual inspections. This one, however, said all units would be inspected over the next 72 hours. Now, I have two small dogs, and I live 60 miles away from all my family in the area. Making arrangements for my dogs is easier said than done, especially during the week as I work full time and attend class almost full time as well. I called the rental office first thing the next morning and advised them of my situation and said that I would be more than happy to come home and handle my animals if they would just give me an hour or so notice. The reply to this was “we are not able to schedule time, and the inspectors are out already and may have already hit your unit.” …. Hit my unit? Did I miss a memo where I was mixed up in a fucking heist movie? Furthermore, I am a trauma survivor. I suffer from PTSD and acute anxiety. The prospect of anyone entering my sanctuary, with all my things and my dogs, unescorted, sent me into full blown panic mode. So much so that the following day I was home with a migraine. I called the office first thing in the morning and told them I was there and asked if they would please come do the inspection, since I was here and could take care of the dogs. I told them I would be home until 2pm, before I had to go to my appointment. I spoke with them repeatedly throughout the day, and each time she told me they’d be along, and then when I called (at her request) before I left for my appointment, I was placed on hold for several moments before she came back on the line, advised me that they were finished with the inspections and had everything they needed, as well as thanked me for my cooperation. …. Mandatory inspection, by the city, of all units eh? Well, I guess I’m special. Or they were just trying to get into specific units. Whatever.

So now, back to the topic at hand. I feel like I have been singled out for this inspection and after the fiasco before, I’m not inclined to bend over backwards for these people. My dogs will remain loose and I will leave a note with my number. They can call me if they want in here. Otherwise, I cordially invite them to piss off.

Furthermore, as a result of this one piece of paper stuck in my door, the absolute best they can hope for is a six month renewal. If the stars align and allow, I will give my 30 days notice at the end of this month and be gone before February. If the stars don’t align, I will sign a 6 month lease renewal, and then be gone at income tax return time next year. They can shove the larger unit up their asses and they can have this little one back in relatively short order.

Aside from all of this shit and the personal elements, let me tell you why else this pisses me off. I mentioned this was not the nicest part of town. It’s cleaned up a lot in recent years, I’m told, but it still has a long way to go. In this complex specifically, I guestimate that roughly one third to one half of the residents get up and take our asses to work every day. The rest are here all day long and basically leech off the system. That being said… why in the FUCK are you going to harass and alienate one of your tenants that doesn’t party, that doesn’t have people over, that pays rent on time every time, and that doesn’t cause problems?? And for what? Probably nothing. I will never understand the logic (or lack there of) of some people.

IMG_0159.JPG

Whatever, it’s their loss. No skin off my back. I’ll be taking my little caravan shit show someplace else. Thank you and have a nice day.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Fair warning… this post was written to kill time before counseling and I am exhausted. Three cheers for insomnia!!

***

I think it’s kind of funny how the older we get and the more we experience, the more our priorities and elements of stress change. There was a time really not that long ago when the biggest worry I had was whether I was going to be able to make an appearance at more than one social event, or what to wear or even whether our guild raid was going to be successful in new content or not. I didn’t really care about bills and if I didn’t make good grades it wasn’t the end of the world. There was always next semester. Nothing really was that urgent. On the flip side of this concept, our motivation changes so drastically too.

As an adult, I’ve always been a little anxious. My performance and punctuality at work have been a high priority for me. I’ve also been very neurotic about paying bills on time every time and just generally making sure all the little moving parts of my calendar day, month or year were attended to at any given time. I would get a little too worked up if I missed something.

Now, since I’ve been through trauma which, as a domino effect, destroyed my credit, my values and outlook are similar in some ways but drastically different in others. I still need to keep my schedule and I still need to get my bills paid, but I’m not motivated by a clean credit score so much as by the simple success of remembering everything. Having sustained a head injury, to say that I am forgetful is the understatement of the century. Any month where I don’t receive a past due notification is cause for relatively tame celebration. I don’t party at all anymore. I’d already grown out of it for the most part but after the events of last year, the only substances I partake in are nicotine and caffeine. I suppose I’ve evolved into an all or nothing kind of girl, in the grand scheme of things.

I still care about keeping my performance and punctuality up between both work and school but I think I’ve passed the point of relating to high school kids or true college freshmen in that I have no “there’s always next semester” mentality. I don’t like kill myself over deadlines but they matter to me. I keep a detailed electronic calendar to ensure I am apprised of all of my obligations and due dates. I really don’t remember a time where I didn’t care if I passed or failed, and my professors have commented that their evening classes and day time classes are as different as they can be. The noon time students cut class and miss deadlines with much more frequency than the evening students. It blows my mind to think about, considering college isn’t free in this country. Somebody is paying for them to be there. Why bother if it doesn’t matter to them?

I’m motivated to do the best I can in all of my classes because it tells me I am not permanently damaged. It tells me I am capable of not only performing, but performing well. I don’t think I would like it if I had to repeat a class.

I’m also motivated by the thought of life after prison. I’m not so naive that I think it is going to be easy, but I do see the potential for it to be good and worth the wait. I take pride in the lifestyle I have worked so hard for that is blessedly drug free and having accomplished this much on my own, I have faith that my man will be able to follow suit. I know he is proud of me for how far I have come in this last 18 months. I really can’t wait for him to become an active factor in this new, positive life.

Having gone without, in part due to my own choices but also due to lack of choice on my part, I find that there is so much in life that I am thankful for. Every ugly thing that has happened in my life has taught me over and over to varying degrees to not take anything for granted, especially the little things. This last is a topic for another post once I am more rested and possessing more coherent thoughts.

All in all, I’m in a pretty good place and while I worry somewhat about exams next week, I feel positive that I’ll make the grades I want. That’ll be another notch or two on the ‘I did that’ list. I’ll take it!!

image

This is another paper I wrote for my English composition class. I share now because the topic of recidivism and addiction came up today. This paper was also written in MLA format.

—————-

A disease, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “an illness that affects a person, animal, or plant; a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally” (p1). Additionally, addiction, as defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” (“The Essence of Drug Addiction.” p7). The link between the two words is plain to see. Yet America, as a nation, does not treat addiction as a disease. Instead, it is punished, swiftly and indiscriminately, as a crime. The symptoms of the disease are simply suppressed by the system. Drug offences alone were accountable for over half of the population in federal prisons in this country in 2013, per the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics Bulletin (15). For the sake of perspective, the Federal Correctional system housed 193,775 prisoners, serving sentences longer than one year, and 98,200 of those were for drug convictions alone. (16).

How does that look at the state level? According to the same source, of the 1,314,900 inmates sentenced at the state level in 2013, only 16% of those were sentenced for drug convictions. (Table 13, page 15.) The stark contrast here has to do with some states softening the penalties for low-level drug offenses, while others are somewhat more lenient with regards to parole violations (i.e. they do not necessarily get sent straight back to prison upon their first violation, depending on the nature of it.) Nevertheless, it is incredibly alarming as to why there is such a massive difference between the federal correctional system and the state systems within the same country. How can this be explained?

The nature of drug crimes insofar as convictions are concerned, can be broken down into subcategories: possession, delivery/trafficking and manufacturing. Each carries varying degrees of severity, depending on the specific details of each case. What the typical census fails to consider is the drug related element of non-drug convictions. As mentioned earlier, addiction describes compulsive need for a substance. Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., the Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse within the National Institute of Health describes it perfectly:

“Drug craving and the other compulsive behaviors are the essence of addiction. They are extremely difficult to control, much more difficult than any physical dependence. They are the principal target symptoms for most drug treatment programs. For an addict, there is no motivation more powerful than a drug craving. As the movie “Trainspotting” showed us so well, the addict’s entire life becomes centered on getting and using the drug. Virtually nothing seems to outweigh drug craving as a motivator. People have committed all kinds of crimes and even abandoned their children just to get drugs.” (“The Essence of Drug Addiction.” p8.)

The science behind this has been performed. It is a widely accepted fact that addiction is a disease. Upon further consideration, it is clear to see that if America as a country was more widely inclined to address the illness itself, rather than the current method of staunching the symptoms, there is a very real and attainable possibility that crime of all kinds will decrease.

America is certainly on the trailing edge of implementing these findings. The Netherlands, for example, has systems in place where soft drugs such as marijuana are accessible in a safe, legal environment, where the users of such substances (young or infrequent especially) are not necessarily exposed to the harder, more volatile drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Furthermore, in various European countries, there are safe rooms in place where addicts of hard drugs are free to go and use their drugs in peace, with medical supervision and clean needles. (“Denmark’s ‘Fix Rooms’ Give Drug Users a Safe Haven. P6.” This carries multiple social benefits: these addicts are not littering public streets with refuse and dirty needles, and the Netherlands has all but eliminated HIV transmission through drug injection while also boasting the lowest rate of problem drug use in all of Europe. (“…Look to the Dutch. P11.) There is more to it still: the coffee shops where the marijuana can be purchased, generate a staggering amount of revenue annually while the citizens are not strapped with criminal records for non-violent, minor drug offences, since fewer arrests are made. . (“…Look to the Dutch. P4.) The end result is a much cleaner, much more prosperous society. Some believe more lenient law enforcement would lead to an increase in drug use. For the Netherlands, this was not the case. . (“…Look to the Dutch. P5.)

Ultimately, the mentality behind policy in the Netherlands is that different substances carry different risks, the contrary of America’s stance, wherein all drugs are equally as hazardous and criminal. The pros most certainly outweigh the cons, and there are so many examples made overseas that America should follow. More leniency with low level offences has the potential to reduce recidivism, in that minor offenders would not be subject to felonies that make it exponentially more difficult to attain gainful employment, which contributes in and of itself to the alarming prison overcrowding issue in the United States. If we were to delve further into the issue, and take steps to identify those in the ranks of America’s incarcerated, who are addicted to hard drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and all the incarnations thereof, and take steps to treat their conditions as the disease it is, crime rates would drop exponentially. The addict mind drives otherwise good and decent people to alarming lengths to feed their addiction. Breaking and entering, theft, robbery, grand theft, and even some of the more violent crimes, are examples of some of the radical lengths an addict will go to in order to pacify his or her demons.

Imagine then if, as a society, we took steps to exorcise those particular demons. What, then, is left? The human condition dictates that there will always be some crime. The alarming numbers of men and women that fill both state and federal penitentiaries would dramatically decrease if, as a people, we took one of the more common variables off the table. Progress is progress. Consider as well, how many families living below the poverty line might have a fighting chance if their finances were not dictated by the need for a fix. Though times are still hard, in light of the recession, the black mark of a felony conviction on the background of non-violent men and women make it that much more difficult to find gainful employment. It is a vicious cycle: addiction, crime, incarceration, release without treatment for the disease, struggle to reintegrate back into the free world, inability to find work, relapse under stress or necessity of subsidizing income, crime, incarceration. This is the reality for an unacceptably large number of Americans.

The system is broken, but it is not beyond repair. The United States of America should follow the lead of more progressive countries like The Netherlands and treat the disease. Without the disease rampant and out of control, the symptoms will become irrelevant. Treat the disease; stop suppressing the symptoms.

Works Cited:

Carson, E. Ann, Ph.D. “Prisoners in 2013.” U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. Sept. 2014. Web PDF. 12 Oct. 2014.

Leshner, Alan I. Ph.D. “The Essence of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. March, 2001. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

Malinowska-Sempruch, Kasia. “For Safe and Effective Drug Policy, Look to the Dutch.” Global Drug Policy Program. Open Society Foundations. July 16, 2013. Web.

Merriam-Webster. An Encyclopedia Britannica Company. Web. 12 Oct 2014.

Overgaard, Sidsel. “Denmark’s ‘Fix Rooms’ Give Drug Users A Safe Haven.” Parrallels: Many Stories, One World. 16 Dec 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

Featured image

It’s not typically my nature to try and throw myself into the middle of a very heated, very volatile topic such as this one, but based on conversations I’ve had over the last couple of days, I truly feel the need to speak up here. Whether anyone chooses to hear what I have to say or not is completely up to them.

For the sake of context, I was raised in Canada. I was raised in a community that was basically colorblind. I was raised in a virtual multicultural mosaic. I was taught that ethnicity did not define a person; action did. Composure did. Character did. In 2012, I moved to Texas. While the social values may be different down here, mine are not. I am still the same person I was. I still judge people based on what they do and what they say, not on how they look or who they love.

Furthermore, I must also point out, again for the sake of context, that I am white. I am a pretty average North American. I’m not privileged. I live in what some would call a ghetto on the road to recovery. I interact with all manner of people on a daily basis.

In July 2013, I was the victim of a violent crime. I was kidnapped, raped and beaten. Following those 4 days I spent in hell, it took me seven weeks to file a police report. I systematically went to six different police agencies with my case, photographs of my injuries, copies of the medical records from when I took myself to the ER, as well as a clear paper trail and pictures identifying my assailant. In the first two weeks of this effort, you could still clearly see the trauma on my body. My face was bruised, I had burns on my neck and finger print bruising on my bicep. Those are just the marks that were visible at a glance. There was significantly more marks of my trauma covered by my clothing. But again, I had photographs of them all. Five independent police agencies basically told me “Not my jurisdiction, not my problem, sorry about your luck.” One officer did his due diligence and made the effort to at least provide me with GPS coordinates to take with me to the next agency. The rest of them couldn’t be bothered with the prospect of paperwork that wasn’t even in their jurisdiction for sure.

At the end of the seven weeks, and at the sixth law enforcement agency, I finally got a police report filed. The deputy was really kind to me, and praised the effort I went to to assemble what appeared to be a solid case. He said that I had made his job too easy. I felt relief, and cautious optimism that I would see some semblance of justice. A couple of months after that, I found out that my assailant had been picked up in a neighboring county and was being held on charges separate from mine. I thought that a little strange, but was just relieved to know he was off the street.

Fast forward another 3 months, into spring 2014. I was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury in the county that had filed my police report to testify against my assailant. I didn’t know what to expect, but was once again feeling a sense of relief that maybe now was the time for justice. Maybe now was the time for someone to say that what had been done to me was not okay. How wrong I was.

I appeared before the grand jury, as per my subpoena. I was dressed professionally, and though nervous, I did my best to answer their questions. I had sustained a head injury in my trauma, and a lot of the specific details were blurry, but it wasn’t those details they seemed interested in anyway. These people attacked me. They spoke to me as if I was the criminal. They asked me things like ‘why didn’t you call out for help?’ ‘why didn’t any of the officers you spoke to ask for your financial records?’ ‘why didn’t you run away?’ These are all ridiculous questions. When a man twice your size has a weapon on you, and is threatening people you love, and takes you places away from where you are familiar, your survival depends on not doing anything to further antagonize him. Furthermore, how would I know why the police didn’t ask for my records? If memory serves, I am not the detective. I am not the one trained to build cases against bad guys. I realize it is the prosecutor’s job to find holes in the case that the defense could take advantage of, but nevertheless. I left that hearing feeling like I had once again been violated. I felt like these people were angry at me, and blaming me for what had been done to me. I was hysterical, and in tears. Surprisingly, or really not so much after what I had endured, I called up to the court house the following day to find out that the grand jury had no billed the charges of Aggravated Kidnapping and Aggravated Sexual Assault, citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. I was distraught as I could be. Ultimately though, my assailant ended up in federal prison on unrelated charges, and will not be a threat to me until fall 2017. While it isn’t justice, at least it’s something.

You might be asking yourself why I bring this up now. What does this have to do with current events? It has everything to do with current events. My point is, I’m tired of seeing the race card used constantly. I’m tired of minorities segregating themselves and then getting angry that they are segregated. I don’t have a racist bone in my body, so please don’t jump to that conclusion. As I said before, I am colorblind.

The moral of my story overall, however, is this: the justice system is fractured and broken. It is thoroughly, completely and totally screwed up. I’m a young white female and I was dropped through the cracks of justice the exact same way Brown was. People choose to see prejudice everywhere, and choose to use it to justify their actions. There is no context in which that is acceptable. If we are truly going to progress as a nation, everyone has got to stop pointing fingers, drawing lines, and playing the blame game. We are all at the mercy of the law that governs us all. That law is completely and totally twisted from what it was originally intended to be. We have a far better chance of changing that, of fixing that, by standing united in a cause than we do of lashing out and acting so shamefully as to riot and loot. Is that any way to honor that young man’s memory? Is that any way to honor his family? Surely not. That kind of behavior will bring about change, but it is not the progressive change this country, the system, and the people need. It will bring about regressive, backwards change.

I don’t know about any of you, but I have no desire to go backwards, potentially to a time mirroring some of those shameful marks on world history. I have no desire to live in an ugly world fitting ugly statistics. I have no desire to be an element of a statistic. Surely I am not alone in this.

I wrote the following narrative essay for my English Composition class. It was written in MLA format. I have received a lot of really great feedback, both professional and personal, on this piece, and so I wanted to share it here as well.

If it wasn’t already implied, I feel the need to express that nothing I write is seeking sympathy or pity, but simply understanding. I have since discovered that it makes my trials less daunting when I can affect and even help others with my experiences, or open eyes to the struggle of some among them. I share to do just that. If any who have been through some of the same trials as I read anything I write, it is my hope that they should draw solace from the fact that they are not alone, that they are not judged, and that I do stand by them, whether we know each other or not. I want to be a voice of support and kindness in the uglier parts of the world, because some folks trapped in those places are the ones who need it the most.

****************************

There are so many theories as to whether innocence is an element of human biology, or whether it is something of a fluke. Some believe children are born with it, and gradually, as the world gets them in its grips, they lose it. I do not believe we all completely lose our innocence. I believe we have an inherent capacity to maintain some amount of it, proportional to the amount of imagination and wonder we allow ourselves. Like everything else, I believe there are also exceptions to that rule.

I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in the spring of 1987. I would be lying if I said I could tell you much about that time. I was raised by a Canadian mother and an American father, in a fairly well rounded home. We were not without our happy level of dysfunction as any family is, but for the most part, it was unremarkable. I am privileged in that I hold dual citizenship. I can (and have) worked in both countries, and have grown a great deal as a person in both countries, as well. I moved to Texas in late spring of 2012 in pursuit of a fairy tale. The man I call my husband now, is one of my oldest friends. I knew him on-line at the tender age of twelve. He was my safe place, my confidante, my best friend. I recall I would hurry home after school, eager to chat with him. Once high speed internet became the norm, he would leave his webcam streaming for me, even while he was at work. He kept a salt-water fish tank, and I loved to look at it while I did my homework. The tank and the creatures who resided in it were so bright, so vivid – it is really a miracle I ever got any schoolwork done.

Time passed as it always does, and we grew apart, as people often do. He was four years older than me, and so we were at different stages in our development. We fell out of touch, going our separate ways to make our separate mistakes and to learn our separate lessons. I would not learn the extent of those lessons until February of 2012. He crawled out of the woodwork, creating a profile on Facebook and adding me. It was an easy reconnection, as if we had never parted in the first place. I caught him up on my life since our last interaction, and he broke my heart catching me up on his. He had been incarcerated for nearly six years. He had just been released a week or two prior to making contact with me. I was stunned. In my youth, I had no idea that he was wrapped up in the ugly underbelly of the world. I had no idea he had fallen in behind his father and submitted to the siren call of drugs. He had gone out of his way to keep those elements of his life from me. It pained me to learn all of these things, but it also steeled my resolve. As a child, I did not have the independence and means to book a flight. At twenty four, however, I did. I flew into DFW the third week in March of 2012. I marveled at the weather. Canadian winters are often still going strong, well into the calendar spring. Texas boasted fair weather, if a little muddy. The grass was already becoming lush and green. It was a far cry from the blinding, desolate, winter wasteland I had flown out of mere hours before.

As all good things often do, my trip passed far too quickly. I was state side for twelve days. The time inevitably came for me to return home. We had decided between ourselves that it would be temporary. We were not quite sure what this was between us, but we were both determined to see it through. I would return home on April 1st, 2012, for the last time. Six weeks later, in the early morning hours of May 16th, 2012, I would load up my car, and I would depart Canada as a resident for the last time. I was terrified, not because I was unsure of where I was going, but because I have never been adventurous. It took 28 hours of driving and a lot of coffee, but I made the 1600 mile drive from end to end of the continental United States of America. I arrived in Sherman, Texas, mid-day on May 17th, 2012. I felt a sense of accomplishment, the likes of which I had never known. I made it. Life was great for the first year. I found work, we found our niche, and we thrived. We were closer than ever.

In the spring of 2013, the tone changed. I was so naïve. I did not know the signs. I did not fully understand my husband’s addiction until it was too late. He was out of control, and there was nothing I could do to alter the subsequent chain of events. He was arrested May 7th, 2013. For a long time I felt guilty for the sense of relief that I felt at knowing where he was, and that he was safe. I truly believe to this day, had he not been taken into custody at that time, he would not be alive today. The ‘drugs are bad’ theme is not the element of innocence lost I referred to earlier though. Less than eight weeks after he was arrested, one of the unsavory people my husband associated with would completely destroy my world as I knew it. Sure, my reality was pretty chaotic already. It was nothing compared to the days following the Fourth of July.

This man took me, took my car, took my money, and all but took my life. I was held against my will for four long, excruciating days. I was denied sleep, and I was sexually and physically assaulted. I was kept off the grid and far away from the people I loved, and the people who loved me. My husband was in county jail and could not come find me. I was not sure I was ever going to see him, or anyone, ever again.

Those days taught me anger. They taught me the potential danger in being too trusting of anyone. They taught me of the extreme evils in this world. The hard truth is that I survived. While I am still working on putting all the pieces back together, I am for the most part, victorious. I will never know innocence again. As if my ordeal was not enough, it would take me seven more weeks and soliciting six different police agencies, to even successfully file a police report, despite the visible signs of abuse on my face and body. Eventually the District Attorney of the county that finally listened, subpoenaed me to testify before the Grand Jury. I was hopeful that maybe justice would finally be served. I learned a great many things about the law, primarily among which is that the law does not like to gamble. It prefers to bet on a sure thing. The DA’s office no billed the charges against my assailant, citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. Not only was Johnny Law not concerned with what happened to me, he was also okay with it. He was perfectly content to turn that animal loose.

We teach our children that policemen are there to protect us and to keep us safe. That is the moral of this story. That is the innocence I will never again possess. I am still a happy, pleasant person. I have aspirations and hopes and dreams. I have conquered many adversities over this last year, and I am not finished, yet. The future is bright, and it will be mine. I am no stranger to hard work. My husband will be home eventually, and maybe then this will all be no more than a bad dream. Until then, I am motivated by my anger. I am motivated by injustice not only to survive, but to continue to grow, to become more than I once was. Whatever curve balls life has in store for me, I am ready. I will adapt. I will survive. Bring it on.

So I’ve been having a pretty good week again this week… it’s a nice development after the week from hell earlier this month.

I have to laugh a little bit at the recurring theme I seem to notice surrounding all my ups and downs both: control. My counselor has said that it is not uncommon for a survivor to exhibit a desire for control over their environment and life in general following a traumatic experience. I don’t really like the word “control” though… it seems to carry a somewhat negative connotation when the thing itself as a factor in the life of someone like me results in such positivity. I realize excessive obsessive tendencies are not healthy but the fact of the matter is, there is a significant difference between excessive and moderate. I need to plan my time, in addition to scheduling fixed tasks in my life. I like to think I adapt to unforeseen interruptions to my plans pretty well… though when a lot happen in a short period of time, my mood does suffer for it. I have yet to become completely unable to function, which I’m glad for. I have gotten a little lethargic on occasion but not to the detriment of my job, my classes or responsibilities. Everyone is allowed to have bad days, right?

In one of my classes, Learning Frameworks, we have been learning about different personality types as well as learning styles. It’s very interesting to see that some of the qualities typically exhibited by a survivor are qualities that already exist in certain types of people. I find this to be reassuring but also stunning since there are so many people that are quick to dismiss damaged people as broken. They are quick to define people who have been a through hell and lived to tell the tale as the hell they weathered.
This bothers me tremendously. Yes, all people are products of their environments and experiences, but ALL of their environments and experiences. Yes, I have been through hell. I have been violated beyond the realm or what is acceptable collateral damage on the ride of Life, and yes, I have made mistakes, as has the man I love, but those are only a couple of factors that make up the blueprint of who I am. Those elements of my life experience do not exclusively define me any more than the fact that I like broccoli and dislike Brussels sprouts do. Similarly, yes, my husband is in prison. Yes, he is among the ranks of the shamefully large Texas inmate population. Yes, he is an addict. But these are not all he is. Why are some people so inclined to pass judgment on others simply due to their present circumstances? Hell, even past circumstances. We will have to endure judgmental leering down the noses of the self righteous for our entire lives due to his felony convictions and my oddities over control.

That doesn’t bother me as much as it might bother others. I know my heart and I know his heart. Those that dismiss us as inferior or unworthy of their company are the ones who will lose out ultimately. As individuals, we are quite exceptional people, my man and I. If anyone chooses to judge us by the scars we bear as medals of Honor, denoting our victories over adversity, so be it. We didn’t want to play with them anyway.

I guess the moral of this story is folks shouldn’t be so quick to judge one another. Everyone has pages in their story that are less pleasant than others. If you refuse to endure those pages, there’s no telling what elements of wisdom, knowledge and kindness you will miss out on from the transition from dark to light. It’ll be only your loss. Life is too short to risk missing anything at all.

 

image

Why? Why not?

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

I had a chat with a new friend of mine earlier today and the topic went to dreams and aspirations, and the elements of our lives that gave birth to those dreams and aspirations. It got me to thinking about how sadly rare it is to see people make something good out of something awful. It was with this thought that it finally dawned on me: that is the difference between a victim and a survivor.

Those that know me know that I have strong feelings of resentment towards the victim label. Yes, awful things have happened to me and in my life in recent history. I feel that the term “victim” implies that those things are what define me, and I simply cannot abide by that. Sure, I used to think all the time “why me? Why are these things happening to me?” The cold reality of it though is ‘why not me?’ I don’t feel that I am more or less fortunate than anyone else. I don’t feel that anyone is more deserving of atrocities than anyone else. The fact of the matter is: life is a lengthy series of poker games. Sometimes we get dealt killer hands that allow us to clean house on the table. Other times, though, we get the shittiest hands that we possibly could. I’m of the opinion though that a shitty hand doesn’t mean you should quit playing. Don’t go all in on it, by any means, but don’t bow out at the first sign of adversity because if you do, then what? The most current standing you will have is whatever hand you bowed out with. If it were a less than ideal hand, why on earth would you stop at that? I can think of no logical, sane reason to settle for that.

I choose to take the adversities that arise in my life and mold them into motivation. I don’t like the way things are sometimes, so I figure out what steps I need to take to fix it. It is never easy. I’ve been hard up financially for more days in my life than not, and I’ve had to go without a lot of things as a result. It happens a lot. I have no sense of entitlement. I don’t think I deserve more or less than I have at any given time. A victim does. A victim allows his or herself to be defined by the ugly reality they face. They expect others to sympathize or pity them and they expect other people to take up for them and make it better. Victims can keep their mentality. I don’t want it. Anything I have, I have worked for. I have cried, sweated and bled for everything. I will continue to do so because that is how I will earn a better hand. That is how I will become more than what I am.

If you don’t like where you’re at, stop just sitting there and complaining about it. Complaining will change nothing. Go out and do something about it. If something upsets you, get mad, keep your cool, and change it. Do not settle for what is, because I guarantee you the World does not care. It will not lose sleep or stop spinning even for a second. It will continue as it always has and always will. It is up to you to carve your lot out. It is up to you to build on it and create the life you want to live.

The title here is a double entendre. ‘Why me? Why are these things happening to me?’ These things are happening to you because you are asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is ‘Why aren’t these things happening to me?’ Once you answer that question, you will be in control and you will find the path to the life you have want. You still have to move your feet though. You still have to do the work and you still have to make the sacrifices and learn the lessons. There is not a thing in this world that is free. There are some things, however, that are a pleasure to pay for. When you pay the price for those things, you are left with a sense of accomplishment and victory that money simply cannot buy.

 

image