Sunday, December 7, 2014

#51 - Choices and Agency in Jail (Journal Entries Through January 13, 2014)

When I talked to my family at home yesterday I knew Jason wasn't feeling good.  His parents took the kids to church with them.  It stresses me out to know that my family needs me out there and there's nothing I can do about it.  Jason and I have had this agreement since we got married that neither of us would have a bad day on the same day, nor  get sick together on the same day.  After breakfast my body reacted to the stress and my stomach started to churn.  Most of the girls went back to bed and I tried to distract myself from being sick by reading scriptures.  Even being in jail, a body doesn't wait to get sick.  It would be so much easier if I were in my own house with my own comfy bed.  I dreaded waking up Rachel.  I was trying my best to keep it together and then they called for 7:00 headcount.  That would be easier than waking her up myself.  She would have to get up anyway.  I felt bad for the next hour, that instead of going back to bed, she sat in the common area while I was sick in our cell. 


There has been coffee trouble in here and I am glad I don't drink the stuff!  There's a handful of girls that have containers they have saved from their store commissary - salsa, shampoo, peanuts - anything that comes with a twist top lid.  They fill them to the rim with coffee in the mornings, put them in their thin window seal to stay cold, and then when they wake up for good at 10 or 11, they warm it up in the microwave and have their coffee.  Some of the new girls caught on and filled up on their coffee too, so there wasn't enough by the time the regulars went to fill up theirs.  Oh the comments that started flying like, "Those little munchkins *** stashing their *** coffee like hoarders."  The regulars were mad that the new girls did the exact same thing they were doing.  I don't get it. In 'real life,' I'd say, "It's coffee girls!  Just coffee!"  But in 'jail life,' I can see how worked up they get over the simplest things because they have very little control over anything that goes on in their life at this point.  Tensions were rising and I could tell that this could be the beginning of something bigger.  As I walked by to throw something away, I paid a compliment to Sister, one of the ring leaders.  At first she studied my face to see if I was joking or making fun of her.  She would be the first to call someone out if they were messing with her.  When she realized I was sincere, she said thank you, and then the subject changed and things started to cool off.  I caught a smile from Rachel out of the corner of my eye.  I suppose the whole situation was enough for the new girls to realize not to mess with the coffee. 

The funny thing is...  Their agency to make most of life's choices has been taken away by being in here.  They cannot make choices about when/what they eat, what they wear, and when they talk to family.  But, they are still given agency over their attitude an the way they treat others. 


I was fixing my ponytail this morning and my hair tie broke!  With long, curly, crazy-without-mouse hair, I was upset that my hair would be in my face for the remaining 2 days.  One of the girls took the broken band from me and tied the ends in a knot so that I could use it again.  Maybe I haven't been in here long enough to realize that when something is broken, you still don't throw it away! 

Rachel tried to help me with my broken CD player, but it's not reading any CD's.  Instead, I have used my batteries to listen to someone else's CD player. 

One of the girls at church yesterday requested us to pray for her and for someone she had offended.  This woman explained how her victimizer used to choke her in her sleep.  She would wake up, not being able to get free, with her tongue heavy in her throat.  She still has flashbacks and nightmares of the repeated offenses.  Her Bunkie has repeatedly come to wake her up, and touched her in her sleep.  Her experience has taught her to sleep so softly that even with the lightest touch, her mind will race back to that place.  In her words she was very 'assertive' Sunday morning and now her Bunkie has been offended. 

It made me think of how many times I may have offended someone, not meaning to, or been offended easily.  Have I reacted the same as her Bunkie, thinking how much that person over-reacted, or have I given that person the benefit of the doubt?  Maybe they are having a bad day or just lost a loved one or are worn out from caring for a sick family member.  I can't imagine what these girls have been through before they have gotten to this point.  I have heard it said again and again not to touch someone in here while they are sleeping.  Before, I only had an idea of why, but this woman opened up and shared her heart and requested prayer on her behalf. 

I love that the girls that attend church here are so willing to share prayer requests.  On the outs, it's maybe a form of weakness to ask others to pray.  In here, they are already humble and have no where else to go but to each other and God. 


I got to know one of the other girls better during break outside today.  For not having make up in here, she's naturally very pretty with dark, naturally wavy hair and dark eyelashes.  She looks way too young to be in here, and even younger to have a 2 year old little girl.  I envisioned a supportive family back home that is worried sick about her, doing all they can to help.  As I talked to her, I couldn't have been farther from the truth.  She said she was a good mom the past 2 weeks.  She stayed clean, she played with her little girl - knowing that sentencing was coming up.  When it came time for court, her mom drove her to the doors of the courthouse, dropped her off, and drove away.  She said at sentencing her face was covered with meth sores, her hands were shaking, and she was scared at the possibility of going to jail for the first time. 

She said her family used to go to a Christian church when she was little.  She wanted to be an FBI agent when she got bigger.  Her mom has a picture of her handcuffing her teddy bear.  When she was 9, they lost everything when her dad was arrested for growing marijuana in their house.  She watched him leave in handcuffs, at the hands of the police, and learned that police were 'bad guys.'  They took her dad from her and she decided she didn't want to be an FBI agent anymore. 

As I listened to her talk, her eyes got a panicked, distracted look and her head started shaking, watching something pass on the highway.  I turned around to see a state trooper turning in to the parking lot of the jail about the time she said, "Oh ***, there's a cop!"  Even locked in jail, her body and emotions reacted to law enforcement.  She calmed down when she realized she is already in jail.  She's thought about breaking out.  Another girl in here made it out before from a different facility.  She was on the run for 17 days before they caught her and brought her back for another 5 years.  Craziness! 

She talked about her daughter and how scared she is that she'll never find her again.  Her and her daughter were living with her parents in a camper, moving around to avoid 'things.'

Again, I wonder why I was sent to the family I am in.  Why was I so blessed to be stable and taken care of?  Why did I feel so confident and strong the very first time a friend offered me a cigarette?  I had no idea that as a 7th grader that decision was the fork in the road for me.  After I finished my conversation with the new girl, I went back to find my Book of Mormon.  There was a verse about choices that I found.  Nephi 2:27 says,

"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity."  

Choose liberty and eternal life...  Or choose captivity and death...  It all starts with a choice.  I know where jail lands.  It's confinement.  It's claustrophobic.  It's stunted progression.  It's alienation and a separation from my family.  I suppose that's the way sin feels, even though I'm here for something I didn't do. 

The good news is that there is always repentance.  Jesus has died for our wrongs, if we will accept His sacrifice and act on it.  Liberty and eternal life.  The exact opposite of captivity and death.  Being free to choose for ourselves.  Unlimited potential.  Families for eternity.  Freedom.  Sounds refreshing!  (and like a lot of hard work that's completely, 100% worth it!

I came across a couple quotes in The Miracle of Forgiveness today.  Spencer W. Kimball says, "The difference between the good man and the bad man is not that the one had the temptations and the other was spared them.  It is that one kept himself fortified and resisted temptation, and the other placed himself in compromising places and conditions and rationalized situations." 

The other quote I really liked says, "The greatest battle of life is fought out within the silent chambers of the soul.  A victory on the inside of a man's heart is worth a 100 conquests on the battlefield of life.  To be master of yourself is the best guarantee that you will be master of the situation.  Know thyself.  The crown of character is self control." 

I think about the drugs that have played a part in these girls' captivity.  They are physically being held captive right now in jail, but even on the outs their addictions have held them captive.  Satan has tricked them into thinking that a life of drugs or stealing or murder or driving under the influence is liberating, free, getting rid of the things that hold them back, breaking the boundaries that rules provide.  Commandments are there for a reason.  Not to force us to obey, but to give us more freedom to choose for ourselves without being "under the influence," (or is it under Satan's influence?)


Karen asked this afternoon if things were more peaceful in here.  I recounted the day.  Coffee drama.  Cussing.  Songs I would never let my kids listen to.  Girls tearing pictures out of magazines of other nearly-naked girls.  Bunkies arguing.  Loud, solid metal doors that bang shut.  Um, no, I wouldn't consider it 'peaceful.'  She said she has just felt so calm and peaceful and thought maybe things had changed in here.  I told her it was her that had changed.  The scripture reading, waking up early, singing in the shower, visit from a friend, the Priesthood Blessing, going to church.  That's the way to feel different in here.  It happens on the inside, not the outside! 

She also gave me a green friendship ring she made.  It was a welcome replacement to my wedding ring that I'm not aloud to wear in here!  Plus it gives me something else on my finger to fiddle with. 


The girls were watching Locked Up.  I had more fun watching the girls' reactions to the show while they watched Locked Up.  I've had enough jail by living it, I don't need to watch it on TV too.  During a commercial break, one of the girls ran to get her pen and paper to write down one of the inmate's names on the show.  She pointed out, "It was only home invasion - and plus, he's cute!"  She plans to look him up when she gets out.  Whatever keeps her mind occupied while she's here. 


The guard came in this afternoon and said there is a lot of mail.  It's Monday, so they have overflow from the weekend.  She said they would be in to deliver it sometime before lights out (which is 11:00).  That's a long wait for my highlight of the day!  After not feeling great all day and worrying about my family, some support from the outs sounds really good about now. 

2:00 came and went.  No mail.  3:00 came and went.  No mail.  I told Rachel that I was going to take a nap and to wake me up when the mail comes.  She said, "Want me to wake you up if you have mail or are you sure you'll have mail?"  Maybe I was too smug, but I told her I was positive I would have mail.  About 5:00 I woke up.  No mail yet.  Do they like to play mind games?  Hold out for a reason?  Rachel did arrange for a pillow while I was sleeping.  I've felt a little intimidated by the girls who work in laundry, so I haven't wanted to ask them for a pillow.  I've made do, but Rachel noticed during my nap that I was sleeping without a pillow.  She did told me I needed to stick up for myself.  "It's a pillow!" she told me.  "They are not scary!  Just ask!"  I felt silly that she had noticed that I have been pillow-less for 5 days and called me out for not sticking up for myself.  She has a way of being assertive without hurting feelings.  She has a genuine way of communicating and I love watching her use her mouth to make positive things happen in here. 

Mail finally came at 8:00 tonight.  The guard came in with about 15 envelopes, which I didn't think was a lot, but maybe it was relative.  Each time she called an inmate's name to come get a piece of mail, I wanted to clap!  Like, "You're the next contestant on The Price is Right!"  I was so excited for each of them to have an envelope of excitement to open.  One by one, they went to get their letter, opened it, and returned the envelope to the guard.  I saw the pile grow smaller.  And then the guard left.  No. More. Mail. For. Me.  Out of 15 letters, none were for me.  That hasn't happened since my third day in here before people knew how to write to me.  I was sure there would be my own stack of envelopes that had collected over the weekend!  Feeling humbled, I sulked back to my cell to finish The Elizabeth Smart Story.  Rachel came back up to the room just to check in, but I know she was making sure I was okay without my mail.  She didn't need to ask and I didn't need to say.  She's very intuitive that way. 


This may be the first time I actually feel sad about leaving in a couple days.  I hope that whatever good I was meant to share, has been shared.  I hope I have said the things that needed to be said and done the things that needed to be done.  Like the girls have joked, "YOLO!" 

Like most nights, Rachel and I talked for a long time after lights out.  Not too far into the conversation, she started asking questions about my life.  A couple of the girls have been interested, but most of them struggle so much with thinking outside themselves that they aren't really concerned with someone else's past or feelings.  The other girls asked why I was in here.  I would explain, "I went to check on my 2 month old during a nap one day and she wasn't breathing.  I called 911 and did CPR until help arrived.  By late that night they were accusing me of child abuse."  That was the end of the story for most of them, which was fine with me.  I'd rather keep my 'real life' to myself.  Rachel, on the other hand, was relentless with questions.  "How is Bryer now?  Do you know why she stopped breathing?  How do you feel about it now?  Are you mad at the doctors?  What does your husband think?"  And then she asked me, "Was your family there when you were arrested?" 

Time seemed to stop for a minute while I realized that I am sitting here in stripes on a top bunk of a jail bed, having a conversation with another inmate - and I have never been arrested.  Rachel chimed in, "How does that happen?!"  The thought sunk deep into me, that as hard as all of this is to go through, that I have chosen this route.  I have chosen God's divine plan - His precise, exactly perfect plan - to get hope and love and compassion into the walls of this jail.  It's not me at all.  I just feel so blessed to be a part of it all.  It feels good to be an instrument in His hands. 

On that day, Bryer had to make a choice whether she would accept a life of physical challenges and stay with us or if she was done with her earthly life.  I don't know if she knew what was at stake or what was in her future, but I'm so thankful she made the choice to stay with us!  I found myself opening up to Rachel about what a special spirit Bryer is and how incredible it is to have her in our family.  I told her about the chicken pox and misdiagnoses of SBS.  I shared with her the dream I had early on about being sent to jail for weekends - not for myself, but to help the girls there.  I told her I wasn't mad at the doctors - that they have only used their limited knowledge to make a misdiagnoses. 

She stopped me a few different times, in disbelief that this could really happen.  Until now she had opened up to me, but I had closed myself off to most everyone else, only to let the the positivity I had show.  Karen didn't even know much about how Bryer is now.  I felt I was meant to share love and hope, not my story.  But the more I talked to Rachel, the more questions she asked and the more she wanted to know about my whole life - not just me in this jail life.  Before I knew it, I had become an open book for Rachel.  She knew my heartaches, my struggles, and especially my blessings in being here individually and specifically with her. 

In return, she has reminded me what a blessing I have waiting for me at the end of each week.  I mentioned during our talk tonight that I struggle with getting one of my kids to do his chores.  She reminded me again of a tip I had forgotten - agree with him!  "Yes, it does stink to have to do the dishes every day.  I wouldn't want to do it either if I were your age, but our family is counting on you for plates to eat dinner on and bowls to eat breakfast out of."  That's far better than taking an opposing side and fighting about who has to do the dishes. 

Rachel will be a wonderful mom someday.  I hope she will get that chance.  I am in awe every day to watch her communication skills change situations in here and make a difference.  She's a natural-born leader and has just used her skills with the wrong direction.  I love this tag-team game we play to help strengthen and teach each other.   


It really is all about choices.  No one handcuffed me and made me come to jail.  Even a jury didn't hear my case and put me here.  I chose to pray and allow God's answers to lead me.  It's not sacrificing myself and my family for 20 years like many others are serving time, but it's exactly what I can do one week at a time.  Choosing God's way doesn't mean it will be easy - in fact, lots of times it's much harder!  But I know it's always worth it!  As a friend of mine used to joke when we were going through something hard, like childbirth - "I can do anything for 6 hours!"  So it is here.  "I can do anything for a week at a time!"  My time this week is ticking down and I pray I've done my part.  I hope I have learned everything that was meant for me.  Maybe this is how God felt when He sent each of us to earth.  Like sending one of my kids off to kindergarten, I've tried to buoy them up and shared what I needed to, now it's their turn to make their own choices.  It makes me sad to leave these girls, as I don't know if the same ones will be here when I come back the next time. 

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