Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A year out of prison

Today is Wednesday, July 2. That means that one year ago today, I walked out of Florence West prison. I doubt that Emily Post has a section on how such anniversaries are to be commemorated.
Here’s how I chose to do it.
I’m having a friend over. Her name is Maggie. She’ll be staying with me for a week. She came in last night and the only instructions I had for her was to show her which side of the bed was mine. I should point out that Maggie is a dog. I mean, a real dog. I am taking care of her for a friend, who is vacationing in Boston for a week.
Maggie is part Airedale Terrier, part German Shepherd. Basically, she is a large fuzzy-faced dog.
And, like most all dogs, she is a very good listener.
It’s kind of nice to have someone to share my thoughts with on this occasion. For some reason, the anniversary date of my release for prison has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks. During that time, I’ve been trying to reflect on what has happened since then and what this whole experience has meant.
Well, I wish I could share with you some profound conclusion. But the truth is, in many respects, I don’t think I’ve made a whole lot of progress since the day I got out of prison.
Back then, I was brimming with optimism. I figured I’d be able to land a job with a newspaper or, failing that, find a job in a related field and would quickly get back on my feet financially. Well, it’s been a year and I’m still just scraping by, still looking for work, still applying for jobs online, still waiting for responses to those applications that never come.
Back then, I had entertained the idea that I could somehow re-connect with my fiancé,, who broke up with me a few months before I went to prison. To my surprise, I found that she had met someone else and got married while I was in prison. So that door has been slammed big-time. To be honest, it still stings a bit.
So, by all outward appearances, I’m still in pretty much the same spot as I was when I got out of Florence West 365 days ago.
But in another sense, I think maybe I have made some progress. More and more, I am beginning to view this whole experience, which began with my DUI arrest on Feb. 19, 2006, as primarily a spiritual journey.
And as I reflect on this past two-and-a-half years, I’ve come to realize that God has used these often painful circumstances to point me toward those things that are really important in life.
And slowly, I am beginning to realize that while a fulfilling career, a companion, and a secure financial future are all things to be desired, they aren‘t the essence of life.
All the things we can see or touch or possess in this world are temporary. The enduring things - faith, hope and love - are the real treasures of life.
And that is why, through no credit of my own, I find that with each job rejection, I am more hopeful, not less. That is why, on those days when it occurs to me that, gee, it would be great to have a mate to share my day with, I find that I am not so lonely anymore. And that is why I find myself to be more empathetic toward people I would have previously judged ever so harshly.
I’ve come to understand that there are really only two kinds of people in this world: The Unrighteous and The Self-Righteous. It’s pretty obvious that I fall into the latter camp. What I realize now, is that it’s the best camp to be in.
So, while my external circumstances may not have improved in any discernable way, I know that I am a better man than I was back then. That’s progress of the best sort.
Of course, I cannot accept any credit for that. People don’t change. People are changed. If I’m better, God made me better.
So here it is a year later and these days I find that my life is sort of like trying to put together one of those giant jig-saw puzzle. Only I don’t have to cover of the box to look at.
The big picture has yet to emerge and, as you might imagine, I am extremely curious to see what it will be. But for now, the best I can do each day is to find pieces that seem to fit together and trust that the picture, a good picture, will someday emerge.
What do you think, Maggie?


Keith said...

Awesome lessons in this post Slim. Keep pressing in brotha'.


1smartrgrl said...

Hi, Slim. I am reponding both to your blog, and in regards to the article about you in today's paper. Wow, can I relate! You see, I too was very recently released from prison for DUI. It did a number on me, but it saved my life. I did 3 years at Perryville for 3 aggravated DUIs. I am a schoolteacher. I lost everything to my habit of drinking and driving. I truly understand your struggle.

I also have a Maggie in my life right now, too. She is my mom's dog, and I am caring for her and my mom's house while she has knee replacement. That is a trip, too, of course. (Living at home for the first time since the 70s!)

I enjoy your writing very much, and wish you well. Wait til you hear how I landed my job!!! Maybe I should consider a blog. I have some awesome stories!

Take care!

dollarbill01 said...

I too, believe there are two kinds of people in the world. However, I divide them into "Givers" and "Takers". Needless to say, most people are Takers. The true Givers are few and far between.