I used to think that the art of “doing time” was getting through it with ease. The less you think, the better.
Because thinking brings shame, guilt, self-doubt, pity, and remorse, more importantly, all these things trigger emotions that are hard to deal with.
That and I have been purposely avoiding them my entire life. The truth is, I didn’t know how to process them in a healthy manner, so avoidance seemed more logical, easier, and certainly less stressful.
I thought the key to doing time was staying busy. I would run around all day, doing extra jobs for a little extra cash to spend at the commissary. Adding extra hustles all the time to make sure I didn’t go hungry and take my mind off of my current situation.
Inmates typically live for the next meal, so it only seemed appropriate to find ways to spend my time that was also profitable.
Sure I made extra money doing these various side jobs, but I didn’t learn anything new. I learned how to clean bathrooms and showers thoroughly; I learned how to clean a cube and that it paid a flat book of stamps each month. I learned how to find different ways how to hide various meats and vegetables on a human body while being smuggled out of the kitchen. I learned how to take bets, hide those bets and ledgers, and how to count and stash mackerels throughout the unit.
All these things made me money while incarcerated, but they didn’t teach me how to stay out of prison when I leave. Many of them were just reinforcing the criminal thinking errors that got me incarcerated in the first place. I didn’t learn a trade that was going to help me provide for my daughter upon my release.
Then there is the philosophy, the more you can sleep, the better, some might say it’s the easiest way to do time. Take as many night time (drowsy) allergy tablets as you can, we call them yellow dreamers, without causing permanent damage to your vital organs and go into a daze.
Some people sleep upwards around 18 hours a day. That means they only serve ¼ of their prison sentence, and that doesn’t even include their good time and halfway house. They might have a valid argument here, as far as being the easiest way to do time. But what do you really get out of this other than peace of mind, plenty of beauty rest, and possibly an ulcer?
Early on in my sentence, I used to dream about having the magic powers just to snap my finger, and I am getting out of prison, and the only thing I lose is years off of my life. For the first five years of my incarceration, I was lost, my life was in limbo, and I was sitting still, and if I would have found that magic wand or that genie in a bottle, I would have asked to get out.
I wasn’t growing as a person, every now and again I would look in the mirror and see a new line on my face or notice my hair was a little thinner than the last time I checked. These were the only indications that I had been gone for any amount of time.
But other than that, I didn’t feel any different. I wasn’t getting smarter; it was actually the opposite; I was finding myself struggling with finding simple words in ordinary conversations. A perfect example is the other day I was telling somebody about where I set my coffee mug the other day, forgot about it, and then couldn’t find it for an hour; then, I got stuck trying to think of the word. I explain, “You know the thing below the mirror, the little platform.”
My roommates start looking at me really crazy, and one of them says, “Do you mean the shelf?” Yes, that’s the word “shelf,” the room erupted with laughter, and they weren’t laughing with me. I thought to myself, why couldn’t the word has at least been two syllables. I thought this meant I needed to get out of prison before I get any dumber, but I realized it was because I am not applying myself.
Doing time has taught me some things, like routine; that people care about me, that I am a better person when I’m sober or clean, and that I have potential. It’s also taught me there are good people everywhere, good things can come from terrible situations, to be more respectful of others and, of course, time is precious. The biggest lesson is I don’t want to do time anymore. There is so much more to life to experience, but I also have to remember that more time is just one slip up away.
So what am I doing to change? For one I have decided no more TV every night, there are only two shows I will watch between now and September when I leave, Yellowstone and Animal Kingdom, because they are just too good to miss.
But other than that, no more TV room, I need to either be walking the track with someone having meaningful conversations that can expand my brain. Being in the library is another option, either typing blog posts and honing my writing skills or doing some reading.
In regards to reading, I vow to read no more novels, self-help, or nonfiction only. I find novels to be as mind-numbing as watching a movie, they might move you, entertain you, but it’s only on rare occasions do they actually teach you anything. As for sleep, I will continue to get my eight hours a night, 10:15 pm to 6:15 am. I have also started working my twelve-step program, so step work has become a consistent part of my routine throughout the week, along with nightly meetings with my sponsor (Dennis Cockerham), where we evaluate each day.
I am still not counting the days, but I am at least making the days count!
Thanks for listening,