staying grounded…in the noise

Reflections after first 6 months in prison – by Ben W.

I feel just a real sense of security, maybe, like a strength of self and of purpose, when I reconnect with and talk to my friends from before prison. I always forget this, though. It’s like, in this land of insanity, they can remind me who I really am and always have been, which I can struggle to hold on to around all these new, confusing people. I feel insecure and unsure of myself in a lot of interactions with other inmates, with all these new people, which causes a lot of anxiety, but I feel almost the complete opposite talking to my friends from home, so when I come away from these conversations, or, say a visit, I’m able to carry a bit of that groundedness, that remembering with me. So I think I should do more of this, talking with my friends from before.

I think I’m just surrounded by a lot of nonsense and people just mindlessly trying to entertain themselves through a prison sentence, or just maladaptive social behaviors that are so omnipresent and common that I’ve begun to take them as normal or myself as the odd one out, and talking to friends and people from outside prison who are healthier and more spiritually aligned and kind and compassionate, understanding, good natured / less suspicious, distrusting, paranoid, aggressive, selfish….

I mean, I need people like this to remind me what’s true, and well, shit, they are few and far between around here. And I can see why! I try not to even judge, I don’t want to be high and mighty. You know that. But damn, there’s a lot of wicked unhealthy social, emotional, mental, verbal and physical behavior here that just brings me down! So this is tough, and I need relationships and interactions that ground me, remind me what’s true, remind me what’s healthy, what’s right, because it seems it can get lost in all this noise, for me.

Maybe I’m learning a lot from all this, and I’m hoping that’s the case, because the truth is this is a slice of the world, the population, the human experience, that is real and valid – it’s not great, but its real, and most of these people know nothing else. But I do know something else, something better. So I guess I would have to be learning from this, just by being in it, paying attention to it, and knowing it is a layer of the human condition, the experience with which may prove vital to the important stuff I want to do with my life.

But I’m just a man, so this all affects me, for I am not an island, and we are all connected. Maybe the resilience I gain through these trials and my working through them is not just arbitrary, uncomfortable prison experience, but a means to the ability to see deeper into human experience and express that insight in a way that is inspiring to those who hear it, who are seeking the the same joy and beauty and growth innate to all humans, no matter whether they’re hippies at a music festival or frustrated inmates in a prison.

So I cannot insulate myself from the chaos of prison, as much as I want to. I can only learn to surf the waves, learn to assert myself when I need to or be passive when it is best, and to stay connected to the healthy, good people in my life – because if I don’t, I start to sink a little bit. It’s only natural. I shouldn’t expect otherwise.

5 thoughts on “staying grounded…in the noise”

  1. My nephew Chris was in prison. It makes me sad to say this, but I feel he did his best when he was there. He did not fit in with society. Its not ok that his life ended in prison.

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    1. I’m so sorry, Debbie. Chris was a beautiful soul who touched many hearts, impacting those who knew him. But what happened to him will NEVER be ok. Sending love.

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  2. Thank you, Ben W, for shedding light on a life of hardship behind the wall. We all know it is not an easy life. Good advocates like myself and many others wish to see a sea change within the criminal justice system for individuals such as yourself. Mindsets must change from vilifying everyone who is incarcerated and punishing them over and over again. Instead, a more noble work would be to create rehabilitation programs that provide a sense of purpose and opportunity at redemption and growth. This humane approach for those who want it would serve to uplift many, some of whom are broken by circumstance, trauma or mental health issues. Rather than eroding morale or all sense of dignity, the system can take a fresh look at moving forward in new directions. When time passes by and nothing good is accomplished, it is a waste of humanity’s potential. If we train prison staff to mentor, serve as community law enforcers (keeping the peace as part of the prison community), and serve as role models, innovative leaders and teachers of what real respect looks like, we could see former inmates come out on the other end as a person with renewed promise towards a better life. Rehabilitation, followed by re-entry programs could go a long way towards a more civil and safer society. This model would also do much towards reuniting families with healthier outcomes. With co-operation of persons like Ben W, the system could do much to assist in making this type of treatment and programming work. Let’s give willing inmates an opportunity and a chance to serve their time in meaningful ways.

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