20 Years in Prison

Reflecting upon his time in prison, Wesley Snipes said, “Nobody wants to get locked up, although ‘locked up’ is a matter of perspective. There can be people who are out who are in prison mentally and emotionally and worse off than those who are behind bars.” Snipes’ comment is similar to Proverbs 27:3, ‘As you think, so you are.’ Its meaning is simple, whatever the beliefs and thoughts you hold about yourself, they are likely to become reality. Combined thoughts and feelings can embrace you or defeat you. Some thoughts are great, some are fairly simple.

According to research, the average person generates 60,000 thoughts per day.  Multiple that by 365 days, one gets a grand total of 21,900,000 thoughts per year. Thoughts run the gamut. Simon McCarthy-Jones noted 60% of reported thoughts about running a car off the road. 46% were about hurting family members. Other thoughts included fatally pushing a stranger, sex, forcing another adult to have sex, and other desires. In my teens, my thoughts were consumed with thoughts of getting any woman into a horizontal position for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, all those thoughts lacked any proper planning and execution. I once read men think about sex every 7 minutes. I cannot say I do. But that leads me to ask, how the hell does a researcher prove that? On the other hand, after hearing women talk incessantly over the past 3 decades, women seemed to obsess about burning 200 calories to compensate for eating that one piece of chocolate. Once past the failures of my terrible teens’, I turned to guilt, constantly reflecting upon what I did wrong. I reflected upon such events so much that one Priest finally stated, “Jesus died for you. If so, why do you keep crucifying yourself? You’ve become nothing more than a slave to yourself.”

And that’s what I became — 20 years a slave (unto myself). Richard Francis Burton wrote “… that one should conquer himself. Until you do, you are nothing more than a slave.” I agree with Burton’s commentary. Wesley Snipes notes similar themes, that many are mentally and emotionally in jail. We live it, breathe it, and eat it. Mental jail had become so ingrained, I didn’t know how to live without.

The self imposed jail I built cost 20 years of living, the greatest love of my life, and riches far greater than money. Nearing life’s end, I simply want a good name. As Proverbs notes, a good name is more desirable than great riches, it’s better than silver or gold. I was convinced a ‘good name’ could not be had, that I [the intrinsic soul] would forever remain undesirable. 

Two decades is a long time to be stuck in such a cycle, passing blame, fading in and out of other lives, and neglecting to understand the lessons God wanted me to learn. People like me walk the streets everyday, We allow ourselves to become so overwhelmed, that it seems impossible to overcome anything. To bust the cycle, I had to become free and studied how ‘my’ universe worked and I authored the thoughts that strove that imprisoned the soul. My escape was in pen and paper.

I’ve acquired tons of computer equipment, by most advanced piece of technology remains either a fountain pen or a #2 pencil. The latest book of Barack Obama’s political memoirs, A Promised Land, became a best-seller. What is unexpected is that Obama’s 760-page book was written by hand. Maya Angelou did likewise, noting she had written 31 books, essays, plays and lyrics for songs — all on yellow pads. In doing writing, I learned a few things and some timely lessons.

Writing allowed me to express my thoughts, recraft my image, to let go of the past, to focus on the here and now, and helped me choose more empowering thoughts. Second, I stopped growing old. Samuel Ullman noted that nobody grew old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Sure time may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Last, having a false image of what people actually are can harm the health of society. Likewise, having a false image of what your soul is like, will harm you. The negative image of myself was wrong.

People have negative thoughts all the time. That’s natural. However, victory is ultimately determined by the outcome of the war on the psychological front, whether one is able to live, to love, and to laugh before the specter of death is significant. 20 years on, I am a freeman, living and reliving the reasons I remain worthy. In my mind, now that I face my last few months/year(s), I choose to live, love and laugh with a light and smile like no other. Do me a favor, pardon yourself.



Categories: Life Lessons

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