Having the ability to put on a mask when things are bothering you is a gift. Or is it a curse? Or is it both? All I know is that my gift of sublimation has somehow melted into a puddle of retreat and inability to cope externally. The pause on life is definitely on right now.
Prison will do that to you, and me, and many people. Sometimes you just stop caring and sublimating and having your proverbial shit together and you just ..hide. Only it isn’t really hiding so much as it is self preservation and recharging and just being. Also, eating chips and reading, but those activities are a given when you decide to hermit. If they aren’t for you, you’re hermiting wrong.
That’s where I have been, inside my head and inside the comfort of my little domicile, where it’s ok to not want to see or talk to anyone, where it’s ok to breathe in the biggest, deepest, most exhausting breath and let out a blood curdling scream into a pillow. My cat doesn’t care. She is used to my moments of insanity dubbed as an “awakening”. So, me in my little bubble of avoiding the outside world and the heat and any plans, but then comes visiting. I want to go and I don’t want to go. I go. I always go. I’m always happy I go but also not so secretly despise my time at the prison.
While waiting to enter the prison for visiting last week, I think my layered exterior, that I spent nearly 15 years building, started to crumble a bit, or peel. It was peeling, like old wall paint and what lies beneath is starting to come to the surface, visible to the naked eye. Or ….was it less crumble and peel and more I don’t give a damn anymore about being contained? You can decide.
Being out in the morning Summer Las Vegas heat while waiting in a line full of people to get into another line to be physically searched to get into a prison visiting room will do things to a person. 1. The first part will make you sweat. It is God awful hot in the Summer here and I loathe it with all that I am. I have always hated the heat, just ask my mom. 2. You will be irate, or at least I will be because sometimes the excitement of visiting is no match for the utter pain it is to get into visit sometimes. I grit my teeth, literally, and sometimes go into a meditative trance to separate my mind from my body.
Sometimes while waiting in line, I see these young girls, full of hope about seeing their man and I think about how if they stay, that feeling won’t last forever. Not that they will stop loving their inmate or that they will stop being excited to some degree, but this shit sucks and it’s hard and to do it for years and years wears you down. It’s nice to see the beginning, though, the naivete that maybe I had once when I first started to visit Jeremy shortly after my 18th birthday. I watch these girls with curiosity and misplaced jealousy because I want to be excited too. I want to exist in a place of hope, but the honeymoon of anything new does not last forever and I want to take these girls by the shoulders and shake them. I want to shake them and hug them and tell them to run. It’s human to feel conflicting emotions and to want to act in conflicting ways and prison shines a light on those human pushes and pulls.
Anyway, it must have been the heat and the unsuspecting future struggle I was seeing all around me, but I found myself talking to some of the regular women I usually pass the time chatting with and I just blurted out “I’m sick of this shit!”. My ridiculous outburst was met with laughter and head nods rooted in understanding and the dreaded question, “How long does he have left?”. I respond with “I don’t know” because I am too tired and surprised by my own blatant proclamation to craft a good answer. But it’s true, I don’t know. For some reason I add that I’ve been doing this for nearly 15 years, the visiting thing, and I feel heads whip around and eyes are on me. One lady looks at me like I’m some sort of freak(and maybe I am) or maybe she is surprised because I look relatively young still(this is me trying to make myself feel better). One lady just says “Wow” and another “What!”, not really a question but an exclamation of disbelief.
It dies down quickly as we move ahead in the line, but internally I’m reeling from what just happened and I start to panic(this is what happens when you have anxiety). The rest of my visit feels weird and off. I’m agitated and luckily I’m married to someone who knows when to press me for answers, but not too hard. Jeremy knows this situation is tough and we strategize to navigate the choppy waters together. I tell him about my outburst and he laughs because while he is sympathetic to my discomfort and suffering, he knows that laughing makes my heavy heart light again and his laugh invariably makes me smile. I am grateful for this and that he lets me spin out in my head while I stare off into space and he eats a bag of Doritos. During the spacing out and chip eating mini marathon, we keep one hand free to hold onto the other, an anchor of a sort in a situation that can sweep you under and away at any given moment. Sometimes land is too fucking far away and you need to learn how to swim in the waters you are in. Holding hands means we are together, we are swimming with one another.
I was doing a health assessment for my insurance recently and it is divided into sections about your history, diet, exercise, preventative health, and emotional health. I scored not so well on my emotional health section(because I was honest when checking those stupid little bubbles) and at the end it said next to my emotional health section, “needs work” with a sad face and a cloud over it. I literally burst out laughing at this ridiculous “measure” and scoring system. How do you measure the emotional health of someone whose spouse lives in a prison and all the work and baggage and madness that comes with that? I want to write to the evaluation people and ask them to include a section that will not paint my emotional health as “needs work”, but rather “Hey, kid, you’re doing the best you can. Hang on and hang in there”.