Tag Archives: judgement

The stories we tell

There are events in life which will never be easy to talk about, go through, relive, and ultimately there will be events in life, in everyone’s life, that you will never truly be able to “get over”. I believe our pains and our stories are on us, like birthmarks, some more visible to other people, some more zoomed in on for the world to see, to judge, to hate, to fear, and maybe to embrace.

People who don’t know me personally could assume that I am a horrible person just for being married to Jeremy. They could paint me, in their minds, as a sick person, a crazy person, an unbalanced person. How fucking dare I be married to Jeremy? People who don’t know Jeremy personally could state with absolute conviction, based on what they’ve read in the newspapers, that he is a terrible human being, the most terrible ever, until the next terrible human being comes along. In fact, to some people, he isn’t even human. How fucking dare he live? The outrage is indeed real. They could say that he is vile, unfeeling, remorseless, and all around a person that deserves to die in prison. They could say that and they have said that.

I write this blog to challenge the public opinion of a boy, then 18 years old, who in 1997 was caught up in a very real, very heartbreaking situation. Throughout the weekend, I drove around town with the windows down, my car flooded with hot desert air, listening to music loudly and I found involuntary emotional distress pooling in my eyes and rolling down my cheeks. Not just because the story is a sad one, not just because I love my husband fiercely and want to protect his character, but because I know that this event resulted in the loss of life of another human being. Not just the loss of life to prison, but the literal loss of life. It’s intense and my heart races now, even as I write this. I know that this is not my cross to bear, but being married to Jeremy means that I seek to lessen the weight that my life partner carries, even if just a little bit.

I came to know Jeremy initially through letters over 15 years ago, having no previous knowledge of what he was convicted of. I was a person reaching out to another person, who just happened to be living at a prison. My friendship and eventual relationship with Jeremy didn`t move fast. In fact, our communication was patchy, at best, during the beginning. When I finally read the articles about him online, through various news outlets, I was taken aback. This is not the person I had come to call my friend. I know, I know, people will say that EVERYONE says that about their inmate. For me, the person I was communicating with and the media coverage about him just did not add up. I’ve always found him to be very thoughtful, with a true passion for helping people, even in instances where I personally would not have. His even keeled temper and knack for being there for others was what made me want to know more, to get to know this person who was demonized by the media and the masses who wanted to point a finger and “hang ’em high”, no questions asked.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, some pains are just that, pains, that even if aren’t directly yours, crush the very fabric of your being, while simultaneously liberating, when they are shared. It’s a tough weight to carry, this human business, made more difficult by the ebb and flow of tragedy, growth, hatred, and forgiveness. My heart, as Jeremy’s wife, is in a constant sick flutter over the love we have built, but also knowing that the most amazing bond with another person that has happened in my life, came after the destruction of multiple lives in the crossfire of an awful event.

With all that being said, although I didn`t want to talk about this, I feel it bears mentioning because it is part of the journey. It’s the mucky part, the deep end, the rope burn. It’s part of life, the painful part. It’s the part you cannot look away from and it does not look away from you.

An article came out in a local newspaper this past weekend about the 20 year anniversary of the tragedy that landed my husband behind bars, without the possibility of parole, at the age of 18. Although it is a city specific paper, it is a media outlet that some people read and one of the journalists at the paper was assigned to do a piece on the case for the 20 year anniversary. I`m not used to any degree of infamy, so I get tense when I receive an email or a call from someone that mentions the Jeremy Strohmeyer from 20 years ago. My initial reaction is to hide, but after I’ve hidden, I start to realize that my hiding does nothing for anyone.

I’ve been contacted by the media before, once for a small documentary project about the prison in the town of Ely, NV, where Jeremy has been housed on and off during his incarceration. The other was for a show that airs on CNN, with award winning journalist Lisa Ling. Although I have been contacted twice before, I find the spotlight to be nerve-wracking and uncomfortable and even just talking to someone who may seek to focus on the negative, makes me uneasy. Speaking with the producer of the CNN show got me a little more familiar with how to navigate the waters of curious outsiders and although I ultimately turned down the offer to be included on the show, I have nothing but respect for the real life situations that they address and more importantly, how they address them.

My opinion on the piece by the Las Vegas Review Journal is a bit different from that of my opinion of the CNN show.  I get it, though. There can be nothing in this world without its opposition. There can be nothing good in this world without all the bad. There can be no left without the right. There can be no well, thoughtful telling of a horrible tragedy without the flip side of a story that is told in a sensationalized and biased fashion, where the main person in the story is a detective whose salvation in life is that someone will die in prison(as quoted at the end of the article).

To be fair, they did give my husband a small platform in the article, in which he was able to express himself in a manner that I have come to know over the last 15 + years. They allowed the antagonist in this story a small section to speak his peace, all while including his current, jovial inmate photo in the paper, which readers can react to with curiosity or disgust. They also included a snippet of one of my blog entries that I wrote last year, which again, people can react to in different ways. The detective’s interview (along with photos and video of him) made up the bulk of the article, though. The story was front page of the Sunday printed paper and on the home page of the Las Vegas Review Journal’s website. There were multiple posts on their Facebook page featuring the article and sideline article (about Dave Cash and the Good Samaritan Law), with attention grabbing sentences to get people to click and light their torches(bonfire time, y’all!)

The best I can do is to be cautiously helpful where I can be and to speak the truth about how I view the man I am married to today. The regurgitation of articles past has no effect on how I live my life and where I place my love in this world. I believe in the honoring of a memory and in allowing wounds to heal, though a healed wound doesn’t mean that it is free from pain. Every person has different scars. Every person hurts differently. Every person has a story. What is important is how we tell the world that story and how it is perceived.

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Stereotypes

People will always wonder what type of woman I am. They will wonder if I`ve gone mad, if I started this journey mad, if I`m being taking advantage of, if I`m having a crisis, if I`m desperate. They will imagine what I look like before they see me. They will wonder how I talk before they hear me speak. They will wonder if I`m educated or not. They will assume something is fundamentally wrong with me, that I`m stuck in between a fantasy and the prison, right between the entrance and what lies beyond, stuck and unable to see passed the world I`ve created with my husband, with the prison.

Divulging my partial place in this world as the wife of a prisoner has been known to pique curiosity. My favorite part of telling people about my life is their facial expression, as it reveals a thousand thoughts arranging themselves like a map scrambling to come up with a direction to go in.

“I would have never guessed that”, is a usual response. Then the slow, but steady, stream of questions, as they try to figure out what is wrong with me, why I do what I do, how I live the way I do, or the way they assume I do.

Sometimes they ask to see a picture of my husband, or I offer because I`m not ashamed of my life, and again, more stereotypes blown to bits. Before I rifle through my wallet for a photo, they will wonder what the person on the other side of the wall looks like. They will assume. They think the image in their head will transfer to the photo I`m about to pull out.

“That isn`t what I expected” is also a usual response. On more than one occasion, it has been revealed that they expected to see someone Hispanic standing next to me in a photo. They expected someone a beautiful shade of brown, with gangster swagger, maybe tattoos, maybe a facial expression that says “I`m tough and this is my woman”. What they find makes their map of a face rearrange even more. They don`t understand. More assuming. Their internal dialog must be trying to come up with a response that is acceptable to say out loud. I chime in without hesitation, “Yes, he is white. I know you expected brown”. Awkward laughter.

So many assumptions. I delight in confusing people, making them want to know more. I give them a bit at a time and their preconceived ideas about my life fade away and are replaced with curiosity. The judgments are still there, no matter how much others say they aren’t, but I`m okay with that.

After meeting me, after getting to know me, people will wonder what type of person my husband is. They will wonder how he got me to stand by his side for so many years. They will wonder if he is manipulating me, if he talks to me in a way that makes me submit, if I`m scared of him, if I can’t leave. Their wonder about me will transfer to him and they will seek out the wrong in him, aside from the fact that he is in prison. They will wonder if he is fundamentally damaged goods, if he is sorry, if he laughs at stupid jokes like the rest of us, what his voice sounds like. They will wonder why I chose him.

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Do you love?

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