Tag Archives: truth

Sex and Sunshine

I used to talk to this woman at Lovelock Correctional Center who stood by her man for 20 years. Anytime I saw her at visiting I had a feeling of friendship and calm wash over me because she was very easy to talk to and sort of took me under her wing when I first started to visit Jeremy regularly at that prison. I saw her not too long before her man was released, which was also just before I married Jeremy. I remember when I told her that I was going to marry Jeremy,  she just enveloped me in her arms for the biggest hug ever. If there is ever a time when I needed comfort, it was before I made that life leap. Our ships passed briefly in the proverbial night, but I liked her a great deal. I always asked myself if that was going to be me someday, a thought that both interests me and terrifies me. She was dedicated to her husband for 20 years of incarceration and I used to wonder how she did it, what her private life was like, if she thought a lot about sex and walking in the sunshine with her husband.

It has been almost 8 years since I hugged this woman goodbye, a stranger goodbye, a sad and happy goodbye, a “farewell, I will never see you again but thank you for your time in my life” goodbye. More than likely, when you part from someone to meet you prison, you know you’ll never seen them again. It’s part of the landscape of prison relationships.

All these memories and repressed excitement that makes my heart beat came to the surface after listening to the latest episode of Ear Hustle, a podcast from inside San Quentin state prison in California, that I’ve started to listen to and enjoy. I find myself laughing and nodding my head while I listen and I realize just how familiar prison feels to me, how much I know, and how common the themes are, no matter where your person is incarcerated. This particular episode was about couples, sex, family visits, connecting on an intimate level, and the general struggle of being in a romantic relationship, or shall I say maintaining a romantic relationship, while one member happens to be behind the barbed wire. It ain’t easy, that’s for sure, and you can quote me on that.

When I think about my marriage to Jeremy, how we met after he was already in prison, how there are no “family visits”(also referred to as conjugal visits) in the state of Nevada, and how we have never even held hands in the sun….well, I start to think about just how different my marriage really is. Sometimes Jeremy and I literally look at each other, fully aware of the bizarre life we have built, and we laugh. Yet it all seems so “normal” because if you do anything for an extended length of time, it inevitably seems commonplace, no matter how unconventional it might be. Been married almost 8 years and never had sex with each other or been outside together? Totally normal.

Only a very small number of states allow conjugal visits and usually if you have a life without parole sentence, those visits are even less likely. So, the chances of me getting alone time with my husband is pretty much nonexistent. I never had to really come to terms with that fact, it just is. It does “help” that we never were together in the “free” world, but I’ve just accepted that prison infringes on anything private. Even though I am free citizen, I am also a prisoner right along with Jeremy when it comes to our time together. I have little control over my own skin to skin contact with my life partner. I have made adjustments to my life plans when it comes to intimacy, have had to redefine the term and my expectations. I have officially ruled out having children as something that I would want for myself at this point, and have settled with the idea, that for now, I can be outside and Jeremy can be outside, but we cannot be outside together. “You have to see my new hair color in the sun” I tell him, but I know that isn’t possible.

I used to get frustrated when people would casually ask “So WHEN do you get to have sex with Jeremy?” Over the years, I’ve learned that people on the outside just don’t really understand how the prison system works, the restrictions that are imposed, and just how difficult the rules make it to even see each other sometimes, let alone maintain any type of “sex life” beyond creative writing and an exchange of words over a monitored and recorded call.  You have to throw a bit of your inhibition away and if you have anxiety like me, you have to throw all of your inhibition away and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

So, as a 32 year old woman, I have to dig deep and modify where I can because at this point I’m not interested in extracurricular activities (my silly reference to extramarital affairs). In this life, there just comes a point, one that I’ve been at for a while, that you stare down the prison bullshit and then turn to your partner and say “Okay! I love you and I’m in it for the long haul and this sucks but let’s make this shit work”. The application for “friends with benefits” has long been torn up and thrown into the air like correctional confetti.

Side boyfriends and accepting ones fate aside… I have seen and heard a lot of funny stories about women visiting their men and trying to “release”. Well, it’s hard to release when you are constantly being watched like some freak show, the guard’s personal prison porn.  The thought of a voyeuristic intrusion doesn’t seem to faze some people, though, and I have on more than one occasion tried to ignore quick face sucking, momentary grinding, and the end of a kinky sex fantasy in the visiting room. My ears pick up every other word and I find myself trying to block out and listen at the same time. You gotta do what you gotta do, I guess. No judgement.

Note: If you ever do end up in the visiting room at Ely State Prison, choose your chair wisely and stay away from any weird stains. No, I`m not joking.

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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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Headphones for the heart

“If we can make it through another day
With you believing in my innocence
And we can make it through another year
‘Cause we both need it to forget this fear” – White Lie by The Lumineers

Listening to music through headphones changes the music. It changes how you feel about the music, the lyrics. It changes the story, the intensity. Mild fascination with words sung become a life line, a soundtrack to your deepest emotional crevices. The songs become your heartbeat. The music becomes you and you become the music. At least, that’s what happens to me. It must be said that I am absolutely a person who depends on music for survival.

I’ve recently become smitten with the Lumineers and although I heard their first popular song, “Ho Hey”, some time ago, I didn’t pay the band much attention. I actually heard “Ho Hey” initially on a road trip out to visit Jeremy, when visiting was an entire trip away. I remember thinking to myself how appropriate the line “I’ve been trying to do it right. I’ve been living a lonely life” was on my solo journey out into the desert to hold hands with a man I have never brushed skin with outside in the sunshine. Those lyrics stuck with me. The loneliness of that line stuck with me and I found myself singing it over and over again on that car ride.

I recently got hooked on The Lumineers and have even persuaded Jeremy to download some of their songs on his MP3 player. Yes, sometimes prisoners get MP3 players, though definitely not for free. I apply parts of each song I hear  to my life with Jeremy. I read an article about the band recently, where the lead singer referred to his brother(another band member), Jeremy, as “Jer” and it made me raise an eyebrow and laugh and sort of cry at the same time because we call my Jeremy, “Jer”. It’s funny how common things become magic when you allow them to.

I believe in unseen life connections. I often have trouble having faith in those connections because the patterns are woven in such a delicate manner that they are tough to see on especially dark nights. I get so frustrated with the kingdom of love that we have built because it is so unbelievably beautiful and vulnerable and it feels, fragile even though it’s strong.  On the surface we are two kids in love who happened to stumble upon each other, maybe by a happy accident, maybe by divine intervention. What do I know? I know that I love someone who lives in a prison in Nevada who came to know, and eventually marry, through a single letter I sent so long ago. I know that what we have is the truest life experience I have ever known. I know that I need to start fucking believing in this path I chose to walk on again. I am going to listen to life with my headphones on from here on out. The situation isn’t ideal, obviously, but I often feel like I’m taking “the music” for granted. I feel like I stopped looking at this adventure with Jer in an exciting light. I replaced “adventure” with “fear” and “hurt” and “the end”.

I’m going to dig deep, open my ears and my heart. I’m going into this next area of the path with the feeling that this is the beginning. This IS where the magic happens. It’s like when you’re listening to an especially long intro to a song. You’re waiting for the intro to “break”. You’re waiting, waiting, waiting, and when the lyrics begin and beat changes, you realize there can be no song without the intro.

“It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference”- Stubborn Love by The Lumineers

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An unwanted spotlight

I really hate having attention drawn to me. I REALLY do. I’ve always been that way. I`m uncomfortable being the center of attention and you never need to worry about me stealing the spotlight because it has never been my desire in life. I prefer privacy, quiet, low key. I even get ridiculously embarrassed if I laugh too loud sometimes in public. So, it’s a bit comical that I should end up with someone who is infamous, with someone I have to talk about my life with in order to change perspective from what the media portrayed at one time. I have to talk about what real life is like with this person, being with this person, loving this person, and ultimately painting a brighter picture of who this person is.

In school, I was the kid who hated giving presentations, hated talking in front of a large group (and still do), and hated divulging facts about myself. I`m a listener in most instances and I’d rather not talk at length about my life. It makes me uncomfortable, vulnerable, and open to criticism. The truth is that people are going to criticize you no matter what. You could be doing the best job you possibly can in life, helping people, obeying all the laws like a good citizen, and you will still be criticized. That is just the way humans are.  Instead of hiding in the shadows and letting people talk about how mysteriously absent I am in talking about my husband, I choose to talk about my life and all of the ups and downs, how a person sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole can be an amazing person if you just look beyond the headlines of his case, how everything is not as it seems, because it isn’t.

Starting this blog was a leap. It is incredibly difficult for me to talk about certain aspects of my life with Jeremy, but I do it for the sake of planting seeds that will grow into something more worthy of watering than some sensationalized news story from almost 20 years ago. There is part of me that believes that it is my duty as Jeremy’s wife to do this public presentation because if I let people look up my name behind my back and never bother to talk about what a wonderful relationship I have with a really genuinely good natured person, they will only walk in the direction of “she is married to an evil murderer” and never know the actual story behind it all.

People will always, talk, though, and there will always be an unwanted spotlight on me. At the prison, I have officers and other visitors alike, surprised that I`ve spent the last 14 years visiting Jeremy at prisons and they try to wrap their heads around why Jeremy’s back number is 5 digits and everyone else has a 7 digit number, or why his visiting file dates back to 1998. I feel like sometimes people look at me funny when they hear my last name called out, but it could just be my paranoia because no one has ever said anything to me. There have also been times when I have gotten  private messages on Facebook or at work, from people who are curious about my involvement with Jeremy and at this point I just say “Yes he is in prison and yes we are married and no I`m not crazy”.  When journalists approach me, I act with caution, but I still believe in truth and telling the untold story. So while I absolutely cringe talking about my personal life on this blog some days, it is something that comes with the territory.

If we do not speak our truth, no one gets to hear it.

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Existential crisis: prison wife edition

I laid on the bathtub floor for a long time last night. I let the water go from hot to cold over the course of 45 minutes. I never take showers that are quite so long, but I needed this shower. I laid on the floor, listening to music, letting the water wash away the day of a shitty job and  prison phone calls. I imagined I would step out of that shower and life would be full of hope. I lifted my feet to the stream of water and closed my eyes. I let the water tickle my soles and then I sat up and let water fill my mouth before playfully spitting it into the air like one of those fancy naked women fountains people love…or hate.
Lately I’ve thought more and more about how I want to blog about more than prison, but that this blog is essentially about my life as Jeremy’s wife, my relationship with an inmate, my trials as a woman who spends more time without her husband than with him, the fuckton amount of hope and gut wrenching belief it takes to be in this space. It has tones of prison blues and a dislike for injustice, and all this is my truth certainly,  but I wonder if I’ll get to the place in my life where I can step out of the shower in all my nude glory and blog about my life without prison, my loves and dislikes about the world, how I grew up, how I came to be. I wonder if anyone would find those truths as interesting as the prison me, the wife who is metaphorically handcuffed to another beautiful soul and the state of Nevada right now.
I wonder if I’ll ever blog about how movies and music change my life by the second, what growing up multicultural has been like for me, how depression has been a second skin for me and how much of a struggle it is. I wonder if I’ll talk about how I have been in love with both men and women, how I cry more than I let on, what insomnia is like after the 5th night. Will I be able to discuss my dreams and my ridiculous dissection of them and how I reject organized religion and embrace a world where everyone is equal. About how carnations are my favorite flowers and sometimes I cut myself to feel alive. I wonder if I’ll ever get to be a voice for someone other than another prisoner’s wife or something other than the target of some bad joke for people who think I don`t deserve support.
Will I get to go in depth and share how scared I am of life and death and how I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from end to end and about my mother’s cancer and how I believe that healing sometimes hurts more than the original damage? Body image, singing badly in the shower, armpit hair, how holding hands is more of a connection than good wifi. So many subjects to talk about, to commiserate over, to embrace others about.
I hate prison and I feel so small and stupid and fumbling when I talk about it, but here I am. Am I seen or is it just another story?
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Sunday January 22nd, 2017

I’m not going to lie. I never imagined that being the wife of an inmate was going to be this hard. I used to watch shows about prison romances and I thought to myself “This is great! I get tons of time to myself and I get to be married to someone amazing who won’t steal the covers”. You see, before Jeremy I never wanted to marry. I didn’t. I told my mom I didn’t want to get married. I didn’t think it was in my cards to be with anyone for many reasons. Mostly because I thought I was too difficult, or too damaged, or too much. I needed someone who was everything I needed them to be without question and I knew I wasn’t going to find that, so I didn’t want anything.

Last night I was paging through this book I got on Palmistry(read: Palmistry. Not fortune telling, but an art that CAN tell about a person. Did I lose you? Am I nuts? I prefer open minded to life’s mysteries) and it explains that your non dominant hand(for me, my left) is the hand you look to see what was there at birth for you and your dominant hand is the hand of “now” and the path you’re on(there is a whole explanation of why, but you can read the book if you want to know). Anyway, my birth hand does not have a heart line. I compared my hands and just looked at them for a long time. No heart line. My “now” hand has a strong heart line and I believe wholeheartedly that it is because of Jeremy. We found each other by chance. By the chance of me being some strange teenage girl who wanted to write people in prison. By the chance that someone I talked to online told me Jeremy was a nice person and that I should write him. By the chance that I wrote that letter and I mailed it 17 years ago. By chance. Or by design?

Back to the present, though. The last few years have been difficult for me. I have felt more depressed, more lonely, and more lost than I ever have. Being in Nevada and away from my shore of home(I don’t know what home even is anymore. I guess it’s Jeremy but I still miss…somewhere)has taken a lot out of me. Sometimes it destroys my spirit to ashes and I am left with some form of myself that I don’t recognize. This all sounds dramatic, I know, but I’m a person who feels a lot, all the time, and I know my story and my relationship and the trials we go through are powerful beyond measure and I think it’s important to share that. Anyway. What rises from the ashes? The Phoenix. It sort of feels like that, all the time, and it is emotionally painful, and then I’m rising. Funny how that works. Life pushes us to the very brink and then backs off so we can repair. Or does it not back off and we just get so much stronger?

I keep thinking of this quote I read somewhere, “The greater the affliction, the greater the reward”. Now, that really sounds strange, doesn’t it? But…this quote. It gets me through sometimes because I have to believe in my cause and if I’m suffering, I have to believe that it is for a reason because I’m still here, still doing, still waking up and working my way to the end of the tunnel where the light is.

Which brings me to present life. I’m looking for a new place to live that has a bit more space and I went to see one yesterday and for some reason I just blurted out “I like this place. It feels safe and I want to feel safe because it’s just kitty and I. My husband is incarcerated”. I told the realtor that. This realtor I had only met once before, briefly, for about 5 minutes. I usually try to get a better read on people before I drop that bomb, but I dropped it right there in the kitchen of that rental.

There is always a moment, where I’m sure someone is going to verbally crucify me with their words or give me a look that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. My mouth got super dry waiting for her to say something. I was so nervous. Her response? “I get it. It happens”. She proceeded to tell me a story about how someone she knows is in prison and that things happen sometimes and humans make mistakes and she is not judging me.

After the showing, on the walk out to the parking lot, she commended me for sticking by my husband and let me know how “cool, strong, and sweet” she thought I was. She offered a friendly ear if I ever wanted to talk and she said she had to hug me and she did.

While my life feels like an uphill climb somedays and I am absolutely battered emotionally by the missing parts of “us” right now, there always seems to be a little nudge, a little sign, a little voice that tells me “the greater the affliction, the greater the reward. Keep going, you’re almost there”.


The land of lonely

Hi my name is Desiree and I’m an introvert. That’s a good part of why I’ve been able to survive my relationship, my marriage with Jeremy all these years. It’s the reason people have joked that this relationship is perfect for me.

Jokes on me, I guess.

I’m an introvert by nature and I enjoy space, downtime, pockets of hours with my thoughts with no one else around. I don’t necessarily need to have the constant knowledge that someone is right there. I was born this way, which makes me feel that I was born to love in this space right now….

But loneliness. That’s a hell of a feeling sometimes. Loneliness, not in general, but loneliness for your person in life will drive you mad.

Hi my name is Desiree and I’ve been driven mad lately. I’m lonely for my person, I loathe prison visiting, I’m committed to someone who is out of reach more often than he is when I need him and it seems normal and horrible and normal and then horrible again.

It’s rare that someone asks me how the loneliness affects me or asks me how I’m doing, how I’m REALLY doing, navigating the waters or prison wifedom. People don’t ask because I seem so together, comfortable in my introverted nature, but even introverts get so lost in the land of lonely that it’s hard to find a way back sometimes.

The truth? That sometimes this situation absolutely sucks the life out of me and just sucks in general. That is putting it mildly. Sometimes going for a coffee just for human interaction doesn’t cut it because I am alone in a city that is not home, that I do not like, where I don’t really know anyone and there is no quelling the loneliness at times and my person is here but not here and it is a feeling of helplessness, of desperation, and there are days, like today, that I want to run. Some days feel like kicking for the surface with cinderblocks tied to my ankles.

Usually at the end of my posts, I provide some inspirational transition from misery to miracle of emotion or something positive but some days just don’t go as planned and some days you’re lonely and lost and no one is coming to find you. Today is one of those days and trying to find a way out of the lonely is a journey.

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