Happy New Year!

This past Thursday I gave my 3rd speech at Toastmasters. I was excited to try a less intellectual and more motivational topic but I was disappointed with the over-all audience reaction. My speech was titled “How to escape prison” and it was about practicing gratitude to cope with the depression of incarceration and increase contentment. Everyone got the idea but it didn’t really engage a large segment of the audience. I think I was too brief in the “why practice gratitude” section so that I would have time to call on a few people to share something they were grateful for. I assumed that saying it would lead to a more contented life would be sufficient but I should have emphasized the mechanism more to convince people it is worth doing. Most depression or even bad moods are caused by fixation on negative thoughts. Change your focus and change your mood. I started the speech with 3 scenarios, jingling a key ring to quiet a crying baby, hurting yourself while having fun with friends but not noticing until afterwards, and being depressed but then watching a good movie, reading a good book or having a good conversation and feeling better. I even explained that these were all examples of how what we focus on defines our experience of the moment. I didn’t carry that through to explain how practicing gratitude is changing your focus and can break a negative thought pattern like depression.

I also misapplied the saying “only in the dark of night can you see the stars” in my conclusion. I said that the audience members were my stars and that I was grateful for the chance to escape our confines at least for the evening. What I should have said was that in the darkness of their confinement they can see their own stars and use those things they’re grateful for to guide them through the night. Hindsight is 20/20, right? LOL! The speech was a technical success in the sense that I managed to deliver my content PLUS include audience participation all in the 7 min. 30 sec. time limit. I hit 7:25. *smile*

Speech #4 is supposed to use language creatively and evocatively. I plan to paint a verbal picture of my visit to Machu Picchu and try to make them feel as if they were there with me. *smile* I can do logic in my speeches and writing; I need to work on my emotional content and control. (No wise cracks on me needing emotional control! LOL!)

For New Year’s Eve I did NOT stay up till midnight. When you’re locked down in your cell after 8PM there’s not a whole lot of celebrating you can do at midnight. *chuckle* I did make myself some “punch” earlier in the evening by mixing a spoonful of fruit punch flavored drink mix with a Squirt. It was party time. LOL! I did have a pleasant visit from mom, dad and McK in the morning so that was the high point of my New Year’s Eve. *smile* There didn’t even seem to be any drinking in the gallery last night…or over Christmas for that matter. Last year there were something like 7 fights and 1 stabbing in F gallery over Christmas but we made it through the entire holiday season this year with no stabbings. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all. LOL!

I did have a talk in the shower last week with Bashir, on of the few Muslims in the gallery. I apologized for forgetting to wish him a Merry Ramadan and Eid. There aren’t any Jews in F gallery so I didn’t get to wish anyone a Happy Hanukkah but at least I now know how to spell it. *chuckle* Isn’t it ironic that the one trying hardest to spread holiday cheer around the unit is actually an atheist? Ha!

I found out that the admin gave the position of inmate council representative for gallery F to someone else. A guy a few cells down from me that goes by Darkside (because he’s a comic book fan) got the job. He’s one of the food servers and talks a lot with La Duke, our case manager, so I think La Duke chose him. Or perhaps the admin just didn’t want to deal with me so they chose someone else. LOL! Mom made a good point at visiting when I said I would have asked dad to send me some attachments from the Inspector General’s report about inmate councils but since I wasn’t a rep he didn’t have to. Mom pointed out that if my goal was to help improve things then I should help the new rep even if it’s not me. Absolutely right mom. That’s what mother’s are for right? To keep us in check and help us do the right thing. *smile* I just lent the IG’s report to Darkside and asked my dad to send in the additional attachments on the inmate council here at TSCI. I may not be the rep but it will take more than the single ME to change things for the better it will take the collective WE. Though I would have liked to be the rep mostly because I think it would have looked good for the parole board.

Last week I ran into a former cellie from D&E at the library. His nickname is Nerd so I’ll call him that. He has been in TSCI longer than me but he was in GP (general population) until recently. I had run into him crossing the yard a couple times but we hadn’t been able to chat and catch up (and he’s a talkative one *chuckle*) so he made a point of coming over to talk with me in the library (which we’re technically not supposed to do *shhhhh*). Nerd lives up to his name. He’s in his late 20s, very skinny, wears glasses and is reasonably educated so he’s the definition of “pencil neck geek.” I have to admit that I was surprised that he was making it in GP, and at TSCI no less.

When he sat down to talk with me he of course started off with why he had “PCed up.” Rather than explain it out loud he handed me a note which he had written for the librarian, who was a friend of his from GP, to read. Nerd is a bit abrupt in his change of topics when talking and so is his writing so it was a little hard to piece it all together but I got the gist. He had always struggled with his sexuality on the outside, coming from a rural area and a very religious family, but he had come to grips with his attraction to guys since being incarcerated and he had formed a relationship with his cellie in GP. That much I got from the note, the rest he explained in an erratic manner under his breath so no one else would hear (though McKenzie, one of the other Toastmasters officers, was sitting close and seemed to be trying to eavesdrop).

Nerd had been providing canteen for his cellie though he claimed it wasn’t “rent” (in GP some connected and tougher inmates force those who are weaker or with certain offenses to pay them to keep them safe). He said he was voluntarily helping his cellie out because they were having a relationship. His cellie had even said he loved him and wanted to marry him, which of course made Nerd even more head over heals for the guy. However, the cellie seemed to be prone to outbursts and even got physically violent at times. He was even using the money he got from Nerd to buy drugs. Luckily, Nerd was eventually able to see that he needed to get out of that usurious and abusive situation and he came over to PC.

I had a sense back in D&E that Nerd was gay but either in denial or waaaaay in the back of the closet so I wasn’t surprised to hear him admit it. However, I do feel sorry for him because he never had a relationship on the outside and now has to come to grips with his orientation while incarcerated. Add to that the fact that he will be in his 50s or 60s before he’s even parole eligible and his entire adult life will be spent in here so he’ll have to learn how to have a relationship in here while coping with all the pressures and influences that incarceration entails. For instance, he will first have to learn when someone is really just taking advantage of him for sex and money, as his former cellie clearly was. Even if he finds someone genuinely interested in him there are so many complicating factors. Do they live in the same gallery; can they move into the same cell; should they move into the same cell (imagine being literally locked up with your partner virtually 24/7/365); what if one gets transferred to another prison; what if one gets out before the other; what if they get caught being intimate and written up; how do you handle the “public” perception in the gallery…and the list just goes on and on.

It’s hard enough figuring out how to choose a partner and make a relationship work if you’re straight and have the whole world to choose from. Being gay makes that more complicated and being gay and incarcerated means there is almost no good choice. I’ve chosen to be celibate to simplify my incarceration but I get out in 5-12 years. Nerd never learned about sex before coming to prison and won’t have a shot at getting out for decades so celibacy is a harder choice for him to make even if he has the self-control to choose it (which I’m not sure he does having just discovered the pleasure of sex). I think he’s going to get hurt and in trouble repeatedly and he will ultimately be very maladjusted when he is released. Poor guy.

On a different note, Wheels shared with me that he has been screened by CSORT (Clinical Sex Offender Review Team) and received a recommendation to take oHelp. There are 2 things of interest in that news. First, Wheels’ PED (parole eligibility date) is some 4-5 years out. When CSORT responded to my initial grievance in Sept. they said they were only up to PEDs in June of 2019 or less than 2 years out. That seems to indicate that CSORT is making progress in working through their 600 case backlog. Secondly, Wheels found out that they are starting an 11 seat oHelp program at TSCI so he doesn’t have to leave here to take it. Given that my PED is just over 5 years away I hope that means I will be screened very soon. *cheer* Though I am likely to have to take iHelp since mine is a second offense but the good news about that is that iHelp is only offered at LCC so I would have to transfer back to Lincoln. *smile*

Here’s the picture we had taken at the visit before Christmas.