Usually, when I tell people about the years I spent in prison, that I went in at sixteen and got out at twenty-five, they of course seem surprised, but I always get the feeling that they’re reining in their facial expressions, like the most natural part of their response is that one second after my revelation. After that split second, it’s like their faces go blank and they switch to ‘autopilot.’ They’ll nod plainly, look at me with a serious and friendly face, trying their best to ensure that their reaction is as reaction-less as possible. It’s like when a stray dog approaches you, and it’s barking. You don’t want to make any sudden moves that might startle it, because it might attack, but you don’t want to express any form of fear either. Then I get a generic response that’s designed to sound compassionate and curious, but not intrusive. Then they’ll switch the subject to something we would normally talk about. Their unnatural response seems to say, “It’s just a regular day, and we’re here, chatting about things we normally chat about, like the friends that we are, and I’m not suddenly scared of you because that would be weird, right, I mean, after all, I’ve known you for a while and never once felt threatened by you, and I still don’t, nope, not at all, not in the least bit, no sir-ree, not me, uh-uh, I’m still one hundred percent comfortable around you.” After I share my past, those first few seconds are always weird and awkward, and they tell me plenty, but there are some things that I want you to know.

First, I’m sharing my past with you because I feel comfortable with you. I feel that you know enough about my character and personality that this new information wouldn’t place me in a negative light. I’m telling you because I trust you and it’s okay if you jump back, literally, and shout, “Oh crap! Are you serious? Wow.” And I know you’ll likely have questions, which is fine too. And that is mostly why I wrote this post. I know you have questions.

It’s okay to ask questions.ย I know there is this idea in your mind about the prison experience that’s based mostly on Hollywood depictions of prison life. I know the thought of prison fills your mind with violent images, and yes, the prison experience will invariably contain its share of violent moments and/or memories, but many convicts, I think, are okay with sharing their experiences of incarceration. Some of them evenย want to tell their stories. To some, the sharing of traumatic experience is therapeutic. To some, their personal prison story is not an acknowledgement of failure or a boastful tale of past illegalities but a chronicle of survival. To some, their prison narrative must be told. It says, “I’m here. I lived too.”

 

 

 

 

50 thoughts on “It’s Okay To Ask Questions

  1. Hi There, I want to express this first & foremost. I commend you on your being so honest, and quite frankly brave.
    Okay, so you served time, and no, I haven’t read enough maybe to even know what it was that you had done in the past, but… Everyone deserves a chance to make their life better, and accomplish what they set out to do in life.
    Please note; When I first read that you were in prison, I can admit to you this. I didn’t make a face and imagine not reading more about you.
    I’m the furthest thing from perfect, and will never state otherwise. I have made so many mistakes in life, but I learned from those mistakes and moved forward.
    I applaud you!!!!
    Beckie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Beckie, for stopping by, reading, and commenting.
      We’ve all made mistakes, but sometimes our biggest mistake is when we magnify the mistakes of others while pardoning our own. I agree when you write that “Everyone deserves a chance to make their life better.” It’s unfortunate that some never get that chance. For me, I’m thankful that I’ve been blessed to have come across open-minded people like you.
      Thanks again.
      God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, following your blog IS me asking. I want to know about your experience. I can’t say why exactly, I just do. But it is good to know I can ask questions when I have them without feeling like I’m prying or opening up old wounds. I guess you wouldn’t be posting though if you didn’t want to go there. Thank you for sharing it…your life…your experience…your ‘self.’ Be well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello. I’m thankful, humbled, blessed and honored that you’ve taken an interest in my story. I’m happy that I decided to begin this blog because it has afforded me the great opportunity to chat with open-minded people like you. If you ever have any questions, please, ask away.
      Thank you for being supportive.
      God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Some things–some of the facts of our lives–just can’t be dropped into a conversation casually, but on the other hand if we don’t say them the relationship becomes false. For me–well, there are a lot of them, but the one that comes up over and over is that my partner’s a woman, not a man. It’s not something I can not say, but it’s charged. People react. People bring assumptions and fears to the conversation. And, frankly, I get tired of it sometimes, but what’s the choice?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello Ellen. I don’t believe there is anyone at all who would be willing to publicize their every single thought and deed to the world. Some things are best kept private. Some things are impossible to keep private. I think the fear of judgement and the fear of being ostracized from our social circles is the measuring stick that people use when deciding on what they should and should not share. It’s unfortunate but we’ve already become a world of clones, wanting and needing to be accepted. I know full well when I disclose the details of my past that there is the possibility I might be shunned for my past mistakes, but I’m okay with it. At the end of the day, I answer to God exclusively.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
      God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These days, I don’t worry about being ostracized–I’m 70 and anybody who doesn’t like me doesn’t have to–but there are times that I hold back out of, well, I guess it’s something about protecting the other person by not shocking them. P.S., it never really works anyway.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I understand completely. It’s scary to disclose information that you know will likely be met with a closed mind. It’s frightening to think that someone may denounce you for just being you. I know what you mean and how you feel.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It may not help to know that people react the same for anything that is different than their experience. I admit though that what is considered a fault, a mistake, or a different choice, may yeld different levels of surprise when it is about a conviction.
    I command you for daring to share regardless, and I trust that our reactions make you feel that not everyone reacts in the same way.
    I am interested in your story, all the way. What, why, when, how…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your understanding demeanor and your continued support. It is because of people like you -open-minded, understanding, and awesome- that I feel so blessed to have taken this step out into the world of blogging. I am thankful that our paths crossed on here.
      And yes, I do know “that not everyone reacts in the same way.” It is the brilliance of lights like yours that I’m able to see better.
      Thanks again.
      God bless.

      Like

  5. Being the ardent observer of human behavior like you, but in a different way of life . . . . also aware of your very acute senses of others, upon your personal disclosure (not knowing how many times you’ve gone through the process, years, etc.) . . . . the reactions (not responses) must be a wide range of descriptions in your mind. That’s what would fascinate me, but please don’t say it! You’ve already proven most of my point with your descriptive words.

    (I’m projecting a bit up there.)

    Ultimately, those who don’t trust you . . . . can’t be trusted themselves. I’m telling you nothing . . . . I’m here to learn from your point of view. Time for my brain to “hush”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, so much, for your insightful responses and continued support. But, I’ll say, you are telling me something, teaching me something. With every show of support, with every piece of my story you read, with every thoughtful comment you make, you’re teaching me and telling me that it’s okay for me to tell my story, that I can write a word or two that’s worth reading, that I mattered even during the darkest points of my life, that there are non-judgemental, open-minded people like you in this world.
      Thank you.
      You’re awesome.
      God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John, I can barely find the words to write ,”you’re welcome”. Who am I judge you? Christ came to me . . . . just like He, came to you. Nobody is any better than any other human being, true?

        Upon saving my lost soul, and reading the words of Paul . . . . I honestly felt deep down inside that “I”, was the chiefest of sinners myself.

        There are things I could share, but not here . . . . because it’s not appropriate for public disclosure, and no it’s not personal in nature. Let me just say it this way instead . . . . God has been VERY gracious to you. Too many come out with absolutely no direction, cannot SEE their support system, and therefore have NO hope.

        HINT: That’s why the tone of my writing tends to lean toward a certain direction occasionally.

        “We” can enjoy our solitude, living in our own skin . . . . because we have rest within our soul(s).

        You’re words inspire and encourage me to keep writing!
        Thank you for writing, and so beautifully. Thank God . . . . He disciplined you to be so incredibly studious too!

        You are awesome to me!
        May God’s wonderous Grace be visible to you today.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, it’s true that “nobody is better than any other human being,” I agree wholeheartedly. And I really liked your statement about how we “can enjoy our solitude…because we have rest within our souls.” Those words effectively connected our introverted personalities with our spiritual convictions.

        Thank you, for always bringing understanding to the table and for creating smiles with your words. The beauty you see in my writing is the same beauty I see in yours.

        Stay awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚
        God bless.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I was surprised by your words, but not the reactions of others toward them and consequently you. Shock takes many faces. I agree with your description of what you witnessed not only because you were there, but because it would be the “human” response. Only those that have delved deeply into themselves into the deepest darkest places of their soul can understand the depth of spirit it takes to be that open. I’m sorry that your life took a turn down a dark path and you have learned about yourself and others in the process. Sometimes our paths aren’t easy. It’s what we do coming out the other side that matters. You are obviously a writer. What you’ve written is compelling, interesting and has me interested in learning more. Takes great courage to admit a course others find scary. Courage and honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, for stopping by and reading, for your supportive and encouraging words. Today I truly feel blessed to be able to interact with wonderfully open-minded people like you. I think just telling my story is therapeutic for me, but to come across the types of people I have, here in the blogging world, people who continue to unselfishly extend kind and wise words, helps prove to me how blessed I am.
      “Contentment makes poor men rich. Discontent makes rich men poor.” <–I don't remember who said it, but I love this quote.
      Thanks again.
      God bless.

      Like

    1. Oh, that’s funny! I laughed too, but didn’t want to admit it! Because what I wrote John . . . . was admittedly a bit projecting. I was biting my mental tongue, because people are so unaware of themselves.

      Thank you for breaking the ice, because where I was at the time . . . . I wasn’t able to be so lighthearted.

      Hey, it’s called . . . “life”!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. John, God knows if we weren’t a bit goofy at times . . . . we’d go stir crazy some days!

        Gotta look back and laugh at stuff . . . . that includes people, and the stupid things they do, too! That’s why He gave us this ardent observation . . . . which, BTW, you’re inspiring me to really think about the origins of it (almost a sixth sense from an early age) within my own self.

        I believe it’s a gift, in order to . . . . survive.

        Proverbs 27:17 comes to mind (again) with you . . . . “Iron sharpenth iron; so…” you know the rest!

        May you know unlike so many, and prayerfully with gratitude . . . . you truly are blessed!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. True, I agree. laughter is therapeutic, medicinal. It lightens up dark moods. It’s definitely a gift, the ability to give yourself over to it is a blessing.
        You too are a blessing.
        Yes, I know Proverbs 27:17, it’s a good one.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. You’re one of those people I’ve been writing about in this comment section, one of those people who possess an open mind, slow to judge and quick to extend a kind word. Thank you for being consistently encouraging and supportive. You guys make me feel like I have a home here in the blogging world.
      Thanks again.
      God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. When a person recognizes that they’ve made mistakes in their life and are grateful for the measure of grace and mercy that they don’t deserve, but have been given, they tend to accept and value people for who they are. I’m personally glad that you’ve decided to share your story. While I know there was pain, frustration and that it wasn’t easy, there’s hope. And that hope is going to help someone to know they or a loved one can come out on the other side positively.

    If someone can only see you for your past and not who you are now (and how you’ve grown through your experience), as well as your goals for the future, that says more about them than you. Keep writing. Keep sharing your heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello. Thank you. I am so blessed and thankful for this community of writers and bloggers that I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with since I started blogging in February. Your kindness, compassion, your caring heart shines through in your words. Thank you for continuing to encourage, motivate, uplift, and support me. I’m happy to have met you here.
      Thanks again.
      You’re a wonderful person.
      God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Good morning. Thank you for introducing yourself to us and sharing your experiences and insight. To do so honestly (which you are) takes a level of humilty and vulnerability, which produces growth, wisdom and gratitude (which are evident in your writing). Support, belonging and when necessary accountability, are part of community and I’m glad you found that here. Besides, I’m a sucker for good writing, lol, so the feedback is based on your work. You’re doing great. Have a fantastic day.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I loved reading it! I love the candidness, from normal to a little bit of comedy and ending with enough sincerity. It tells us, life in prison is still life.
    What I’m curious about prison life is if there really is, like, a territory and/or authority war.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by, reading, and commenting. I’m happy that you enjoyed the read.
      As far as people/groups claiming territory is concerned, that didn’t happen at the institutions i was at, so, It probably wasn’t happening at other Florida prisons either. There was no claiming of territory, however, there were specific locations on the prison compound where certain groups gathered every day. There was no official claiming of the spot but it was understood that “this is where such-and-such group hangs out.” Most (not all) of the groups and friendships that form are either brought together by language or by the city or county you’re from. In the Florida prison system someone is your “Homeboy” (Homie) if he is from the same city and/or county as you. There is so much to say about this aspect of prison life that I can go on and on. It is something I want to cover in detail, but in pieces, in my memoir. Good question. You have me thinking of how I can convey the dynamic in an interesting yet informative way. I hope my answer helps give you a clearer picture of the groups inside.
      Thanks again.
      God bless.

      Like

  10. I really love your post, itโ€™s detail inner observation of others responses and your inner dialogue with Self is spot on how your realizations liberate yourself and others. I have similar responses when I mentioned the victimization I have accepted as a abused spouse. Itโ€™s like you stayed in that trap and then you resolved it by saying no more, you sought a way out of the programming trap. Yes I was in a prison too and I changed. Thank you for trusting yourself with empowerment. Blessings good post. ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿค›๐Ÿฟ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for stopping by, reading and commenting. I get that reaction so frequently that I felt a need to post about it.
      And thank you for sharing some of your own story in your comment.
      Good day.
      God bless.

      Like

  11. I’ve totally seen what you’ve described happen over and over again, and not just in reference to this topic but maybe something else that might cause people to freeze up. Sometimes I’ve been that person, but not because I’m shocked and appalled and trying to remain neutral. But mostly I really want someone to know that it doesn’t phase me. But instead, I’ve done too much overthinking in that split second. I’ve become better at this though. I have always believed though that it wasn’t always my place, nor would it be welcomed for me to ask. So I definitely find it interesting that you say this is something you know people would prefer and I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, reading, and commenting.
      Yes, I don’t doubt it. This response is a popular learned behavior. It becomes programmed in many people. It’s not a response that’s built on malicious intent. The people I’ve come across, who have responded to my revelation this way, I think they genuinely feel they’re doing the right thing. They want to appear non-judgmental, I get it, but, sometimes, such efforts to “appear” non-judgmental will naturally give rise to certain suspicions. To me, if a person seems to be trying too hard to “appear” a certain way I start thinking that he must know that his natural response would be offensive or unacceptable by society’s standards. But that’s just me. Everyone’s different. I also understand not wanting to ask, not wanting to pry. We don’t want to awaken any horrific memories in someone. That view is also born from good intentions. Me, personally, I don’t mind answering questions about my time inside, and I believe many ex-cons are with me on this. But, yes, there is a percentage of ex-cons who absolutely do not want to chat at all about their time inside. One way to tell is if you found out about their prison stint from someone else, like if they’ve never ever mentioned anything about it to you, then they may not want to chat about it with you.
      Thanks again.
      Have a great day.
      God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Excellent article Sir. My older brother had been in the Pen 3 times but totaling only about 5 yrs. I would be the only family member that would always go to see him and I was the only one that gave him a bit of money each month to try to help him out with things like cigarettes (back when they were the currency). After he got out the last time I took a job at Pontiac State Pen in Pontiac Illinois for about two weeks. I had no interest in doing that job for a career, I just wanted to be able to get a little taste of the inside without having to get locked up to do it. Seeing things from the visiting room shows one angle but I wanted to have a better idea about the things that my brother had gone through, I used it as a learning experience. So, reading your article brought back some old memories. I do not wish the prison life on anyone but the reality is that some of the folks that get put in there, need to stay there because they are just dangerous to society yet I do not believe that is true for the vast majority. I am going to reblog your article for you Sir. It is a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello. Thank you for stopping by, reading, and commenting.
      It’s awesome that you had gone to such lengths to get a more authentic prison experience, to see what your brother had gone through.
      And Thanks for re-blogging my post. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      God bless.

      Like

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