I’ve always liked this quote, because damn, it is so true, of men and women. You truly see someone for what they are at the core when they are in a hard situation.
The last few months have been immensely stressful, being separated from both Gary and the kids, yet I am also almost thankful for the experience, because I have reached far down into my soul and pulled out pieces of me I didn’t know existed, strength from my very heart, a resolve and an insight I otherwise would not have. I have stared straight into the depths of myself…and discovered I like what I see.
In a difficult situation, the trivial things that used to seem so important are stripped away, and if you have any sense, you are left with the truly meaningful things in your bare hands. That is, however, if you are brave enough to face the adversity head-on and march through it, instead of burying your head or crouching behind someone else, which unfortunately is the option others seem to have chosen. I have gained the attitude as of late that that is their problem to solve or to perpetuate, depending on their inner strength.
This situation could have destroyed Gary and me; it could have driven us apart so many times. Instead, strangely, we are closer than ever, and feel more bonded to each other than ever before, as we lean on each other through this and rely on each other when it is tough. He will be embarrassed that I am writing this here, but I am so intensely proud of the way he is helping others in jail, how he is extending his hand to others even as he is in pain himself. He has helped a few of the men who cannot read to read the letters they receive, and he has helped them to write letters to their kids, wives, or girlfriends. He has helped several of them shift their view and discover a new, more compassionate way of looking at the world, that maybe, just maybe, they will take with them when they move on. One of the young men told him, “I wish you had been my father”, and it made me wonder what would be different for him if he had had a father in his life. Makes me wonder a lot of things.
I have had to confront my own biases and stereotypes and judgments, and that is not always particularly comfortable. I am struck by how many of the men in jail were either abandoned by their parents or outright abused; I have always been an advocate for kids, and it strikes close to my heart to hear some of the things that happened to them as children. I am certain some of the people there are simply assholes, but I see over and over how most of them are hurting, and that their situations were likely preventable. I see how parents can send them off onto a wrong trail and never draw them back.
I don’t pretend to like the situation I am in right now, but I have been told so many times that I am strong, that I am handling this well, that I am taking the high road. I have simply decided that we need to learn from this and use it to become better people. I will always have an inner rebel and an inner hothead, but I also feel a new calmness at times, a clearer view, a sharpened perspective. And an assuring confidence that when it came time to sink or swim, I swam like hell.