It’s 3:00pm. I’m in my room, putting pen to paper. Outside in the open hall of the housing unit there is a deafening cacophony of voices, yelling, talking, playing cards and dominos. Around the corner stands a line of men 50 deep waiting on mail call. People stand at the bank of phones on the wall; one hand holding the receiver while the other cups their exposed ear trying to block out the ever growing noise. I see a few men doing laundry and even more standing in line waiting their turn to use the microwave. There are people everywhere, the roar of the crowd reminds me of Grand Central Station at rush hour. Sounds bouncing off the concrete floor and reverberating off the peaked ceiling 40 feet above.
I went to the library today in search off peace and quite only to be quickly invaded by “stock experts” on my left and conspiracy theorists on my right. I find myself reading the same sentence over and over trying to block out the noise while also being thoroughly amused by what I’m hearing. The entirety of the world’s problems are being quickly debated and solved all around me in the span of an hour while I sit, struggling to read (forget comprehend) the same page of my book. There must be a place of solitude here somewhere? New mission, find a quite spot!
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the question “why.” Why am I here? Not just why am I here in prison in Texas, but really, why am I here? What am I really supposed to do with my life? Now, I know what you’re thinking, “he’s gone to prison and he’s getting all religious.” Not that that is such a bad thing but it’s never really been my bag. I think of myself as spiritual, and I believe in a higher power or a bigger purpose, but I’m not so much a fan of organized religion. So back to “why,” maybe it’s because I have so much time? Time to think, time for introspection, time to observe and listen. My cell phone isn’t ringing, (although I swear I can feel some phantom vibrations from it every once in a while, weird). There is not much in the way of life’sdistractions, except the noise, to clog my mind. So I wonder, why am I here? Is there something I am supposed to be doing?
Take this very blog for instance. I have never considered myself a writer (and still don’t), but I feel so good after getting my thoughts out on paper. I wonder, who are my readers? Does it really mean anything? Does it add any value? Does it entertain? Does it inform?
If there is one thing I have learned it’s the value of time. How we use our time everyday will define our lives. Time is the only true currency of life. You actually become what you buy with your time. I know, deep stuff right? I’m starting to pay particular attention to my every action. Thinking of how my choice today will affect me, not only tomorrow, but also for the rest of my life. I believe life’s greatest tragedy is not death but living life without purpose. I guess this is what monks do when they climb a mountain and meditate for a year. Okay, so for me it’s a prison in Texas, but you get the picture.
I think if I knew the answer to why am I here, what is my purpose, I could reverse engineer what needs to be done today, tomorrow, next week, next year and so on. I realize that I have lived my life not really knowing my own “why.” Get up, go to work to pay the bills, put food on the table, watch TV, but is that why you or I are here? Is that our purpose? Is being successful for the wrong assignment failure? I am and will find the answer to this question. I owe it tomyself, my family, and the world I live in. I cannot help but think that my being sent to prison is a “sign.” Probably a stop sign saying “stop what you are doing, learn your why and then carry on.” There just has to be a plan behind all of this chaos.
My oldest daughter turned 10 today and for me it’s a sad day, sad because I am not home. But it is also a very happy day. It’s the day I was blessed with a tiny perfect human to look after and raise. When I think about my “why” I immediately think of my two daughters and my wife. But is that really my why? Am I here to be a husband and a father? If so than my being sent to prison 2000 miles from home makes no sense, there must be more to my why. Am I supposed to document this journey and have this blog published so I can reach someone? It’s been said that the best way to receive knowledge is to ask, so that is where I am. I am sitting in mental solitude surrounded by the deafening noise of 250 men asking, why? For some strange reason my mind seems so clear. As much as I wish I could change my surroundings I feel a sense of calm and peace.
Prior to becoming a Texas resident I would always enjoy reading the morning newspaper. It’s funny how I find myself missing things I obviously took for granted. Yesterday I went again to the library, sat down and read the Dallas Morning News. Just feeling the newsprint in my fingers reminds me of home. With each turn of the page the smell of the ink transported me to my favorite chair in the kitchen. I turn another page and land on the Dallas Metro obituaries and there were two full pages of people I do not know. I found myself reading each one, thinking ” there must not be one person on these pages that would not trade places with me in a second!” Had they lived their lives with meaning and purpose? Had they loved and was love returned? Had they found the answer to Why? Had they ever even asked the question? Have you? I have never lingered so long in the obituary section. My mind was racing; I wanted to turn the page because by now my emotions were clashing. I was mad because I am in prison, sad because I miss my family, just holding the newspaper and smelling the print was tearing me up. As I sat there looking at all of these pictures of people that had died, I felt relief, maybe even happy because that wasn’t me.I am going home. I will talk to my family on the phone tonight. Then I felt embarrassment. Should I look at someone worse off than me and have that fill me with hope and happiness? This is not to say that all people who have passed on are not in a better place or were unhappy, but what about those who died with regret? I am confused, but I cannot turn the page. That’s when it hits me. Why am I here? The end game, like it or not, is that we all eventually land on the obituary page, but how we get there should be based on why we are here, and what we have done with our time. So as I write this I feel like I’m treading water, not moving forward, not moving backward, the water is warm and calm and I am at peace.
While you sit in your favorite chair, drinking a nice hot cup of coffee reading the morning paper, take a second to feel the paper in your fingers, smell the ink and ask yourself, why am I here?