Tagged: conflict

Coping With Prison Life

 

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A lot has been going on. I do my best to remain positive and stay upbeat. But I must admit, sometimes it’s super hard. Back in August I was on a softball team that was argumentive, disorganized, and dysfunctional. So I quit.

Soon after I quit, I hear a knock on my cell door. It’s the coach. “Why’d you quit?” he demands! Right away I see he’s hostile and emotional.

I tell him, “Because it’s too stressful and I’m not having any fun. Guys are arguing with each other and we’re loosing too many games.”

He says, “Well then f*ck you! I’m done f*cking with you!” Then he slammed my door.

I immediately get an adrenaline rush. I almost open my door and call him back. But I don’t. I accept it and let him walk away. Because the last time I entertained such irrationality, I ended up knocking out the dude. And that cost me my EFV’s for 5 years. (see: How I Lost My EFV’s For 5 Years)

Today I’m a changed man. I’ve learned from my past. I try my best to avoid conflict.

So what could I have done to avoid this entire situation? It’s actually quite simple. I should’ve finished out the softball season with a positive, optimistic attitude. Regardless of our record and all the negativity.

I’m getting pretty good at avoiding physical confrontations. However, I need to work on avoiding confrontational situations all together. This has proven to be very tricky. I can be minding my own business, doing my own thing, and then suddenly find myself in an undesired situation.

So shortly after this whole softball fiasco, the Sergeant calls me in his office. He tells me that my celly, Dicky, is requesting that I be moved out.

Dicky is disabled and bound to a wheelchair, therefore we are in an ADA cell. These cells are bigger and have wider doors for wheelchair access. Which means Dicky always has top priority to live in these spacious ADA cells. So if he wants a celly gone, it’s always the celly who gets the boot, never him.

I’m genuinely surprised by this news the Sergeant it telling me. Dicky and I get along fine. So I ask the sergeant, “Why?”

Basically, Dicky said I’m too clean. I clean the cell too much. And that I organize his area when it gets too messy. Which I do. But Dicky and I have had discussions about this. And he said its all good!

So as the Sergeant is telling me all this, I’m confused. None of this is making any sense. REALLY! I’m getting the boot for being too clean and organized. What’s really going on?

Well it didn’t take long to figure it out. As soon as I moved out, Dicky moved in one of his dope fiend buddies. Dicky is an addict himself. He’s a pharmaceutical junky. He goes to pill line multiple times everyday. He keeps hundreds of pills hoarded in his cell constantly. But I guess the legal drugs aren’t enough.

Since I got kicked out, Dicky has been going downhill fast. Some dude ran up on him and in front of everyone and said, “Listen you punk ass bitch, that sh*t you gave me was bunk and I’m not paying you a f*cking dime!”

Wow! In front of God and everybody. Dicky was now exposed. Shortly after that, someone must’ve went and told. Because they suspended his visits. Tore up his cell. Took apart his wheelchair (looking for drugs). And subjected him to a piss test. Dicky refused the UA because he was dirty. Refusing a UA is a Major Infraction. Dicky is now out of the dog program.

It all makes sense now. Dicky kicked me out of the cell because he wanted to get high and sell drugs. And he knows I’m not down with any of that. So he reverted back to his lying manipulative ways to get what he wants. (see: Living With A Compulsive Liar)

When the Sergeant first told me I was getting kicked out of my cell, I was upset and stressed. But now I’m very thankful. It took me over 6 years to get in The Dog Program. By living with Dicky, he jeopardized my livelihood with his sneaky manipulative misconduct.

In a piece I wrote called, Stone Catchers: I Quit!!!, I talk about overcoming these exact type of challenges.

I know what I need to do. Now it’s all about having the strength, courage, and intelligence to successfully cope with any and all situations that come my way.

 

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

 

I quit softball. I temporarily quit Stone Catchers. And sometimes I feel like giving up and smashing out some of these fools. It’s time I quit quitting. Giving up is NOT an option. Violence Is Never The Answer.

MY PRAYER: Please God, continue to give me the strength to endure and overcome. Guide me, guard me, and protect me as I continue my journey. Amen!

 

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Steven Jennings

Take The Initiative To Express Love

 

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What’s better than love? NOTHING…that’s what! So why not take the initiative to express love? Everyday. To your spouse. Your children. Your friends. To mankind.

I’m shocked by all the men who take their women for granted. No wonder divorce rates are at an all time high. I understand that every couple will have their differences. It happens. I’m going through it with my wife, Suzie, right now.

It would be so easy to lose my composure and say something stupid. But what good would that do? I love this woman. Therefore, it’s my duty to soothe and comfort as we work through our conflict in a respectful, loving manner.

How do I do that? By drawing on the knowledge I learned from a book by Don Miguel Ruiz called, The Four Agreements. The first agreement is: BE IMPECCABLE WITH MY WORDS. This means, speak kindly to the woman I love. Always. No matter what. Under no circumstances is it okay for me to allow my emotions to dictate a tone of voice that operates outside the realms of love.

I must admit, in the past, I have been guilty of that. I recognized it. I didn’t like it. I fixed it! And it wasn’t really all that difficult to fix. Especially when you consider the beneficiary…my wife, the woman I love, my marriage.

If I have something to say, and it involves negative feelings, I find a way to say it as nicely as possible. Because I love Suzie, and I am committed to giving her my best at all times. She is such a sweet sensitive soul and she deserves so much more than I can give.

The least I can do is love her with all my mind, body, and soul…with all my power and strength focused on loving her the way God intended for a man to love his wife.

The way I simply talk to my wife makes all the difference in the world. Words are powerful! So why not use them in the direction of truth and love? If you are in conflict with someone you love, take the initiative to express love.

 

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flair. Proverbs 15:1

 

Please Keep Us In Your Prayers

 

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Steven Jennings

My 14th NA Meeting

 

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Prison is full of drama, negativity, and hate. But thanks to programs like NA, prison also offers hope, time to reflect, time to heal, and plenty of time for rehabilitation.

Some of the tools I’m finding from within NA are very effective and powerful. They go beyond addiction and can be applied by anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Here are just a few that I cultivated after reading Chapter 9 in the big blue NA book (sixth edition). I’m calling them, “JUST FOR TODAY” tools. I’ve written these down and posted them above my mirror. So now, when I look in the mirror, I look deep into my eyes as I recite my newly found JUST FOR TODAY tools. This is what I tell myself:

 

JUST FOR TODAY I will live in the spirit of love.

JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on love and understanding as I enjoy my blessings and all the things that bring me happiness.

JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in my abilities to avoid conflict and maintain a circle of harmony with everyone I encounter.

JUST FOR TODAY I will be impeccable with my words and only say things that are positive and encouraging.

JUST FOR TODAY I will be the best person I can be as I treat everyone with dignity and respect.

 

After I read these to myself, I give Yahoo a big hug and kiss his nose.

Over the years I have slowly learned how to use my hardships as a pathway to peace. As I reflect back on the many negative incidents I’ve imposed upon myself, I am now able to use them as stepping stones within my pathway to peace.

I understand where I went wrong in the past.

If someone challenged me…I’d beat them down! If I felt disrespected…I’d beat them down. I didn’t know any other way. Fighting was a way for me to be victorious. Today, victory comes with effective problem solving and the ability to co exist with the most challenging of personalities.

Fighting and violence is no longer an option for me. A Pyrrhic victory is an epic failure! That’s why it’s crucial that I find a better way and create effective tools that work for me. That way, if I’m ever in a situation where some fool runs up in my cell wanting to fight, I’ll have the self control and strength to refrain from hurting that man…and ultimately hurting myself and the people who love and support me.

I’ve come a long way…but its evident I still have a long way to go. I’ll continue to work hard as I try my best to always do the right thing.

 

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Steven Jennings

Learning To Let Go

 

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Just the other day I walked into my cell after being out in the yard for two hours. The first thing I noticed was dirty socks thrown over an out-of-place pair of shoes.

After I ventured farther into my lavish 6’ by 10’ cell, I noticed dirty shorts and a dirty t-shirt piled in the corner.

This is a direct violation of the verbal agreement between my celly and I. Before I moved in, we had in-depth detailed conversations about how we like to live, and expectations we place on each other.

I specifically told him that I like all the shoes lined up neatly and facing the same direction. I also told him that I don’t like dirty laundry thrown on the floor.

Part of the deal was: He keeps his stuff neat and orderly. And in return, I won’t pull his hair, slap his face, pinch his cheeks, bite him, shove him under the bunk, or kick his ass!

Okay, granted. I wouldn’t do any of those things. Not anymore at least. But there was a time, not too long ago, when that’s exactly how I would deal with a messy celly.

As a matter of fact, the last incident of this nature occurred back in 2007. I didn’t handle it well at all. You can read about it in my ebook, Stone City: Life In The Penitentairy.

Here I am in 2015. I still face the same situations and challenges. Such as messy cellies.

I realize I’m somewhat of a perfectionist with OCD. So this current situation with my celly, is a perfect opportunity to replace old habits of “reaction” with new habits of perspective.

Rather than to respond with negativity, there is another way to relate to life. A softer, more loving, graceful path that makes life easier and the people in it more compatible.

By being a jackass perfectionist, my life was not full of inner peace. It was full of conflict! I was constantly engaged in a losing battle, with one celly after another…year after year.

Even when I had the occasional “good celly” (like I do now), I would focus on “whats wrong” (shoes outta line, messy shelves and desk, bed not made, etc) and my need to fix it. I was dissatisfied and discontent.

The very act of focusing on imperfections, pulls me away from my goal of being kind and gentle.

Until NOW!

Yes. When I walked in and saw my celly’s mess, it did trigger an old compulsive thought pattern. But I quickly recognized it. And I nipped it in the bud with love and understanding.

It took me all of 10 seconds to line up his shoes and place his dirty clothes in his out-going laundry bag.

When he came back to the cell, he immediately noticed. He thanked me. Then explained how he was in a hurry to get in the shower. I said, “Your welcome.” Then I reminded him of my OCD nature.

Our conversation was peaceful and friendly. I doubt he’ll do it again.

Moral: Make peace with imperfection. This works so much better than exploding with negativity.

 

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Steven Jennings

This Is My Table

 

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I recently moved from B-Pod to A-Pod. Yes, I’m still in the honor unit, but I just switched pods. I am now in a comfortable cell with a good celly. His name is Nick. He is doing 10 years for first degree assault.

My first morning here, I woke up and brought out all of my reading and writing supplies. As I set everything on a dayroom table, I am quickly approached by a random inmate. He says, “I know you’re new here, but this table is where I sit every day.”

Compulsive thoughts instantly enter my mind. And I instantly catch them, and take complete control of them. They don’t stand a chance against my new way of thinking. A way of thinking that is generated by a powerful force of love & compassion.

There was a time when I’d tell that guy, “Go f**k yourself! This is prison and I’ll sit where I want. If you don’t like it, I’ll add an ass whooping to the equation!”

But today I am a different person. So I say, “I’m sorry. I thought these tables in the dayroom belong to everyone. But like you said, I’m new…I guess I don’t know any better.”

He goes on to explain his position as he talks in circles about how he’s been sitting there for three years. I simply say, “I understand. Thank you for letting me know.”

I then pack up all my stuff and move to another table.

Meanwhile, there’s a slight discomfort in me. Simply because I don’t like how I just got ran off. This is the HONOR UNIT. All the prison politics are supposed to be non-existent in this unit.

I sooth this discomfort with the knowledge that I am evolving and learning how to deal with situations in ways that would make my wife & family proud.

So rather than dwell on the negative aspects, I chose to control my mind, and think about how I just successfully resolved a conflict in a peaceful manner.

This positive thinking truly works as it pushes out all the discomfort. Within seconds I am feeling good about every aspect of the situation because it has given me an opportunity to grow.

Then, just as I’m enjoying a happy moment with myself, a different guy approaches me at the table I’m at. He slides some of my books out of his way as he takes a seat. He leans in towards me and says, “This table is already taken. I’ve been sitting here for years.”

Since my mind was already in the right place, it was very easy for me to extend my hand and say, “Thank you for letting me know. I’ll find another table to sit at.”

He shook my hand. And once again I was ping-ponged to another table.

In the past, I would not accept ANYONE talking to me like these two guys did today. I would’ve argued, made matters worse, and possibly have gotten into a fight.

Today I have an inner strength that enables me to respond with kindness.

The results are so much better. I don’t get in fights and I don’t build up tension between myself and others. Instead, I promote peace & understanding as I build positive relations between myself and the very same people I used to fight.

Today, things are different for me than they were a few years back. But why? I’m still in prison. I’m still around the same type of people. My environment hasn’t changed.

The answer is simple: I’ve learned to control my environment through the power of love & positive thinking.

 

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Steven Jennings

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

 

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Reflections of yesterday reinforce the lessons of today. Life is redundant. So why not learn from your past in order to improve today?

I am constantly running into situations that used to piss me off. The negative situations are still all around me. That hasn’t changed. In the past I would respond with harsh words and violence. Look where that got me!

Luckily, there is another way to cope with life. A way that leads to a softer, more graceful path. On this path, life is easier, less stressful, and the people are more compatible.

This “path” involves replacing old habits of compulsive thinking and negative reactions, with new habits of perspective. Perspectives from the standpoint of love, understanding, and forgiveness.

The results: A calm, peaceful, happy, satisfying life.

I used to get all worked up over the smallest things. One example is when I told a guy named Eric to, “get in and play your aces.” We were Pinochle partners and he kept getting his aces cut.

He replied, “You play your game, and I’ll play mine.”

It happened again! He got in and didn’t play his aces. We went set! I got mad.

I told Eric, “If one more of your aces get cut, I’m coming across this table and slapping your face.”

Eric said, “Yeah, I don’t see that happening. You’re not that stupid.”

I was already so worked up, emotionally, that I instantly reacted. I reached across the table and slapped his sassy little mouth. This happened back in 1999 at Walla Walla.

***

Today I closely examine my actions of the past. I clearly see how I used to get worked up over things that aren’t really a big deal. I would focus on little problems & concerns and then blow them WAY out of proportion.

Just the other day I was playing Pinochle. My partner kept getting his aces cut. After the second time, I wanted to say something to him. But I didn’t. I just let it go.

We lost that game. As they were ready to start a new game, I excused myself from the table and told them I had other things I needed to do. And that was it. Done. Very simple.

I can list tons of examples of things that still happen. Things that don’t sit well with me. Things that have the potential to bother me…if I let it.

But that’s just it….I don’t let it!

Instead, I have compassion towards the bothersome person. I’ll make it a point to say something nice. In doing so, I’m able to maintain my own sense of well-being. I’m able to continue down a peaceful harmonious path.

I’m learning to ignore all the things that don’t serve me well. As a result, my life is so much better.

Back in the day I would sweat the smallest things. My life was full of conflict, stress, turmoil, etc. I was completely outta touch with all the positive beauties of life.

Now that I’m committed to all things good, I find that I have more energy to focus on the positive. Life is good!

MORAL: Don’t sweat the small stuff…focus on the positive.

 

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Steven Jennings

The Science of Mind

 

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My wife got me a new book. It’s called, “The Science of Mind” by Ernest Holmes. Wow! What a gift! I am loving it. We read sections together, and then share our perspectives. She even made me a couple of personalized bookmarks to use. A small thing such as that is both meaningful and useful. Her sweet, thoughtful, & creative nature is unlike anything I’ve ever been on the receiving end of.

This book is a MUST read for those seeking self-discovery and understanding. There is so much knowledge within these pages. As I read, it offers food for thought that enables me to find answers. And to my surprise, all the answers come from within me.

I’ve spent many nights laying awake in the dark…wondering how I ended up in prison for a huge portion of my one and only precious life. My tears absorb into dingy linen that smells of bacteria killing chemicals. These are tears I’ve always kept to myself. Until now. The sad reality is, I put myself in prison.

Chapter 18 is called: The Law of Attraction. It says in part:

“Thought can attract to us that which we first mentally embody, that which had become a part of our mental makeup, a part of our inner understanding. Every person is surrounded by a thought atmosphere. This mental atmosphere is the direct result of his conscious and unconscious thought, which, in its turn, becomes the direct reason for, and cause of, that which comes into his life.”

My earliest memories are full of conflict, fighting, and violence. By age six, these things were already mentally embodied within me. I had no choice. I was born into it. So guess what type of thoughts were attracted to me? I wasn’t attracted to those thoughts…they were attracted to me. And as a child, I had no way to combat it. My thoughts were polluted by my inner understanding of conflict.

“…that which has become a part of our mental make-up, a part of our inner understanding.”

As I grew & developed, fighting and violence became a part of my mental make-up. It was a part of my mental understanding. It made up the actual “thought atmosphere” that surrounded me. This atmosphere was the direct result of all my thoughts. Which is the direct reason for, and cause of, the events that came into my life. The worst being 43 years in prison!

Today, while in prison, I seek help. But due to my lengthy time structure, I am denied. So I have taken it upon myself to read potent and influential books that lays out the blueprint for the remaking of my mind.

Perhaps the denial of self-help courses is as it should be. For if they were granted to me as requested, I might not be on this exact path. Perhaps those courses would’ve limited me from finding such influential masterpieces, such as “The Power of Now” and “The Science of Mind”.

We can bring into our life anything we desire, if we think correctly and become a living embodiment of our positive thoughts. I know this because I’m actively doing it. Harmony, happiness, prosperity, peace, good morals, are the things I think about and desire. I have willed these positive attributes into my life.

Today I am an adult. Unlike when I was a child, I now have the ability to choose for myself. First and foremost, I seek understanding, knowledge, and truth.

The lessons of my past validate the basic laws of the Universe. As I gain understanding, I realize I can do anything I set my mind to. The things I am learning resonate so strongly with me. I recognize the principals of these Universal laws. And through them, I have been getting in touch with my innermost Being.

I love this journey I’m on.

As my wife and I continue to read this book together, we’ll share our views and our experiences. Please read Suzie’s blog called, The Science of Mind, and follow along on our journey through life.

 

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Steven Jennings

A Few Poems

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All of my poems are a reflection of how I was feeling at that time. Certain feelings inspire certain words. On 10-29-13, I was inspired by my amazing wife and our beautiful love (see: The Power of Love). So I grabbed my pen and paper and wrote this poem:

 

FOCUS ON LOVE

Life is a mixture of joy and pain,
blue skies, dark clouds, sunshine and rain.

All days can’t be bright, this we know is true,
what you choose to focus on is always up to you.

Seek out the positive in your life and cherish every day,
focus on the things you love and your blues will fade away.

Show a smile instead of a frown,
look up instead of down.

Shine your light a little brighter,
and watch your burdens get so much lighter.

Life is good life is great,
focus on love ignore the hate.

If you live in love with a heart that’s true,
then love will reflect in all you do.

And when love reflects in all you do,
it takes from the time of feeling blue.

* * *

If I knew back then what I know now…I wouldn’t be in prison. Early on in life I was on a dark path that lead to destructive behavior. Violence, suffering, hate, turmoil, conflict…they were all a constant theme in my life. As a result, my writing reflected that.

This next poem was written during my middle school years. There is no title. It says:

 

Now I lay myself to sleep,
I pray to hell my soul will keep.

No one knows what I plan to do,
but you’ll find out when life is through.

Through for who is what I wonder,
but you’ll find out 6 feet under.

 

As I read this today I shake my head in disbelief. I was around 12 years old when I wrote that! I could easily shed a tear right now. Left to my own demise, I didn’t stand a chance.

As I reflect back to my childhood, I can remember a re-occurring statement that teachers, principals, coaches, and other adults would say. They’d say that I was going to end up dead or in prison.

The first time I heard the “prison” version, I was in the 3rd grade.
The first time I heard the “dead” version, I was in the 9th grade.

Sure enough, I escaped death only to land in prison. Considering my options, I got lucky.

Even after I got locked up, my mindset didn’t change very much.

Here is a poem I wrote back in 1994, just 6 months after I arrived at the Snohomish County Jail. It’s called “Who’s Lucky” because that’s what I used to ask myself every time someone pissed me off in the jail. Am I lucky because I have a release date? Or is he lucky that I have a release date? The poem goes like this:

 

WHO’S LUCKY

People are lucky I have a release date,
or taking a life I wouldn’t even hesitate.

I’m already in jail paying a price,
I often times wonder why am I so nice?

Hatred and violence run through my veins,
murderous thoughts invades through my brain.

I use to think my thoughts were something I’d inflict,
now I see without thinking my thoughts come out sick.

I feel like killing for little or no reason,
look at me wrong and your death would be pleasen.

And for all you punks who talk too loud,
I like watching your blood drip like drops from a cloud….

with a big fat shank piercing through your gut,
dying slowly, you deserve what you got.

By all means don’t cross my path,
if you’re a punk ass bitch who won’t take a bath.

You’re better off staying in your cell,
because your life will expire if I get one smell.

When I was drinking these thoughts I’d be thinking,
but now that I’m sober it’s starting to sink in……

That maybe I was born with blood to kill,
because every thought that I get is way too real.

 

Today I wouldn’t have the slightest desire to write such non sense.

Behind all the mental madness, there was a little place of peace and love. Here’s a poem that shows a glimpse of sunshine in the midst of a storm. It was written in August 1996:

 

LOOK FOR HAPPY THINGS

Look for happy things in life if you desire peace,
appreciate all that’s done for you and watch your love increase.

Things like a loving gentle smile or sincere words of cheer,
a sunrise or the precious time when twinkling stars appear.

Seek out the good in people and cast errors to the side,
fill your heart with love because that’s where good resides.

Drink in soul deep pleasure that nature gives to all,
enjoy the beauty of a rock bound shore or a cascading waterfall.

And do not forget the value of just a humble prayer,
it doesn’t matter where you are because God is everywhere.

Open your heart to children they fill this life with bliss,
who can deny the love of a baby’s tender kiss?

I hope you see just what I mean, look for happy things,
If you do that, then you’ll have love within a heart that sings.

 

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Steven Jennings

 

PS – Dear Readers, I thought twice about sharing these violent poems with you. I wish to be transparent about my transformation and my journey. Would you rather I didn’t share violent poems on my blog? Let me know. Thank you.