Tagged: strength

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

True Love Never Gives Up

 

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Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7

 

Every marriage faces choppy waters. Divorce is at an all time high. Just the other day I heard a guy in here talking about how he’s about to “fire his wife!” He’s tripping on her because she’s slow-walking his food package.

UNBELIEVABLE!!!

Actually, no it’s not. So many men in here play games with love and emotions. They are not sincere with their love. They are users and abusers. They continue to use until the money dries up, or till they get released. These type of relationships are scattered throughout prison visiting rooms all across America. It breaks my heart and it’s sad to see.

I sincerely love my wife with all my heart. All I wanna do is love this woman and make her happy. No drama, no stress, no arguing, no fighting.

Wouldn’t that be sweet?
Oh, it is!!!

Suzie and I enjoy a strong circle of harmony. But every now and then, we find ourselves in choppy waters. In those times, it is my duty as a husband, to take positive steps that will change the emotional climate and calm the choppy waters.

Smooth sailing in the sea of love is always possible when true love guides the heart.

I’m not perfect, and I still have a lot to learn. But one thing I know for sure is that I love my wife with all my heart and I will forever cherish her and the sweet love she gives me. My #1 priority in our marriage is to treat Suzie with nothing but love, understanding, compassion, and respect.

Our mantra: LOVE CONQUERS ALL!

There’s so much I can’t give this magnificent woman…at least not right now. But what I can give her, is the unconditional love she desires and longs for. I can always give her my very best! When it comes to our marriage and our love, I will always put forth effort, as I maintain faith and hope that our love will only grow stronger throughout our journey.

I love you my sweet Suzie. Thank you for blessing my life with your precious love.

 

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Steven Jennings

 

 

Love Language: Getting To Know Each Other

 

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7/3/16

Hello My Love,

I love you. You are an amazing woman in so many ways. You are by far my most valued treasure. I am blessed to have you in my life as my wife. You teach me so much about myself and what it takes to live in harmony with another person.

I love our communication skills and how we share our feelings with each other. The deeper we dive into one another, the more we learn. This learning curve inevitably exposes our differences, weaknesses, personal issues, and character flaws. We have proven to each other that love and communication conquers all. Thank you for loving me through all my defects and flaws. Thank you for opening up to me and trusting me with your heart.

Our marriage will last forever and thrive, because we truly communicate. We accept what IS as we constantly work to resolve issues and create acceptable remedies for each other. It feels so good to have this level of mental intimacy with you. And soon we will be physically intimate as well!

I love you!

Your Husband,
Steven Jennings

 

( To read more of our letters, please visit our blog: Real Love Letters )

 

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

What The Significant Woman’s Event Means To Me

 

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So much of my relationship with my wife is through letters and phone calls. The upcoming Significant Woman’s Event gives me the opportunity to be with my wife in person. It allows us the experience of what it would be like to eat in a resturant together. To dance with eachother. To play games together. And for me to express my gratitude towards her.

The quality time we spend together helps us bond as we learn eachother’s mannerisms. This also helps with our letter writing as it gives our written words a visual of personality. After every visit I feel our relationship strengthen. Suzie means the world to me and I could never thank her enough for all her dedication, commitment, and sacrifice.

This wonderful event allows me to show her how much I love and appreciate her. She truly is significant in my life. An absolute blessing! This is one day where I can demonstrate how special she really is to me. We can hug, kiss, hold hands, have eye contact, and experience what joy and happiness looks like on one another’s face in person.

Thank you to eveyone who helps Suzie and I unite in person for the event this weekend. We love you and appreciate all your support. To make a donation, please click HERE.

Thank you.

 

I Love You...baby

 

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Steven Jennings

Uniquely Unlocked

 

I am so grateful for my wife and all that she does. I wish I could be out there helping her right by her side. I love and appreciate her with all my heart. She truly is a blessing.

Suzie M. Jennings

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I had such a sheltered and spoiled background. I breezed through my childhood so fast that it’s hard to remember it. I wanted so badly to grow up and be an adult, a wife, and a mother.

I had a pretty awesome upbringing with loving parents, a big wholesome family, a kind religious community, and I was even a Girl Scout. But is it possible that sometimes things can be too perfect that you miss out on living and experiencing?

I have Stone City Blog on my mind right now. It is a collection of blogs written by men in prison, which I manage. Honestly, I’ve struggled with putting in all those hours helping men who couldn’t give me much in return.

I help men in prison share their voice with the world. At first, I choked on my own voice when telling people this. It wasn’t something I wanted to brag…

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Engaging In Meaningful Activities Is Crucial To A Healthy Lifestyle

 

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Now that I’m learning a little about Occupational Therapy, I feel like it’s giving me a deeper, richer, more thorough understanding of life in general. I reflect back to my days of crime and misconduct, and I see direct parallels to the fact that I had zero to very little meaningful activities in my life.

Today I engage in several meaningful activities. And as a result, I live a healthy lifestyle full of love, compassion, excitement, and happiness. It’s so clear to see that the healthy lifestyle came AFTER I started to engage in meaningful activities.

Early in my incarceration I had a desire to live a healthy lifestyle. I told myself on numerous occasions, “It’s time. Let’s do it!” But time and time again, I’d fail. Why? Because I wasn’t engaging in meaningful activities. The ONLY way to achieve a healthy lifestyle IS to engage in meaningful activities. There’s no other way to do it!

I’m so glad I’m learning this stuff. In addition to the clarity it brings me, it also teaches me effective ways to articulate my journey when mentoring and helping others.

I feel like I’ve done a lot of this work on my own. And just now, I’m starting to learn about it from a clinical standpoint. Which is great! Because the principles and philosophies have been validated before they were recognized.

Now it’s time to continue to learn and build as I use Occupational Therapy (Wikipedia definition). That in itself is a meaningful activity that is essential to a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve learned that in Occupational Therapy there are 7 areas of occupation that people engage in. Some are self explanatory. Some are not. But I feel they are all important to know. By knowing them, I can achieve a better balance in my life. I can do a self evaluation and determine if I’m lacking or over compensating in a specific area. The 7 occupations are:

 

#1) Activities of Daily Living (ADL) This refers to basic needs such as eating, showering, hygiene, clothing, sex, etc.

I’m definitely lacking in the sex department. So this is something I need to address in my life. And address it I shall…in March 2017!…EFV’s with my wife, Suzie. 🙂

 

#2) Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL’s) This is the act of caring for my environment, such as ordering my commissary, cleaning my cell, helping my disabled celly, taking care of my dog, turning off the water that people deliberately leave on, etc.

I feel balanced with this one. However, I can do more. A lot of guys don’t clean up after themselves. Therefore, the sink and microwave area is always a mess. From now on, whenever I see a mess, I’ll take 30 seconds and clean it up. Why not? It’ll be good for me.

 

#3) Education – Participating in a learning environment or learning activities.

I could definitely use more of this. And now that its been brought to my attention, I will actively seek opportunities to engaged in more educational activities. I currently engage in two educational activities: NA Meetings and the Sustainability In Prison lectures.

 

#4) Leisure – A non-obligatory activity that is engeged in during discretionary time.

I have plenty of leisure activities, such as: blogging, writing Real Love Letters to the love of my life, working out, taking my dog for a walk, reading, etc.

 

#5) Work – Employment. Making money. Getting paid! Also, volunteer activities.

I do both. Freedom Tails is all volunteer work. And I find it way more rewarding than my actual job. If I had to choose between my “Remunerative Work” and my “Volunteer Work” I would sacrifice my pay and choose my Volunteer work. This just goes to show how rewarding volunteer work really is.

 

#6) Play – Any activity that provides enjoyment, entertainment, amusement, or diversion.

This is interesting. Because what happens when these adjectives can be applied to work, volunteer, and leisure? All of a sudden, play becomes a dominant meaningful activities in my life. I like that! I’m going to make it happen.

 

#7) Social Participation – Activities associated with patterns of behavior within a given social system.

Prison is a social system. A lot of misconduct goes on in here. So I’m better off engaging in anti-social participation when it comes to the prison social system as a whole. Another word for “Social Participation” in prison would be “Institutionalized”. This is just one perspective. My reality is: there are sub societies within the overall predominant prison social system.

By conducting myself in a positive, productive manner, and observing The Law of Attraction, I find my self socially participating in a positive mini sub-division within a predominant negative social system. The social participation that I engage in, is strong enough to give me strength to navigate through the negative prison social system without getting caught up in the current of negativity.

I’m thankful for the path I’m on. I’m thankful for my wife, family, and friends. I’m thankful for Sandra Rogers and the learning opportunity she has brought to my life.

 

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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

My 9th NA Meeting

 

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This meeting was all about “Recovery and Relapse.” Most NA participants apply the wisdom of NA to their drug use and recovery. I’m finding that I’m needing to apply it in other areas. Because if I were to relapse, it wouldn’t come in the form of using drugs. It would come in the form of fighting.

I am recovering from a life of fighting and violence.

In a previous post called, “New Unit, Same Environment, Different Mindset,” I mentioned how my kindness has caused me a little discomfort. I also mentioned how I would continue to come in contact with a select few who are the cause of my discomfort.

This entire situation has me on edge. As a result, I’m ultra sensitive. I’m on high alert. It’s like I’m almost looking for signs of disrespect. NOT GOOD! Because I found it!

Here’s what happened:

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I go to the chow hall and sit at a table with two guys. I’ve sat with these men before…no biggie.

But this time, one guy says, “These seats are taken.”

I should’ve learned my lesson from the incident in “How I Lost My EFV’s For 5 Years.” But evidently, I didn’t. Because I tell the guy, “Yeah! One of them by me.”

I should’ve just gotten up and moved to a different table. That would’ve been a whole lot easier than dealing with what’s about to come.

The two guys get up and join the other two guys who are now standing behind and beside me.

I feel surrounded.

One guy mumbles something…all I hear is, “Mother-f*cker.”

I say nothing as they all go to an empty table.

Two minutes later, one guy comes back and sits down. He says through a tight jaw and clinched fists, “If you ever disrespect me or my friends like that again, I’ll break your f*cking jaw!”

I immediatly get a surge af adrinalin, not knowing if this maniac is going to take off on me right here and now.

I say, “I apologize. I didn’t mean any disrespect. When I got here, this seat was open.”

He quickly retorts, “My partner TOLD you these seats were taken! Next time you get your ass up and MOVE…or I’ll break your f*cking jaw!”

He’s right. I was told that. But since I was on high alert, I didn’t believe it. I thought they just didn’t want me to sit there because I talked to JP.

At any rate, I’m ready for this dude to take his threats and get out of my face. So I say, “Yes sir. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

He leaves.

I’m extremely distraught. My mind is going a million miles a minute. I think about my wife, our beautiful love, and our upcoming EFV’s.

I could beat this dudes ass with one arm tied behind my back. But it’s not worth it. I have too much to lose. I’ve come too far to relapse now. I must swallow my pride and just accept it.

That night I went to my NA meeting. The topic was RECOVERY and RELAPSE. I felt like the words were speaking directly to me. Chapter 7 in the NA book says:

 

“At times we all experience difficulty in our recovery. Emotional lapses result when we don’t practice what we have learned.”

 

Those two sentences take me back to what I learned from the incident that cost me my EFV’s for 5 years. I did learn from that. I know where I went wrong. I know what I should’ve done.

The same can be said for this latest situation. I had a minor relapse when I didn’t get up the second I was told, “These seats are taken.”

I should’ve simply said, “I can respect that.” And then left.

But NOOO! I didn’t do that. And I’m pretty sure it’s because I was on high alert and ultra sensitive to any sign of disrespect due to the JP situation. I was looking for signs of disrespect….therefore; I found them.

I’m just super thankful I didn’t have a complete relapse and that I’m not in the hole right now facing assault charges for smashing out those four yahoos (see Glossary of Prison Terms). Chapter 7 goes on to say:

 

“Those who make it through these times show a courage not their own. After coming through one of these periods, we can readily agree that it is always darkest before the dawn. Once we get through a difficult time without relapsing, we are given a tool of recovery that we can use again and again.”

 

Isn’t that the truth!

Prison life (and life in general) is so redundant, that I’m sure I’ll have to rely on my strength and intelligence, gained by past experiences, to help me successfully navigate through hard times in the future.

The next day I sat back and watched all four of those guys in the chowhall. They all didn’t sit together, but the two main guys did.

I followed them out onto the breezeway. I walked up along side of them. I said, “I just wanted to apologize for yesterday. I was outta line for the way I acted. I assure you, it won’t happen again.”

To my surprise, the “jaw breaking” guy apologized for the way he handled it.

WTF! Whats going on here?

Anyway, we accepted eachothers apology and shook hands.

I’ll probably never sit with any of those guys again. But I will try my best to forgive and not hold a grudge. I will continue to live in love as I look for opportunities to display acts of kindness towards all people. Even the guys who judge me for being kind to the weirdos.

I am thankful for NA and all the added perspective it’s brought to my life.

And I am thankful for my sweet wife. Her delicate and supportive love surrounds me. I tell her about my situations in here, and her words of encouragement and comfort add to my strength.

 

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Steven Jennings

New Unit, Same Environment, Different Mindset

 

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Hello! Over the last 12 months, I’ve been doing a lot of moving. I moved from H4 to the Honor Unit in H6. Then I moved from H6 to the Dog Program in H3.

Moving from unit to unit can be stressful…if I let it. Because to some I’m the new guy, and certain people try to take advantage of that. They show a lack of respect and push boundaries. I try my best to view moving as an opportunity to meet new people.

Most of these new people don’t know anything about me, except for what I show them. So now is my opportunity for new beginnings by showing them love and respect as I treat them with honor and dignity.

For the most part, the universe has been responding favorably to my positive efforts.

However, in the game of life (especially in prison) I must be prepared to deal with every force that comes my way. Especially the negative.

Here’s a little situation I recently found myself in:

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I was in the dayroom, conversing with a few of the fellas.

Then all of a sudden, JP walks up to me and asked me a question. JP is a S.O. The fellas hate him!

There was a time when I hated him too. Fortunatly, I’m on a different path these days.
I treat ALL people with dignity and respect…that includes wierdos and S.O.’s.

Before I responded to JP, I tell him, “Let’s go over here.”

And then we move to a table away from the fellas.

I do this as a curtisy to the fellas. Because I know they don’t want these type of people anywhere near them. Plus, I don’t want to be the subject of their gossip, talking about I’m the one attracting misfits to their little area.

TOO LATE!!! As I return I hear one guy saying, “I don’t get it! I just don’t f*cking get it! I don’t understand how anyone could f*ck with that sick son-of-a-bitch! He’s in here for f*cking his own kids!”

No one speaks after that. They’re all looking at me. I feel uncomforable.

My instincts push me towards aggression. Years ago I would’ve lashed out whenever I felt this way. But today I am able to recognize and control my emotions. I’m able to think clearly and concise as I demonstrate self-control.

My mission in life is to treat everyone with respect. That includes these very fellas that are making me feel a certain kinda way right now.

As all eyes are on me I say, “Sorry about that. I meant no disrespect. That’s why I took him over there…away from you guys.”

One guy asks, “Why do you even f*ck with that chi-mo?”

I feel like I’m on the spot. Like I’m the one getting “paper checked”.

I keep my cool.

I respond by saying, ”I’m committed to a positive lifestyle. That includes being kind to all people. I’m not nice to that guy because he deserves it. I’m nice to him because I desire inner peace. And being nice to people brings me that.”

One guy who was shuffeling a deck of cards this whole time, drops the cards on the table and says, ”I’ve heard enough BULLSH*T for one day…I’m outta here!” He gets up and walks away.

I take offense. But I say nothing. My heart is beating fast and I am trying my best to stay focused and composed.

I’m in a situation I’ve never been in before. And I’m responding in a way that is relativly
new to me. I’ve never really responded like this before. But then again, I’ve never been in a situation like this before.

We eventually all go our seperate ways. But I know our paths will cross again…several times. So I go to my cell to self-reflect, meditate, and re-compose.

Because it did cross my mind to tell everyone to “F*ck off!” But if that’s the case, I might as well have told JP to F-O! I mean whats the difference? Mean is mean, regardless of who it’s directed to.

None of this F-O talk is an option for me. I know what I need to do…STAY FOCUSED!!!

I will use my strength and intelligence to continue to rise above all the negative influences as I impose my own goodwill.

Now my focus is on being kind and respectful to some of these fellas who now look at me differently. It would be so easy to stoop to their level and be an ass. But I know that could lead to bad things….for them! I’m not that man any more.

And my actions will prove it!

 

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Steven Jennings

(Please read the Glossary of Prison Terms for clarification on terms used in this post)