reflection, part two: the best revenge

friday, june 22

 today is my halfway day.  in a few hours i'll have served exactly five and one third months and will have exactly five and one third months to go.  162 days.  it's time to assess and reflect.   in a post entitled liberation i talked about my right to apply for early parole and my reasons for waiving it.  had i applied and been approved, i could be walking out of here today.   i know i made the right decision but i can't lie, i've been thinking a lot about it lately  especially now that Leah is so close to getting out and i'll be stuck here until winter. 

 i've been thinking a lot about freedom lately, imagining my first walk along the river and through my neighbourhood, picturing seeing people i haven't  seen in far too long, thinking about the job that's waiting for me, dreading opening up my email account, and planning the holy-shit-i'm-out party tour in my head.  it's nice to daydream, but perhaps a bit dangerous - i still have a long way to go.  time is passing quite quickly but i've heard that once you start getting impatient the days begin to drag.  "short but shitty" is how the last part of the sentence is often referred to in here.

 so enough talk about the future! this post is for taking stock of my time so far and where things are at these days. 

 people always want to know how i am doing and i always say "fine" or "good" which is true, but probably not the kind of answer people are looking for.  i'll try to do a little better here, with apologies in advance if this is too much information for those of you who don't really know me.

 before i came here, i honestly didn't know how i would handle jail.  i'd spent a month  at Vanier in the summer of 2010, but for most of that time i was among friends (my co-accused) and this stay would be almost eleven times as long.  i think i managed to come off as pretty confident but i remember a shitty few days back in November - when our group decision on the plea deal was made and couldn't be taken back - that i spent feeling physically ill from nervousness and anxiety and thoughts of "oh, crap, what have i done?" all quite unnecessary as it turns out, because it's really not so bad and looking back in the first half of my sentence i think i've done surprisingly well.  i'm in good physical health for one thing, far better than i was on the outside.  regular sit down meals, lots of time for exercise, no rushing commuting or to meet deadlines.  i sleep well and wake up early without an alarm clock.  the regular headaches i've experienced for years have all but disappeared, probably because i'm not staring at a computer screen for large parts of the day.  now don't get me wrong, i'm not suggesting that i love it here. . .but there are some specific ways that it's much healthier than the stressed out, high pressure lifestyle of a much too busy political activist and organizer. 

 i'm pretty relaxed most of the time and usually in a pretty good mood.  i don't have any close friends on the range at the moment but there are a couple of chess opponents and quite a few people i enjoy chatting with.  i have no real enemies and manage to stay out of range drama - except for some recent conflict over how much soccer can be watched i get along with everyone here.  it's true that i spend a fair bit of time in my own little world of blog posts, mail, projects, work-outs, books, and the newspaper.  on the one hand i've been starting to feel a bit anti-social lately and i'm trying to set aside more hang-out time, but on the other i take it as a good sign that i can still enjoy my own company.

 i feel like the same person when i came in, for the most part.  one thing i've noticed is that i speak more bluntly now - i've lost some of that white middle class fake politeness that prevents me from saying what i really think, and from ever saying no.  that's probably partly because that's how other people are here, and partly due to the fact that i've sussed this place out and i'm comfortable here now.  it's no longer strange and intimidating like it was for the first few months.  paradoxically, while i feel more able to speak my mind there are more situations in which i'm much less inclined to do so.  it's advisable to mind your own business in here and that's not a bad thing - petty arguments and rivalries escalate quickly and it's best to ignore them.  but far too often staying out of a situation means not speaking up for people who are getting treated like shit (sadly, more often than not by other inmates as opposed to guards).  i don't like this about the culture here and i don't like that i play into it, but the thought of going up alone against some of the folks i'm forcibly confined with is frightening.  the power dynamics are not what i 'm used to, to say the least, and i find them difficult to understand and navigate.

 earlier in my stay i wrote that i was worried i'd become cynical and bitter in here... thankfully that hasn't happened.  i feel sadness and outrage, of course, about a system that takes some of the most fucked over people in society and does everything in its power to make their lives even harder.  but it's countered by the little things i see every day: the ability and determination of people to show kindness, to laugh and comfort, to share what they have and to remain generally positive.  i've said this before and it's still true: i'm amazed and inspired by the resilience of folks who find themelves in incredibly challenging situations.  it's also hard to feel cynical and bitter with all the support and solidarity coming in from the outside for which i feel both honoured and grateful.  one of the worst things that can happen to a prisoner - perhaps the worst of all - is that they get forgotten.  i have never for one second felt forgotten, or neglected, or worried that i might be in the future.  so thank you for the letters, the visits, the phone dates, the updates and for trying to keep me involved.  i do still feel a bit disconnected and out of the loop but unlike at the start of my sentence it doesn't really bother me anymore.  i'm confident that i am still a part of our community and will be welcomed back and brought up to speed when i get out.  i don't feel like i've been left behind.

 so there it is: "how are you doing?" answered.  now when i tell you i'm "fine" or "good" you can know that i really am.  this is more satisfying than you can possibly know.  it is a big fuck you to the state.  in the words of George Herbert: "living well is the best revenge".