A Letter to My Young Friend in Prison
It was good to go deep with you today.
As always, I found you working on several difficult issues, and moving forward with all of them. You have healthy goals, and you have worthy dreams. You always do.
Young men worry about who they are, and what they want to accomplish, and what is their destiny. And, actually, we all worry about that. At least, I do.
I don’t always count my blessings, and I can worry about things that I have no control over, or things that turn out to be pretty insignificant. I struggle with feelings and emotions, and I get myself tied up in knots about things. Another young man I know calls that “catastrophizing”. A good term for that “tie my stomach in knots” feeling.
So, when you struggle, and doubt, and worry, you are not alone. And, when you see some people and situations in your life that need some fixing, and things aren’t getting fixed, that is normal.
Each of us can only fix ourselves. We aren’t the mechanics for other people. We don’t lead their lives. And, we aren’t the boss. Well, we are the boss of ourselves. We do have the ability to direct our own lives, and to manage our own affairs. And, what other people do and what other people might think of us --- well, not much we can do about that.
You are a normal guy. You have normal worries, and normal doubts and normal insecurities. You get frustrated when relationships and other things don’t get “fixed”. That’s normal.
I see you accomplishing a whole lot. Certainly more than most 21 year old men I have known. OK, you are in prison and you don’t have a lot of “freedom”. Yet, you have done a great deal of hard work in getting your own house in order, and healing yourself. You have educated yourself a great deal about who you are, where you come from, and who you want to be.
Most young men haven’t done that. Most young men haven’t laid out the high moral standards and ethics you have set for yourself. The work you have done has been very valuable, and very important. I think you see that, sometimes. In a few years, you will see this time as a very rich, and a very valuable experience.
As you do your heart work, know that I support you, and I believe in you. I am grateful you have this opportunity, to know yourself better, and to gain information which will lead to even more self discovery, and to more healing of whatever wounds you discover.
Part of that healing work involves forgiveness.
I hope that you are doing some forgiveness of yourself in all this. Forgiveness is a very good gift to give to yourself. It is part of that struggle you have with accepting a gift.
You want to “pay off your restitution”. “Restitution” means “to restore, to put back”. Part of restitution is forgiving yourself. That will be harder to do than sending money off to the State. But, more rewarding, and more freeing.
You are doing all of this work for the right reasons: self understanding.
Most every time I leave prison after a visit with you, I say to myself “Wow. I don’t know if I could deal with that.”
A lot of the stuff you talk about that you have experienced, well, I think I might just want to find a dark corner and pull a blanket over my head, and slip away into a bit of self imposed craziness.
But, you don’t take that cheap route. You dig in and work through the crap that you have to deal with sometimes, and you get it on. You sort through it, and you do what is needed to be healthy, and sane, and whole.
You may think you don’t get much support from other folks on what you are going through and what you are doing. But, you do. Your Team is out there, cheering you on.
I try to be a good cheerleader, a good support person for you. I don’t always do a great job, and I often don’t have the tools and the pompoms and the special cheerleader cheers that work for you. But, I still show up and I still cheer you on.
I believe in you and I believe in your journey.
And, you teach me more about courage and decency and character than anything else in my life.
I thank you for that, from deep in my heart.
Neal C. Lemery