FEATURE STORIES

The Re-entry Chronicles part 2


by Belinda C.
Sept 2008

 

Writer Belinda C. details her personal experiences with re-entering society after her 20-year incarceration in prison in this second edition of "The Re-entry Chronicles." Read the first edition of the Chronicles. Ms. C. was released from Franklin Pre-Release Center (FPRC) prison in Columbus, Ohio on June 12, 2008, and now lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. A 2007 graduate of The Psychology of Incarceration program in FPRC, she has already become a mentor and encouragement to a group of women she has met.


7/22/08

Today I am feeling a combination of things: very blessed and grateful that I'm out of prison, but a little sad and lonely as well. I miss my friends that I left in prison. I formed a bond with some beautiful women who I could talk about anything with. I wish that Jessie was here because she understands me.

But what I'm understanding more and more each day is that true freedom has nothing to do with being released from prison. There are things that go on in my life that make me realize that doing time for the state was easier than dealing with the outside pressures of the world. Easier doesn't mean better though.

I am embracing my struggles. I believe that for as long as I continue to do the right thing for the right reasons, I will be okay. God has got my back.


7/23/08

I remember being in prison and missing my family so much. In the beginning of my bit, I used to wish I was at home in the midst of all the chaos that surrounded my life, as opposed to sitting in a prison cell. I would have given anything to be at home and have to clean up after my children and be irritated by the small things that children do. I used to get so mad at my son when he jumped in the bed and messed it up, or when my daughter would do something she wasn't supposed to do. But when I was in prison, I would have given anything to be with them . . .And 20 years later, I have that opportunity. They still mess up and I still get irritated, but we're together. And I love it, chaos and all.


7/25/08

"Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you," Matthew 6:33. What a merciful God we serve. I am not perfect by far. There's a battle that goes on in my mind at some point everyday. I get bored because I rarely have a place I'm allowed to go. I get frustrated because of hte lack of money. I get lonely just because I'm a woman who has been without the affection of a man for years. And I get scared because the odds appear to be against me. I get discouraged because that's just how life goes sometimes. But I always seem to seek His face because I know that "greater is He in me than he who is in the world."

Sometimes I 'm not even conscious of seeking Gods face. It's something that became a habit for me when I was in prison. When nobody else was there, He was. He was always a simple prayer away. And deep down in my soul I believe that I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.

But there are times when life tends to get me down. Just like last night when all I felt like doing was crying . . . I was crying and praying, and believing that no matter how hard things seemed, God would make a way. So I took my sadness and my tears and embraced them. And when I woke up this morning, I knew I would be okay.

I have been out for about 42 days now. And guess what. I got a job! But I'm not jumping up and down with happiness. I'm humbly sitting here in awe of my God. I know that all the blessings that are unfolding in my life are coming straight from Him. And if He never does anything else for me, He has done enough. My gratitude doesn't come simply from the fact that God is so faithful, so merciful and so gracious to me. And I just love Him for loving me.

I know that life will always be full of ups and downs. Everyday won't necessarily be a joyful one. But if I seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all His righteousness, all other things will be added to me.


7/28/08  p.m.

Today was my first day at work. And you know what they say about Murphey's Law—what can go wrong will go wrong. Of all the days, it was raining this morning. So I had to wrap my cast in plastic and put a sock on top of it. If that wasn't frustrating enough, I had to walk without my crutches so that I would be able to hold my umbrella. Nevertheless, I was determined to do what I needed to do in order to be to work on time.

As soon as I stepped outside it stopped raining. I looked at the sky and smiled and thanked God. It wasn't that bad walking without the crutch, but I knew I had a ways to go to get to the bus stop and I prayed that I would make it okay.

I walked for about 10 minutes and ended up on the highway. It just didn't seem like there would be a bus stop on the other side of the street so I turned down the street where I noticed there was as bus stop. About 30 seconds later, the bus I needed to catch went past me coming from the other direction. I began to panic because if I waited on that next 31 bus to come by, I was going to be late for my first day of work. Suddenly I remembered how I had gotten the job in the first place. God had laid it right in my lap. I calmed down and told myself that what God has for me is for me and no one or nothing could get in the way of that. Still, I didn't know what I was going to do.

I walked aimlessly toward a bus stop where other people were exiting the bus. I found out that I could get to my job if I waited there for the next bus to come, but I only had 15 minutes to go before I would be late for work, so I started walking and praying.

I saw a 31 bus that was not in service. The man driving the bus stopped and asked if I was okay. I told him that I was going to be late for my first day of work. He let me get on the bus without paying and took me to the correct bus stop. Two minutes after he dropped me off the bus came and I made it to work right on time.

I learned a valuable lesson. It doesn't matter how things look sometimes. All you have to do is believe in God and He will work things out. I know that it's because of God that I have this job. And because of Him I will be able to get to work on time and keep it.


7/30/08

I've had a lot of firsts since I've been out of prison. One of my most enjoyable firsts was spending time with my daughter one-on-one. I cooked on a stove for the first time in 20 years. It wasn't hard but it was awkward. I had to really pay attention just to turn it on. Most people can do that without a second thought. We ate pork chops, mashed potatoes and green beans. It was really good. I also baked a cake. I drank pop out of a real glass! That was also a first.Then my daughter gave me a beautiful diamond ring. She had been holding it for me for a long time. It's beautiful. And it's the first diamond I've ever owned.

I had to fill out W2 forms today. I've never done that before. I was embarressed to be sitting there with this paper in front of me not knowing if I was "exempt" or not. I needed some help because I had to turn the form in before I left work. So, I asked a co-worker and she was very helpful, but she didn't quite get that I truly didn't understand.

My boss came in and rescued me. I explained to him that I had never worked a legal job before prison. I offered to discuss my crime with him if he wanted me to. He looked at me so compassionately and smiled and said, "The past is the past. That's what they make erasers for." I sat there and fought back the tears. There's really nothing left to say but "Praise the Lord."


7/31/08

I am a little sad today. And I'm very irritated. I really don't even feel like talking to anybody because I believe I already know what they are going to say, or at least feel like saying. I should just be grateful that I'm out. Right? You get your freedom and all the pain is just supposed to go away. . . It doesn't work like that.

I wish I could talk to Jessie. Because I know what she would say too. She would tell me that my feelings are valid and that I don't have to defend them to anyone. Then she would do some stupid dance to try and make me laugh. It wouldn't work right away, but later on, once I was in my cell, I would lay in bed and think about how silly she looked and I would smile and shake my head. Just thinking about it now makes me smile and shake my head. I miss my friend.


8/17/08

So much has happened in the last couple of weeks, even though it feels like it has only been a few days. The time sure flies on this side. It reminds me of when I was in prison and people used to tell me how they had been meaning to write but the time just go away. Two weeks on the inside felt like two months.

Anyway, I'm so blessed to be free. And God constantly reminds me of that. Three weeks ago I was walking up the hill and I found a penny. It was all beat up like cars had been riding over it for months. I walked about 15 more steps and there was another penny. It was a little odd to find two pennies in such a short time, but I picked it up and walked some more. Twenty steps or so later, I found another penny! By now I'm looking at the sky asking God what's the catch to this. I felt like He was giving me a sign of something. I picked up the penny and came on in.

Last Sunday I was standing at the bus stop when I saw this woman walking down the street with three little girls. Two of the girls had on yellow dresses and one had on a pink one. I remember thinking about how pretty they were and that they must be on their way to church. They stopped at the bus stop and were talking to one another for about two minutes. Then one of the little girls tapped me and said, "Ma'am, I have a gift for you." She opened her hand and gave me three pennies! One was beaten up just like the first one I had found. And all of them were dirty like she had just found them. I asked her her name. She said Victoria. I thanked her, she welcomed me, and they left.

I told my mom what happened and she believes that I might be the only one who saw them. I don't know. But I certainly believe that Victoria is an angel. I felt a feeling I can't describe in words. This beautiful 5-year-old child didn't know me but cared enough to give me a gift. I was feeling down that day, but suddenly I knew I was going to be okay.


8/18/08

Today my boss called me to the office. My job was supposed to last for five weeks. Friday will mark week four, and the job is over. But along with one other person out of five, my boss chose me to come back Monday. He has a new project for me.

God is good. When you do the right thing for the right reason, people notice. When you seek first the Kingdom of God and all His righteousness, He touches the hearts of the people who notice and everything else falls in place. Praise the Lord!


9/15/08

Several things have happened since the last time I wrote and I was starting to allow the pressure to get to me. I'm not sure when I first started to have those feelings of defeat, but I am clear about when I started to shut myself down and close others out.

I was having a conversation with a woman about the fact that I hadn't been to any NA meetings in a couple of weeks and I attempted to explain my reasons why. Quickly the conversation turned into an argument that left me feeling judged and inadequate and I decided that day that for real I was all alone, and that no one really understood my dilemma.

I would love to say that that was the day I closed myself down and shut people out, but the truth is that when I stopped going to those meetings is when I set myself apart.

I hear people sharing deep intimate things about themselves and I felt so close to revealing me. But so often when I'm with myself I'm unhappy and just don't want to share that. So I do what has worked for years. I put on my "I'm-okay-and-don't-need-anyone-mask," and I use my "intelligence" to conceal my emotions.

The problem with that is when I'm all alone with just me, there's no place to run or hide. But instead of feeling those feelings, I've started to medicate myself with food. And that only adds to my unhappiness. I've gained 10 lbs. and I feel very FATand unattractive.

It's difficult to explain how being out of prison after doing so many years doesn't automatically equal happiness. And because of P.O.I. Psychology of Incarceration I can honestly say that I completely understand that on a cognative level. I was set free from a "state-imposed prison" but on some levels, I'm still waiting to be paroled from my self-imposed prison.

Only God and me can set me free, but a few people who genuinely care can help to ease my burden. I have to let them in though. And that's what I've decided to do.

It was difficult to adjust when I first got out. I was scared and had low confidence. Then some things started to come together. I got a job; started saving money; began to build a solid network. I was on cloud nine.

But life showed up and my job ended. It was coming up on time to leave the Talbert House and I had no place to go. I panicked. And I began to grieve that old dysfunctional, familiar place—prison.

I locked myself up and shut everybody out. But it's not the same here anymore. I've tasted true freedom and that's where I want to be. And being stretched to a new dimension is no reason for me to run.

I'm out of the Talbert House. I'm living in a friend's apartment all by myself. I just applied for what appears to be a promising position. Life feels bearable again. How I deal with adversities is all up to me. I can choose prison or freedom.

 

Read Belinda's first Chronicles.

 

 


Belinda C.

Belinda C.