While attending a REC (Residents Encounter Christ) weekend, I heard a great definition for the word love. According to Joe, a very gifted speaker at this event, love is about making a commitment. It is not at all about liking someone, liking someone is about personalities.
This gave me a lot to think about. Certainly I have learned about the word commitment. The paperwork that allows the state to keep me in this undisclosed secure location is called "JUDGEMENT AND COMMITTAL." I am committed by the state to spend between five and fifteen years behind razor wire fences. No exceptions, no alternatives, no ifs, ands, or buts. Neither party can wake up one morning and say "Okay, enough of this commitment thing, let us go our separate ways. Not going to happen.
Even if I am lucky enough to make parole this November, I will still have up to ten years of rules and regulations that will govern my life until I have fulfilled my commitment to the State of New York.
So loving someone means being committed to them. It means you will be there for this person, no matter what. Even when you are pissed off, hung over, tired, hungry, mad at the person, or just want to care only about yourself. Nope, when you love someone you are there for them any time, any place, any anything„ That is what I have been doing for the last twelve plus years.
What have I been doing for the last twelve years? I have been committed. No, I am certainly not in love with prison. But for the purpose of understanding what it means to be committed, I got it? And while I had a lot to do with what put me in here, it was certainly not in my life plans to become committed to prison.
Being committed to prison has certainly hammered into the gray matter exactly what it means to be committed. Now I have been told that to love someone, you are going to have to be committed to them. Sometimes it takes me a little longer to get the message.
While I have had some good days and some good things happen to me while in prison, it is not an experience I wish on any other human being. In prison you often get to see how low human beings can go, and the level of hurt, physical and emotional, one can cause to another. (Some specific examples may be written about in other places in this blog, more examples will just have to wait till I am out of the system.)
Amidst all the bad times there have been some incredible bright spots„ People and events that I would never have met and experienced had I not had this "commitment.” True, there are other events and people that I have not shared an experience with because I have been in prison. That is life. You can only be in one place at one time.
If you are in love with someone, you are going to be there for that person no matter what, no matter where, no matter when. Not because at this time you would like to be there. Not because you have nothing better to d. You are there because you love that person.
The great revelation to me is that once you understand (and accept.) what a commitment is, and you say, "I love you" to a fellow human being your life becomes easier. No longer will you feel the challenges of what to do. No, first and foremost you answer the needs of your loved one.
Okay, you happen to love your spouse, and one result of the physical ramifications of that love produces a couple of charming offspring whom you also love dearly. Now what happens if this wonderful trio in your life all need you to be at a different place at 8:00 PM on Wednesday? That is logistics, and with love it can be worked out to meet the needs of all. The fact that the NCAA Final Four is playing in your town, and your alma mater is one of the teams that is not one of the FOUR places you need to be that night. You still only need to be THREE places. Unless of course one of your loved ones happens to be on the team in the Final Four. Now that would be very cool.
We interrupt the continuation of yesterday's letter
to bring your this late breaking news.
As I was enjoying s lazy morning tucked in tight, the officer taps on my bunk to tell me they have a project for me. I put on my trusty mess hall whites for the first time in about two months and head over not knowing if it was only to fix a data problem or something new.
It turned out to be something new he wanted. He was going to have me work on his computer, which is in the front area of the kitchen as opposed to working in the back office. I mentioned that I needed to get my working directory off the back system since he only had the compiled software on his machine. As he escorts me to the back office, my nemesis, fellow inmate, Darnell Biggins, is hard at work on the computer, playing solitaire. This is around 8:30 AM. Yeah he is so busy on the computer.
Anyhow, I spent the next three hours or so trying to get back into my programming. I need to put a preprinted form on an existing report. After digging around through the help files I ended up using two sub reports, inside another main report to get the end result I needed. Now I needed a way to pass the parameters for the original report, now a sub report.
This was not working out. I had done something similar once before and finally remembered that the solution involved creating a specific query file each time as opposed to just passing a variable that contains the 'where' clause. Tomorrow I get to go in to work right after breakfast to complete this task.
I assume you have been receiving the INC magazine I ordered for you at Christmas time. I just received the June issue. You need to please look at the article on page 114. When you're coding. I was reading this around 11:30 PM last night and when I got to the paragraph where he describes how being interrupted while writing codes is like letting all the balls fall as you juggle the variables and how when interrupted it takes ten minutes to get back tip to speed.
Can you please explain how he makes his money? My limited understanding of open source tells me that any application written in an open source environment is available at the code level to all. Do you still buy the application? Where is the money coming from? Imagine what if a similar enterprise could be grown for medical records?
Can you shed some light on this?
As it is now it looks like I will out of the dorm most all of tomorrow, and so I wanted to type this short note tonight. I will certainly return to your letter on Thursday while celebrating my 53rd birthday.
How the package thing works.
I am entitled to receive two food packages a month, not to exceed 35 pounds in total. Books, cosmetics and clothing are not subject to any limits. At this point the only food package I have received in the last two years is the one that you kindly reshipped (and added to). So at this point you sending me a food package would not be a problem.
As you know I manage to feed myself off the food that is available from the commissary. While the items are supposed to be priced at a wholesale level, but the current supplier has jacked up a lot of the prices. The deal is they do put the contract out for bids, but the winning bid only has to hold the prices for thirty days. Then he can raise them to allegedly reflect his increase in cost. For example we are now paying $1.60 for a 16 ounce can of mackerel and one of the catalog companies (Bust a Move) sells it for the some price.
Why is any of this relevant to you? Well I used to be able to buy enough food to feed my self for two weeks, and even purchase extras like a daily dose of chocolate. Lately, and last week in particular I has just enough available spending limit to buy what I consider my basic three meal a day requirement. We are limited to spending $55 per biweekly shopping trip. This limit used to include tobacco products but they have since removed them from that limit. That was a boost for those that smoke, but since I do not smoke, it did not change my limit.
Wah, wah, wah. Okay so now the package option becomes a source for items that are not sold in the store or for buying treats that I can not fit in my $55. On the one hand the $55 limit is a forced saving mechanism. Since I receive $15 a week from my job, plus the $100 a month from my mom, I can not spend more than $110 every four weeks. The limit does not include postage stamps.
There is one inmate who gets a package every few weeks from a store, which is paid for by his family. Included in the packages were four ounce bags of beef jerky. The first time he sold me two packs of the jerky for one box of Kool cigarettes. The Kools cost me $4.50, so I certainly get the better of that deal.
The point is I really do not physically need any more food. I have gained a few pounds, and that means I am not starving. But emotionally sometimes the diet of oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly, and tuna fish just becomes too much. Ironically most of the time the "pressure" for something different passes. If I were on the street I would jump out to the local pizza parlor or maybe the grocery store and buy something special.
I used to have Mom and Dad send me some items every few months just for the sake of variety. I recently received a catalog from a company called J&E Warehouse. They have a 5 -- 6 pound block of mozzarella cheese for $20.00. Now that is what I am looking for to go with the can of anchovies you sent. They used to sell an 8 ounce package of shredded mozzarella, but now it is that artificial all oil, non milk product that does not melt at all like the real thing. So the point is that once in a while some variety is nice.
Of course the irony is that for the first eight and a half years between my time in the various county jails and Club Fed, I was not able to have any packages sent in and I survived. This is one of those no right answer life questions.
One of the guys near me, who is going home in a couple of months, just got a humongous food package with real chickens, real sliced American cheese and all sorts of goodies. What is the right thing? I guess it depends on who your friends are.
Now I do not mean that to reflect at all on you as my friend. I am not expecting you to send me anything. I am grateful for all your support and true friendship. The point I was thinking of is what I just was sharing with Ray Carlton, you have to be willing to acknowledge that different people will offer their help in different ways. So if you were to send me some jerky it would be a great gift, give me a taste of something I read about in the Times and we have been kicking around for how many letters. Does any of this make sense?
I just spent the last hour talking with Ray. His wife came to visit him yesterday with her mother. It turns out his wife has a bunch of different cancers flowing in her that make treatment options next to impossible. She has been given xx amount of time to live. Her mom tells Ray that she is going out to the car now, he has the next three hours with her daughter and then he is done. Mind you this is not how his wife feels.
And if that was not enough, his mom is suffering from cancer too and was in the hospital for the last month with a collapsed lung. His family kept making excuses for her when he called saying she was out at this or the other place when he called. On top of that one of his brothers has MS and he is only around 18 and his medical provider has said he has only a year or two left. Yeah sometimes life just keeps coming at you.
Meanwhile my neighbor Tyrell wants to stomp on Ray because Ray apparently claimed some fish filets he was supposed to bring back from the mess hall were taken by the officers, when in fact they were diverted by Ray to an alternative inmate. Life is fun here at Camp Run-a-Muk.
It is now almost 2:00. I am going to jump in the shower and get ready for my 3:30 ART (Aggression Replacement Training) class. This is finally the last week. Only four more classes. Yeah. Depending on what I "feel" like when I return at 5:30, this might be the last page of the letter, or page three of a longer letter.
I wrote that I wanted to get back to writing
and this morning as I pulled out my monster Webster's Dictionary your latest letter popped out. It is now 11:15 AM and I have had my morning breakfast; oatmeal, and one toasted English muffin, and instead of lying down and disappearing in to a book I am going to respond to your letter.
I quickly reread the letter I typed to you yesterday before sending it out and was pissed off at the spelling errors. This typewriter has a great spellchecker and it beeps at wrong words.
Unlike the SmithCorona, there is a different beep for the end of line and spelling errors therefore there is no reason for misspellings. The spellchecker even has an option to look up possible corrections.
Since it is fairly comprehensive I have taken to looking in the thesaurus or the dictionary if it beeps at me and cannot find a suggestion. So misspellings are just the result of plain laziness and inattentiveness (even that word is in the spellchecker, however spellchecker is not). Hold on; let me look that one up in the big Webster’s. Stand by. Okay it is listed as two words
Let us skip the name calling, and see if we can figure out what it means to be friends. I am always lifted up when I read any of your older letters, and just a few weeks ago I was sharing some of the jokes from one of your letters and had him laughing.
Abby has been sending me cards and or letters at the rate of two or three a week, but then it will taper off for a week or two. I can trace the lull to a gap in me sending out letters a couple weeks back.
This raises two thoughts. One: do not feel you have to answer an entire letter from me. Hopefully there will be one or maybe two thoughts that rise above the rest of the minutia that is my existence that are worthy of a response from you. Then what might happen is that we will develop some continuity.
That is what I think worked in the past. Yes I tended to try and comment on each paragraph in your letters, but with Abby, what ends up happening is that the issues that are more relevant to both of us rise to the top and get the most ink.
You and I have some things in common, some things that one of us likes to know about the other, and some things that are not as important, and in an effort to budget the time we have to write might not merit the full head on attack of more than a sentence or two. Not that these lesser issues are unnecessary, they do provide context and sometimes come back to the forefront later on. For example I do enjoy hearing about your cycling adventures, and feel like an insider when that subject turns up in the paper. I can then read something that I would normally pass over.
Damn, this is exactly what I mean. Your opening paragraph is only three lines and I take off and give it a half a page.
One last point, I would say that volume wise I put more words on paper than Abby, but that again is part of the budget thing. I do have somewhat more "free" time, but it is also a function of who I am. I tend to "need" to explain things to the nth degree.
One way I may be able to work on that is based on your shorter letters, reading them carefully for context and learn what things I write that either have no impact on you, or things I just put down way too many words.