As I look back on my life before prison, I see how stressed, worried and rushed I was. Of course prison has its own set of stresses, worries and chances to play the hurry up and wait game. But thinking back those certain points in my life where I was angry, hopeless and stressed, all those situations and emotions no longer exist. Of course there will always be tragedies and situations which will cause longer emotional periods of fear, stress and anger, but they will eventually fade away like the sun does everyday here in the horizon.
What I would like to tell you about is a method I started to practice when these type of unpleasant emotions and feelings arise from sources of suffering. As many of you know I have been in prison almost 2 years. Here in prison they conduct quarterly shake downs as I have told you about in previous stories. The officers search through all our personal belongings, rip our bunks apart, and even take items from our cells. Our personal items are the only way we feel like an individual in prison. Our clothes, pictures, cards, books, CDs and letters are unique to each and every one of us. These are little pieces of the outside world that many of us hold on to, until we rejoin that world again. So, one can only imagine that we get upset when these things have been searched, thrown, ripped apart and possibly taken from us.
The last “shake” a few months ago the officers took a brand new long sleeve shirt, a set of my favorite sheets, a few other items such has hair ties and barrettes, and the boxes that helped to organize my drawers. At first I was so angry and frustrated, especially about the eleven dollar shirt that I had purchased and not yet worn! The only reason the shirt was taken was because I had failed to write my ADC# number on it. Reminder: we do not have sharpie markers in here! It’s a little difficult to write your number permanently on your clothes with a pencil or ink pen.
I started to get angrier by the minute about the whole ordeal, but I was also mad at myself for letting something affect my mood this intensely. I started thinking about the past times officers had taken my personal things and how it was affecting me today at that very moment - or if I even missed what they had taken in the past. My answer was that I didn’t.
The items they have taken and the items they will continue to confiscate will not have an impact on my life. Seriously, there I was getting so angry at a shirt, that I had not even worn, nor was I going to anytime soon. (Long sleeves in an Arizona summer are not too popular.) Soon after, I started to laugh about the entire situation and then I started thinking about how all situations would affect me in a minute, a week, a month, a year. I decided from that moment forward, when there is a situation that brings about uncomfortable emotions I will ask myself:
How will I feel about this in a week?
Will it really even bother me or affect my life?
How will I feel in a month? A year?
Will I even remember the situation a year from now? Probably not.
By realizing that these situations that make us feel hopeless, unfixable, upsetting and even unlivable, don’t really affect us in our future - we can learn to start dropping these emotions - sooner than later. Why can’t we always live in an emotional state free from anger, worry, stress and helplessness? It’s hard, I know, I still catch myself getting upset, but then I apply my one week, one month, one year rule. And I feel a whole lot better!
The next time you lose something, or maybe you are running late work or a dinner date, get a flat tire, lose your job or even go through a break up… I challenge you to use my 1, 1, 1, rule.