In Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, memoirist Jeanette Winterson offers us the following words on one particular condition required in the pursuit of sanity: "Mental health and emotional continuity do not require us to stay in the same place, but they do require a sturdy structure on the inside." I know just what she means. As one "unduly" convicted of a felony, I was stripped — literally and figuratively — of my former identity and made to assume a new one, one debased and dehumanized, that of inmate, prisoner, and convict. Most may find this event to be humiliating, traumatizing, and difficult to bear. For me, it was not so, at least not consciously. I owe this to the ease with which I find myself identifying my experience of prison with that of my ancestors who endured being enslaved.
Especially traveling from prison to prison on those urine-smelling buses, cramped next to others whom you've never seen before, shackled at the ankles and cuffed at the wrist attached to belly chains, images of slaves being transported to various plantations are conjured in my mind. At such times, one must have a well-fortified structure, a living foundation, within to maintain the hope of mental health and emotional continuity.
I've survived this ordeal by keeping with me what is familiar to me. I've found it necessary to remain somehow weirdly nomadic, because I have to prepare myself mentally for the everyday fact that I can be transferred to any other prison at any time for any or no reason at all. With this in mind, I find that I can relate Jeanette Winterson's story to my own on many levels.
by Rightjust Soul