A constant feminine presence is necessary to restore the natural balance and order of this environment. I've lived in an exclusively male environment for 13 years now and the imbalance is impossible to ignore. There are a few women that work within these confines but our interaction with them is, for the most part, distant and impersonal. Many of the men I know well have become increasingly uncomfortable in their relationships with women the longer they've remained in this environment. For eight years, I had almost no physical contact with any woman. Then, when my girlfriend began visiting me on a consistent basis, it quickly became apparent that I had developed some serious issues due to the prolonged physical separation I'd endured. I'd like to think that I was fairly suave before I came to prison so this discomfort was quite disconcerting. Thankfully, she was patient with me and over time there was a return to normalcy so to speak...as normal as can be considering our situation. The simple act of holding her hand and looking into her eyes throughout an entire conversation allowed me to develop a more deep and intimate connection with her than any I'd ever known before. But the down side to that was/is that when she's not here that perfect balance I found is gone...and I'm constantly reminded that she is what's missing.
"How is this person contributing to the quality of your life?"
I've had to ask myself this question quite often lately and I have come to wonder why I wasn't asking it more often previously. I spent many years in a bad place with bad men who did bad things and I have to remind myself that this place is much different. These are, for the most part, generally good men who simply made some bad choices. Big difference between here and the penitentiary. However, even good guys need to consistently make good choices or I don't want to be around them. All of the relationships that I've chosen to invest myself in are mutually beneficial, even if they don't always appear that way at first glance. I believe that every "healthy" relationship requires an exchange of thoughts and emotions. That exchange doesn't have to be equal per se but both individuals need to contribute and take away something of value to them personally. I feel like we should all aspire to inspire, motivate, and support one another toward the accomplishment of our goals, and in doing so we will, inevitably, positively affect the quality of our lives. Our relationships need that fluid and steady exchange in order to be healthy and successful in the long term.
"What is motivating you?"
My greatest motivation comes from knowing that there are people who not only believe in me but who have invested their time, money, energy into my future success...and I don't ever want to let them down. I feel a great sense of responsibility toward all of those supporters and thus I feel compelled to exert my maximum effort toward accomplishing any goal that I set for myself. If it was only about me I might ease up at times and not give my max effort because my actions wouldn't affect anyone but me. However, it's that sense of responsibility to others that keeps me highly motivated each and every day.
"What comes first?"
There is always a thought process that precedes any action and that's where it all really begins. For a period during my youth this process seemed almost non-existent. After years of bullying I had become conditioned to respond aggressively, almost reflexively, at the first sign of confrontation. Understandably, this behavior led to many problems for both me and my family. It was an incredibly difficult task to learn how to slow down that thought process, but once I did my life began to improve dramatically. Obviously, the lengthening of that thought process didn't automatically improve the QUALITY of my thoughts because I still ended up in prison. The point is that once I began paying more attention to that initial thought process the more effective my subsequent actions seemed to become. Nowadays, I always try to envision myself five or six steps ahead of every move I actually make and that practice has serves me well and keeps me safe.
"What else is left to do to have this be complete?"
Right now I'm preparing to co-facilitate a revised Victim Impact Course and I'm not even sure what more needs to be done before it feels like it's "complete". I know that adequate preparation is absolutely essential if I hope to deliver an engaging presentation that captures the attention of every participant so I'm a little nervous right now. We are planning to have a group of 80 total participants and that will be, by far, the largest group that I have ever worked with in this type of setting. Admittedly, I'm not very comfortable standing in front of a large crowd but I always look forward to these sorts of opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone and conquer my insecurities. The fitness courses that I also teach give me an opportunity to work with about 40 men on a consistent basis, but that's a very different setting which falls much more within my comfort zone. So to answer the question about what else needs to be done for this to be complete I'd have to say that I need to master all of the material and then simply step out there in front of the group and initiate the dialogue. I'm confident that as long as I am well prepared I can facilitate a meaningful and productive exchange of ideas amongst all the participants, and that's the goal.
"If money was no concern and you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?"
First, I would address all of my own personal health and wellness issues. Laser surgery for my eyes so that I didn't have to worry about glasses. Veneers for my teeth so that I could smile more brightly and confidently. Surgical repair of my knee so that I could move more agilely without concern. A personal chef to ensure the availability of healthy meals for myself and my family. And once those issues were addressed I could turn ALL of my attention toward helping others. The most effective way to do that would be to form my own "action group" of leaders. Each of them be responsible for the coordination/completion of certain projects that I would devise. Over the course of the past few years I've had a number of projects where I was unable to recruit the right people to help me fully develop those ideas. An unlimited supply of time and money would make it much easier to get people to work with me, or for me, because I would have all the necessary resources to facilitate the projects myself. Money may not be everything, but it definitely makes certain things much more easily attainable. Choosing to pay people to help me devise ways to help other people seems like a wise investment strategy to me.
"What do you have invested in continuing to do it this way?"
All of us have an inherent aversion to change. We are creatures of habit and it is therefore incredibly difficult for us to break our habits even when we know that they are harmful to our health and well being. Change becomes even more difficult to accept when it occurs at a time of stability, when everything seems to be running smoothly in our lives. The oft repeated question of "why fix something that is not broken?" immediately comes to mind in our defense against change. However, it is the nature of our spirit to continually evolve throughout the duration of our lives, despite the frequent protests of our minds. Once we learn to accept and understand this force of nature/spirit we can then allow ourselves to flow like water overtop and around any obstacles that lie in our path....and we can flow along the current of life with great strength, persistence and flexibility.
"How am I best suited to serve humanity?"
That's a rather bold question because it implies that I have something of benefit to offer everyone else on the planet. I guess that I would have to say that the way I've chosen to live my life in the face of seemingly great adversity is a testament to the power of hope and optimism. I'm well aware that people often use me and the situation that I am in as a sort of guidepost for their own struggles - they've told me as much on numerous occasions. They look at my response to the situation that I am in and tell themselves (and me) that if I can thrive under these conditions then so too should they be able to make the best of whatever situation they find themselves in. And I'm good with that scenario since they are using me as a positive example to improve their own lives. Actually, that knowledge inspires me to accomplish even more because I know that I'm contributing to a positive cycle which will one day result in my own "happy ending"...so it's really a "win/win situation" for us all.