True transparency is to speak openly and honesty about things other ppl wudnt know about u unless u told them, especially those things not painting u in the best of lights.
I remember back a time or two ago when I was confronted by a friend of mine about a promise I’d made, but was was not fulfilling. As I sit here now, wondering, assessing, asking whether or not I’m living up to that promise today, transparently, I’d have say no.
Raising myself up in an environment where showing weakness or venerability is perceived as feminine and therefore gay, there is a unconscious conditioning to hide it. To only talk about my victories and not so much my losses and failures.
Its not easy to admit failure or weakness in front of the ppl u want to respect and like u. But it is that transparency which will eventually support ppls trust and respect in u.
If I tell the truth when it exposes my failure and weakness, is that not proof I tell the truth when I say I love u?
There are no perfect human beings on the planet, even tho at times things in our lives work out perfectly. We all fall short more than a time or two of the goal line, finish line, or the fine line we’ve drawn out for ourselves. We need failure, whether we understand why or how. Failure is what helps us define what success is, and with out it, we wudnt know what success looked like. We ought to be thankful for our failures, appreciative of the motivation to go for more then what we have, to be more then what we are.
And of course we remember the pain we felt when our knee cracked the handle bar of our bike when the chain slipped off the bike pedal, more then we do the pleasure brought by trips our bike gang took to far away neighborhoods. Sum times coming back with a bike that didn’t belong to us, but hey, that’s what bike gangs do, right?
Its much more easier to remember the pain then it is the pleasure. Remembering what caused us pain helps protect us from getting hurt like that again, even tho sum times it still does. Pain memory is wired into our self preservation, its how we survive. Jus as its manufactured into the construction of our hearts. When our hearts get hurt or broke, in those most sensitive places, our mos vulnerable creases that only a special sum one can gain access to, our hearts will mend themselves. With time, with space between, and with whatever tricks of the trade we learn along the way to help us make it thru. Our hearts becomes stronger at the part where it got broke, not weaker. Therefore, in failure, there is strength, there is opportunity. In strength and opportunity, there is a better me, a better u, a better us.
If what they say is true about the first step to recovery being to “admit”, then Hi, my name is Jason, I am a recovering failure.
Bringing this story to why I started writing it in the first place, a cat named Scottie Cole and how he helped me come to terms with not living up to a promise I’d made. A promise he heard me speak in my performance of “Melissa” on my first TEDx stage in 2014.
At that particular time, all TED events held in here were filmed and re-aired on the TED web page as with every other TED, held ne where else in the world. Back then, Marion Corr. Inst. had a film crew of prisoners, formerly known as the Prison News Network (PNN), who handled all the camera and editing work. Scottie was one of the camera men PNN had working behind the camera when I was on stage.
He was a well liked and respected 5 foot 6, slightly over weight, but carrying it well, early 40’s, shaven bald white dude with a humourous personality. Mostly known for his high level of integrity and honest way of living.
Scottie wud always invite me to attend his weekly Bible Study that he’d been leading for a number of yrs. I mean, I’d sum times go, cos we were friends and I knew his inviting me was his way of showing he cared about me. Honestly, I enjoyed his oration. But in general, I’ve grown sceptical of a man who finds God in prison, yet, with Scottie, my gut told me it was a genuine conversion. I watched him live it out, not jus talk about it and I admired him for that.
Scottie cud understand the burdens I carried dealing with my crime, my disappointments of it all, the feelings of regret and sadness I cudnt escape from at ruining my life so early on. U see, Scottie felt the same way about his own case. We were like a two man support group.
One day, visiting Scottie down at his job cite, he and I got into a discussion while he worked on editing film for PNN, unexpectedly, the conversation turned confrontational. Brotherly, but confrontational. If memory serves me correctly, meaning I went to ask my cat Daniel Royston a.k.a Rooster, I had jus been released from the isolation unit (the hole) for violating the prison’s rule of having an “unauthorized contraband”, by which I mean weed.
Scottie, being one of the few positive influences in my life at the time, asked “what the hell were u thinking, getting involved with drugs?”
I responded to his question with sum jumbled mouthful of intellectually spinned bullshit on why smoking weed to deal, and dealing weed to make ends meet, was well within my rights to do as a Lifer. What else did I have in the cards for me other then self medication and hustling to supplement the meager $18.00 paid to me a month by the State.
Square in the eye he looked at me with a stare made for the disapproving, and stunned me by quoting a line from the Melissa poem…
” ‘I’ll live my life in proof she didn’t die in vien’, what happen to that Jason?”
In recollection, I can’t remember which feeling came first or which was more pronounced. Impressed he cud quote from memory a line of my poetry, or the intimate and personal conviction I felt at him calling me out on not living up to the promise I made Melissa. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever been stopped in my tracks the way I was in that moment when I fully realized how far I missed the mark on the meaning of that promise.
After the sorry I went up there up on that stage to publicly say, I drifted off into a small town known as Forgetsville, where no one asked where u came from, what u’ve done or where ur headed. And the carnival like side shows of such a town, made it easy to push the memory and meaning of my promise so far out onto the fringes of my awareness, it was easy to submerge myself into the distractive world of chasing dollars, highs, excitements and what ever else separated me from the reality of how ugly my present life actually was. And the future I had the dismay of looking forward to, never minding the consequence.
It may not have looked like it from a distance, cos, u know, I was really good at hiding it, but I had and still have a difficult time dealing with the frustrations of not being able to go back in time and stop my younger self from committing that crime. Knowing who I am right now, wud never in a million yrs go and do sum thing like that, nothing even close. I mean, I don’t even watch MMA fights, or boxing cos I don’t like the feeling I get when I see sum one get hurt bad.
What I was running from, hiding from or covering up with those highs and distractive practices, turned out not to be pain, but rather the painful. Pain I can deal with, take medication for or fight thru. But the painful, well, that’s a different story. Its not eased by medication no matter how much weed I smoke, and it can’t be fought thru cos it doesn’t give up, only is lived with or died from.
Scottie’s question convicted me in a way the Courts cud never do, and now, I am the one asking the question….
Am I living up to that promise?
If I’m being honest, I’d still have say no, I am not. I still struggling with addiction, I’m a little too quick to be offended, I lack patience, hurtful with my words at times, I complain, I’m ungrateful, I feel like I cud be doing much more, much better. My friends and loved ones come to my defense and speak up for the good they see and feel I’m doing. My good heart and high intelligence, my writings and performances, my mentoring the kids in here, the way I’ve maintained my sense of humanity dispite spending over a quarter century in prison. They remind me how no one is as hard on me as I am on myself, and sum times, I gotta give myself a break.
In the end, living this life for two instead of one demands I have check in moments, where I continuously ask the question Scottie confronted me with sum yrs back, the same question I confront my own self with in this writing….
Am I living up to my promise?
Maybe one day. Wondering off into the future me, I imagine if there will ever be a time when my answer to that question is “yes”, and I don’t think so. I almost don’t want it to be either, cos then, it wud be letting me off a hook I don’t feel I deserve to be let off of. There’s only one person who can let me off that hook.
So for now, sitting here at this four seated table in a day room of a cell block in a prison acting as a garden which sprouts plant life in the form of a written story, I asked Rooster, ” is Scottie Cole still here?”
He turns and says to me, “Man, Scottie went home on Judicial Release at the end of last yr, matter of fact, he was home for Xmas!”
I’m was like, “What? You gotta be kidding me. Here I am writing this story involving him, wondering why I haven’t seen him around for awhile, and he’s at the house?”
As I sat there, happy for Scottie, feeling like he deserved his chance and knowing he’ll make the best of it, I thought, Scottie served 20 on a flat 27 yr sentence and went home early…perhaps God does work in mysterious ways.
Categories: Jason Thompson