Last week I woke Daniela up like I always do. I fed her breakfast, packed her lunch, and got her in the car like I always do. We drove to Starbucks like we always do on Fridays and later I kissed her goodbye like I always do. Then I merged onto I75 for the drive to jail. Which, folks, I never do. Never, ever, ever. Hi, my name is Christi and last week I visited my childhood best friend in jail. It was all shades of awful and, at the same time, pretty spectacular. As my blogger friend Glennon says, it was brutiful. In much the same way as the middle school crushes were doodled all over my trapper-keeper, Brutal + Beautiful = Brutiful.
There’s no getting around it, visiting someone you love in jail is rough stuff. Even when you saw it coming. And let’s just get this straight right now — it’s a totally different emotion than having the knowledge that they’re locked up. I knew she was incarcerated for almost a year before I was finally able to see her. The knowledge was one thing, but driving up to that behemoth of a structure that swallows lives whole, knowing full well your person is inside, was another beast entirely. I was so nervous that it took me three trips between the car and the visitors check-in lady just to have the right items with me. (P.S. “Only Keys Allowed” actually means “Bring Your ID Too” Silly me). And incase you aren’t feeling self conscious enough as it is, they make you sit in a room full of people and
talk yell to a TV screen. I didn’t even get the plate glass window treatment. I WASN’T EVEN IN THE SAME BUILDING! Best part, though, they specifically mandate that you can’t bring escape plans into the visitors center. Like for real, we were totally going to break her out, but goshdarnit they said no escape plans. Fooey. Guess she’s gotta stay in.
Once I finished watching all the advertisements for DUI attorneys and bail bondsmen, my computer screen was finally connected to hers and we could begin our one hour visit — which is conveniently counted down by blinking numbers on the screen, second by godforsaken second. As expected, there were tears and apologies, and lots of the brutal we talked about earlier. Hard questions with even harder answers. Tons of decision questioning. But there was beautiful too. Conversation not marred by drugs, lots of laughter. REAL LAUGHTER. The kind I haven’t heard since 7th or 8th grade.
There were memories and stories, hijinks long ago forgotten. For a few minutes, we both kind of forgot where we were and why. It was no longer inmate and visitor, it was friends lounging on childhood beds. It was beautiful.
Life is made up of the brutiful. Some lives seem to have more of one than the other, but there are handfuls of both in each life given. My friend went to jail as a result of her life decisions. It’s as black and white as that ; but then again, nothing in life is truly black and white. Even death has it’s hidden stages. She and I grew up together, attended church together, and went to school together. Hell, we even moved to Florida the same year. I’ve asked myself a thousand times why I got the life we dreamed of all those years ago, while she got a 14 month sentence. I’ve come up with two big differences in our lives. The first, she could do nothing about: her parents divorced when she was very young and some of the things she saw leading up to that divorce shaped how she learned to handle conflict and stress. Piggybacking on that, was an early introduction to drugs – which led to abuse. Abuse is the scary stuff. I say abuse, (and not just use), because I saw a lot of drug use that never turned into anything. But the line between use and abuse is all foggy, and subjectively dependent on the user/circumstances/characteristics/etc. Any drug use is dangerous and I thank whatever control freak that lives inside me that kept me from desiring drugs. My friend, well, she wasn’t so lucky. Her shaky foundation found solace in drugs, which in turn found comfort in unhealthy relationships, which swirled ’round and ’round, creating her own perfect storm.
The decisions we make have an unfathomable ripple effect in our lives. Thankfully, she is now clear headed and sees the damage she both caused and received. She’s working her way through the hard stuff. Her family has been an unstoppable force of Light and love and support while she reconstructs her lifestory. She has a tribe of people loving on her, believing in her, and watching over her. Her odds of coming though this and staying through it are good.
As I merged back on to I75 to head home, I couldn’t help but think about all the seemingly small things I do that make up a well-lived life. I wake up Daniela, I feed her breakfast, I pack her lunch. I drive her to school and kiss her goodbye. I engage with the world around me, and in doing so, I have the opportunity to pour Light into someone else’s life. You have the opportunity to pour Light into someone else’s life. To be the beautiful instead of the brutal. It’s a decision. Which one are you making?