The chief of police for the city of Boulder, CO was staring me down in his rearview mirror. I had my hands cuffed behind me. The police cars in Boulder are far more comfortable than the ones in Nashville.
“Have you been smoking marijuana?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Good. They don’t like that stuff in Tennessee. Well, if you happen to get hungry, we have sandwiches and chips at the jail. There is also a TV.”
Being in jail twice within a short span of time in two different states makes for quite an interesting comparison.
I only had to stay a few hours in Nashville, but Boulder definitely has a better jail. It’s all that revenue from marijuana taxes. They are rolling in tax money. Unfortunately, they are also much more involved than Tennessee due to their access to resources.
I was in jail for 36 hours in Boulder. I wore an orange jumpsuit and everything. Have you ever pooped in front of someone? Me either. My body refused. That was the first thing I did when I got to my hotel room.
I have to say that I’m grateful for my mental health and substance abuse training and experience with most populations. Had I not had that experience, I could have easily been afraid.
I had to visit jails often when I was on call. I had to do crisis evaluations. When you go into an ER or jail, they ask if you are feeling suicidal. If you say yes, they are required by law to do an evaluation. I spent many hours doing these evaluations at the jails and ERs in western Kentucky. It always seemed to be in the wee hours of the morning, when everyone’s patience was thin.
It always struck me how so many of the “professionals” viewed all of these people as less than human. I didn’t mind doing the evaluations. I hated interacting with the other “professionals” and their judgments towards the very people they served. Maybe it is because I saw the potential in myself to be in that same scenario that made me view them differently. I had never been in jail before that time, but I probably knew deep down, that I had the CAPACITY to be in jail. You cannot know light until you know darkness.
So coming from this perspective, jail was a deeply fascinating time for me. People were honest and straightforward, knowing that I was one of them. No one tried to feed me answers they thought I wanted to hear. There was no separation of power, but I still held the same knowledge. And you know what, they were incredibly human. Possibly more human than those that held power over them. They were living their pain day in and day out instead of burying it and using it as a means to control others.
Despite their pain or because of their pain, they were so supportive and loving. It wasn’t uncommon to see a woman sobbing at any given moment and for her to immediately be embraced. I saw this a lot in my work as a therapist, but we were forbidden by our code of ethics to hug our clients. I was a child therapist and forbidden to hug a sobbing child who had experienced trauma. Usually severe trauma. Worse trauma than I had ever known. God, I hated that job. The governing rules were pure idiocy.
I always struggled with that aspect of being a therapist. I felt like I was another layer in society’s effort to control its population, and here I am, a huge proponent of free will even if it means destruction. At least destruction is honest and authentic. Once you have destruction, you then have the opportunity to rebuild. And build it better than before. I knew this truth, and my goal was to just always be a steadfast place of unconditional love for those I served.
If only we could all love one another despite our destruction and chaos. It all comes from a place of pain, and the only solution is love. Love without judgment. Love without control. Loving the person within them that is the best possible version of themselves.
The population in Boulder was definitely interesting. Most of them were drug addicts that had passed out in the snow. They needed a warm, dry place to sober up. That’s why they had snacks and TV available. Once sober, they released them. In Nashville, the drug addicts were angry. They were furious people. They would scream and beat on the doors like caged animals. Everyone was forced into an empty room. In Boulder, it’s like they knew they were safe. They weren’t in trouble. They just needed to be cared for in a small moment in time. They had all of their basic needs met.
Try sobering up in a concrete cell with no images, books, or anything while listening to someone in the cell next to you beat their head against the wall and screaming like a dying animal. They would strap him to a chair and he would go to the bathroom on himself, still screaming. The employees would respond with, “what is WRONG??” It was very hard to not say, “If you treat him like an animal then he will behave like an animal.”
I was a little afraid in Nashville that one woman coming off of meth would surely claw my eyes out. I’m pretty sure she would have scaled the walls if she could have. I had the right words to keep her calm until I was moved to my own cell. In that moment, I was very grateful for my skill set.
There is a lot that is wrong with our culture here in America. I don’t know that any culture has it “right.” I do think that the place where humans, in general, have it “wrong,” though, is the desperate need to control. Control is based in fear. Fear only leads to more fear. More control eventually creates a break down and chaos. It is an inevitable cycle that we see in marriages, between parent and child, in schools, in the workplace, everywhere. We all need to step away from that.
My husband had a desperate need to control me driven by the fear that I would leave him. He was afraid because he did not feel worthy of my love. He did not feel worthy of my love because his parents ensured to let him know that love can only be earned, never given freely. He could not possibly communicate this to me, because that would be another sign of his weakness. Unconditional love was a foreign concept to him. I could never love him just for the sake of the fact that I GENUINELY loved him.
And so he tried to earn my love through his salary. He was afraid that it would not be enough, so he had to increase his salary. I couldn’t have access to the money, because then I would know that it wasn’t enough. All of this is irrational. He makes almost quadruple the average HOUSEHOLD income in America and twice the household salary that I grew up with. He is about to go buy an RV so we can have “adventures.” That way my chaos isn’t suppressed, but channeled in a positive way. Most people can’t buy a car without advance planning. If that man is his authentic self, I would easily live with him in just about any capacity, knowing any suffering that we experienced was only temporary. I know, inherently, that we both have the capacity to overcome anything.
My family was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Love came through constant praise. I was almost TOO loved. I was the best at everything and with that came an immense fear of failure. I made them so proud in everything that I did, what if I failed? I was terrified to disappoint them. On top of that chaos ensued when life became too burdensome or disappointing. As a child, I felt like the weight of the world was balanced upon my shoulders. If I did not perform perfectly, my family would crumble to pieces. I felt like all of my parents’ sorrows were channeled into me to do better and be better. Never mind the fact that they could have done that work on themselves and modeled it for their children.
It’s easy to get caught up in and I see it all the time. Stay at home parents that have no relationship with their spouse and are pouring everything into their children. I was one of those parents because my husband was married to work in an effort to please me with something I never asked for. I had a better relationship with him when he made $32,000 a year. At least he wasn’t so stressed out and we had enough income for all of our needs to be met. While he was working very hard on being the perfect employee, I was working hard on being the perfect parent. The stabilizing aspect of all of this, our marriage, often came as an afterthought. It needed to be an additional priority that we balanced along with parenting and career.
I see these patterns in everyone, in some variation of the above. Some cases are more extreme and some are less, but the reality is that if you live in this culture then you have experienced this to some degree. There is no escaping it. It exists on the largest scale possible, through our laws and government. Then all the countries bicker back and forth over who has more power and control. All of this power and control filters down to the people and eventually lands on the most vulnerable of our population: our children. If only we treated them with unconditional love. What kind of society would they create? Surely a better one than we currently choose to exist in.
I just wish I could tell everyone to take a deep breath. Step into your destruction. Live it. Walk through it. Come out on the other side of it. As long as you can see the light, darkness can never swallow you whole, and the light is then the most beautiful thing you have ever laid your eyes on. It is only temporary and your personal power is waiting on the other side.