We had no idea when our Pay It Forward class convened in January 2020 what would befall our world. We were only able to have two in-person classes before the Lane Murray Unit went into Co-Vid induced lockdown. While I know the year isn’t over, I want to take a minute to share what’s been going on behind the fence with our class. Remember, these women are but a small microcosm of what is going on in jails and prisons around the world.
As soon as we knew we couldn’t do in-person classes, we pivoted to monthly correspondence which included news, homework, creativity. Below are news snippets from letters. Followed by apology haiku poems and answers to homework questions. Thank you for reading and keeping these beautiful women in your hearts.
News from letters:
“We wake up early to have our temperature taken. Then we receive our breakfast johnnies. Then we lay down and read or sleep. All we can do is wait for this to be over.” April 14
“I pray we’ll be able to contact our families soon. They haven’t heard from us and I’m sure they are worried.” April 15
“We haven’t had a real meal since April 6. I’ve gained more weight on all the bread alone.” April 20
“Lunch/dinner on a good day: Hamburger/Chicken Patty/Fish Patty. If cheese is included it’s really good. Lunch/Dinner on a bad day: Corn dog/Bologna/Salami/Beef roll/Burrito…only made marginally better if cheese is included.” April 22
“Being right on top of each other makes for straining situations.” April 22
“They give us masks. But no cleaning supplies. Only when someone gets sick do they come in and spray with bleach. It’s virus pandemic mayhem.” April 22
“As of April 19, I was removed from the dorm because of a high temperature. I had to do a nose swab. Ouch. That shit brought tears to my eyes.” April 26
“I’ve been in isolation since April 21. I am not feeling well. I can’t contact my children because the phones are off limits. Please don’t let me die in here.” April 30
“All of us are wearing masks. Even to the bathroom. Only time we don’t have to wear them is in our cubicles.” May 7
“No one is going to school. No priests for Wednesday mass. No transport for medical to Galveston. I was supposed to have my last treatment for liver cancer this month but that’s not happening.” May 7
“I tested positive for Co-Vid 19. Please pray for me.” May 10
“I’m so sad to write to say the J was diagnosed with stage four bone cancer in April and was sent home. She was able to see her nine-year-old son for a few weeks before she died in May. She was only twenty-nine years old. We’re shocked.” May 20
“OMG. They are putting in AC. It’s about time. I can’t wait.” June 18
“I had a slight headache and lost my sense of taste and smell but I did not get sick.” June 30
“Lots of construction going on. Able bodied offenders are moving upstairs. Disabled offenders live downstairs. We’re moving around a lot and it’s raining men! Hallelujah. We can’t talk to them but the testosterone on the unit makes the virus situation tolerable.” June 30
Bunky. Rude. Yelling.
Says shut the F—K up
Tears. Sorry. Alone.
I beg for pardon.
Remorse. Hung by guilt
Feelings murderer. Okay, onward.
A place blind to love
Where kindness is abnormal
We are all one blood
Who’s following me?
Oh, that is my own buttocks!
Fast. Cleanse. Work it off.
Dang. What? Why? Where?
Cloudy mind. Forgot
Why I was in my lockbox.
On Radical Self-Acceptance:
“I have a self who likes to think ugly things when people make me angry. I can usually feel better if I am left alone to think or meditate.”
“I have a self-conscious self when people look at me as if I’m from another planet. If I remind myself that their opinions do not matter, I can usually find my peaceful self.”
“I do not like to accept things that I think are not right or just but when I can find my compassionate self and remember we all are not perfect, then I can usually find my way to making them a cup of coffee.”
“I have a needy self when I haven’t heard from home. When I remind her that she is not alone and has value, I can find my way to happy.”
“I have a paranoid self who trusts no one. Sometimes I have a generous self who loves to give secretly, without recognition.”
“I have an angry self who doesn’t know why things are happening to me. If I can find my way to understanding, I can help calm my angry self.”
“I have a mean self that shows up when I don’t agree with how people do things. If I can find a way to laugh, I get an attitude adjustment.”
As always, the women close their letters praying for our good health and safety.
They are: Amazing grace.