Getting Happy... when you wish you were dead

There isn't anything particularly redeeming about being in jail. Actually, it's like just about everything else in life: You get value out of it when you make the effort to get value out of it.

It would be great to tell you that I used every minute for introspection, self-assessment, and personal development. Nice, but not even close to true.

Out of the twelve days in jail, I probably spent two thirds of it being angry. Sometimes I was angry at Maria, other times at myself, and frequently at a system that treats "refrain" as meaning "prohibited." But I did make one or two steps forward.

Being in jail is remarkably similar to being on exercise in the military, with the difference being that you have significantly less freedom (but more space) in the military. There are very few minutes during a military exercise when you are left idle to do as you please. That’s pretty much the status quo in jail; do as you please.

A jail cell is only so big, and it feels smaller when you're sharing it with three or four other men. A foxhole, sentry post, or observation post is significantly smaller than any cell, and movement can be dangerous in a post. The toilet has no privacy, but at least it flushes and has toilet paper. Nix on both those conveniences in the field.

The strange thing is that the time weighed far more heavily in jail than it ever did in the military. There was always a purpose in the military. In jail, your only purpose is to serve time. Eventually, you realise it's in your best interest to invent a purpose.

You can play cards and read books. It doesn't take long to get tired of crazy eights and gin, so I relied on books. The one I relied on most was the bible. There's a lot of wisdom packed into the sixty-six books that make up the bible.

The book of Job got read several times. So did Psalms and Proverbs. Job has always struck me as odd because it comes awful close to portraying God as a sadist. I mean, why would God tell Lucifer to go torture the person most loyal toward God? When you take it a little less literally, it becomes a story about persevering through hard times. It's also a story about trusting that things we see as bad today can turn out to be useful tomorrow.

That was in my mind the second Sunday in jail. The TV was tuned to a preacher channel, and this fellow named Joel Osteen came on. Organised religion isn't my favorite to start with, and televangelists are generally the bottom of that pile. But this fellow happened to be talking about exactly what I was thinking: that I'm moaning and groaning about how unfair life is instead of accepting responsibility for the choices I made that got me here, and that what seems particularly crappy today usually turns out to be important later.

Part of me was thinking I've already had enough crap in my life. Another part was thinking I may not be responsible for every bad thing that's happening right now, but I certainly made some bad choices along with everybody else involved. So maybe it's time to start dealing with me, and spend a little less time worrying about things other people do - which I can't really change or control anyway.

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