Monday, April 30, 2007

listening...

April 25, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

Right now we are ono Lockdown. I was getting a dental intake and so I sit here in the dental chair for what is going on an hour and 15 minutes. Thank God I have a book and paper and pen!

The dentist was very professional. He did a good job.

Later in the day:
I walked and walked and walked today. It was a beautiful day. A cloudless deep blue sky...a full wind. Last night I went to bed under a tornado watch. We are the highest floor of what we call "the projects." I asked the officer on duty, "Should we go to a lower floor?" I was told to SHUT UP. He then came back, after locking us in and said, "Listen ladies, you think you are all something...let me tell you while you're here you are NOTHING!" He then proceeded to take away our microwave and the TV times. I don't microwave much, just water for (gulp) instant coffee. (Guess what! I am extremely grateful for instant coffee) and I don't watch any TV so it was not a big deal for me but what got me was someone calling all these women NOTHING! I also have a tough time with having someone tell me when I have to go to bed. Basically, when we have to "go to your house," you can only really go to your bunk. In a 10 ft. by 10 ft. cinder block room with 2 sets of bunks, a small built in table and 4 short lockers stacked 2 by 2...there is little room for 4 women to move around.

I bought myself a light to read by because at 10:30 we MUST turn out all lights. Sometimes I am not ready to sleep so I turn on my little book light and read. I must say I am entirely grateful for the books. They keep my sanity. Prison life is all about waiting.....Lines are long and sometimes even after you've waited for an hour or more, you will be told the person or service you've been waiting for is not available. So I am learning patience. It is one of those graces I am short on so I guess I am learning. But I always keep a book with me or a pad of paper and a pen or pencil. ALWAYS!! I can't bring these things into the dining room so the big baggy brown pants and shirts are good for something.

I saw my shadow this morning and I thought "Wow! I don't even look like myself." The short, short hair and baggy clothes...I just thought for a second, "Who is that?" It is so important in prison to remember who I am. It is far too easy to forget, to be hammered down. But keep on praying, walking and listening to people's stories. Somehow listening to their stories, really listening, I see their pain and feel it but in feeling the pain, so too do I remember both the pain and joy.

Please continue to hold to the light and in prayer the women here. I will tell you the story of Ms. B. She is Native American. She is 51 but looks like she could be 65 or more. She has a colostamy and a second "exterior" bag for a stomach. She was, she says, in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was in a hotel room with her son when a drug deal went down and it was a sting. She fought the charges b/c she said she didn't do anything wrong. The judge, she said, denied the polygraph test twice. In the end she got 34 years which is basically a life sentence. I saw her today. She told me she is afraid she has an infection at the site of the colostamy. She asked me for some paper and a pen (this should be, according to Carswell rules, made available to her). She cried as she said she wants to chronical what is happening to her in case she dies. She wants to get her version of what happened to her out to her family. She is so scared of dying here. All I could do was listen and pat her on the back. Little comfort but it was something. She told me she has to take her pills in the "outside bag" stomach and flush it with water. When she came back she said the physician's assistant told her she was "too much trouble" and that she'd wish she would hurry up as the PA wanted to beat the storm that was brewing. Ms. B. said, "Ms, I have 28 pills to crush and flush. I'm sorry I'm so much trouble." I feel like crying as I write this. Please pray for her that she has peace. She is so scared.

And the stories go on and on. Maybe each time i write I could include a story. I will not violate any confidentiality but I want to share the stories. Somehow each of us can resonate with something, some part of a story. We feel some of the same emotion and we understand.

I am fasting today until the 27th for the SOAW legislation. So many people here listen to the story of what SOA/WHINSEC is about. Not one of the women who listen turn away. Most shake their heads in disgust. I have given lots of information and while most folks are not surprised, they are disgusted. Lots of them have been messed around by the Federal Gov't so they understand. One 78 year old grandmother told me that the Feds win 98% of all cases. She said, "Not since Hitler's Germany has a gov't won such a large percentage of the cases." She went on, "AND they are proud of it." THese two women believed b/c they did not do what they were accused of, if they took it to trial, they would be found innocent. Instead, they were given more time and lost their cases.

AND SO IT GOES!!! On and on and on. I do not despair but I am so sad for them and for us all...More later and with grateful love and prayers-
Tina

P.S. I am starting a new book called, "Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal" by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. I want to quote something that seemed to stick out at me..."Suffering-whether physical, emotional, spiritual, or often the case, all three--can be a doorway to transformation...our personal suffering is sometimes worsened by the lack of communication and community. Illness (and I add imprisonment) often intensifies these feelings of isolation. Telling stories can be healing. We all have within us access to a greater wisdom, and we may not even know that until we speak out loud. Listening to stories can also be healing. A deep trust of life often emerges when you listen to other people's stories. Ordinary people living ordinary lives often are heroes."

I find this to be so very, very true. I find hope in stories. I find courage and truth and pain and despair all in one, rolled together and shaken down.

In solidarity and prayer I remain-
Tina

2 comments:

Holly said...

Hello Tina. I was drawn to your P.S. and your reflections on the Kitchen Table Wisdom book. I happen to publish a blog newsletter at http://storyteller-and-listener.blog-city.com/ about the role of story and narrative in peacemaking, HEALING, bridge building and reconciliation processes. Here you are addressing the role of story in healing the listener. I would like to invite you to consider writing a fairly brief, 1,000 word essay expanding on these thoughts for The Storyteller and the Listener Online. It would be wonderful to have you address this theme from the perspective of one confined not by illness but by imprisonment. Please email me at healing_stories at mac dot com if you would like to discuss this possibility. I look forward to hearing from you! Oh, by the way, the newsletter is completely noncommercial. I am disabled with advanced breast cancer and no longer work outside the home, but this newsletter is my passion and vocation, all for free. You take care. Holly

tina busch-nema said...

hi holly
sorry this took so long
i will send your message to tina by snail mail, she does not have email right now, tho some at the prison do.