San Quentin State Prison
The huge gnarled hand of this particular giant was a very welcomed sight. I suppose I should have been frightened given that the hand was that of a hardened criminal, possibly a lifer, probably a murderer, and we were in prison together. San Quentin to be precise. He was wearing a white server’s tunic as he leaned over to put the frisbee sized chocolate chip cookie on my plate. I accepted it with grateful anticipation. This is how it was every Sunday afternoon for me throughout most of the early childhood (2 to 5 years old). Eating a free meal served by the trustee convicts to the families of the prison guards. I suppose in the vernacular of the day it was the “cons” serving the “screws” and their families their Sunday meal, courtesy of the State of California. My years in prison are among my earliest waking memories, and they resonate with fondness in my thoughts still.
Isn’t it funny how we often fill in the details with the worst possible thoughts when we don’t have all of the information? I didn’t write the caption as click-bait, I assure you. But it is an interesting observation in human nature. We are so drawn to trainwrecks and other people’s tragic circumstances. It seems like the whole “moth to a flame” phenomenon is pervasive in us when it comes to horrible news and stories not directly involving us. It also speaks to our propensity for forming preconceived notions. I have been so guilty throughout my life at formulating narratives about others that were not based in fact, but rather perception. I feel that I have tossed out a great number of relationships that could have benefited me had I not allowed myself to lean on my judgemental nature. You want to hear a really really hypocritical one? I have always judged divorced people! Yes, mister 4-time divorcé! I was raised in such a stringent fundamentalist environment in my earliest years that I came to believe divorce was tantamount to the unpardonable sin. Yet I am a repeat offender of that very same sin!
Here is my epiphany for the day. Being judgemental has robbed me of experiencing the beauty of broken souls. I am a broken soul, and I long to be connected to others. Now, more than ever. I would like to think that I have something to offer, but I also see that my outer and visible narrative associated with so much relational failure can be off-putting to many, and a trainwreck to even more. I also think it is worthy to note how all judgement eventually dissolves in those that find themselves in the very situation they judged so harshly. It certainly did in me. I now have a deep empathy and compassion for people of divorce and fractured relationships. A very real tragedy for me is that it took 4 divorces to fully arrive here.