New Beginnings and Changing Seasons

Spring is coming.  With it it brought the promise of new beginnings.  The thrum of the frozen ground as beats into new life.  A chance to start fresh.  To slough off old disappointments and breathe in the hope of something better.

I know you never thought you would make it here, but you did.  Here you are.  You survived the harsh winter, the broken hearts, and the nights you cried yourself to sleep.  You had to take time to heal and that is okay because you did heal.  You picked yourself up with a resilience that you should be proud of. It takes more than a broken heart to break your spirit.

Its been a year now.  You try to forgot the way the snowflakes stuck to his eyelashes or the way he smiled at you as you ran away from the rest of the world.  You try to forget, but you also try to remember.  The memories don’t sting as much.  In fact they have a beautiful element to them, because even though it came to a bitter end, in those moments you felt hopeful and in love.  You need to hold on to that feeling.

Spring is coming.

A breathe of fresh air after a long desolate winter. Spring is coming and bringing the promise of something new, something good and full of hope.  And you can’t help but hope that maybe things will be different this time around.

Spring is here, and so are you.  You with your gentle heart and your old soul.  So strange how life keeps moving and seasons keep changing without barely a notice.  How interesting that you should notice now.

Summer is coming.

The promise of freedom and adventure, as new beginnings turn into late night stories.  The world is alive under your toes and at the tips of your fingers, and you can’t help but to feel alive as well.  You can’t help but feel like nothing can hold you back.

Summer is here and you are sitting on a fence watching the sun set over the rolling country hills.  Your skin had that feeling it gets when it has been immersed in sun and water all day.   You are sitting there in silence, watching the sun go down and the stars come out.  The misquotes had come out hungry and angry, sticking to the tears that were gliding down your face.

Sticky summer tears that came with no explanation.

But You knew.  You didn’t want to admit it, but you knew.  Healing is a funny thing.  It never happens as quickly or completely as you think it should.  You think you are fine, but then pain sticks its thorny hands back into your heart and rips open the scabs.  So you cry about strangers who become friends only to become strangers once more.  And just sit on a fence alone with the misquotes and your thoughts.

It can be easy to play the victim.  To stay here and cry.  To get angry and wonder why life can be so cruel.  It can be easy to sit here and feel sorry for yourself, all while missing everything that is right in front of you.  But you won’t let yourself give up that easily.  So you fight back, and you refuse to play the victim.

It’s okay to stop running.  In fact it is time.

Hold your breathe and jump in feet first.  Sink or swim – the nervous anticipation as you wait to see which one it will be.  Before long you know that cold desolate winter will be here once again.

Feet florida

Photo Credit: Lori Rensink

Memoirs of an Introvert

“Really you are an introvert?”

Yes, I really am.  People who don’t know me well are always surprised by this.  While I do have some extroverted tendencies, I am more of an introvert.  Truth be told I am probably more of an ambivert, which is somewhere in the middle.  But when push comes to shove, I end up on the introvert side.

I use to hate being called an introvert, because I thought that it meant I was shy and boring.  We tend to think of extroverts as the life of the party and introverts as the weird girl in the corner playing with a cat.

I have spent most of my life misunderstanding myself and being misunderstood by others about what it actually means to be an introvert.  Learning that my brothers were introverts helped me a lot.  They are the fun, life of the party, outgoing type of people that you wouldn’t assume to be introverts.  Far from the weird shy girl playing in the corner with a cat.

So what does it mean to be an introvert?  What is life really like for us silent mysterious types?  Let me tell you, and hopefully help you relate a bit better to the introverts in your life.

 If you want to hear what an introvert is thinking, stop talking for two minutes.

One of my favorite things about African culture, is that they cater to introverts.  They value silence in conversation, because they value sometime taking the time to think of the words they want to say.

American culture is quite the opposite.  Conversation is fast paced and silences are awkward.  We haven’t been talking for five seconds quick say something to fill the silence before they think you are a boring person who doesn’t have anything to say.

As an introvert, fast paced conversation is exhausting.  Our brains are not wired to work that way.  We are by nature deep thinkers.  We need time to think of what we want to say.  We need time to process through every possible answer. If you can give us time, you will be rewarded with a well thought out answer.

Please don’t our lack of enthusiasm in a conversation as a cue to just keep talking. 

It is actually more work to listen to someone who has been talking for the last hour straight then it is to be in a conversation with someone.  This past weekend I went camping with my family.  On the drive home, me and my fellow introverted brother maybe said a dozen sentences to each other.  It didn’t mean that we didn’t like each other or want to be around each other, it just meant we need to decompress.

I think a lot of extroverts tend to confuse our silence as a sign to just keep talking.  No, please no.  It means we want silence.  Like I mentioned earlier, we can’t change gears as quickly.  That is even more amplified in a one sided conversation.  We are trying to listen as politely as possible, while silently begging you to stop talking so we can go back to our thinking.

No matter how much we may like you, some days we need to just go hide in our introvert cave.

When I am done with people, I am done with people.  My brain turns to mush and I start to think that I will lose my sanity if I have to listen to one. more. minute. of mindless chit chat.  I am not trying to be rude, but I have no energy to care what happened to your shoe belt buckle.  I am going to go lock myself in a closet for an hour, k bye.

We are not trying to be rude, I promise.  Our brains are just shutting down, and we will get crankier by the minute until you let us decompress.  Let us have a minute to ourselves to breathe, and we will come out refreshed and ready to listen about your shoe belt buckle problems.

We like to think, A LOT.

We need to think a lot.  It is how we are wired.  We are the deep thinkers and the over-analyzers. The best way I can explain it is that extroverts think externally and introverts think internally.  Introverts are always thinking about something, just like extroverts will always be talking about something.  Introverts are constantly analyzing and re-analyzing whatever happens to be on our mind.

I think that is part of the reason large crowds exhaust us so much.  We have so much internal stimuli happening all the time, that the added external stimuli just overheats our brains.  There will be times in crowds when there is so much activity going on that I literally can’t even hear myself think.  I feel like a caged animal that just needs to get out.  It is akin to an extrovert being locked in a closet for a day not able to talk to anyone.

Please don’t try to force us to talk.

I can’t count how many times people have tried to force me to talk in group settings. I know they are just trying to be helpful.  They think that I am not talking because I am shy, or maybe I just haven’t gotten the chance yet.  While those may be true, it is mostly because I am just not ready yet.  (Am I beating a dead horse yet?)  Introverts need time to process and think.  We will talk when we are ready to talk.

The times in group discussion when I was called to share before I was ready, I just spewed words that didn’t make sense and were not at all what I was trying to say.  It left me feeling like I just didn’t get my point across (because I didn’t).  Forcing us to share something that we are still digesting will just leave us feeling resentful.  Be patient with us.  We patiently listen as you never seem to stop talking, you can patiently wait when as our silences never seem to stop.

I don’t want to go is a valid reason.  

It doesn’t matter how much we like you or how much we may even like the event.  Some days we are too peopled out.  So we try to spare your feelings by telling you we have a lot of stuff to do.  “Oh I would love to but you know I really need to give my cat a bath tonight.” Our cat is fine, we just don’t want to go because the thought of being surrounded by strangers for a whole night makes us cringe.

I normally try to force myself to go anyways.  I know as cozy as my favorite chair and book may sound that I want to live a life filled with memories and experiences with other people.  Some times I am glad I went as I ended up having a great time.  Other times I sit and count the seconds until I can return to my introverted ways.

But we still do love people.

I know, it is kind of contradictory.  We don’t quite understand the conundrum ourselves.  The best way I can explain it, is that it is like running a race.  No matter how much you may like running, you are still exhausted after a race.  No one runs a marathon and then turns around wants to run another marathon.

I know some people who like running more than any human should like running.  But even they don’t run all the time.  The body isn’t capable of it.  The same goes for introverts – our brains aren’t capable of running social marathons all the time.  We like people, quite a lot actually, but we can’t be around them all the time.

This is just one introverts perspective, not a one size fits all guide to making introverts happy.  Introverts and extroverts have been mislabeled for quite some time.  If you are outgoing you are told that you are extroverted, and if you are shy you are told that you are introverted.  That may be true for some but not for all.  Some of the most outgoing people I know are introverts.  In short, it all comes down to how you process information.  Introverts process the world internally, and extrovert process the world externally.  Most people are a mixture of both, but it still helps to understand both sides.

There you have it – the not so mysterious thoughts of the mysterious introverts.

Feet

*** Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below, as I always appreciate others thoughts.  Tell me about you experiences as an introvert, or your experiences as an extrovert dealing with introverts.  

Memoirs of a Prison Intern Part 2 – the Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

A weird thing happens to me in life.  People either don’t take me seriously at all (I blame the blonde hair), or they hand me the keys to an entire unit of inmates.  I wish that was just a metaphor, but no they literally handed me the keys.  Because why not put a 20 year old white girl in charge of a unit of inmates?  What could possibly go wrong?

One of the COs came to me to tell me that they were short kitchen staff.  It was apparently my job to walk into the commons filled with hungry inmates and tell four of them that they needed to serve in the kitchen line.  Don’t worry we will pay you a whole $0.25 an hour.  I don’t understand who wouldn’t love to do that.  I am of course oozing with sarcasm as kitchen duty is hated by all.

“I have to do that?”

“Well you are the big boss.”

Yes that is me, the big boss.  Watch out, big boss is on the move.  Don’t mess with me.  I mustered as much confidence as I could, and then walked into the commons.  I told the first four guys I saw that they were on kitchen duty and then left before anyone had the chance to argue with me.  I thought I had made it out alive, when the room erupted into whistling.  I was not in the mood for this today.  Well any day really, but especially not today.

One of my gifts is the ability to give someone a look that shuts them up faster than any words could.  I don’t really do it on purpose, nor do I have any idea what it looks like.  But my siblings have told me it exists, so I believe them.  This look came out in full force the moment I turned around.

For the first time since I started working there, I think I saw slight traces of fear in their eyes.  I had my finger up pointing it like a disapproving mother. I put on my big girl pants and yelled, “The whistling stops here!” and then turned around and walked out.  One inmate had the audacity to bark at me, but never again did they whistle.

Luckily for me, there were no more naked inmate fights.  However one day I would arrive at the scene of a fight to find that someone had already loosed their entire can of pepper spray.  Oh that burns, that literally burns everywhere.  My eyes, my lungs, everywhere.  I turned around and ran straight outside.  It didn’t help.  I was coughing up pepper spray for the rest of the day.  So were the rest of my co-workers.  Weirdly enough those were that type of mutual suffering were the things that bonded us together.

Needless to say, there was never a dull moment. Here is an example of a “normal” conversation:

Let’s call him Fred.  Fred was a nice guy in his 50s.  He came to my office first thing in the morning before my brain had enough coffee to wake itself up.

Fred looked like he was going to ask me about something, but then got distracted and said, “You look like you should be barefoot and pregnant somewhere.”

“Excuse me?”  My under-caffeinated brain was trying to process if I heard what I think I heard.

“I just mean that you look like the type of girl who shouldn’t be working in a job like this.  You should have a husband who goes to work for you as you sit at home barefoot and pregnant.”

It takes quite a bit to leave me speechless.  This was one of those moments.  I could tell Fred was not trying to malicious, he was just making an observation.  Fred was also old enough that he probably came from an era when that was normal for a woman to do.  I just stared at him for a while.  Once my brain caught up to what had just happened, I muttered something about female rights and how I wanted to be working.

Fred just said, “Well anyways have a good day miss Lori.”

Did Fred come into my office just to tell me that?  Yes, yes he did.

I survived all of it – the good, the bad, the crazy – all of it.  I am not sure how, but I know that I did.  During my first month there, one of the veterans told me that this place would change me.  I will never forget that conversation.  He was right, but it didn’t change me in the way that either of us expected it to.  It forced me to look at the world with eyes wide open, and I have always been grateful for that.  

Prison

Photo Credit: Francois Delbar

**** I was talking to a good friend who I asked to give me feedback on my blog.  He told me, “Its good but I am left feeling like I want to know more about you.”  Huh I guess I didn’t realize people would care about that stuff.  So I decided to write a series of memoirs about my life experiences, because I some how find myself doing things like catching chickens in Africa or running to stop a fight among inmates.  

Up next is Memoirs of a Prison Intern Part 3.  I was only planning on doing two parts, but part 1 brought up some very good discussion on social stigmas of criminals.  This is something that I am very passionate about, and I simply could not fit it into this blog.  So Part 3 will be more serious, but something I believe is important for everyone to understand.  

Thank you for reading,  and please feel free to comment below.  If there are any stories you have that you would like to share, or any stories from my life you would like to read about please let me know.

Memoirs of a Prison Intern Part 1 – Jump In and Don’t Drown

When I was a sophomore in college, just barely 20 years old, I accepted a internship in a state penitentiary.  I had been a criminal justice major for all of three semesters.  Obviously I was ready for this (that is sarcasm in case you missed it).  Apparently my professor thought I was because he is the one who encouraged me to apply for the internship.

It all happened very quickly.  Within about a weeks time I applied, interviewed, and got the job.  I didn’t have a chance to stop and think about what it would be like to work in a prison.  I didn’t stop to wonder if this was something I could even handle.  I had absolutely no idea what I had just signed myself up for.  

Working in a prison was very hard.  One should expect that, but I didn’t.  I didn’t know what I expected, because like I said I didn’t have a lot of time to build expectations.  Still, I was naive enough to think that it would be easy.

That the job would be easy.

That working with inmates would be easy.

That it would be easy to walk away every day and just be fine.

How very wrong I was.  It was anything and everything but easy.  And yet working there was one of the best decisions I have made so far.

Walking through the prison gate is something that becomes normal very quickly, and yet is a feeling that you can never quite get use to.  The gate slams behind you as you walk into the prison, and the despair is palpable.  It hits you like a wave, and it is suffocating.  It is if the very oxygen you breathe has been replaced with every regretted decision and unheard cry for help.

And how can one naive girl walk into that feeling prepared?  The answer is, you can’t.  There is nothing that could have prepared me for something like that.  Just as there is nothing that could have prepared me for every hard decision I would have to face.

How to help those which you cannot help.

How to show mercy without showing weakness.

How to fake enough confidence that I don’t get eaten alive.

How to stop the whistling, the tears, the fights.

How to pick the black and white answer when everything around you seems to be a swirling mass of gray.

I walked up to the gate, and tried to very confidently hand them my ID badge to let me in.

They just gave me a look, “Who are you?”

I mean seriously, this happened about every day for my first month working there.  I know I don’t look very intimidating, but my badge says Unit Manager Intern.  So I would have to embarrassingly stand there (again) as they called around to confirm that yes, this girl is our intern.  Thanks for the confidence boost everyone.

Today was my first day actually working inside the prison walls. I had maybe been there an hour when a Code Red, Code 3  was called for our unit.  Which meant that somewhere two inmates had started fighting.

I headed towards the scene, only half running because lord knows I was not going to be the first one to arrive there.  Correctional officers were flying by me like lightening bolts, yelling at me to move out of the way.  Each time I tried, I would almost run into a different CO that was sprinting down the hallway.

When I arrived at the scene, I just saw a huge pile of men.  I am sure somewhere under that pile of COs were the two inmates that started fighting.  One by one they started to peel themselves off of the pile.  They handcuffed the two who started the fight, and started to walk them out.

And that is the moment when I realized, oh that man is not wearing any clothes.  He got into a fight naked, and now that very naked man is walking right towards me.  In that moment the only thing I could think was what the hell have I gotten myself into. 

I learned that life is 98% of having absolutely no clue what you are doing, but doing it anyways.  There are somethings  Most things in life are impossible to prepare for.  I learned to not be intimidated by those things, because those were the moments that I found out what I was truly made of.   Most of the time we don’t know what we are capable of surviving until we do.  However, this was only the first of what I would experience.  So until next time.

Wire

**** I was talking to a good friend who I asked to give me feedback on my blog.  He told me, “Its good but I am left feeling like I want to know more about you.”  Huh I guess I didn’t realize people would care about that stuff.  So I decided to write a series of memoirs about my life experiences, because I some how find myself doing things like catching chickens in Africa or running to stop a fight among inmates.  

Coming soon is part 2 of Memoirs of a Prison Intern. 

Thank you for reading,  and please feel free to comment below.  If there are any stories you have that you would like to share, or any stories from my life you would like to read about please let me know.