“There is something inherently depressing about jail… because it shuts off the world. It leaves one caught in the dull monotony of sameness. It is almost like being dead while one still lives.” – Martin Luther King, JR (from his autobiography)
This afternoon as I was making myself my daily cup of coffee I was having a conversation with a friend of mine we refer to affectionately by the name of Grady… because of his resemblance to the character of the same name on the old hit TV series Sanford & Son. Now Grady and I are chatting and he is telling me of his millions of jokes, and when I say he has a million jokes, this is truly not much of an exaggeration, for it seems as though he is always coming up with new ways to make fellas laugh. He also may be the oldest guy on the yard, though he never seriously answers questions as to his actual age, if I were to guess I would say he is in his mid to late seventies… the guy is pure comedy gold, telling great stories about the 50’s when he was a young man working as an elevator operator as well as a shipping and receiving clerk and some of his wild nights and adventures in a time so long ago… They always start and end with laughter, he can make the biggest problems seem trivial.
That being said, let me return to this morning, Grady and I are talking and he asks me, “how much time do you got left?” and when I tell him a few years, he looks at me solemnly and sighs, replying, “that’s a long time, I’m sorry to hear that.” I then take a moment and then agree with him, because to me it really does feel like an eternity. There are nights I can’t even sleep because of the thoughts that run through my head. I feel as though I’m stuck in a no man’s land where I’m wandering through a desert with no oasis in sight… totally lost.
Lost in my reverie, I hear Grady say, “it’s okay, you’ll make it. I made it and so can you.” And if anybody knows… it is Grady because he himself was sentenced to serve a term of 7 years to life.
That was 40 years ago.
Yes… he has been in prison for the last 40 years.
Now I know that I’ve written before about old timers and fellas doing heavy terms, and I can assure you that in the future I’ll br writing about them again and again, because there is so much we can learn from them, or at least I believe there is.
Sometimes we gotta laugh when what we really wanna do is cry.
We must never forget the power of laughter and the uniting qualities of humor.
We must never forget the power of a smile and a few kind words.
It was a wise man that said ‘If you can’t make things better, then just try not to make them worse.’
These are the things that are sometimes really hard to remember and put into practice, especially for me, living inside this prison. I have to always be conscious of my surroundings and the volatility of this place. But, I must never let it be the defining element of how I am and who I will become.
Having a friend like Grady, I am reminded daily of the undeniable and unbelievable resilience and strength of the human spirit.
I have really begun my journey of really loving myself and respecting myself. I am not saying this in an egotistical or arrogant way by any means. I am expressing it with a beauty and elegance of my inner dialogue. Because everyday is the same here, it can drive a man stark-raving mad if you let it and sadly there are many that do break. I am grateful that as of yet I am not one of them, and for this I have many people to thank, Grady for one and myself as well. Grady explained it to me with an ease of age and wisdom that very few can ever match, for here is a man that simply refuses to lose faith and hope. He is a man that taught me a very valuable lesson, one that every man, woman and child should learn. That is…
Do not ever underestimate yourself.
Don’t ever underestimate the human spirit.
It is not the hope that I can survive… it is the fact that I will survive.
And so can we all… Grady has proven the fact that when you have no one else, it is still okay, because you’ve still got yourself. And if you learn to be happy with that, then you can make it through whatever life can hit you with. When you got that self happiness as Grady explains, everything is easier, because then you always got your best friend and your biggest supporter with you… yourself.
Think about it, what do you need to be happy? What is REALLY important in your personal universe? What is it that you value?
I value having a friend like Grady.
I value myself… and for today, that is more than enough.
Until next time, KEEP ON RICH ROLLIN.
From me, myself and I – DART
Song for this diary…
Artist: DAVID GUETTA
Song: TITANIUM ft. SIA
Write to me:
Daniel Dart Richert #AL2076
C.M.C. West Prison
P.O. Box 8103
San Luis Obispo, CA 93403