Both Warden and Prisoner

I am scared to look at it. I am scared to touch it. I am scared to be near it. It is black. It is wire-bound. It is college-ruled. It is a Mead 150 sheet notebook. And, it contains a written record of my incarceration. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment of my release. But, I spent three to four years in a prison of my own making.

It was not my first time being incarcerated in a swirl of confusion and doubt. I am a recidivist. But, this stint was different. I was older. And, I was brutally aware of the less than optimal life I was living. So, I bought my Mead Notebook to keep a log.

Each daily entry was broken down into a Physical and Emotional section. I divided the Physical section into three subsections: Morning, Afternoon, and Night. It was in these sub-sections that I recorded my symptoms as they occurred: panic attacks, breaking out in sweats, losing my breath in social situations, and having heavy eyes (they were always so heavy). On occasion, I would rate my overall physical well-being on a scale from 1 – 10. I never scored higher than an 8.  I usually scored a 6 or 7. I was looking for patterns. I was looking for triggers. And, at the end of each day, I would reflect on my overall Emotional well-being and jot down a few thoughts.

My Mead Notebook is not an easy read. It is a record of someone who wants to be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. It is a record of someone who craves validation and is addicted to short-term returns. It is a record of envy, jealousy, impatience, insecurity, greed, helplessness, and victimhood. It is a record of me at my worst.

Instead of engaging the world, I sat passive. Instead of transforming the world, I was content with being buffeted by its currents. I lacked agency. I was not fully human. I was not creating. I was only consuming.

I have carried it around for many years. It sits on my bookshelf. It is my Phantom Zone. It houses my demons. And, when I get too close to it, I can feel their shadows. I can feel their pull. I can hear their whispers. Keep your head down. Follow the rules. Conform. Have another Joe-Joe.  I do not want to go back to them. So, I have considered destroying it.

But, they cannot just grab me and carry me away. I chose to go.  I chose to heed their words. I chose to take their hand. And, I chose to walk with them into the darkness. It is my choice. I act willingly. I own this choice. Because, I am them. They are me. I am both the warden and the prisoner. We are one in the same.

And, having arrived at this understanding, I am both frightened and empowered. I am frightened because I know that I am responsible for my own imprisonment. There is no one else is to blame.  I am empowered because I know that I can choose to leave at any time. I am that powerful.

So, I am going to keep my Mead Notebook as a reminder of that power.

Anyways, it is also a record of my return.

In the second to final entry, there is a doodle of me and my dog June and her friend Phoebe. We had gotten up at 4:45am to go to the beach. It was dark. Stars dominated the sky. Waves crashed the shore. We were alone. And, as my coffee gave off steam, we waited for the dawn.

I miss those two.


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Thanks. – shawn