Re-entering society after incarceration is tough. It's tough because you've missed your loved ones like crazy. Missed hugging them and kissing them. You've not had a cell phone or social media or television. You have not been coming and going as you wish or when you want to. Food, drink, clothes, a shower, all those things have been controlled while you were incarcerated. And as crazy as it sounds, it takes a minute to jump back into all of that. As difficult as transitioning back to home life, it's even more difficult to transition back into the community.
When your case has made the headlines of the local paper for a little over a year and a press release was issued every time you had a court date, there are very few folks in the community that don't know who you are. And there are even fewer that don't have an opinion on you and your case. This makes transitioning even more difficult. Everywhere you go, everyone you see you wonder what they're thinking about you, wonder if they're going to talk to you or talk about you. It makes going out, to the food store, school with the kids, the doctor's appointment, to dinner very stressful. It's almost not worth leaving the house because it's so uncomfortable.
And while you can quickly remember how to work the television and love on your kids and husband, what doesn't correct itself as quickly is going out in public.
As of today, I've been home just under 5 months. You'd think after 5 months going out to run errands or to a restaurant or a church activity would be unmanageable. By now, the news of your homecoming is old and folks have moved on...or not! This evening I went to a church activity where I ran into another member that made sure anyone that was unaware of my time in jail or why quickly knew. Whispering and staring increased throughout the room. My heart began to beat harder and faster than I could handle. I felt the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes but that was the last thing I needed in front of 200 people. What to Do? Run! Yes, I would just leave. Not really an option, I had a pretty important job at this event. Ugh! Stuck! And all I could think was "how much longer will this go on? Will I ever go out in public again without fear of this happening? Without it happening?".
Stuck at this event wondering what to do, I found a friendly face so I walked over towards him, he looked at me, saw my face and jumped up with the biggest squeeze. He asked me what was wrong and I told him(after a bit of prodding) And he squeezed a little harder and said "Well now everyone here knows where I stand and that's with you". This was wonderful. It made me feel calmer instantly and it was especially awesome because this man is very well respected and known in this group and he picked me! In that moment, I was reminded of the support I have. Sure there are plenty of people that are going to keep making my life difficult but there are so many more that love and support me.
Tomorrow will come and I'll have to again talk myself into leaving the house but every time I remember the love and support I do have, leaving gets easier. I am hopeful that soon enough it won't be a thought I have anymore when I am out in public. Maybe, just maybe, I will someday enjoy my community again.