Day 9 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

I thought today I would share something from one of my old journals.  But I first came upon my special place where I have recorded my daughter’s poems and my own favourite pieces of writing.  I have not looked at it for some time.   It is a large spiral journal with a beautiful wave curling, about to crash into an angry sea. It’s funny,  It caught my eye inside a little book store in Guadaloupe where I was visiting for the day from a cruise.  It is funny how you sometimes don’t notice things until years later.  I just noticed that there is a broken canoe within the picture with a man hanging on.  I chose it because of the wave and never even saw the rest of the picture and the story it was telling! The artist would have been disappointed if he had known.

I was drawn to a poem I had written years ago soon after an encounter with a vagrant when I was waiting in my car for my daughter to finish her dance class.  He was old and tired, and just wanted a friendly ear. The others in the car park ignored him, but when he encountered me in my vehicle he knew he had a safe haven, just for a while.  He did not ask for money.  He wanted to sit and rest his legs.  I hesitated, said a little prayer, and then opened the passenger side of the car.

He talked for about 15 minutes mentioning his life and the people he had encountered on his journey, throwing in some names of well known people in our society as if he needed to impress me.  I asked him at the end of his talk if I could pray for him.  We prayed and then he left, grasping a package of cookies that my daughter would not have needed.  The lady in the car nearby said that he shows up a lot in the car park to beg.  Yet I never saw him again, and I was sorry.

Here is my poem.  It doesn’t do him justice.  I found out later that he is called Neville.

Soft but anxious eyes, begging for money a game,

Playing to win, to beat the race

To the ultimate high.

He pours his heart out

Shows his wounds, Shares his sorrows

And his empty belly.

He watches for someone

Anyone who will listen

Paces around, restless,

Until his eyes rest on me

That compassionate soul, he has found her!

Waits to connect,

Plays his cards right and might get a twenty

Today is day 9  of the series Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release that I am writing for #write31days challenge.

Day 8 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

Sorry for the longer than usual post yesterday, I got caught up in the moment of my glorious college and working days in London!

I had always prayed that God would provide a husband for me. And of course he did. I was 23, working as a hotel room reservations manager. He sent someone all the way from London to Barbados to work in the same hotel, the office right behind mine. It couldn’t have been more obvious.  Except for one thing – he had a girlfriend back home.  I received the telexes that came in every day and distributed them to the recipients.  He got one from her every other day or so.  But soon after he arrived he injured his hamstring and I used to see him hobbling to the bus stop some afternoons when I was leaving work.  I stopped to give him a lift, although my house was in the opposite direction.  That became a pattern for a while and occasionally I would come into his little house, which was let by a Reverend who lived opposite, and listen to music and chat.  Every Monday evening was the Manager’s Cocktail Party at the hotel for the guests, and it was part of our jobs to attend.  So he wanted to sample the other restaurants in the area as Food and Beverage Manager, and each week he got the Social Director to make a different restaurant booking. I was casually invited to come along, first joined by the Social Directory and then it became just the two of us.  He must have used up a lot of his wages on restaurant bills!  We went to the beach, did water-skiing and played tennis, all as friends, and we got on well.  He made me laugh a lot.  Fairly soon after he arrived the messages from ‘the telex girl’ lessened to none.  And the casual restaurant samplings became dates, and romantic notes passed from office to office and flowers in abundance.  He had a motorbike, a stray ginger cat and lots of love in his heart.  Who could resist?  We got married within a year and a half. And I thank God for giving me a faithful, handsome, loving husband who has always provided for my every need, who makes me laugh, and who teaches me to be real.

today is day 8 of the series Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release that I am writing for #write31days challenge.

Day 7 Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

I have made it through my first week of blogging, and my first time participating in the Write 31 Day challenge!

Each time I write it is a release, and I am loving it. As I said on my first blog day, I am hopeful that some of my words may help someone reading out there, but I am rejoicing that I am being helped in the process. A dear friend told me today to live in the moment, write in peace, let the words escape as it is meant for freedom. And yes, I am and I will.

So today a small glimpse into my college and brief working life in England’s capital. 20 minutes north of central London, I fell in love with the Hampstead and Belsize Park area immediately and would spend the next 3 years there, first completing a Liberal Arts and Secretarial Course and then working. I loved the green Hampstead Heath and the feel that I was in the country, yet so close to the centre of London. I loved the High Street with the posh shops and a few affordable ones, the Coffee Cup where lots of students congregated, and the Victorian homes and cobbled lanes and wooded areas. I made friends with a precious day student from Grenada who had just moved to England, and she welcomed me into her family like I was her own sister. During class she used to write lots of letters on shorthand pads to her granny and friends back in the Caribbean. Students were from a range of countries from Cypress to Saudia Arabia, and most of them were much more sophisticated than my friend and I. Our main classes were Shorthand, typewriting and related secretarial topics, a series of lectures for young ladies and weekly visits to museums and places of interest. I loved the culture of London, and in my spare time I would often go to an art gallery or visit an old stately home. We would have daily drills in Shorthand, having to write symbols for words and sentences. It was practically another language, and many hours were spent scribbling in shorthand notebooks and practicing, but I would leave college a competent secretary with 150 words per minute in Shorthand and 50 words per minute in Typewriting, and feeling of great independence. Unfortunately, my timing was just a little off, and the first computers were introduced to the college just after I left.

After college I was fortunate to find a room to let in the Belsize Park area, in the home of an amazing couple who would become close lifelong friends. I was able to get a series of temporary jobs, before I landed a longer contract at a firm of engineers. It is worth mentioning that my very first job was a week at a small office near Oxford Circus. On my second day my elderly boss took me out for lunch and after a failed attempt at seducing me I was not called back for a second week. It was a welcome change to be in a large office, and there was me among a large team of friendly and easy-going engineers. Those were the days when men opened doors for women and let them go first. I am glad I got to experience those days. The firm was located on the top of the underground map, far north of the city, but in order to get there I would have to go south on the tube train to change and pick up the upward train. That was when I got to know the inner workings of the London Underground. I allowed an hour to get to work and I was never late, even during the winter when I would be up before sunrise, and return home when it was dark. The short winter days never bothered me – I was working, earning my own money, and I had a great group of friends that I went out with regularly. Life was great!

My boss was a laid back middle-aged man who never got angry. I reported to the chief engineers and I enjoyed the work on the project. On Fridays a few of the engineers would take me out for lunch and they would ask me about Barbados and I got to know them well. In a firm full of males I was never hassled, and only once asked out on a date, and when I declined he begged me not to tell anyone in the office. When I eventually left to return to Barbados I was given some special leaving gifts and taken out for a meal. I was sorry to leave them.

deb in uk after collegeWhen I returned home to Barbados and back to live with my parents it took me time to adjust to the way my life had become smaller, and to build my friendships up again. I would pine for London for quite some time. But I never expected I would meet and fall in love with a Londoner right where I was in Barbados, and while I was at work …

Hampstead

Day 6 Prison Break of Thoughts

http://write31days.com/
I encourage you to browse through some of the other bloggers in this 31 day challenge (above link) – there are 9 different categories and you are bound to find something that interests you. The category I chose was Too Awesome to Categorize, because I didn’t know which category my writing fell into.

I am doing a writing course at the moment. We are studying memoir right now, and I want to share some memories of my boarding school life in the UK. I guess it’s a form of prison break/inner release for me. I wish I had a picture of me in my brown winter school uniform, or even my gold and white summer dress, or my Sunday best, to post here. That was the time when cell phones did not exist, and when it was days/a week before you could see pictures taken from a camera.

I was at a British girls boarding school for 3 years between Grades 9 and 11. The first year was the worst. Apart from adjusting to the change in climate from tropical Barbados to the cold of a small seaside town in the south of England, the homesickness and school work, I was in the form where all the grunge work was designated to. We had to lay out the hall chairs every morning for school assembly, and on Saturdays for the lectures or films. We had to take it in turns to stand up in front of the whole school and read the news. We were supposed to pick out news points of interest and read them, along with the daily weather. It worked out that every school term each grade 9 girl would have to read the news twice. Each time it was my turn was worse than the last. I dreaded every moment. Standing up with my legs shaking, wet, clammy palms and attempting to read what I had extracted from the newspapers was overwhelming. I tried to swap or beg someone to take my place, but it did not work. For days, even weeks before my turn came I would worry and imagine the worst, not being able to speak, and having to face my peers afterwards. When I did it, it was usually quite bad with many stammers. (I had a stammer as a child which I eventually grew out of) My feeling of relief afterwards was usually overshadowed by some girls mimicking and teasing me, which almost felt worse than the actual act of standing up to read. Now, as a 51 year old woman, I have got up in front of larger crowds to speak, and although the lead up is often nerve-racking, it has become less of a big deal, especially with a mic, and I don’t have to worry about any teasing, instead, rather a lot of encouragement comes my way.

Better memories of boarding school life were being ‘let out’ on Saturdays to walk to the town where I bought my favourite thing, vanilla fudge, a quarter pound, from the corner sweet shop. Also, I bought stamps to write my weekly letters to my parents with the weekly allowance we were given by house matron. I loved receiving letters from my mum and I enjoyed writing them too. Letter-writing was a chore for some of the girls. The only times I could speak on the phone to my parents was when I was on the two ‘exeat weekends’ each term when I stayed with guardians or my cousin in London. There was one time when the coin-operated school phone booth was jammed, and girls were lining up to use the phone for free. I got my turn too.

There was no cyber-bullying or social media trouble to get into. Instead regular bullying happened, and in my 6-girl dormitory the first term there was one. It was like she had a split personality, one minute she was kind and happy and the next minute scowling and picking a fight. The worst ‘run-in’ I had with her was right after church one Sunday when she called me a hypocrite for saying something that she interpreted as a curse word. I tried to defend myself and her voice got louder and she said some very mean things to me. Although I was very shy and had trouble making friends, I had made one very good friend who stuck by me and kept me strong and sane. I also had an older sister who had her own room and privileges and I would often visit her in the out of bounds 6th Form quarters, hiding behind the curtains when the house mistress came knocking on her door.

Day 5 Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

God gave me the desire, a deep longing, to help others who were suffering from depression. The husband of a good friend of mine visited me in hospital and shared his struggle with depression and I found it so helpful to be able to relate to a person who had walked a similar path. I knew then that I had to start a group for people with depression.

The group, GLAD (God’s Love Against Depression), stayed active for about 6 years. We met once a month, sometimes more often, at one of the group member’s houses, and shared our struggles, taught a little about God’s love, and prayed. Word of mouth worked well and sometimes we had 15 people in the group, while other times there were 5 of us. Sometimes I got someone from another organisation or a counselor to come and share, but mostly God showed me what to talk about, often an extract from a radio programme I had heard that had impacted me or a book. I never was a good teacher but somehow God always equipped me with exactly what I needed to touch others and help myself in the process. As time went on the ‘regulars’ in the group developed a strong bond. Those were some very fond memories, and great excitement. The ‘newness’ of being a Christian was still so fresh then.

The numbers eventually dwindled, and God released me from the group. By this time I was led to a mothers prayer group at my children’s school which met once a week. I kept going, week after week, praying for my kids and the school, and my passion for prayer was ignited. As the children moved on to different schools I started prayer groups in their schools, and helped others start up. There are now close to 20 Moms in Prayer groups in schools around Barbados. I was wondering what would happen when my kids went away to school, I could not imagine not meeting to pray, so I started a group to cover the college/overseas kids. When women come together to pray truly amazing things happen. There is the added bonus of close friendships that have come out of these prayer groups – a true blessing. I have plans to share all the answers to prayer experienced within the groups in a series of books or devotionals.

In these posts so far I have revealed a little of my life, rather concisely, and it has been a good reminder for me and has helped with my inner release. I apologise for not giving you more, or describing fully some things. Perhaps it is time to release more? You deserve it, after all, you have come this far.

Day 4 Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

It seemed like forever, but I was just over 2 weeks in the psych ward being treated for post-natal depression, another 2 weeks staying with my parents, before I was ready to return home to my normal routine. Thankfully, the children were too young to have been affected by my separation from them. For me, the time away from my baby during that early bonding period was enough to cause me to feel guilt in later years. I remained on anti-depressants for 2 years. I would need them again many years on, but that’s for another time.

My recovery was faster than most. I had the support of an amazing husband and family, a few close friends, a Christian psychiatrist and my new Living Hope. Those close to me could not quite grasp my new found ‘religion’ but put it down to a passing phase caused by the trauma of my illness. I looked for a Bible study and found two to attend. I eventually started attending church regularly. I remember being so excited about what I was learning and people I was meeting, but I never could get those close to me to share my excitement. I sensed their discomfort and relief when the subject was changed. Eventually I stopped talking with my family and friends about my new relationship with Jesus. I almost led a double life, doing life with my church friends, and doing life with my BC friends (Before Christ). It was hard for my husband to adjust to the change going on within me, but time and prayer and love took care of us as a couple. Now he likes knowing that I am praying for him and I have perceived ways that Jesus has subtly and gently moved him closer to him, in our now 25 years together.

My journey with God has been turbulent, joyful, confusing, intimate, distant, uptight (on my part), up and down, crazy … but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. To think God chose me! I never thought it was possible to enjoy a close relationship with Jesus. Now, I could never imagine a life without him. One of the prison releases I am hoping to tell you during these 31 days and beyond is that my courage has built up enough to tell people. To share Jesus from my heart. Up to yesterday, I had the chance to share a bit of myself with an acquaintance. Instead of telling him about what really makes me tick and be excited, I downplayed my world, and gave him a brief answer of what I had been up to. The fear, the tiny still voice held back for so long, is on the brink of shouting.

Day 3 Prison Break

I remember the days of my stay in hospital well. The psych ward had 8 beds, with room for more. When I was admitted only some were occupied, but in the 2 weeks that I was there beds would fill and vacate. The patients would be woken at 6 am and there was a large recreational room to the back of the ward with many caged windows. Depending on the nurse that was on duty we would be put to sit in a circle and she would lead devotional songs of worship. Most of the patients did not participate but looked vacantly ahead. I tried to sing but my throat and lips were so dry I could only mouth the words. It seemed like hours before the breakfast trays were delivered. Tea, diluted juice and tasteless hard bread and cheese, and if we were lucky there was an egg thrown in. Later I asked my husband to bring me some milk and cereal, but it quickly disappeared from the nurses fridge. My taste buds also reacted to the meds, and I would have to force down every meal.
There was a girl in her late teens I will call Jane. She was so very thin, and very tall with a very pretty face. Jane did not like to eat, in fact, at meal times a nurse was assigned to watch her and coax her into putting something in her stomach. Often, noone succeeded. I befriended her and helped her during meal times, even feeding her a spoonful or two. I never found out her story, but she left the hospital after me. When I returned to visit the ward she had left.
The Psychiatrist assigned to my ward visited daily. Each patient would get a chance to see him individually. When it was my turn I remember entering a small room and I was shocked to see at least 5 people with the doctor. Some may have been wearing white coats. I remember feeling very afraid and not being able to answer any questions. I was there for less than 2 minutes before I was allowed to leave. They quickly realised that a group of interns would not get me to open up. I was left alone for a few days and then I got some one on one time with the doctor, seldom more than about 5 minutes at a time. Visiting hours were in the afternoon. My husband brought the kids a few times and then he came alone after that. My mom and dad visited and my sisters and my best friend. I never wanted them to leave and felt a sinking, desperate feeling afterwards. The first time my husband brought my kids I was so happy. My baby looked chubbier and was dressed in a beautiful yellow dress. I hugged her close to me for the whole visit and gave her a bottle. My son, who was 4 at the time, was a little unsettled, and I could see he felt uncomfortable, but I chatted with him and his dad and played with him. I felt robbed when they left – the precious time with them was never enough.
How I longed to be back home again! The uncertainty, the fear … Thank God that Jesus showed up when he did!

Day 2 of Prison Break of Thoughts

I started journaling while in the psych ward of a two week stay in hospital being treated for post-natal depression. One of the ex-patients who was there on the evening I was admitted, returned to visit me on my birthday and gave me the journal. That was 18 years ago. I now have a box of journals gathering dust. One day I will get around to transcribing them and doing my memoir.

I have always been a quiet and over-sensitive person, and as a middle child I preferred not to be noticed, but at the same time I felt jealous of my younger sister’s exuberance and attention she received. Having a childhood stammer did not help and I preferred not to speak up at school for fear of being ridiculed. I had a lonely school life, but it dawned on me by college that I had to make an effort to go up and speak to people, make the initial effort, or I would end up very lonely. My college years would become some of my best memories.

Still, my nervousness, sensitivity and low self-esteem lingered into my marriage and motherhood. By the birth of my second child and the stress of a job I hated, I got to the point of no return. Depression. What is it? For me, it started with lack of sleep, being constantly tired, worrying about everything and imagining the worst. Yet it was an invisible illness, and to me it sounded so insignificant and I found it hard to accept that it was just depression. I had a cancer scare some years before, and this was far worse.

I was still breast-feeding my daughter and the thought of taking medication was unacceptable to me. I eventually reached breaking point and left home, walking without looking back. I reached an empty church and went in to plead with God to make me feel better. Exhausted, I lay on one of the pews. A man approached me and tried to talk to me. Much later I realised that he was an angel sent to protect me during my darkest hour.

Within the first few days of my stay in the hospital I met God. He showed up and told me that everything would be alright, to trust him and get to know him. It was so simple yet impossible to explain unless it has happened to you. I asked my husband to find my Bible and bring it to the hospital. It had well worn pages, not by my fingers, but by my grandmother and great grandmother, passed on to me. My eyes could not make out the words on the pages as the medication had caused my vision to blur. I kept that Bible close to me during the time I was in that public hospital ward. One thing was certain, God had given me a desire to know him that would not go away.

Me and my daughter 11 years on

Prison Break of Thoughts: 31 Days of Inner Release

Prison Break button
This is a journey I am hoping you will share with me. A current and ongoing journey, once stifled but now determined to be released, of stopping old patterns and starting healthy new ones, of discovering and experiencing life in a way I have never seen or done before. Fear and depression coupled with low self-esteem have been the main stumbling blocks, and I will let you in on a bit of my story, show you how I overcame, and how I can stay on the right path. I am praying as you get snippets of me that it will help you in your own journey, but selfishly, I am also expectant that after this month I will be fully rejoicing in my freedom, knowing for certain that my passionate inner voice can finally be heard.
THANK YOU for keeping me company these next 31 days!