As the wife of a prisoner, my dream was to have Ron come home.
When others asked me what I wanted most for my life, I would always respond that I just wanted my husband home. Everything I did and dreamt about centered around having Ron out of prison. I could only dream about ending the journey I was on. I had forgotten how to dream.
Having a dream is so important. That dream (you can also call it a goal) is the thing that wakes you up in the morning and keeps you going no matter what else happens. It is the reason WHY we are filled with passion for life even when things do not go our way. Take away the dream, and you take away the passion.
The problem with having “Get Ron out of Prison” as my dream was that it was something I had absolutely no control over.
No matter what I did, or didn’t do, I could not open that cell and let him out. My dream became my nightmare when I devoted all my time and effort to getting Ron out of prison. Every time an appeal was denied or a judge refused to hear the case, it was a personal setback for me. Hear me here. My desire was to have Ron home, and my desire caused me to take actions that would help move that as close as possible. That is healthy. When I defined my life’s dream as getting Ron out of prison, I gave up my own personal dreams of achievement or action in exchange for something I had no control over. I set myself up for failure and disappointment (read how I overcame this fear).
The mother of a dear friend of mine really challenged me on this. “Why are you spending all of your time and money on fighting for Ron’s release? If you spend all you have toward this one purpose, what will your family look like when Ron is eventually released? What will he have to come home to? Cathy, I want to challenge you to invest in your life and your family’s future. Dream again and make those dreams come true!” It was such a hard thing to hear!! She was telling me I was wasting my life on something I could not control.
After this conversation, I never stopped advocating, praying, and hoping for Ron’s release.
But it was not my life’s goal anymore. I began to take classes and search out opportunities to make myself better, so I could help move my sons and I out of poverty and off welfare. It was such a long, hard road. But it was such a beautiful journey too! I began to dream again and could feel the passion coming back into my soul and the energy to my body. I studied, worked, and lived for more than just a release date. And in doing that, I became an inspiration to my husband again.
It is so hard to keep living and dreaming in the midst of incarceration. When we dream of moving beyond our circumstances, we feel guilty, as if we are leaving them behind somehow. We believe that the most important reason to get up in the morning is because we are a day closer to “release day.” That makes for some long, lonely, and hard days. Time moves so slow when we shut out dreaming. Dreaming of a better life, of making a difference, or of contributing in some way helps keep us moving forward. It keeps us healthy and allows us to become an even greater support to our husbands.
Angry, depressed, and needy wives are not much help to husbands who are in prison.
When we give ourselves permission to dream again, we also give them permission to dream again. The passion and excitement you will walk in will bring joy to him as well. No man wants to see his wife and family stuck or feel the added burden of being their sole purpose in life. The pressure and shame of that is a huge burden. Read my story through my childrens eyes.
If you want to make it out of this and really have the life you have always wanted, you must let yourself dream again! As you begin to dream and walk toward achieving those dreams, you set your husband and children free to dream again as well. Encouraging your children to dream about the future allows them to move beyond the pain of the present. They also need to know that this does not define who they are.
“Dreaming again” – there was a time that those words brought tears to my eyes because I could not imagine being able to dream again. The pain of Ron’s incarceration and the loss of so many relationships because he was in prison almost killed my ability to dream. When I was challenged, I wanted to argue with her, but I couldn’t. I decided to ignore her. I told myself, “She doesn’t understand what I am going through.” But her words echoed in my mind and heart. They stirred something up deep inside of me. Hope. Hope that I could still accomplish something and hope for a better future. This hope allowed me to begin to dream again.
If you find yourself living only for “release day” and not sure how to start dreaming again, here are some steps you can take to get your life back on track:
- Make a Vision Board. Find magazines and cut out pictures of things you want in your life and paste them onto a board or piece of paper. Include material things and non-material things like joy, peace, harmony, etc. Put this somewhere you will see it every day. I put mine over my bed so that when I went to bed and when I woke up, I could see it.
- Be Honest. Look around you and ask yourself if this is the life you want to live for the rest of your life. Is this the life you WANT for your children?
- Make a List. List all the things you like to do. List the things you care about.
- Make Another List. Who do you want to be like? Who do you know that makes you think, “I wish I could be like that,” or, “I wish my family was more like that”?
- Set a Goal. This goal is only for you. If you don’t have your high school diploma, make a goal to get it or a GED. If you have your diploma, take a college course or certificate program.
- Call somebody. Contact someone who can help you reach your goal – a college advisor, an agency that provides GED testing or prep, etc.
- Give yourself permission to be happy. Yes, you long for your husband to come home and be with you again, but you can still find joy in the journey. You must find joy. Practice makes permanent, so if you live every day in sadness and grief, you are conditioning yourself to be sad.
- Write down your dreams on paper. List at least 4 steps you must take toward your dreams this year.
- Share your dreams. You need to share your dreams with people who will celebrate and encourage you. Tell your husband what you are working toward so he can share the journey with you.
- Do something EVERY DAY to get you one step closer to your dreams. Even just one thing per day keeps you moving in the right direction.
It is time to dream again and build a better life for yourself and your family!
Let’s get to work.
I am rooting for you.
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