We hear the phrase, “The struggle is real,” used all the time. People say it when the line is long at the drive-through, when they can’t find seats together at the movie theater, when the restaurant doesn’t get their order correct, and at every minor inconvenience imaginable. And every time I hear it, I can’t help but think, “You have no idea what it means to struggle.”
If the father of your children is in prison, you know what I am talking about.
We KNOW what it feels like to struggle – to work, pay bills, fight the legal system, navigate the corrections system, show up for parent-teacher meetings, wash the clothes, cook the meals, clean the house, help with homework, pay for prison phone calls, make time to attend prison visits, face an uncaring world with our heads high while we choke down all the pain, plus all the other crazy details we are managing. This is what “the struggle is real” looks like. If you have never been in this place, you cannot imagine the challenges these families face every day. Because the struggle is SO REAL, knowing that there is a process you will go through to experience healing becomes super important.
I have been sharing the process of overcoming prison over the last several blog posts. We have covered the entire Cycle of Self-Destruction (Shock, Denial, Anger, and Grief), the decision point of Acceptance, and the first step in the cycle of self-improvement (Recognize). Today, I am talking about the next step, Renew.
"To become an asset, you must change the way you think." - Catherine Tijerina
As you look at your life honestly, you began to recognize the things that led you to this place, this moment in your life. You now realize that your best thinking got you right where you are today. At the same time, you can admit that if you don’t change the way you think, you will never achieve your dreams. You also know that you must change what you believe so you can guide your children safely out of this experience. You can see that your thinking is messed up because you are coming out of the Recognize phase. Now, you are ready to put in the work to change the way you think. You are willing to rebuild your thinking processes as you can see life at its fullest, and all the opportunities you have to become better. The desire to function not as a liability but as an asset to your children, your families, and your community helps drive this phase.
To become an asset, you must change the way you think. This is where you begin to understand that life doesn’t owe you anything. You realize you have been taking everything for granted, but no more! You begin to embrace the “DTIP!” principle from TYRO – Don’t Take It Personal! You can see a world full of opportunities and life instead of continuing to see yourself as a victim of you circumstances. Words that used to sound like value statements are now heard as observations. Learning the difference between a value statement (“You will never be good enough.”) and an observation (“The dishes are still in the sink.”) is a major step in moving through Renew.
You are not stuck!
As you change the way you think and change your attitudes away from seeing the whole world as out to get you, you fuel your hope for a better future. You embrace a new way of speaking affirmations to yourself and to your family. You find people who inspire you to continue to think differently, see the good in your life, and also have hope for a better future. You can now view the challenges as temporary, discover new ways of approaching situations, and learn life-lessons to help you become better. You are not stuck!
This is also a scary place to be because you must stop and see the way you think. Seeing how you have viewed yourself and your children allows you to admit that your thinking has been messed up. Until this time, you have not thought beyond what you want or how this experience is affecting you. Your children’s needs were ignored, minimized, or not seen at all. Changing how you see the world, listening to advice, and knowing the difference between an observation and a value statement are all milestones along your journey toward becoming healthy. This is a huge challenge everyone must face and overcome – not everything is all about you. As you begin to see the world through a different lens, you will be inspired to hope. Hope sparks the ability to dream again! Your old habits of thinking got you into a place where only you mattered, fear reigned, and your imaginations ran wild. Your new thinking is moving you into a place of success. You are setting and achieving goals, balancing your children’s needs with your own, and seeing yourself as capable of accomplishing your new goals and reaching your dreams. Maybe for the first time in your life (or the first time in a very long time) you know you can do anything and you can make your dreams come true.
Find the "Why" that propels you
Renewing entails a lot of learning to do things differently while actively pursuing understanding. To renew the way you think, you must begin to read. You must begin to listen for understanding. You must begin to be silent and evaluate your thoughts. Doing this will change your total philosophy on life. You will no longer be content extracting value and living selfishly. Changing your mindset from taking to giving prepares you to help you children navigate through the challenges of living with an incarcerated parent.
As you begin to understand that you can choose to not be destructive with your words and actions, and that it is not true that everything you touch turns to garbage, you are then empowered to bring hope and life to your children. Without renewing your thinking, you will not see much value in being involved in your children’s lives, or even believe that you are capable of contributing to you children’s lives in a positive way. This process develops a sense of self-confidence that enables you to find the determination you need to make changes, lead your children, and hold your family together. You find the “why” that propels you to pursue a better life. This leads you into the next zone, Rebuild.
I am rooting for you!