“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club”. Jack London.
It’s hard to be a human being. Whether you live a life of privilege and luxury, or find yourself confined on Texas death row, you’re still subject to the same things – aging, illness and death. I’ve never lived a life of privilege and luxury so I can only imagine what that might be like, but I have intimate knowledge about life on Texas death row. For I am a Texas death row prisoner. And on the best of days the reality of being held in this new age death camp is a challenge. On the worst days, it’s a full-blown crisis.
As we all know it’s extremely difficult to maintain your ability to function in the midst of a crisis. For me, half of the time I do not know what the cause of the crisis is. It might be some nasty surprise that blindsided me, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s all kinds of unresolved trauma, fear, anxiety, ego and stress that lies below the surface.
And let me tell you, it’s often difficult to understand what’s happening when you live life in solitary confinement – isolated from those you love and trust the most. There is not one soul on Texas death row that is not suffering from trauma and unresolved issues. Even if you had a billion dollars and had everything you could dream of while on Texas death row, you’d still be subjected to traumatic events on a daily basis. You are in a slaughter house where people you know – many you call friends – are being murdered in the name of [in]injustice. But I digress…
It’s a fact that our hearts yearn for happiness, and to be loved and to love others. But when the wheels come off our lives, we are forced to create survival strategies to protect ourselves from suffering. One of the most common defenses we create is to wall off our hearts from further pain. But to do this has negative “side effects”. We become numb and withdrawn, or sad and depressed. Or anxious, fearful, angry and hostile.
It’s easy to describe what’s happening when you are not stuck in that terrible cycle which for me includes all of the above. When I’m in the middle of a full-blown crisis, I am all too often bewildered in the worst way, as if I’m in the middle of a huge sandstorm and can’t see, hear or smell. When it’s like this for me my defenses are up and I feel my mind and body being flooded with adrenaline – ready to flee or fight. And those who know me well know that I do no running. So it is with me when I am caught in this cycle of negativity and the end result is I get stuck.
For the past several months, I seem to have lost my voice and those who have been paying attention will know that I have not posted any new writings in this time. For me to be able to write, I must be at full strength to gather and maintain the focus, energy and motivation I need to share my thoughts in written form. If I’m not in that space then the well is dry.
When the well runs dry on me this means that I am in full-blown crisis mode and I must find the reason for this latest and greatest calamity and deal with it immediately. Because no matter how angry I am, or how traumatized I’ve become I cannot fall back into “freeze mode”. I cannot remain silent, numb, sad and depressed. No, I must make space within me to back away from whatever the issue is and deal with it. I must create clarity in regards to what has transpired in the external world that has sent me into this downward spiral and address it. Nothing less is acceptable. Because my deeds are the ground on which I stand and I must at all costs stop reacting and gather myself and be present to what’s happening – then deal with it.
I think about the past 20 years that I’ve been incarcerated on Texas death row and how the “school of life” has continued to teach me the lessons that I would need to survive. I remain grateful for this experience in this lifetime because without it I would not have learned these critical lessons. One such lesson is that God/Universe is always paying attention to your condition. And She knows when you are injured but still participating in the “game of life”. And when you are injured – in pain and suffering – one of the best things you can do is help another suffering soul. If you can rise to that level you’ve done a great good and both of you will be healed – sometimes just a little, other times a lot. And both of you will come away from the interaction as healthier human beings.
Recently a beloved forever friend has suffered a great loss in her life and things are not easy for her. And when she is having difficulties it affects me as well. And my nature is that I must help those I care for – that’s who I am plain and simple. Me and my forever friend have been discussing a writing project for about a year now. And not too long ago she asked me to write for her about the characters that will star in our book to give her something to think about when she’s not thinking about anything else and I agreed. At that point in my life I was up and down but I was being kind of sneaky and not telling anyone because I’m a tuff bear, don’t you know?!! So at that particular point and time I was unable to write because I could not find my voice. And life continued serving me ups and downs until she experienced this big loss and knowing she’s hurting affected me greatly. For me, not finding a way to help her was unacceptable. No matter how sucky I felt, no matter how much I was feeling “woe is me”, I HAD to be there for my friend!
So I did it. I sat my butt down and I began to write for her. The first character biography I wrote was 6 pages long. The next was 5 pages long and I could not believe it – once I started, the story just leaped out of me. I loved it! And I love the thought of my forever friend getting what she asked me for and being able to focus on that and not the other.
And an amazing thing happened when I was able to help my friend in the midst of my suffering – I healed myself. I created the space I needed to figure out what in the hell was wrong with me. It’s nothing new it can be summed up with being on Texas death row for 20 years. There’s always going to be issues, that’s just the way this thing called life is and there’s nothing unusual about that.
About 3 weeks ago me and the rest of the guys who were on my section on B-pod won the lottery in reverse! We were all moved to A-pod. We went from a cool section to one that’s burning up as the sun sets on our back wall. The radio antenna did not and I’m literally 10 feet away from death watch. It is in the next section to ours.
At first it was awful and just about unbearable. I was on death watch for 5 months in 2016, and this is the last place I want or need to be. But as the days went by, things began to improve. They repaired the cooling system so I no longer have to sleep on the concrete floor to keep from sweating all night long. Then they got the radio antenna working more or less as it should. And these improvements gave me the distance and perspective I needed. Compared to what the brothers are going through on death watch – my situation is workable. Yeah it sucks but I can deal with it, and I have. I’ve increased my efforts to maintain my spiritual practice – meditation and prayer, doing more exercise and am building on the success of finding my voice for my little forever friend. And while my voice is not perfect and flowing effortlessly as I write this latest entry – it’s there and I am grateful for it. I am continually reminding myself that I am very blessed and super grateful for each blessing in my life. Because I can’t go wrong living my life in gratitude and neither can you.
And you know sometimes you can’t wait for inspiration – or the answer to your woes, you have to go after it with a club!
Love peace & hope!
Charles D. Flores #999299
Texas Death Row
September 2, 2018.