TEXAS DEATH ROW NEWS MAY 26, 2018.
I sometimes think of my twenty-year-old self and am amazed that back then I had few things in my life that caused me worry. I was young, strong, had a job with a few dollars in my pocket and thought I was going to live forever. Because when we’re young we all think that we’ll be here for eternity. And for reasons unknown I could not see that the path that I was on would lead me to find myself locked in a cell for the next twenty years on Texas death row.
My father had a cousin named Rudy who was about the same age as Dad. By the time my father was in his mid-twenties he had himself together and knew what he wanted out of his life but Rudy did not. Every now and then, Dad would run across ole Rudy and try to encourage him to get his self together and do better with his life. And Rudy would tell Dad that he had himself together! He was smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, had twenty dollars in his pocket – he was doing great! My father would always tell this story with a rueful chuckle and a shake of his head at Rudy’s inability to recognize the need for change. And of course me and my brothers would laugh at Rudy for being crazy and thinking he was just fine living day to day on that party lifestyle.
It was not until years later while on Texas death row that I came to the realization that when I was a young adult, I had a lot in common with ole Rudy! I was also smoking and drinking, had a few bucks in my pocket and in my mind life was great! What’s there to worry about or change?!
Fast forward to life on death row nearly thirty years later and let me tell you that I have plenty to bang my head against the wall and worry about. The fact of the matter is that life in general is stressful no matter where you find yourself and will cause us anxiety if we allow it to. The things I struggle with the most are worries about my mother and her well-being as she recently celebrated her eightieth birthday. I also worry about other family and friends who I’ve come to know and care about very much. Maybe their home environment is not the best, or they are struggling with their health or job security. Because I’m locked in a cell and held incommunicado, the unknown is HUGE in my life and all too often threatens to steal my sanity. If my loved one does not let me know what’s happening in a card, a jpay or letter, the worry and great unknown is extremely difficult to cope with.
Because I’ve been confined in a cell for almost two decades, I know myself very well. It’s either get to know who you really are – the good and bad – or live in denial. And in all my years that I’ve seen I’ve never been one to have balanced emotions. If you are my friend and I care about you, I REALLY care about you and will do anything for you. And if you’re not my favorite person, do not concern yourself with my trying to befriend you – it’s not going to happen!
The downside to this is the worry that I sometimes have when I do not know what’s happening in my loved one’s life. One thing that I’ve had issues with in the past is when someone is planning to visit and arrives late, my thoughts run wild as I create all sorts of “doomsday” scenarios on what’s happened to them and why they’ve not arrived. Their vehicle broke down, they had a flat tire or even a car crash! For years I’ve struggled with this and noticed that after experiencing extensive traumatic events (like having an execution date and living on death watch for five months!), this issue seemed to get worse.
One week-end two friends came to visit me and I shared my problem with them. I told them that Saturday visitation on Texas death row is the most stressful for me because it is the only day death row prisoners are escorted to the visitation room before the visitors arrive. For me the entire day was a pressure cooker because I’d begin to think about my friends and knew they’d be traveling a long distance to visit and what if they didn’t make it? What if they had a flat tire or broke down, what if, what if????! By the time the actual visitation time comes I’m worn out by this intense worry and stress.
To my amazement, one of my friends explained to me what I was experiencing. These are called intrusive thoughts and whenever we have them we must let them run their course – then she gave me an example. If they had car trouble they would call a tow service who would come help them and everyone would be okay and they’d get home safe and sound and there would be no reason to worry.
When she told me this, it was so liberating. It felt like a five-thousand-pound weight was lifted from my shoulders – it was amazing to me how she knew what was happening to me and gave me the manner in which to deal with it.
This was such a blessing for me. Since then I have used this coping skill with so many situations that involve me being bombarded with intrusive thoughts. And believe me – so many things can cause intrusive thoughts! Because in reality I have no control over so many aspects of my life and that’s scary. That is why spiritual practice – prayer and meditation – is so important to me. Through spiritual practice I am able to maintain my balance and center and have complete faith that everything will turn out for the best.
I think it is incredible how the school of life is forever in session and I’ve learned such critical lessons as a result of being confined on Texas death row. This is just another reason why I believe we’re all going through what we’re going through to get to where we’re going in life. And from this point of view, I can give thanks for the experiences that I lived through in the past twenty years of my life.
It is these experiences that have caused me to realize what is important in life and focus on the essentials. And above all things work at being the best human being that I can be. Because we can all learn to be a little kinder and a little gentler to one another and if we can do that the world will be a better place. And that’s the kind of world I’d like to live in. How about you?!
LOVE PEACE HOPE & LAUGHTER!
Charles Don Flores # 999299
Texas death row
May 26, 2018.