by Daryl D. Foley

Featured in Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul
Picked by CS intern: Erick Baldwin

Happy Holidays

In prison, holidays are the worst. Birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas, even Valentine’s Day can be a “bummer.” It’s difficult and painful to be away from those we love-to be left out of the celebrations and the memory making. Many times, we feel a little forgotten or overlooked.

Birthdays in prison come and go without the comfort of cake with candles and the magic of blowing them out. Christmas mornings are without a fancy tree or presents. Thanksgivings are hard to feel thankful for, with dinner served on a cold, metal cafeteria tray.

My first Thanksgiving in prison, I refused to eat. My first birthday I spent alternating between rage and feeling more sorry for myself than ever before. On Christmas, I wouldn’t even get out of bed. I stayed under the covers to hide the tears I cried all day.

So holidays in here are the worst-at least I thought hey were until I realized a few things. Once I stripped away all the commercialism and hype, I saw what holidays were all about. They’re elaborate excuses we use to take a look at our lives, our successes and failures, and to spend quality time with our loved ones.

In here or out there, we can still take stock of ourselves and make plans, dream dreams, examine our behavior to see what we like and don’t like. Even in here, we have the power to change what falls short of our ideal self?image.

Not being able to spend quality time with those we love is a little tougher-until we realize that the people we care for are always with us-in our hearts and minds. And just as they’re with us, we are with them in spirit.

The days we can’t spend together physically, we can still take time to remember them fondly… making phone calls, sending cards or letters helps both us and our loved ones.

Other people don’t make us happy. Special places and people might help the mood, but the celebration and love comes from within. The challenge is to find it there-a state of mind, a positive attitude. It’s easy to use a holiday as an excuse to be sad or edgy. I’ve been there. Our challenge is to celebrate every day as special. Life is a precious gift, whether we’re in jail or not.

I’m planning a celebration every day this year-a celebration of life. You’re invited. Happy Holidays! RSVP.

Daryl D. Foley