Breaking Out of Jail with Nelson Mandela

December 06, 2013  •  3 Comments

This morning flecks of frost scribble five degrees at four a.m. from the back porch light out into the unenlightened.  From the north window, a line of yard lights necklace the unseen base of South Mountain, its morning mood unknowable at this hour.  I sip a cup of hot, dark roast and ponder numinous dreams that wiggle their way into waking up.

I find this time of morning contemplation ripe for writing.  The shadowy room ablaze with the blank white from my computer screen where the conduit between possibility and its expression translate meaning into my multi-chambered life.

I woke this morning with Nelson Mandela rattling through the cells of my brain.  Two thoughts kept flitting around waiting for the coffee to kick in to populate the vacancy of this page.  The first idea came from a quote about the imprisonment of anger.  The other idea caught in passing on NPR noting Mandela’s impact on President Obama as a young man related to the power of the individual.

I cannot claim Mandela’s 27 years behind bars – an hour in a pee-painted, concrete compartment was more than enough for me, my detention one of association and naïveté.   I did spend a number of years though, in a self-inflicted jail of anger against the individual whose misdeeds put me in that physical space as well as other relational lock-downs.  I still struggle with the confines of other people’s pigeonholes, but my greatest challenge now as I perch on the edge of great-grandmotherhood is to step back and allow others to break free from their own prisons in their own time and in their own way.

Early on in my tossing and turning through many dark nights of the soul, I worked with a wonderful therapist who gave me the tools to get up from the bed of someone else's lying.  I kept notebooks of poems detained in a backpack worn like a life vest.  One Christmas, I printed a poem for her about making compost out of shitty circumstances and attached it to handmade paper with pressed flowers.  She displayed it on an end table in her office.  A few weeks later, she told me a patient, who after years of working through a childhood trauma, read the poem and asked how to move forward.

The example of Nelson Mandela’s strength of spirit and vision may be a once in lifetime experience for many of us, but his ability to get back up after a fall again and again lives within each one of us.  Many of you reading this, in ways known and unknown to both or either of us, have provided little glimpses through the bars, a hand held out for a help up, and tiny keys of words and images I keep close for escapes.  I’ll keep putting out a poem, a photograph, and other Get Out of Jail Free cards for when you need to do likewise.  


Bruni Mason(non-registered)
Great Words landed on that blank screen. Is that photograph for sale?
Beata Moore(non-registered)
Wow, these are very powerful words, Deborah! And wise. And beautiful. I don't think I can add anything here apart from one wise sentence that I was told when I was in turmoil myself. Anger doesn't hurt those who hurt us, it hurts us. So I always try to have my prison cells to be made of paper, not cement and iron.
John Spurr(non-registered)
Interesting and well written...
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