Congratulations to our friend Craig Stanland on the publishing of his first book, “Blank Canvas: How I Reinvented My Life After Prison“! Craig is a powerful example of how to come back from the depths of professional and personal destruction and despair, survive and evolve in prison, and become a better, more fulfilled person living the life God intends for him. These lessons are universal – I’ve read a review copy of Craig’s book and I highly recommend it for anyone navigating life’s difficulties. I guess that means everybody! Five stars! – Jeff
“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we
cannot change, the courage to change the things we
can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
— REINHOLD NIEBUHR
I spend half of my time wishing I wasn’t in prison,
the other half wishing I had made a different choice. I fantasize about going back in time to the day I discovered the loophole I exploited. I see myself at the dining room table, staring at my laptop. A black-and-white composition notebook to my right, the pages filled with notes, yellow Post-its stuck everywhere. I look like John Nash in A Beautiful Mind.
The puzzle pieces were coming together. I had discovered a treasure map that only I knew about. I feel the excitement I felt, the pure rush of it all. My performance at work was not what it used to be; my paychecks were shrinking. My need to buy more things, to fill the hole inside, was growing. This was a lousy equation but I had solved it.
I wish I could travel back to that moment, to speak louder than the rush and say, “Stop. Don’t do this. You have everything you need. This is not the way.”
I would have made a different choice. The first domino would have never fallen, the criminal complaint never filed, the investigation never initiated. The FBI wouldn’t have aimed fifteen guns at Kyla. I wouldn’t have hurt the people I love. I wouldn’t have to strip naked, lift my balls, spread my cheeks, and cough.
I’d be free. The short film of my suicide would have never been produced.
The voice was there and I knew it. I chose to ignore it. In those moments of clarity, when I calculated the damage done, my heart tightened. I felt like I was always on the verge of a heart attack. I tried to erase the pain with lies, and it usually worked — at least for a little bit.
I wish I had listened to that voice. But I didn’t. Now I’m sitting in a prison library trying to start over. I will never have the freedom to paint whatever I want if I continue to fight what can’t be changed. I must do what I am afraid to do.
I have to practice acceptance.
I don’t want to. It feels like giving up, passive. Fighting equals progress. But does it? What am I fighting against? As much as I wish it existed, there’s no such thing as a DeLorean time machine.
I’ve locked myself in a past that can’t be changed, in an existence that fills me with shame and regret. Fighting isn’t progress; it’s running away from the truth.
I was wrong: Acceptance isn’t giving up, and it isn’t passive.
It is an act of courage to say,
“I accept that I betrayed myself and chose to commit a crime.” I hit the Enter button, the single keystroke that started it all. “I accept I made the choice to continue in the face of the universe screaming at me to stop. I accept that I’m in prison. I accept that I hurt the woman I love, my family, my friends. My finances are in ruin; I’m getting divorced. I’ll have a criminal record until I die. I accept that I don’t trust myself. I accept that I’m scared.”
Holy crap, that felt good. I don’t feel as trapped. I feel something extraordinary. I’m in prison but I just gave myself freedom. No one else, nothing external, I did this.
A thought pops into my head: This is my life now. What am I going to do with what is left of it?