Sunday Night, I got a call from Cliff at 8:56pm. The phones in his unit usually shut down around 9 and we'd already spoken earlier in the evening, so I was surprised that he was calling again. Very quickly he told me "I'm on chain."
And there it was - he was finally being moved from his "transitional" facility (where he'd been for a year!) to his permanent facility. And here was the note of anxiety - there was NO TELLING where that permanent facility was going to be. He could be moved to El Paso or Pampa or Beeville, and there would be no recourse for us. Palestine was a 4 hour round trip for me, but it was still close enough that a monthly visit was within reason. A move to El Paso would mean I would only rarely be able to visit Cliff - it would mean hardship for all of us. But when you are "on chain", they don't tell you where you are going. You just get chained up and loaded in a prison transport and wait for however long it takes to get there. And for those of us waiting to see our collective fate? There was only the waiting and the obsessive checking of the TDCJ Online Offender Search.
My phone conversation with Cliff was short, so I told my parents and Cliff's family about it immediately afterwards. As I sat with my mom and dad, I realized I felt none of the panic and nausea of the last time this had happened. I don't know if time heals wounds, but time does provide you with callouses. And somewhere in between January 18th, 2012 and January 27th, 2013, a thick emotional hide has grown over my heart - or the part of my heart where Cliff lives. I was surprised that he'd been moved (but not too surprised), I was worried that he would be moved somewhere incredibly inconvenient but I wasn't traumatized like last time. When he was moved from Waco to Palestine, it was the finally severing of our geographic life together. Nothing was severed this time, except my obligation to have to drive to Palestine EVER AGAIN. There was nothing lost this time. Nothing taken this time. Even Cliff's stuff went with him. The only thing that changes for ME is the direction I will drive to see him.
Which turns our to be Huntsville.
I was pleased to find out that Huntsville is only 20mn farther away than Palestine was. Let me repeat that: I WAS PLEASED that my husband's new prison facility was in convenient driving distance. I WAS PLEASED that his new prison facility will have better educational and job opportunities. I WAS PLEASED that his new prison facility was closer to family so that Gareth's care won't be so hard to arrange on weekends I visit.
Who is PLEASED for any of those things? How screwed up does my life have to be for me to be PLEASED about ANYTHING that has to do with prison facilities? How terrible has the trauma been in my life that I am glad for the opportunities my husband will have while he is IN JAIL? And yet, that's what I am - pleased, relieved, unmoved. How could I possibly have gotten used to this WRETCHED part of my life?
The answer is, of course, that I've gotten used to it because that is the only way to survive. I would be a twitching mess if the grief I experienced in November/December of 2011 was the same grief I experienced today. I've taken these dark places and cutting grief and absorbed them into myself and now they are a part of me in the same way that all the light places and joys are - they are simply a part of my internal landscape. They are mental furniture that I resent and wish I could replace or be rid of, but they are there, firmly situated in my frame of reference.
Which is why, when I have to drive my toddler to Fort Worth at 10:30pm because of a possible food obstruction in his esophagus, I am annoyed but not panicked. I've done this before. Gareth will make it. This isn't the worst its ever been.
Which is why, when I find out that because of budget shortfalls at my church, the new budget won't cover my salary after we hire a new senior pastor, I experience no anxiety. I will find a new job and a new place to live. We will make it. This isn't the worst its ever been.
I wish I could say it is because of some kind of deep, spiritual sense that I find myself less anxious. I do trust in God's movement in my life. But that's not the reason that I can be pleased, or peaceful or blase in the face of turmoil. The reason is this: I've already experienced worse than this and I have the callouses necessary to survive. This is my life now.
So what's next?