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What Prison Taught Me About Freedom

What Prison Taught Me About Freedom

One of the biggest takeaways I got from spending two years in a federal prison for ecstasy distribution were: PTSD and a decade-long guilt cycle about leaving my (now fourteen-year-old) baby boy. Prison is awful from start to finish, but as these things go, I also got away with a few insights.


(And all the clickbait-y blog titles I can think of! Prison prison prison!)


Turns out, when your freedom is “taken away”, you think about it an awful lot. And, if you’re me, and you’re pissed, and you’re determined that NO BUREAUCRATIC ENTITY will ever fuck with your state of mind without a fight… you figure out ways to be free no matter what level of razor wire they line your fences with.


Here are some of the insights I was able to carry home to you:


  1. There’s always a way. We already have everything we need.  


There might be no other place on earth where people are more CREATIVE than prison. Here are the things you receive when you get there: uniforms, underwear, socks, bedding, pajamas, shoes, a coat, and the option to purchase a limited amount of stuff and snack foods through a commissary – assuming you have people on the outside sending you money to do so.


Here are some of the things people made: Food, phones, their own personal style, love, comfort, holidays, friends, family, fun, peace, hilarity, lingerie, strap-ons(!), and the (inevitable?) re-creation of shitty life situations and relationships. Humans are annoying-slash-amazing at every turn.


So, when you feel hungry, angry, lonely, tired, cold, thirsty, angsty… look to the resources you already have before expending the energy to start new. What do you already have in your heart or closet that will serve?


  1. The prisons that limit us can become the containers that liberate us.


Freedom isn’t found in a free-fall, it’s found in the safety of being held. It’s easy to believe freedom is the ability to choose ALL OF THE OPTIONS ALL OF THE TIME. But imagine having all of the options (probably your life every day) and consider the anxiety – analysis paralysis – in having to make all of those constant choices, and then the decision fatigue that follows.  


The more we are able to habituate, systematize, and predict the safety of our environments, the more energy we have left for creativity. Creative thought equals MASSIVE freedom. So, take stock of the things you consider to be “limitations” and wonder if they could be considered “safety nets” instead. If you get stumped, go look at Twitter and the 140 character rule. Or the walls of your house. Your dietary “restrictions”, Your ethical code. Your own body…


Build and maintain the containers that are strong and flexible enough to hold the infinite possibilities you haven’t yet imagined.


  1. Beauty is in the eye of the Bed Holder.

Even in the ugliest, most monochromatic of environments, beauty shows itself when you look for it, when you’re open to it. It appears in the vulnerability and strength of other people. In the sky, the way the light changes texture and color depending on the time, the season, the way you feel. The earth, the trees, even the way a window of a hideously plain building might catch the light at sunset. The view through an inch-wide slat can become an imagined paradise. The smell of a bar of soap can remind you of home. A hot water bottle can soften and comfort the skin to sleep. Beauty is in stories, it’s watching life abound and bloom despite grief and loss. Beauty is the result of people taking pride in their work, no matter how menial the task at hand. Beauty is in invitations, inclusions, variations, and in the myriad of ways people uplift and remind each other there’s still hope.


  1. Time is more malleable than we’ve ever imagined.

Let’s start with the semantics. When is the last time anyone gave you any time? And if they did, how freaking psyched would you be? Exactly.


It’s a gift, and it’s a punishment. It’s long, and it’s short. It lingers relentlessly in melancholy, and barely lights down, or completely disappears, during bliss.


Time is not a trajectory, it’s a spiral. Time will bow to your authentic commitment. It’s an illusion at best, a fabrication at worst. Time wraps and warps our existential angst, efforts to avoid the absolute of impermanence, and our fear of death. When your intentions and actions are in alignment, it multiplies exponentially. Everything happens.


Exhale and relax. You are right here. Right now. And everything is as it is. Hi.


  1. You don’t have to wait until your out date to be free.

So it’s pretty weird to be told you’ve “been given time” as a punishment, but then there’s all this language about “when you’re free”. And, always, it comes “after your out date”. Independence inside is a sparse commodity. You can’t move your body around the world at will. But, you can determine how you’re going to inhabit your own life no matter where you end up, no matter how your current set of limitations present themselves. Ultimately your out date *is* your death, yeah? Who wants to wait until then to be free?


What are your limitations? What do you feel is holding you back? What can change today?


(Your mind.)


  1. Everyone is suffering. It’s not all about you. It’s all about you.  


We aren’t better than anyone else. We aren’t worse. We are more alike than the way we are divided into neighborhoods, schools, and communities by our financials or our lineage. When you have the opportunity to be on equal footing – equal-ISH, I still have white skin – given identical clothes, opportunities, rules, food and housing, you are given the opportunity to get to know people who may never otherwise penetrate your bubble. This this this… is a beautiful thing. You are not so special. You are not so different. You are not a victim of your circumstances. You are better than no one. You are not more right, more entitled, more precious, more anything. But you ARE valuable to someone. Your attitude, your particular outlook, knowledge, experience, and empathy matter. Taking care of yourself, taking responsibility for your own suffering so you can stop puking it on the world around you and ask for support in clear and reasonable ways, so you can, if you choose, hold that same space for others… whelp, that shit will set us all free.


So all summer I’ve been gearing up to shift from “Health Coach” to full on “Liberation/Freedom Coach” (I haven’t landed on a final title yet…. Which one do you like? Liberation? Or Freedom?) Full rebrand and website will come in 2017!


But who wants to wait? Nah.


What I’ve noticed over the last five years of working with hundreds of women all over the world is that weight/health/food issues are INEVITABLY about something else.


They carry emotional weight, perfectionist expectations, dysfunctional personal narratives, resentments, fears, traumas, lives ruled by obligations and cultural or gendered expectations – on top of their legitimate responsibility for kids, family, and jobs.


All THAT weight leaves little time for cultivating joy, for cultivating real physical, mental, and financial FREEDOM.


While a firm foundation of nutrition and self care is paramount, fast weight loss tips and tricks are doomed to failure.


I would rather see you FREE. FOREVER. 


Shedding a few pounds is just one of MANY side effects of this work.


Sound interesting?


Here are the ways:


Want to be a part of a super supportive group of powerhouse women seeking lighter, sweeter, FREE-ER ways to care of themselves? And, in turn, be of service in the world?


Join The Liberation Front right now! (But remember, there are only a few slots available.)


Are you ready for the full dive into one-on-one work with someone who really, really gets you and who can create the container for YOU to find your own version of FREE?


Perhaps we should be working together.


Contact me about my private practice. Is one of the open spaces yours?

Email me. <<hello {at} megworden {dot} com>>.


Or just write to say hey. I love hearing from you.

We’re better together. We just are. I’m so glad you’re here.







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