what is saving your life?

Soul Card by Deborah Koff-Chapin

Soul Card by Deborah Koff-Chapin

Our writing prompt this week was direct and to the point: what is saving your life right now?

Another way to say the same thing – what keeps you sane at this moment in time or holds your world together? (In a prison facility such lifelines can be quite basic, like a hot shower or unexpected compassion from a stranger.)

I happened upon this compelling question recently while reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoir An Altar in the World. When a person posed this query to her, she likened it to (metaphorically) yanking the china-laden cloth off the table of her life – and making immediate room for truth.

Coincidentally this week in writing about what saves us, a column I penned for the National Catholic Reporter about our newly released book Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write and the writing inside VT program came out in print. (Thanks Mike Leach for the opportunity!)

As I reread the article, it occurred to me that this weekly writing circle in Vermont’s sole women’s prison “saves my life” in very real ways from time to time.

I can think of two specific ways to start…

Participation allows me to enter a space with other women where truth-telling is paramount; where soul connections are of a high priority; and there is little-to-no room for slick and varnished appearances (something that can wear me to the bone).  

Secondly, I learn week-to-week that my own transformation comes not from trying to change other people, but from the vulnerability needed to shift the way we see and experience them. (Gosh, if I learn nothing else, right?!)

Here are some of the incarcerated women writers responses to this compelling prompt this week:


You ask, “What is saving your life right now?”  Oh, so many possible answers from a crowd!  For me, personally, the 1.5 hours every Thursday night at the writer’s circle is it.  Yes, right here, in this blessed, peaceful, serene moment…my life is being saved.  Thank you, all for being my lifeline, my sanity, my safe haven from the lonely days and long tortuous nights.  I walk into this room, a room filled with patience, understanding, camaraderie..and yes, LOVE.  It’s what restores my faith in the goodness of humankind.  It’s where I go when the week has made my soul bleed and my hope vanish.  It restores my faith and reminds me that I am truly not alone….I am blessed to be part of this sacred circle where women of different backgrounds and ethnicities share their fears and dreams, worries and expectations.  I find relevance in my existence, I never used to feel important…only to my family.  This space…these women, they give me strength to carry on for another week.  Even while in rehab and on the outside, I kept in touch with this circle…and I’ll do it again for it has truly nourished my spirit and brought me to a place of safety in a mad, mad world.  Every moment seems filled with an electrical current, all these women, sharing,caring…and just being  POWERFUL.  This is what is saving my life right now. -ED

*     *     *


When a darkness overshadows someone
and takes away all light there is to be had,
removes everything in her life – her children,
her career, her car, her home, all possessions-
and leaves her in a cell with nothing
but a prayer,
what do you expect her to turn out to be like?
I have a future and a hope.
I have been renewed.
The breath of my Lord is my saving grace.
He gives me comfort – love, faith, hope.
All things are possible.
He restores a brokenness
that I didn’t think possible.
My family has been reconciled,
my relationships renewed.
Forgiveness plays a big role in my life now.
I am alive.
Not just living, but ALIVE.
I have a child to watch grow,
things to look forward to with him,
a marriage to plan, and yes, Life to Live!  -TC

. . . and you?

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