who we have become

surrender - susie scarborough copy

mandala by Susie Scarborough

I believe the lasting relation comes from deep changes in ourselves which influence our collective life. – Anais Nin

Life is change. Growth is optional. – Karen Kaiser Clarke

At our final group during Women’s History Month, we synthesized material explored in the first four. The model for our approach was May Sarton’s ‘Now I Become Myself’ along with the epigraphs listed above. We ended the group with collage-making. And our weekly ‘soul cards’ in which we share reflections about the evening’s group. One in particular stood out – from a participant who will be leaving this week. She wrote:

I have truly enjoyed this class. Please continue your great work. I feel that I have been able to look inside myself, not just inside but deep within. I have written things that I am proud of and shared one that I wrote for my mother called “Security” She told me it made her cry. Mom’s never change. Thank you again, DN

What powerful closure to a month honoring the women who have gone before, on whose shoulders we stand, to whom we owe such a debt of gratitude! The strong, the invisible, the challenging – all impact us and influence who we in fact become.

Read on for a sampling of writings from the 17 inmates in the circle.


What have I become?
a number

What have I become?
an animal
chow, come and get it.

What have I become?

I once was a girl
but I was scared to go to bed.
I once was a teen
but I got scared about the epidural.
I once was a mom
but I got scared they’d feel my pain.
I once was a carpenter
but I got scared of success.
I once was a booster
but I got scared of getting caught.
I once was a dealer
but I got suspicious of everything.
I once was an active addict
but I got scared of death.

I once wasn’t scared of anything
but I got to grow up.

What have I become
besides an inmate?
I try to answer that question.

I try to remember who I was
before the pain and before the drugs.

What have I become?
Nothing more than me –
shitty tattoos, some inward and surface
scars. Some days I’m amazing
and others, I have a shitty attitude.

What have I become?
same me as ever.

What did I become?
Everything I can be.

And I keep going. Because
if there’s one thing I do
it is continue.




I see you there, smiling on the outside but crying on the inside in silence, in solitude. I know about you and I’ll bet I know which pain you’ll choose. The wild one. I see you crying on the inside because you let your heart run free and now it’s foaming at the mouth. I’ve watched you perform like a circus lion for all of these irresponsible adults. I’ve heard you think, as you’ve crawled army-style through the sewers of your own mind to try to find tranquility. I’ve been in the passenger seat when you cut the breaks on life and spun downward without a cause or a cure. I’ve been there as you’re smiling on the outside while dying on the inside because the tortured soul must reap what it has sewn. My advice is this: jump. Dive head-first. It’s worth it.



Oh, in this single hour I live shrunken down.
I am the size of a twig, my skin’s grown
pale, almost translucent;
I cry everyday, I can’t help but lose it.
Here they come, another dose of all my meds.
We won’t lie, you may not make it – that’s what the doctor said.
Been stuck so many times with pointy pricks and needles
slowly, slowly the girl I used to be dulls.
Praying more than ever I kneel down on my knees
and I thank God for every breath I get to breathe.
My hair’s fallen out, I’ve got no looks about me
I’ve never been in love — now, really, who is gonna want me?
My mother sleeps in a chair at my bedside,
tries to hide the fear that we both know I’m about to die.
I never got the chance to chase all those big dreams.
Suddenly their importance came to a cease.

Let me tell you something about sweet life.
Once it’s over, you don’t get to do it twice.
And just because I have signs of the end
doesn’t mean yours isn’t around the bend.
I know what I’d do differently and what I would cherish.
I want to help you embrace that before it’s gone, you perish.
I’m speaking to you six feet under from the grave.
I’m your future self. All your regrets can be saved.


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