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Doing "Time", When a Loved One is Incarcerated


DoingTimeThere’s a common expression of “doing time” to refer to prison or jail. There’s also the expressions of “hard time” and “easy time”, which are meant to convey that some facilities can be truly harsh vs. hotel-like. When a loved one becomes incarcerated, you begin to realize just how precious time is. A prisoner is intimately aware of all of this, but I can’t write from that first-person perspective. I don’t know it. But I do know what it feels like to have someone that you love, trapped behind cold steel doors. I know what I see in their eyes and what I hear in their voice.

Those who are doing time often struggle to just get through the day without crying. They’re scared. They are scared they are not themselves anymore. They’re scared that they are.  Other prisoners aren’t the scariest part of prison. It’s far more horrifying to come face to face with who you really are, and what it is that you truly fear.  A person’s worst fears are often the only meal that their brain wants to consume. And it’s a cold bitter dinner.

doing_time_lorton_reformatoryPrison takes a person’s precious time away. They can’t get it back. It’s gone forever, and there is no eternal pearly-gate piggy bank to make a withdrawal of time from.

After the loss of my faith, I began to view time differently. It was precious before. Now it’s far more dear and priceless. Life is short and we need to treasure the time we have.

I hope to do that now more than ever. How do you feel about time? Is it precious to you?


  1. Doug Wilson

    I’m acutely aware of how quickly time is passing. Unlike you though, it does not inspire me to spend it better. Indeed, I am struggling with spending it selfishly doing what I want vs doing things that my family wants. Camping is a perfect example. I hate it, they love it. A day at the beach in the sun is hot and uncomfortable, wasted. But that’s what they want to do.

    I have limited time left with them and I should be wanting to spend it creating memories but instead I want to read books, play video games and generally waste what time I have left in comfort (read Air Conditioning). There’s tremendous guilt there: I feel guilty when I do the things I want to do and I feel guilty because I don’t feel the “right” way about spending the time with my family. (Incidentally, they’re great kids and they want to spend the time with me. I’m the one with the problem.)

    As a new atheist/humanist I am finding that I lack purpose. There is no shortage of things to invest my time in but I struggle with the “why bother” of it all. Why bother if there’s no reward in heaven? Why bother if in 100 years I will be forgotten? Sure, I can work to make the world a better place (that’s what I’m supposed to want to do, right?) but why?

    At least before there was an almighty god commanding me to care. But now it’s all just so meaningless. And my time is slipping away.

    • Logan GLT

      Doug, I really appreciate that you took the time to write. I think a lot of us can relate to what you’ve said, and you put it into words very well. I agree with you. There used to be more of a purpose in life under faith. I think my feelings about how I spend my time continues to fluctuate and evolve each year, so perhaps you might find that your feelings go through different seasons too.

      You mentioned camping, lol, and I can relate. While I didn’t despise it, the amount of work and discomfort involved with camping did dissuade me from doing it as often as my kids wished. And spending all day on a hot beach isn’t at the top of my fun list (I recently bought a big beach umbrella though, and now regret I didn’t buy one sooner!!).

      I struggle with the same guilt that is tied to my personal choices. My kids are all grown now and I did make some wonderful memories along the way. I confess, that in looking back I wish I had made even more though. Five years ago, I created a video collage of family pics with background music, along with lots of funny captions. It covered a span of 25+ years, and it was wonderful to finish and share with my kids. They loved it.

      And like you, I really enjoy lots of personal pastimes like reading, movies, music, playing guitar and riding my big green motorcycle. I think we all have to find the right balance that makes us happy, and our family happy, and that allows us to have those memories to look back on.

      I hear you too when you feel like, “why bother” in regard to all the things that cry out for your time that could make the world a better place. If you can find something that contributes but also makes you happy and pleased in what was accomplished, it goes a long way. Not everyone is cut out for volunteer work, but I have tried to touch people in different ways throughout the years, and I don’t regret the time spent doing so. It makes me smile to look back on it. I don’t know what the real answers are to all of this, and I hope others might respond, but know that you’re not alone in the struggle brother.

  2. finallycryingoutloud

    To Doug,

    My first impression is that you may be dealing with a kind of grief/depression that is common in the process of deconversion. Losing one’s religion has been compared to the grief from the death of a loved one.
    Also, as explained in an article at, there appears to be four stages of deconversion, and perhaps you are still in the third stage.

    An excerpt from the article:

    “In the third stage of deconversion, the person’s former faith has collapsed, but they do not yet have anything to replace it with. Unfortunately, most people are taught that only through religion can they hope to find happiness, meaning, purpose or fulfillment in life, and this belief often persists after all the other aspects of religious belief have gone, leading to a feeling of emptiness and hopelessness, of having hit rock bottom. Fear, undirected anger, and feelings of depression are common. Often a person feels overwhelmed and lost, adrift in the world without a framework to make sense of it all.”

    The article goes on to say:

    “The fourth and final stage of deconversion begins with the new atheist’s journey out of the darkness of uncertainty, and ends with their arrival in the light.”

    But as someone who deals with depression, I’m aware that not much stock can be placed in hopeful statements like that when viewed through the lens of depression.

    My advice would be to read that article in its entirety. The writer quotes the words of many people who have gone through the experience of deconversion (and many of them speak of feeling they no longer have purpose), and perhaps you’ll find some camaradie and comfort in their words.

    And just try to be kind to yourself.

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