One of the most frequent questions people ask is, “How do you handle or deal with being on death row?” For everyone on death row, there would be a different answer. Just as if you were to ask, “What is death row like on a daily basis?”  You’d get a different answers. So how do I handle being on death row and in solitary confinement? (Which means being in a cell for 22 hours/5 days a week, and 24 hours/2 days a week).

That question is easy to answer. I listen to my heart. I don’t’ mean as to what it’s telling me, I mean to actually listen to the beat of my heart. Of course there is a history to it. If you have read part of my life story, you’ll know that my mother used me as a punching bag as I was a child. This is how it came about as to me listening to my heartbeat. It was also how I learned how to deal with physical and emotional pain. Not that it did away with emotional pain, but it helped me escape the world I lived in. Almost like a drug. Of course it wasn’t addicting, but I needed it for it was my safe place.

Now that I am 34 years old, I find it amazing how I can express secret places of my heart and mind. I am not scared to express what I actually carry in my heart.

When my mother would go on one of her rages and beat me senseless, it was then that I discovered my safe place. When she was done beating me, I would go to my room, or anywhere away from my mother, to finish crying. I would lay down and close my eyes to escape the world before me. As my whimpering and tears slowed down, I would cover my ears and my heartbeat would come alive. I am not sure when exactly this came about, but my most of my memories go back to when I was eight years old. As I listened to the beat of my heart, my tears would stop falling and my breathing would become normal. The only thing I could hear was my heartbeat with the slow breathing in the background. Within my heartbeat I found peace. I found my safety. I found my happy place. For in my heartbeat I found great imagination. I could be anywhere in the world.  Of course my knowledge was limited, but in my happy place I didn’t seek the riches of the world, nor fame. I sought a world of happiness, peace, and most of all, love.

My happy place was many things. As far back as I can remember, when I was a child, I have always loved animals. I remember going to the library at school and asking for books on animals and butterflies. I couldn’t read, so I would stare at the pictures and imagine living with the animals or butterflies I was looking at. Of course, growing up I always had pet friends. I had dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, birds, etc… Early on in life, I learned that my pet friends were more faithful than humans. My pet friends didn’t care what I looked like. They didn’t care what kind of clothes I had on. They didn’t care that I was poor. They didn’t yell at me, or hit me, and they didn’t ever judge me. You show just about any animal real love, and they will always be faithful friends, and never leave your side. And is why I love drawing animals today. So as a child, as I would listen to my heartbeat, I would soon find myself chasing millions of butterflies, or they would be chasing me under the sun. Or I would be riding on the back of a dolphin, laughing as the water would splash around us, playing and talking in their language.

In my world, I always spoke the language of the animals. Many times when I met nice people in my life, they would be in my heartbeat, feeding wild animals in faraway lands. In my heartbeat I would even have my mother. We would hold hands as we lay down on the grass counting the birds and butterflies who would stop by to say hi, as they showed us their beautiful colors. Within my heartbeat I was lost in a beautiful world. I would help my heavy heart to carry on as I drifted to sleep in my heartbeat, I always felt better till I woke up.

As I went growing up, I wouldn’t do this very much. I would do it for those I really loved, as my sister, brother, mother and later my kids. My life had taken on a very wild lifestyle, where I replaced my heartbeat with violence, alcohol, and drugs. Where I believed the escape was better, for came with a price, destruction.

When I landed in a cell in 1993, my heartbeat came back to me. Which by the I pretty much forgotten about it. But one night my heart was heavy because the mother of my kids was moving on in life without me, along taking my kids. My family. That night, as my tears fell, my heartbeat came back to me again. And again, became my comfort zone.

As I sit here on death row, listening to my heartbeat is a major part of my life/world. I do more than escape within my heartbeat. I seek answers there, as well as peace and my sanity, for it’s not easy being on death row. But listening to my heartbeat helps. Of course today I still run free with animal within my heartbeat, but now I am the animal. I love seeing myself as a whale swimming the ocean. A lot of times when people decide to walk out of my life because they can’t handle my situation, or they need to move on with life, or whatever the reason is, I place them within my heartbeat and relive the bittersweet memories we made, and I thank God I was able to make those memories. I often visit these people in my heartbeat, for they will always be there.

Being on death row means dealing with pain, hurt, madness, suffering, sadness, hopelessness, and depression, and believe it or not, happiness. So, how do I handle/deal with being on death row? I listen to my heartbeat.

Love and Blessings,

Carlos Treviño

June 2009


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