We will discuss with Geo Shaw, from Jennifer Hillier‘s JAR OF HEARTS, how she endured abuse, her best friends’ murder, going to prison, and the scorn of the community.

EC:  Do you think people can reinvent their life—did you?

Geo Shaw: I’m working on it. I have a lot of baggage that follows me wherever I go. But I believe we can do anything if we work hard enough and want it bad enough. I made it all the way to vice president of a large pharmaceutical company by the time I turned 30. That isn’t nothing. I’ve reinvented myself a few times now—I know I can do it again. And honestly, what other choice is there?

EC: Did you feel any guilt for your involvement in your best friend’s death?

Geo: I feel a lot more than guilt, and I feel it every day. I loved Angela. We were best friends since we were little girls. I know it sounds cold, but I try not to think about her too much. All I can do is focus on the here and now. You probably won’t believe this, but I think Angela would understand this.

EC: You say Angela would forgive you, but do you forgive yourself and do you think others should also forgive you?

Geo: I accept responsibility and I don’t expect anyone to forgive me. How can they, when I haven’t forgiven myself?

As for how I live with myself, I just take it one day at a time. I don’t allow myself to look too far back, or too far forward. One direction holds too much grief, and the other, too much worry.

EC:  Are you upset with people who judge you, like your neighbor, when they have never been put in that scenario?

Geo: No. They’re entitled to think whatever they want about me—I guarantee that however badly they think of me, it’s not nearly as badly as I’ve thought of myself.

They’re just not entitled to get in my face and tell me. They can keep that sh– to themselves.

EC: Do you think you can ever find happiness?

Geo: I don’t know that I believe in happiness, really. I’m not trying to be negative, but I don’t buy any of that inspirational “think positive” bullsh–. I believe if we’re lucky, we get moments where we feel pure joy. But it never lasts. It’s not meant to, and life isn’t lived for those moments—life happens between those moments.

The last time I can remember being the standard definition of happy was when my mother was still alive. I must have been three or four.

These days, I would settle for feeling peaceful. If I was feeling really ambitious, I might strive for contentment.

EC: If you could turn back the clock what would you have done differently that night Angela died?

Geo: Do we really have to talk about that night?

EC:  Yes, because I think that is a defining moment of your life?

Geo: Sigh. Obviously, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to get drunk. We wouldn’t have gone to Calvin’s place. Actually, forget that—if I could go back, I wouldn’t have gone to the stupid party where I got drunk in the first place. My grades were slipping—I should have been at home, studying. But Angela insisted on going to that party.

It was very difficult to tell Ang no. I never enjoyed disappointing her.

EC: Do you still have feelings for Calvin?

Geo: Can I swear in this interview? I guess I already have. The answer is fu–, no.

EC: What initially attracted you to Calvin?

Geo: He was older, beautiful, intense. And I got addicted to his addiction to me. Being with him, I felt powerful and vulnerable all at the same time.

Looking back now, though, I don’t know how much more there was between us beyond that. At the time though, he felt like the whole world.

EC: Do you have guilt for staying with Calvin even though you knew he was abusive?

Geo: That’s a strange question.

EC:  Why, with the #MeToo Movement I would think you would realize staying with someone abusive was wrong?

Geo: Do I feel guilty because he was abusive towards me? No, I feel angry that he was abusive towards me. I feel ashamed that I was ever in a relationship with someone like that, but I was sixteen, and I thought I loved him, and I only suspected our relationship wasn’t healthy. I didn’t know for certain it wasn’t. He was my first boyfriend, after all, and there was nobody to tell me that certain things were unacceptable.

In terms of guilt, I feel guilty that I was ever with him in the first place, and that I lied to my father about it. And, of course, what happened with Angela has never left me. I didn’t know what Calvin was truly capable of until that night.

Can we move on? I’m really tired of talking about this whole thing.

EC:  OK, enough about Calvin. Do you think all of us are capable of doing terrible things, allowing our morals to go to the wind?

Geo: You don’t know what you’re capable of until you’re faced with it. Given the right set of circumstances—or wrong, depending on how you look at it— I think any of us are capable of anything. What I do know for certain is that we’re more complex than we give ourselves credit for, and we’re hardwired to survive above all else.

EC:  Then you do think there is some good and bad in all of us?

Geo: Yes.

EC:  Did you ever look on Angela as a “mean girl?”

Geo: Angela was not a mean girl. To think of her that way is an insult to her memory. She was confident, at times arrogant, and okay, she could be a total bitch when she didn’t get her way. But she was sixteen. What were you like at sixteen when you didn’t get your way? At times, she could be cold, sure. But she was never a bully. She didn’t go out of her way to make anyone’s life miserable. Please. If she didn’t like you, you didn’t exist to her, and she never wasted her energy on people who didn’t exist to her. And she was brutally honest. Not everyone could handle that.

A lot of people from high school remember her as this really popular girl, the queen bee of the school. And she was. But she was incredibly loyal to her friends. She did a better job of being loyal than I did.

EC: How has grief played a role in who you are?

Geo: Grief has soaked into every layer of my life. I’ve lost a lot of people I care about, and every single loss has changed me in ways I can’t measure.

EC: Did you feel entrapped by your own secrets?

Geo:  For a while, yes. Then I learned I could lock them away in a box and shove them under a bed and not think about them unless forced to. Compartmentalizing—it’s an important skill to have. It allows you to get things done.

EC: In looking back on your prison days what did you learn from being incarcerated?

Geo: I learned how to survive. I learned how to find meaning in what’s meaningless. I learned how to eat ramen noodles five different ways. Come on, it’s prison. It’s not sexy and it doesn’t spawn a rebirth. It’s the same day, every day, for as long as you’re locked up. If you’re smart, you’ll come out of the experience in one piece, put it behind you, and move on.

EC:  Have you come to grips with your feelings about Kaiser?

Geo: This is difficult to answer. Kaiser was my best friend in high school, and Angela’s, too. He’s also the one who arrested me. He knows the worst parts of me. Part of me is glad he knows everything, and part of me wishes he knew nothing.

But there’s no better human being than Kaiser. Other than my father.

EC: Is there anything you want to add, if so please do?

Geo: No, I’m good, thanks.

Thank you for doing this.  I appreciate your openness and honesty about