It was with a lot of anxiety and a dash of self-doubt that I attended our annual holiday gathering for local attorneys. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to be seen as a failure. I didn’t want to be seen as I am, overweight and a bit insecure about it. I was afraid to step back into the world of my peers. The world of lawyering. The world of calculated moves, gamesmanship, and keeping up appearances.
My biggest fear is losing the lessons I’ve learned from this incredible year of growth and grounding. I don’t want to surrender to material and proper societal pressures and be what is “expected” and “approved.” I want to push forward as the person I am. The whole, authentic, driven and grounded girl I have pursued these past nine months. It is hard to look at lawyering, a job that demands that you are thick skinned, tough, and impenetrable. I find no value in those things. I am not thick. I am translucent. I am soft. I am kind and open. My heart recoils at the thought of being something else.
So it was hard for me to walk into the room knowing I wasn’t what they revere. I wonder if the values I hold- authenticity, trust, love and kindness- can exist in this world. It occurs to me that those things may by incompatible.
But I’m willing to try.
I can’t go back to living a life that isn’t grounded in love and growth. I can’t imagine a practice where I don’t hold my clients’ values close to my own, where I put forward their best intentions and challenge their worst conduct. I don’t want to give up believing that I can be more, that the practice of law can be more, and that my life’s work can be more than a surface level game of chance and better/worse cardholding. I want to honor the people I serve and I want to honor myself. That may be hard to do in a world where the rules are fixed and the game is steady. But maybe, just maybe, I can pull it off.
When I was waffling about stepping back into the lawyering world and scared out of my mind to go to the holiday party, my oldest daughter (Elle, age 6) stepped in with some advice. “Be brave and confident,” she said. What?! I looked at her flately in the rear view mirror of the car as we drove.
Be brave. Be confident.
I guess these are the lessons I’m teaching her. As hard it is to live up to her belief in me, I needed her to see what fighting through the slump looked like. So I threw on some heels and red lipstick and held my head high as I walked out the door.
I paused in the cold after parking the car at the hotel that was hosting the reception. Snow fell around me but I held fast to the steering wheel- bracing myself against the confrontation between my old life and my new life. I have to transition, I thought. I have to somehow be the person I am now among the people who knew me then.
Figuring out how to be true to myself in a world that demands grandiose representations will be tricky. But I have faith. I will be the person I am craving to be. I will be a fighter, a champion, a soulful warrior and transparent lover. I will be present in my life and in the life of my clients. I will honor their journey and mine.
I’m not saying it will be easy. I have no idea what this will look like. But I know pressing forward for answers and processes within it will be worth it. I vow today that everything I do moving forward from this terrible disease will be meaningful and worthwhile. It’s a truth I can live within. The rest can scatter like ashes in the wind.
So here I am. Straddling the past, present and future. Trying to figure out what kind of crazy beautiful life I can create. It makes me reflect inward and then celebrate the amazing opportunity to serve people better. The opportunity to enrich my time here on earth. You don’t have to like me, but you won’t get rid of me. Not that easily anyway.
Give ‘Em Hell.