Why is crystal more desirable than glass?
You thought I'd completely stopped writing about law, didn't you? I've been surrounded by lawyers, lately, and so of course I've been thinking about the profession. While I was in Maine after Thanksgiving a former colleague of mine took me out to lunch, and after a nice interval of gossip and small talk, he entreated me to come back to the profession. It was unexpected, and flattering, and half-tempting. There are things about it that I miss. I miss bankruptcy. I miss some of the nimble thinking that it required of me. I miss it the way I occasionally miss Bikram yoga -- it was a practice that made me strong and flexible in a certain way that nothing else can.
Then I got down here and immediately went to two cocktail parties for lawyers. I was trying to identify strictly as a coach and a visitor from out of town, but I was outed by NBT and friends as an ex-lawyer. As has happened before, a couple of lawyers expressed envy at that. "If it weren't for my loans, that's what I'd be doing...." Is it really? I wonder about the people who tell me that. What are they really saying? Other times, lawyers have said, "I wish I had something else I loved as much as you love sailing. Because I don't really love what I'm doing, but I don't have anything else I'd love, and the pay is good, and so I'll just stay in this for the time being until I figure out what I really want to do." Among other things, the background chatter was about motions, and hours, and time in court, and practice areas. I didn't miss it.
But the day before yesterday NBT and I were talking about a research question he's working on for a summary judgment motion. And it reminded me of the process of hunting for caselaw, formulating a query, identifying with precision what your question is. NBT enjoys his practice, and I remembered how fun it can be to figure something out and to articulate it clearly and persuasively. It's a particular kind of pleasure.
And then yesterday, my musician friend admitted he's been thinking about law school and asked me for my take. It's really fun, I said. But don't go into debt for it. We talked about creativity and risk, money and stability, competition and prestige, freedom and second careers. He and I went to college together, and we talked about how many of our classmates have become lawyers and bankers and doctors, and are so far along on their paths in these professions. We talked about how it feels to be different than those peers, and the times we doubt ourselves.
When I was out to lunch in Maine with the bankruptcy lawyer friend of mine, I said that I was pretty sure I wouldn't go back to practicing. The ways I could imagine going back all depended very heavily on who I would work with. I care a lot about my mentors and my peers. I would want to apprentice with someone I respected and liked, and in my home state there's a list of about five people who I would approach if I wanted to get back into the profession. When I left the practice and wrote down what "wild success" meant to me it included the ability to have the time and freedom to take on new projects or goals that interested me. The practice of law rarely leaves you that kind of autonomy. I've become very used to a flexible life, open days, time on boats and outdoors, trips and room for relationships. I've discovered that I care about mentoring and helping other people get good at things, even more than I care about being good at things myself. Being a clerk is probably the only way I'd really consider going back into the law. And even then, I can't imagine going back to a life where I was indoors all day.
The Weeble challenges me to explain why now, with NBT, I'm finding a way to drop my defense mechanisms and rules and stop hedging and just run with the relationship. Is it because NBT is well matched for me? Is it because something has changed inside of me? Is it both? Is it something else?
Hmmm. Well, Weeble my friend, that is a good question. It probably won't surprise anyone to know I've been asking it myself a fair amount, too. I'll tell you as best I can what I know.
Dawn asked me to write about whether I think everything happens for a reason. My answer is no, but it probably sounds a lot like yes.
I have tried to find faith, but so far I haven't. I believe in a universe that's mostly chance and accident, an infinite number of monkeys hammering away on an infinite number of typewriters. I haven't completely reconciled this worldview with some other things I believe: in the urgency of living an authentic life, in the importance of cultivating kindness and curiosity, in the power of certain "compasses" we have: ethical and creative and relational. I don't specifically believe in karma, but I act like it and if I try to talk about how I make decisions my language would get kind of groovy sounding. Maybe that's why I read so many books on brain chemistry and happiness and evolutionary psychology, because I'm trying to make sense of it all. But at the core, I don't believe there is a Plan or a Fate, that the various twists and turns in our life are put there by some kind of intelligence in order to teach us certain life lessons or provide particular opportunities or challenges.
But. I think we are creatures that need to find meaning, and I believe the hunt for meaning is fundamental. It's important for identity and important for our social relationships and important for how we learn things and important for how we feel. The process of constructing meaning out of what happens in our life is what gives us our compasses, and it's the tuning device that tests and adjusts those compasses. So I believe very much in the practice of trying to figure out why something happened, what specific life lesson a person or an event allowed you to learn that you wouldn't have learned any other way. I think doing that kind of thinking connects the dots and helps us cement associations and lessons so we don't have to keep learning them over and over again.
So does everything happen for a reason? No. But can you find or create meaning from everything that has happened? I think it's worth your time to try.
Yesterday was a good day: up earlyish, coffee and a muffin and the New York Times in a coffee shop. Then a 5k trail race, in shorts. Can't do that in Maine in December. Then took the dogs to a dog park, where they romped in the rustly dead leaves with perhaps 20 other dogs of all sizes and breeds. Lunch was a turkey sandwich. I went grocery shopping while NBT watched football, and then we both went and found the best Christmas tree in Raleigh. It smells very, very good. The dogs slept. NBT chopped onions and peppers while I browned beef and sausage and simmered tomatoes and wine, and I finished the crossword puzzle and he read the paper while the lasagna baked. After dinner we watched Lost until we couldn't keep our eyes open any more. It was a good day.
[Real post coming later. For now, I'm off to explore Chapel Hill with a musician I know a little bit.]
1) The Blog Party is still going on. You people (and dogs and cats) are wild. I keep opening the door to late arrivers, who are bringing yummy dishes and inviting friends along and making themselves right at home. It's not too late to join us. We've got some people tangoing, folks in the backyard playing a little ultimate in the snow, someone tending the bonfire, and some 80s fans have commandeered a boom box and are lip syncing out on the back porch. We've got enough kids now that we can build something really cool with the legos, and maybe play a little duck-duck-goose. The dogs are sniffing one another's butts and begging for food from the sideboard. Won't you stop by?
2) The Why My Roommate Moved Out Fiction Contest is still alive. I kept it open because The (Ex)Roommate herself promised me she'd submit an entry, as did a very creative pal of mine. But neither of them has delivered yet, which means you can still join in if you'd like.
3) We haven't done an All-Request Day in a while. If there's something you'd like me to post about, send me an email or leave a comment, and I will be as honest and helpful as I can in response.
Google Maps told me it would be 832 miles, and my odometer reads 836 miles -- just about right with the small detours to get dinner (with the delightful Mr. Weeble), sleep, and of course stretch Lila's legs and mine. I sent text messages to NBT every 83 miles -- 10% there, 20% there, etc. I made pretty good time, with only about 25 minutes of traffic, once in the Bronx and once in a construction merge just south of DC. It took me exactly two tanks of gas to get here: the empty tank light had just come on when I pulled up to NBT's place.
I gave the finger to all the Hummers I saw. I listened to NPR almost the whole time, listening first to the Iraq Study Group announcing their findings, then to commenters discussing the findings, then to news reporters spinning the findings. It was interesting to see the way the story morphed and changed over the course of the day, and to hear which sound bites they selected by the time All Things Considered came on. When I got south of DC I listened to Christian radio for a while, and to a station that played "classic top 40" -- hello, Pat Benetar.
The doggies are now dozing near one another beside me. NBT's dog, Spinnaker, is an older fellow who takes his food very seriously. Lila is bigger and stronger and younger and more energetic. They've had a couple of scuffles and have also played pretty happily together. We all went on a run this morning and now they're good and tired. At feeding time this morning they fought when she came over to investigate his eating area; I'm hopeful that with a staggered feeding time we can avoid a rivalry.
Geez, people. I was going to tell you. Tomorrow I get in my little car and drive south, to North Carolina. No, I'm not moving there. I'm staying until the second week of January, unless there's a compelling reason to come home sooner.
This means that things with NBT are very good. I'm tempted to add a lot of hedging things here, like, "it's early yet" or "it's too soon to say" or "I could be wrong" or "who knows if this can be trusted" but that inclination to hedge and back away from hope is a relic from when I was really guarded. All of my past dating failures made me afraid to believe in possibility, because I was afraid it would dissolve and I'd feel disappointed and embarrassed. I guess those walls were a self-protective mechanism, but I am not sure they were good for me. The truth is I don't want to hedge on this. It's going really well.
Maybe I'm wrong about NBT, but that goes without saying. It doesn't feel like I'm wrong. I'm not afraid of being wrong. I'm not afraid at all. I just feel happy, and relieved. It's the feeling of breathing out, the feeling of seeing the ocean, the feeling of walking into the house and setting a heavy bag down. He's a cool glass of water. (But he is not the wind in the orchard, the plums on the counter, or the house of cards.)
Since I can't keep anything to myself, I'll probably blog about some of this. Maybe not the errands and what I should fix about my car. Boring. Might have people drop me from their blogrolls. Can't have that.
If you could give up all awareness and/or consciousness of what is "cool," would you?
In other words, does knowing which clothing or music or television or foods or habits is cool, and which is dorky or lame, improve your life at all?
[I ask because I have been out of sorts all day, because I am wearing a pair of jeans I got not too long ago. When I got them I thought they were reasonably cool, but upon wearing them I realize that they are a tiny bit too short for me. And that makes them definitively uncool. Knowing this just makes me feel bad, bad, bad. My life would be happier if I didn't know what length of jeans is cool. But I am not sure I am adult enough to wish to be completely oblivious to such things.]