Sunday, February 21, 2010

Angry and Judgmental

If you had asked me as someone did today, what characteristics in another lawyer, judge or other person that most agitated me through the years, it would be the angry judgmental person, the irate finger pointer, the person who labeled and denounced.  But it's one of those terrific ironies, that, that is who I am.  That's who I struggled with as I raced along in my career, heedless to the log in my own eye.  I called this blawg the Bad Lawyer because in part I was mocking the judgment of me as a Bad Lawyer, but also in part because I fervently prayed and wished that I would gain insight in looking at "criminal under my own hat." 

It is said that more tears are shed over answered prayers than not, and so my wish has been answered.  For a long time now I've dealt with crippling anxiety and depression but nothing like the last few weeks since my struggles to attend to my unfiled and unpaid taxes have hammered home the disaster that I have caused myself personally and professional, and potentially my family.  I lay awake with my heart pounding, nearly out of my chest, and then I get up and work all day, only to lay awake again with at best snatches of sleep.  I'll try to sleep again, tonight.

I share this with you, in the event that you are not attending to something in your life because of fear and anxiety.  Deal with it now, young, good lawyers.  Deal with your small problems while they are still small, or your big problem while they are still big and not monstrous. 

I met a man tonight as I sat in the lobby of a hotel outside of a conference waiting for the blonde super lawyer.  Richard was a friendly guy maybe a few years younger than myself and he in the fewest words imagineable told me the story of his life.  He was a Puerto Rican kid growing up in a Irish neighborhood on the westside of OurCity.  He was insulted and harassed by neighbor kids, but he got through school and made it into the Air Force.  Honorably discharged after 4 years Richard beat around the streets and was hitting the bottle and smoke pretty heavily--then one day he robbed a gas station.  He was so mortified and ashamed when it occured to him what he had become, he turned himself in to the police.  Richard had a small son, a girlfriend and something of a life--but, he became a convicted felon and spent two and a half years in the penitentiary.  Since that time he has lived a pretty model life although his life and career opportunities are pretty circumscribed.  He works three jobs and supports 5 small kids.  He gave me more relief and empathy in the few minutes he shared with me than any single person has, and believe me I am the beneficiary of alot of love and caring.

Richard told me, "I am not the sum of the crime that I committed." 

I am the "criminal under my own hat" but I am not the sum of those acts and failures.  I would like to be remembered for correcting this legacy of anger and judgment, and anything else within my power to address.  To the extent that I share this with you, it is because it is the insight given to me.


  1. Nietzsche said that "he who has a 'why' to live can bear almost any 'how'." I've always held onto that idea in dark times. The "why"--the reason you're here, your beliefs, your responsibilities, your USEFULNESS to the world--is the thing that will get you through this. When I can't sleep because of worry, or melancholy, or regret, I always try to remember that the "why" is what matters. It will long outlive the "how"--the ephemeral miseries and regrets--as long as I don't forget about it. I think the main thing, the most important thing, is to live a useful life. However you can manage to do it.

    This too shall pass--but in the meantime, try to get some rest.

  2. I was in your shoes. For a variety of reasons, over a number of years, I ended up owing the IRS a bunch of money. I had a lien on my house, etc. I had ducked the problem hoping it would go away. This came at the same time as my marrigae was failing apart. I knew I would have to come to grips wth the issue. I took out a loan and paid the bill. I am still paying on it but I am close to being done. Had I to do it over again, I would have gotten the loan and then negotiated more vigorously, (made an offer in compromise, etc) with the IRS and then returned some of the money and wound up with less to pay. I know the sleepless nights and the horrible physical symptoms of anxiety. Godspeed my friend

  3. Thank you. I did get an ok nights' sleep last night, but I'm holding the anxiety tiger at arm's length--I'm afraid. I can only imagine the distortions in my personality this has all had on me over time. I do feel a bit lifted away from some of that. . .