Hadar – Week 4 #CharityProtest

Hi all – 

It’s been an interesting week for me as I went from supporting HRC as my candidate for President despite my many, many reservations of her personally, to needing to adjust to a reality in which someone both personally flawed and unqualified for the highest office pulled off a radical win.

While many others took to the streets or cried, I didn’t fully share their sentiment: I’m neither a woman nor generally liberal (although, to be fair, after 14+ years in NY I find myself far more liberal than the small-town values I previously espoused); I was just as sad to vote for Hillary and did so coming from a #NeverTrump position rather than an “I’m With Her” statement; I’ve rarely been a fan of protests just because things didn’t go how I wanted; and most importantly, I didn’t see any practical application or outcome from ‘taking it to the streets.’

I instead thought about what I feared most from Trump, from the elections results, and boiled it down to 2 issues:

  1. A lack of checks and balances in our FEderation system, which allow for debate and reason rather than extremism; and 
  2. The overt bigotry and racism that accompanied Trump’s campaign, whether or not he himself gave it a knowing nod.

As I discussed this with my co-workers, I decided that my stance to a Trump Presidency would be to both support and rally others to support organizations that offer a check on the federal government, especially related to our civil liberties. My first step was to run this plan past Naomi, and with her buy-in, I made 2 initial recurring monthly donations, one to Planned Parenthood and one to the ADL. We need to discuss some additional orgs, including the ACLU, possibly the NAACP and others.

That took care of me, but I wasn’t going to rest just doing that myself, so I took to Twitter and starting commenting on every tweet that I could find related to some unhappiness with the election result to promote this idea, and included my own name for my movement – #CharityProtest.

The next level for me was to buy the URL charityprotest.org (yup, it’s a thing with a crappy alpha site with placeholders everywhere!), and to reach out to a former co-worker who left UJA to take a UI/UX class at General Assembly and now works on websites to ask for his involvement and partnership in building out the site. We’ve had one discussion so far and I sent him the login and my tentative roadmap to see what he can do with it.

My plan? Offer information on a wide-range of organizations including how to donate to each one; tagging each one so people can eventually sort into rough groups (women’s issues, minorities, environmental, constitutional, etc.); link to other options for donations (goods, volunteering, etc.); a map for local branches of national orgs; scraping either Guidestar or Charity Navigator to offer a rating of sorts on the various charities, and a link to t hose sites for more information; a quiz to assist people in narrowing down to a few options from the many, many possible chairities they might consider, and more!

Is this a report on my stats? Actually, I’m going to say yes…and allow that the how much/by when didn’t generate in the way I predicted. Instead, when the options came for how I wanted to react in in the moment, I trusted my gut and followed through to begin working on a site that I hope will play a major role in supporting and promoting new charity and philanthropy for our generation.

I’m being kind, considerate and generous – spending my time, money and energy to help others, I’m promoting my thoughts and ideas, whether concisely on Twitter, via email with my collaborator, or generally online to explain the reasoning for the site.

I’ve given myself some liberty in writing at length here, but I’ve enjoyed this journaling exercise and I hope I’ve brought you on my journey with me. If anyone has suggestions for the site, I’m all ears!

❤ to all,

Hadar

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Nashville [journal post]

My dad walked out on us in 1989. I was 7 years old. He took his suitcase and walked out the door without a word. My mom explained later that he wouldn’t be living with us anymore.

I cried. I did not fully understand what that meant, but I knew that it meant that life as I knew it would change.

That same year, my mom’s parents — my grandparents, and the main people who had been caring for me up to that time since both my parents worked — were dying. They were in their early 60s. My grandfather was on the brink; my grandmother had just been diagnosed with the same aggressive cancer he had and she was declining quickly. My grandfather would die in the hospital days after my dad left. My mom could not tolerate my grandmother dying in the hospital too, so she brought her home to our house to care for her herself.

My mom dropped an alarming amount of weight during that time. She ran herself ragged emptying vomit pails, changing bedsheets, and placing cold compresses on my grandmother’s forehead, all the while shielding my sister and I from the gravity of what was going on.

Meanwhile, my father moved into a rundown apartment complex not far away. He took some of the old furniture my parents had in storage, but nothing more. A couch. A table. That was it. He had us every other evening and every other weekend, a pattern that would persist until we turned 18. In the early years, he had no clue what to do with us. He subsisted on TV dinners, so he fed us TV dinners, too.  He otherwise barely spoke to us; either the TV was on or he was buried in a book.

Fast forward. I’m now an adult, talking to my mother about my own divorce, trying to understand it. She told me then for the first time why my father had left. She said he told her he could not be the person she needed him to be to get her through her parents’ deaths. It was just too much.

It was good she waited so long to tell me that. If she had told me in the years before I knew my father, I might have hated him for it. By that time, though, I was well apprised of his limitations. My father cannot handle experiencing emotions, most of all his own; he stuffs them down deep. I have never seen him cry (or even tear up), and do not think I ever will. The magnitude of an emotion like grief for the loss of a parent undoubtedly made him want to crawl into a cave somewhere, never to be heard from again.

For his part, my father has hardly spoken of the reasons why he left, so I only have my mother’s version (and I imagine that is all I’ll ever have). The most he’s said is that it was what my mother wanted in the end. But especially in recent years, he has referenced feelings of longing and regret about his past with my mother. He’ll say things like: “Maybe if I had been more like how Jimmy is with you, your mother and I would still be married.”

Then a few weeks ago he told me about a trip to Nashville he had planned for them. “At first, she wanted to go,” he said. “All the arrangements were made. Then, at the last minute, she wouldn’t. I don’t know why. She just suddenly changed her mind.”

That was the extent of the story, as he told it. He had planned a trip to Nashville for them. She had said she was going. At the last minute, she changed her mind.

It wasn’t the story that caught my attention, but that when my father told it, I detected a rare pain in his voice. He seemed upset that he still had no clue why she had changed her mind. He seemed mournful that the trip never happened.

Then just this past Friday, my mother randomly said to me: “I wonder what things would be like now, if your father and I were still together.”

I was a little taken aback that she would express that wayward musing to me, her daughter.  I told her I couldn’t imagine them together today, and that most likely, they’d be in an unhappy, distant marriage–unless one or both of them changed.

“You know we almost got back together once,” she blurted out suddenly.

“You did?” I said. “When?” It was the first question that came to mind; I couldn’t help myself. Every child of divorce has some fantasy of their parents reconciling. My parents were so clearly ill-matched that I did not indulge in this fantasy often, but still, I needed to know when in the course of my young life this magical event could have occurred.

“It was within a year of him leaving. He invited me to go to Nashville with him. We were supposed to reconcile on that trip. I didn’t go. I wonder sometimes if I should have.”

Nashville…the word triggered a memory but I was having trouble placing it. Then I remembered my dad’s story, and it all came together.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “You backed out at the last second. He’s still hurt about that.”

“Ugh,” she said. “Well, what could I do? After what he said to me, and how he left, right when my parents were dying? I just couldn’t be with him anymore.”

“I understand,” I said, and I did. “But I think he thought you were willing to forgive him, because you had told him you would go.”

“That’s right,” she said. “Right before we were supposed to leave, I changed my mind.”

I didn’t get to finish the conversation with my mother because I had to catch a train to Long Island, but it nonetheless occupied my mind the whole ride home.

I don’t blame my parents for their choices. I believe they did the best they could with what they knew at the time. And, honestly, I’m not sure they ever could have been happy together.  What troubled me though was how much energy they both still have on this memory–this trip to Nashville that never happened–over twenty-five years later. My father seems to still wonder what he could’ve done differently to get my mother to go; my mother seems to still question not going.

It wasn’t just a decision about the trip, of course; it was a decision about their marriage. The difference between a life together–and not.

When I left my ex-husband, I was clear in my choice. Hurt, yes. Jarred, frightened, alone, certainly–but clear. I have never once entertained the thought of reconciling. I have never once questioned my decision to leave. I have never once wondered how things might be different if we were still together. Not in the days or months after I left him, and not during the years before I met Jimmy.

I have had a couple of “Nashville” moments, though. Pivotal choice points that, in retrospect, irrevocably changed the course of my life. The two that come to mind are the day I married my ex-husband despite deep reservations, and a day only three months later when I told him I was leaving him–but then chose to stay.

I wish I hadn’t stayed. I wish I’d left back then. I know we all want to say “I wouldn’t change anything about the past because then I wouldn’t be who I am now,” etc., but, I think that’s just a coping mechanism. If I could go back, I would change that. Not at the price of losing what I have now, but, if you isolate just that moment of my life–I’d change it.

I can’t, though. And I’ve come to forgive myself for the choice I made. I too did the best I could with what I knew at the time.

I think the main gift of the work is that if you apply it faithfully (and that is easier said than done–it takes courage, honesty, and a willingness to “go there”), no decision is truly difficult and the risk of regret is nonexistent.

My mother’s anger, indignation and pride prevented her from forgiving my father. My father’s unwillingness to access and express his emotions prevented him from doing whatever it took to save his marriage. What made their choices difficult was not the circumstances, but their own limitations. Had they approached things differently, they still may well have made the same choices they made–but I believe if my mother had forgiven and my father had risked, they would not have the lingering unsettled feelings they have now.

That’s when you end up with a “Nashville” moment, and with it, the sting of regret: when you make a pivotal choice not from your authentic feelings, but from your filters and limitations (i.e., your fear and your ego). The inner self watches it happen in despair, unable to reach you over the noise.

The truth: I didn’t love my ex-husband at the time I married him. I married him out of fear. I was 19 and living alone in Honolulu, thousands of miles away from everything and everyone I knew. At first, that was what I wanted–to say “screw you” and run away without looking back–but a year in all I felt was deep loneliness and fear. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, and never would.

But then I met this man who wanted me more than anything, despite all my flaws. I saw him as my one and only chance to finally belong and be loved.

If I had been willing to love myself instead back then, things would have been different. The red flags I saw before we married–and the major one that occurred only three months after–would have caused me to walk away.

This is why working the work the way it’s meant to be worked is so damn critical. The decisions we make matter, greatly–they fundamentally alter the way our lives go. There are no re-dos, and there IS a such thing as “never.” There IS a such thing as being troubled by regret over a pivotal life choice you made twenty-five years ago.

In PSPLife, we dial down the intensity of it all. Don’t worry, it’s not LP! Jim Grant is not going to get in your face and scream at you like a drill sergeant with tears falling down his face, the embodiment of your inner self trying to shout over the noise of your stubborn ego, pleading with you to cut the shit because it’s ruining your life.

You can relax.

Does that serve us? Does it serve me? Of course, it isn’t up to this group or any program or any person to create that level of rigor in my life–if that’s what I want, I have to muster up some courage, plug into what’s really going on, and generate that rigor myself.

Do I, though? Or do I avoid it, soften it, make it easy on myself, because Heaven forbid I get too uncomfortable?

Here’s the thing: I don’t want anymore Nashville moments. The costs are too high.

 

Which Hands You Shake, and Which Hands You Hold

There’s a country song where a woman about to head off on her own describes how her mother explained to her “which hands you shake, and which hands you hold.”

It’s a difficult question to navigate, and I still haven’t figured it out.

On the train this morning, a man in front of me had his Marine Corp dress blues hanging on the baggage rack. I saw the familiar emblem and a thought passed through my mind about my ex-husband, who was a Marine when we married. I didn’t recall any particular memory, and I didn’t wonder how he was doing–what came to mind instead was a piece I had written shortly after I left him about how heart-wrenching it had been to leave after seven years together.

He had had a blatant affair. He kept a loaded Glock in our bedroom, despite my adamant objections (a powerful handgun with no safety). He had a hair trigger temper. I and various neighbors had called the police on him on many occasions over the years, in fear for my safety.

You might ask, then, why was leaving him heart-wrenching?

Well, when I bond with people, I bond close. It’s all or nothing with me. Our relationship was the closest one I had ever had up to that point, and it wasn’t all bad. While it’s an effort to think of these moments now, I remember still glimpses of the good parts. I remember being so poor we split a 6-inch turkey sandwich from Subway one night, laughing at ourselves and feeling happy that we at least had each other. I remember him picking a baby bird up off the road, and both of us crying as it died in his hands. I remember when he wrote me a random note telling me how special it felt to make dinner for me, and how happy and full it made him feel. I remember sneaking into the elaborate hotel pools on Waikiki beach, a block away from our crumby apartment, and pretending we were on a five-star vacation. I remember the day he got back from Iraq, and the hug that couldn’t last long enough.

I also had promised him, and myself, that I would never leave. In my mind, there were no conditions on that promise; to add conditions was to not make the promise at all.

From that perspective, how could I leave? For me, it was an impossibility, no matter how bad it got.

In the end, I left because I could no longer deny that he was not in it with me anymore. He had let go, and I was left hanging onto something that didn’t exist.

Even after that point, although I moved into my own apartment, dated other men (almost compulsively), and did not see him (ever) again, I still looked out for him from afar; I couldn’t just leave him without knowing he’d make out okay. For better or worse, I couldn’t care that deeply for someone then turn it off, just like that.

In the piece I wrote about what leaving him was like, there’s a part where I’m struggling to understand what it actually meant. I remember writing about how strange it was that he’s going to die one day, and I won’t know when, or how. I may not find out until years after the fact, or maybe not at all. That troubled me deeply at the time; how do you go from complete intimacy–laughing at each other’s farts, tracing every part of each other’s bodies, knowing the other’s smell and taste–to nothing? How do you go from front row at the funeral, throwing yourself on his coffin in agony, to not even being there?

But this morning, the only thing that came to mind was how, looking at those dress blues now, I didn’t feel any of those things that were in that piece of writing anymore. He is gone. Erased. Replaced? Superseded? Semantics. He doesn’t exist for me anymore; even his memory holds no pull, no power, no emotion.

That’s as it should be. His was not a hand I was meant to hold, but it took me such a long time to understand that.

How do I know that now? Because I found the right path–the one I’m on. I found the right man, the one I was supposed to be with. The Universe reinforces that constantly in both little and big ways, from the safety, love and belonging I feel with Jimmy on a daily basis to our being so randomly and amazingly blessed with our twins.

The purpose of that old life was to lead me to this one; that was all. That much has become crystal clear.

I had another similar moment today, walking in midtown. I passed by a garish two-story TGI Friday’s on 57th and Lexington and noticed that it had been recently closed down, all shuttered up. I had been there only once, during my first week of my summer internship with my old firm in 2007. I had met Lynn the same week–a tall icy blonde who told me point blank she didn’t have any friends who were women (and didn’t want any). I nonetheless coaxed her into getting a beer with me that week. Both of us not being from NYC, we had no clue where we were or where to go. We left the firm’s building on 53rd street and, for the life of us, could not find a bar anywhere. How that’s possible, I couldn’t tell you, the area is riddled with bars, but at the time it seemed like every corner we turned there were only storefronts–no bars. So we ended up at Friday’s.

Lynn and I would go on to be close friends over the next nine years. The friendship was solidified early on, when shit hit the fan for me. A year after the internship was over and we all went back to finish our last year at our respective law schools, I found out my ex-husband was cheating. I couldn’t stop vomiting. Having no friends at the time, Lynn was who I reached out to. She was the one who sat with me (albeit from afar), telling me it would all be okay.

When Lynn and I reunited in New York, though, we both began to change. Despite my best and most desperate efforts, my marriage fully crumbled, while Lynn spiraled into a strange depression I still don’t fully understand. We became more drinking buddies than we were true friends, though the authentic bond was always there underneath, surfacing now and again.

By the time I married Jimmy, Lynn and I were almost fully estranged from
each other. Two years prior I had attempted to organize an intervention for her in collaboration with her boyfriend, as she had gone from abusing alcohol to also abusing pills and cocaine. It backfired. She found out about it before we could do it and cut me out of her life. During LP, I used every tool we were taught to get Lynn back. It only partially worked; she would respond to my texts and she would email me now and again, but she refused to see me.

The next time I saw her was when I invited her to brunch so I could ask her to be a bridesmaid in my wedding. It was like she knew I was going to ask that, and how much it meant to me, and that’s the only reason why she finally showed up. Our relationship was strained by then, yes, but I had never forgotten that conversation when my head was in the toilet and her kind, caring words pulled me out.

She came to my bachelorette party, and the wedding, and we revived our old relationship a little bit. What I loved most about Lynn was not just how caring she could be, but how bitingly sarcastic she was. We used to talk all day on gchat, trading cynical quips and making off color jokes. Nothing was out of bounds. My brain longs for that still. I love the new positivity in my life, and the supportiveness of the LP community, but I’ve still got my edge. Sometimes it feels like there’s no outlet for it, beyond Jimmy. He’ll laugh and fire back something equally cynical and irreverent and I’m reminded of why we go so well together. Still, I longed to have that in a girlfriend.

But Lynn was still drinking. And still popping the pills. I couldn’t help her unless she wanted help, and she didn’t. She didn’t want to let me go fully either, but, in some ways it seemed inevitable. I began to think of the wedding as a farewell to our friendship.

After the wedding we talked about seeing each other again, but she always cancelled. Then when I got pregnant she promised me a “sober date”–but it never happened.

I invited her to my baby shower anyway. I knew she wouldn’t go; babies are not her thing. They weren’t our thing. Baby showers was one of the corny traditional woman-things we used to cynically joke about. Still, I thought maybe she’d make an exception, just this once.

She didn’t; she RSVP’d no, a rare courtesy. Typically she just wouldn’t show up, after vaguely promising me that she might. Her affirmative “no” took me aback a little, even as I knew it was really a showing of respect.

Today when I saw the shuttered up Friday’s, I thought of taking a picture of it and sending it to her. But then, looking at the building–with its sad barren floors and torn awnings–I couldn’t do it. It was too close to the obvious, painful truth.

Lynn’s was not a hand I was meant to hold. Yet again, I had to wait for her to tell me that. I might’ve hung on forever otherwise. My door will always be open for her, of course, but for now this is a lesson in letting go.

Entering parenthood, Jimmy and I both seem to be finding ourselves in a bit of a friend-purgatory. Two of my close friends (also bridesmaids at my wedding) recently had babies, and yet I feel a block between me and them that’s hard to understand–and I can’t tell if it’s coming from me or from them. As for Jimmy, most of his friends, in their 50s, have long since passed this stage of life. They hang out frequently with each other and their teenage kids; we are usually not invited. Is that my fault? I ask myself that, maybe too often.

As for me, I look around and still do not know which hands to shake, and which to hold. Certainly my sister and I will always be lifelong friends–through our ups and downs and different life paths–and I am grateful for that. I’ve otherwise expanded my tolerance for connection, embracing connections that are not as solid or as deep as I’d prefer. Taking that on has certainly opened up new relationships and increased my Facebook friend count (lol), but I still find myself disappointed. I still feel a longing for Jimmy and I to find our close-knit community. I imagine it may happen somewhere down the road.

For now, these glances backward are about trying to understand where I am. Motherhood is another major transition, and I have already had a few in my life. Finding the continuous “me” through it all is sometimes hard, especially when you realize the hands you’re left holding through the different lifetimes you’ve had are few in number.

Transitions are also (and perhaps mostly) about looking ahead, though. I remember now the words of my old horseback riding instructor. When you’re going over a jump, she’d tell me, you need to turn your head to look toward the next one. If you look back you’ll get off course; if you look at the ground you’ll end up there.

Whether I should have or not, I’ve had my look back; here’s to looking ahead.

Pregnancy is Normal

When my father was younger, he was very outspoken (what am I saying? he still is; see his Twitter, @mavconservative–but if you do, two things: (1) he’s going blind so forgive the typos; and (2) we are two separate people–I do not condone, endorse, or even keep abreast of what he expresses on there).

One of his BIG issues that he wrote about constantly in school papers and local publications alike was abortion. He’s right wing, and he’s always been very, very, very, very against it. Interesting fact though: he is not religious. He does not believe in God. His reasoning behind his view is based on principle alone; his own sense of right and wrong. As a result of this strongly held view, he has never shied away from publicly writing about what women should do with their bodies, and he’s always presented himself (despite not being a woman and lacking any medical degree) as an authority who knows all there is to know about women’s bodies–and pregnancy.

I know: lucky me.

When he visited me recently, I explained to him (against my better judgment) how foreign pregnancy felt. I remember seeing pregnant women before I got pregnant, I told him. They never looked particularly uncomfortable to me. People giving up their seats for them seemed more like a courtesy than a necessity. They seemed generally cheerful, and functional. Smiling, rested, able to maneuver fine. Easy-peasy.

Not quite. In trimester one, I was taken aback by three months straight of morning to night nausea and debilitating fatigue. In the movies, morning sickness seems like it’s something that lasts a day, or maybe a week or two–not months.

I felt like I was constantly hungover–a feeling I knew very well.

In my pre-transformation life, my friend Jennifer and I were like sisters, joined at the hip. She lived on 77th and Lexington, and I lived on 89th and Lexington. We’d go out every night downtown, then we’d finish the night off in one of the places in between our two apartments.  We’d then sleep over together at one of our apartments, hobbling to breakfast together the next morning.

Well, guess where my hospital and doctor’s office are? 77th street near Lexington. When Jimmy and I go, we usually stay in the area to eat or even walk up to 86th to run errands. Every time, I point out yet another bar or speakeasy I have some fuzzy memory in (Jimmy doesn’t love these stories, but in the moment I feel compelled to tell them, if only to remind myself of an increasingly distant life that doesn’t seem like it was mine).

Two or three months ago, we were walking the stretch between 77th and 86th after a doctor visit, and I was feeling like shit. Like I was severely hungover (complete with the headache).  The stark contrast between the life I had then and now, mixed with the almost identical feeling, suddenly hit me in that moment.

Walking those blocks with that feeling was like being transported somewhere else in time–but I couldn’t fully recall it because I was now a long, long way away from there. My body was taxed not because of self-destructive drinking and late nights out on the town, but because of what I was creating: two new lives, the direct result of my new life with my new husband. I wouldn’t be going into any of those bars anymore, and I felt no urge to. They had nothing for me. I passed them as if they had become complete strangers, no longer applicable to me.

I digress, though (shocker).

First, turning back to those pregnant women I’d see, what the hell, ladies? Couldn’t you have shown some discomfort, bitched a little, so I’d have some actual idea of what this experience would be like?

Now to be fair I am pregnant with twins. That doubles the hormones (which doubles the nausea) and doubles the belly size, etc. But, still. The acid reflux, the pain in my ligaments around my pelvis as my body struggles to hold the weight, how tired my legs are, how I couldn’t (at all) outrun a predator right now (rogue mountain lions, etc.) even if I tried with everything I’ve got.

But then there are the amazing parts too, and I guess that’s why the pregnant women I encountered never complained. What is temporary discomfort in comparison to seeing two new bodies–filled with new, separate, individual souls–forming inside me? What is it compared to seeing two functioning, beating hearts, two sets of organs? To seeing them make their first facial expressions? Huddling together head-to-head in the womb, forming their first bond with another?

It’s nothing of course.

But even the good parts are a far cry from normal; they’re extraordinary. Them moving inside me — and watching my belly externally morph as they do — is extraordinary. And in due time, out they’ll come, two living, breathing beings that will turn into full-fledged adults with their own life journeys. Incredible.

Getting back to my father (yes I did have a plan to pick that up again eventually)–he listened attentively to me talk about what was going on with my body. How my organs got literally moved, stretched and squished to accommodate my bulging uterus (I had an info-graphic to prove it); how I had started waking up with an esophagus full of vomit (“that’s acid reflux,” he said); how I’d get random, excruciating leg cramps if I slept the wrong way; how I didn’t really understand just how different it all would feel.

Every thing I mentioned, he acted like he already knew it. “Well, yes that’s what happens to pregnant women.” “Yes, but women’s bodies have been making babies for thousands of years, nothing unusual about what you’re describing.” “No, that doesn’t sound right; pregnant women usually don’t have increased pressure on their bladder until they get a little bigger.” “The acid reflux is related to the pregnancy, it’s normal.”

He seemed incapable of listening without firing back a know-it-all response.  I kind of wanted to strangle him.

Then he told me about an article he wrote in college.

Did I ever tell you my father is a brave man? But I mean brave in the way that Trump is brave–i.e., audacious.

In this article, he explained how pregnancy was a normal condition of a woman’s body. The point he was trying to make, he said, is that this is what women’s bodies are made to do; biologically, we’re designed for it. There was nothing special about it, nothing that warranted extra consideration or special treatment. And, above all, it was not a condition or a process we got to claim as our own, or make our own choices about, even as it was occurring in our bodies; it was merely the way the world, and the sexes, were set up.

He intended it to be another article against abortion, but the women who read it back then didn’t focus on that part, he told me. They more so couldn’t get past his claim that pregnancy was “normal.” He told me that once the article was published, he got a seemingly never-ending flood of angry response letters from countless women explaining, in graphic detail, just how abnormal pregnancy was. He said the sheer number of the letters he got–coupled with their disturbing content–did give him pause; perhaps he didn’t know as much about it as he thought.

Later at my sonogram appointment, my dad was mainly silent, straining to see the babies on the screen through the keyhole that remains of his vision without much success. When the doctor came, though, he cornered him immediately.  He told him I had been suffering from acid reflux–what could be done about it? What could I take? Surely there was something.

I don’t know that that moment marked a shift in his thinking about pregnancy, but I’d like to think that it did. I don’t expect he will ever support abortion, and if I’m being honest, I don’t know my own mind on that issue either (though I am generally liberal); it’s so incredibly complex, despite both sides’ efforts to simplify it. But setting that aside, it would be nice if, in the course of having only daughters and supporting them through life’s trials and tribulations, he got some sense of true empathy for the female experience.

As for my own view, pregnancy is one of the most abnormal, extraordinary things that has ever happened to me.  Transformation in the deepest sense of the word, though nothing like I expected.  I imagine parenthood will be the same way.

Crying on the Train

I’m a goddamn mess on public transit. I talked to my buddies about this on our call, but, Jesus–with the hour plus LIRR commute I’m racking up some serious tear-volumes.

If I hear a country song (almost any country song), I cry buckets. I grew up to country music, so there’s a direct heart-connection. Writing to the babies — buckets. An old person sitting alone and staring out the window–maybe not buckets but I’m more than likely tearing up.

Sometimes I shift to thinking about work to make it stop–like a man thinking about baseball to stave off an orgasm.

That last analogy probably requires an explanation. I have what Jimmy calls “pregnancy Tourette’s.” Unfiltered crass or sexual comments slip out without warning–the one above is actually very tame in comparison to some of the stuff that’s come to mind (most of which I never say out loud).

Last night I listened to Eminem all the way home. No tears (lol). It’s weird what you crave when you’re pregnant; it’s not just food. It’s all kinds of things. Smells (mmmm nail polish remover and leather). Feelings (I wanted to be submerged in a pool all simmer–until it happened and I sank like a rock). Angry music (even the misogynistic parts of Eminem’s songs felt extra satisfying last night). Porn (there goes the PT again).

I digress. My point was I cry on public transit, and I’ve actually developed a system for it. Arrange my hair so it hides half my face. Tell the tears to come out of the hidden eye and not the one visible to the person next to me (the tears actually listen, it’s so weird).

It’s not so much that I’m embarrassed by crying as I’m concerned with my seat-mate’s discomfort–how will they react to a very pregnant woman crying? Maybe (hopefully) write it off as hormones I guess.

It’s not, though; I’ve always had a problem crying on public transit. Is it the motion, lulling me into the deeper recesses of my soul? The illusion of anonymity while still getting to be in the company of others? Who knows.

Sitting here on the LIRR now, Colin Raye’s “Love, Me” just came on the radio (I dare you to listen to it and not cry).  Here we go again.

Do you allow yourself to be led by others?

This question came up for me this week, as it’s a shift I’ve struggled to make for a long while:  being open and willing to follow, and be led by, others.

I have successfully made this shift in certain (important) moments, but most of the time I’m in my automatic: pick and choose who you allow yourself to be led by, and summarily reject any feedback, advice or otherwise from anyone else.

As an example, in Advanced, I determined (based solely on my experience in the first day or two) that Jimmy was on a different plane than the other coaches. As a result, I singled him out as the (sole) person to listen to, even over Kathy (who I viewed as highly talented, but occasionally allowing her personal judgments and biases into the training room–as far as I could tell, Jimmy never did).

This is the curse of being an analyzer. You put people through the ringer based on limited information and then form rigid opinions you’re convinced are 100% correct.

So I chose Jimmy to coach me in the week after Advanced (I made a bee-line for his coaching sign-up sheet), and signed up for LP only upon Gloria verifying he would be there (though I didn’t tell her that).

Well, a lot of you know how this story went (and the rest of you can guess based on current events). I was thrown a major curve ball. The sole person I was relying on to get me to my breakthroughs ended up expressing romantic feelings for me before LP began, and therefore could no longer be the guide and the mentor I was counting on him to be. Now in many ways he still was, and it’s not as if I would change anything that happened (obviously), but all of that is for another day.

My point here is after Jimmy became unavailable, I was done with LP; there was no one else I was willing to be led by. As a result, while his and I’s relationship blossomed (which in and of itself was huge, don’t get me wrong, especially considering I had a deep, deep distrust of men), my actual goals in LP saw almost no progress at all.

This same pattern comes up for me still all the time. I am only open to certain people; I will only allow myself to be led by certain people (regardless of the content they’re offering).

In some ways, I don’t view this as wrong.  I think it’s important to choose your mentors carefully, and with intention. I think that’s actually a significant factor in whether you’re successful.

The problem is, though, that often my opinions are too rigid–I choose who I think is “worthy” of following and shut myself off to everyone else, wholesale.

Jimmy has pointed this out to me numerous times. He’ll tell me it’s not that so-and-so isn’t a good coach, or isn’t giving you worthwhile feedback, it’s that you’re completely closed to that person and determined to reject everything they say.

The price I pay for this is the Universe is trying to give me valuable guidance and feedback through numerous people in my life, but I’m only willing to receive about a tenth of it.

I think being someone who allows themselves to be led by others starts with having a wide openness to receive feedback and guidance from all available sources. That doesn’t mean you blindly follow it all; it just means you actually receive it, consider it, and then choose whether to follow or not (biases or judgments aside).

This is something I’ve decided to take on this cycle. I want to ditch my assessments of others that cause me to close myself to them and shift into openly receiving whatever guidance comes my way (again, not necessarily follow it, but receive it–there’s certainly something to be said for trusting and exercising your own judgment when it comes time to choose your course of action).

The truth:  if I knew how to be where I want to be with my goals, I’d be there. So there’s a big element of humility here, too. I don’t have all the answers and I don’t have it all figured out. I need others’ feedback and guidance to help me get there.

summer musings

I’m posting here because after two months solid (more? I lost track of time) of writing major briefs for four different cases, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to write for myself.

The odd development during these past two months is that the more I felt disconnected from being introspective–and, frankly, from thinking and focusing on my life outside of work (and what I would like it to be)–the less resistant I became. As a result, I’ve been killing it at work lately. I can’t imagine losing a single one of the arguments I’ve been working on, even though it’s entirely possible (and even probable)–courts are fickle, the facts are not great in a couple of those cases, and ability alone isn’t enough to ensure a win.

This is part of what I fear about work, though–that it will take me over, separate me from myself, cause me to put my “real” dreams on hold (as I have already, for years).

Sometimes I think, though, about people who have left the profession. My sister told me about a woman who left a big firm — and a big salary — to become a salesperson, working for herself. Every day she’d brag on Facebook about how she didn’t have to be a lawyer anymore; no more 9-5 for her. She was free, living the dream. She’d post pictures by the pool midday. She also believed in what she was selling–it was changing people’s lives, she claimed.

My sister heard a few weeks later that this woman had been in extensive talks with the big firm, to go back. All those posts? Fake. She was struggling to make ends meet, and it was defeating her.

I’ve heard a lot of stories like that.

Let’s face it, lawyering is a solid way to make a good salary, for life. If you truly hate it, then it isn’t worth the price, but–isn’t that kind of attitude — “I hate it” — a choice?

What’s the truth? What’s the truth, for me?

This past week felt especially satisfying. I felt like I was contributing value, giving my clients the best possible shot they could have to get the result they wanted. They also kept calling me throughout, often opting to speak to me instead of my boss, because I was knowledgeable, clear, straightforward, credible. I’m not a young girl wearing a suit anymore and punctuating my sentences with “um”; I’m the real deal. My one client was crippled with nerves about his case until he read my argument. Yes, he told me with relief, that’s exactly how I want to tell my story–you captured it exactly. I feel confident we are going to win. I could tell he was less worried about the outcome than he was about his story being lost. Once he saw it there on paper, a living, breathing thing that could not be misunderstood, he could rest easy.

If I can have satisfying days like that, and make a good living doing it, what is so distressing? What is there to hate?

The answer is, nothing. I have been committed, for some reason, to being unhappy with my profession. Why? I’m good at it. Sometimes it’s annoying, but more and more often lately I feel engaged. I come home and tell Jimmy stories about my cases. I feel valuable. I’m keeping my commitments these days, more often than not.

The tightening (and yes, I do mean an actual sensation of tightening) in my belly reminds me that something else is different, too. I’m pregnant (with twins).

That has had many impacts on me, but in this moment, two stand out.

The first is, it’s hard to sing. Trust me, I’ve had visions of singing to my belly every morning, but singing is a highly physical exercise. It engages the diaphragm, the pelvic floor, the lungs, the throat, the mouth, the nasal cavities. Through the nausea and then the bulging in my abdomen (along with the rearrangement of my internal organs), I haven’t much felt like it. Odder still, I haven’t much felt like listening to music, either. Odder still, instead of picking up my guitar in an empty moment, I’ve picked up a brief, to rework an argument or massage the language some more–to serve my client, yes,  but also, for fun. For FUN.

The second impact is I cannot continue to allow myself to earn below my capacity. For a while, that was fine. It was just me. I was suffering from burnout and needed a break from corporate life. I was suffering from boredom and stagnation and needed a change of pace. Based on that, I could justify the pay cut from the big firm to the small one–I didn’t really need or even want the big firm salary, not for what it was costing me, and at the small firm I still would make a good income.

Now I’ve got two babies growing inside me, and being in a “holding pattern” professionally isn’t good enough anymore. Coasting isn’t good enough. Being comfortable isn’t good enough. It’s high time to raise my standards. My ability exceeds what I’m up to right now, it exceeds what I’m earning right now, and in the end, sailing through easy workdays rather than pushing myself to seize growth and opportunity makes me more than a little miserable. It’s like dragging around a dead weight every day.

I’ve been listening to Jim Rohn. Sometimes the same talk, again and again. He’s dead, he’s been dead, but damn if his stuff from 1981 isn’t just as poignant (for me) today as I imagine it was for folks back then. One of the things he said that stuck with me was something along the lines of excelling wherever you are is the only way to get to where you want to be. I’ve spent an embarrassing number of years fighting my own talent and drive, keeping it contained, actively avoiding excelling. It has actually required a fair amount of effort, and commitment, and energy. It makes no sense.

The strange thing is (or maybe not), I don’t think I could break out of this pattern just for me. Even after all this self-development work, I still hold the belief that I don’t deserve the fruits of my own talent.

But my babies do. My family does. They will be the reason. Is it wrong, that that’s the case? Or is that just how things need to be for me to be my best? Is that how things are supposed to be for me? Does it matter?

I’m happier excelling than I am watching the days slip by. I’m inspired to excel for the first time in a long time only because of my babies and my family, rather than because of a desire for personal accolades or other personal gains (which historically have been poor motivators for me, for better or worse).

I feel as if I shouldn’t question it, but just ride it out–I’ve been starved for motivation for so long that the best thing I can do is run with it.