For the last two weeks because we had a shortage of people in our office, I agreed to come into work everyday (rather than work my usual two days per week at home). It was a great chance to get a lot of stuff off my desk. (This doesn't mean that I am not productive at home. I'm actually very productive at home. The fact that my boss doesn't come into my office every hour helps. However, there are certain types of things that are hard to do at home. Especially projects that require accessing a lot of physical files.)
Things went well at first. But by the second week, I was a wreck. I was exhausted from waking up at 5:30 every morning after going to bed at or after midnight the night before. I was depressed from only seeing my children one hour each weekday. It didn't help that it was always the hour before bedtime when they are tired and cranky. I was bone-tired from all the walking, and bus-taking, and ferry-riding, and car-driving.
Plus my home was an absolute disaster because I was only there long enough for the kids to take out every toy and for me to throw my clothes all over every free inch of floor space. Laundry piled up. The dishes piled up in the sink (no dishwasher = sadness). The pet fish was forced to skip a meal or two until Jacob eventually found him belly-up in his bowl (we had a lovely toilet-side service for our dear Cinnamon). AND we ate like homeless people who had just been digging through trash bags. One night for dinner Jacob ate three chicken nuggets, a half a bowl of chicken noodle soup, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and the last two baby carrots in the fridge.
During this period of time, our home life was the opposite of wonderful. The downward trend finally peaked on Friday morning when I attended a hearing and the opposing party won their motion. I had thought my briefing was flawless, the case law in my favor, and my arguments impenetrable. I was so confident in this hearing that when I caught opposing counsel reviewing his notes prior to the hearing, I smirked arrogantly to myself, "It's pointless! I already won!"
When the judge ruled in his favor and awarded SANCTIONS, I was sure that she had stopped speaking English for a moment. "What? What did she just say!" I was completely dumbfounded. I had read all the cases and the rules. I did not think there was any basis or precedent for the opposing party to win the motion. My briefing and legal research had been rock solid. Did we even read the same cases? Was I even in the right court room? Is this a dream?
For the entire rest of the day and the entire weekend, I sunk into a pit of despair. I had cost the firm a fair amount of money in sanctions and I still couldn't figure out how it all happened. The dots did not connect. I relived every second of my oral argument over and over, picking apart all the mistakes I must have made. It felt horrible to be so sure of my position and to completely lose on all counts. Are my oral advocacy skills THAT horrible?! Before I knew it, I developed a temporary but deep hatred for litigation and my profession and my career. I was convinced that I just did not have what it takes to do this lawyer crap. In a tantrum-like fit of despair, I scoured employment websites trying to find ANY job for which I was semi-qualified that wasn't law-related. I was all ready to switch careers when my two-day long tantrum slowly dissipated. Apparently, I do not handle losses well.
It turns out, all that despair and tantrum throwing must have stemmed from the larger issue of not having any sleep or family time in the past two weeks. The whole experience really showed me how essential it is to work from home part time. Clearly this arrangement is the only thing keeping me from ending up like Jacob's goldfish- eyes glazed, lifeless, and swirling wildly out of control down the toilet of life.
But today, life (and my love for the law) resurrected itself once again. At 5:30 p.m. after a day full of interesting legal research and outlining dispositive motions (I love those!), I dragged the kids to the park and made them join me in a five mile run. As I pushed my two favorite little people in the jogging stroller across an expanse of painfully bright green grass, I regained my inner peace. Halfway through the run, I was joined by a complete stranger. Together (at 8:00 mile pace!) we chatted about our high school (we both attended the same school but at different times), the teachers we had, and our experiences running track and cross country (she was also coached by my former high school coach!). We chatted about life and work and being a working mommy. She made my run breeze by and I am so thankful for her positivity and encouragement which was received at a much-needed time.
After "our" run, I set the kids loose on the playground. We made friends with a family of three young girls who were accompanied by their dad. The dad and I chatted and laughed and compared notes. Under the glorious sunshine, we watched the kids fling sand at each other, dig holes, build castles, steal shovels, and race across the park. As the dad and I were wrapping up a discussion about the ridiculous expenses of childcare, he happened to casually mention that his wife is a local nutrition counselor who deals with eating disorders. If that wasn't a SIGN then I don't know what is. I've been trying to find a local counselor who handles eating disorders and takes insurance for two weeks and kept coming up empty handed.
We left the park and got home just in time for the kids and I to cuddle on Jacob's bottom bunk and read "Green Eggs and Ham." Ryan laid his head against my chest, clutching his teddy bear desperately under his chin and sat through the entire book. Every time I turned a page, he pointed to the new illustrations with interest which made Jacob laugh hysterically. I tucked the kids in and walked out of their room content with knowing that I had given them just the right amount of attention, affection, and love. That feeling is, more often than not, a rarity for me.
I'm certain that today was my gold-sticker from the Heavens. Today assured me that I'm doing a good job after all, that things are going to be ok, and that the ship that is my life is slowly righting itself after an uncommonly harsh storm. Sometimes, I'm certain that happiness is not so much a feeling or state of mind but a process.