Ed. NoticeableThis is the last in our series of blog posts about motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at Mothers. Welcome to RB Guard to our pages. Click Here If you wish to donate to MothersEsquire.
As I walked along the ocean’s edge, feet in the cool, damp sands, I watched the ocean reshape itself over and over again, thereby changing its surroundings. Morning walks are few and far between. I am here with my family for a few precious days every summer, a few days of heavy security leave, however, usually interrupted by the work call.
But just a few weeks ago, I was far from this ocean, lying on a hospital bed at Cedar Sinai Medical Center where I had just been admitted. No, I was not in the hospital due to the Coronavirus, and I was not admitted to the hospital due to excessive drinking or taking too many pills.
Except that I’ve been there, kind of, because of the coronavirus. And it turns out that I am It was Drinking lots of pills and eating lots of pills, I was just drinking a lot of coffee and taking a lot of Advil, along with taking triptans, my prescription medications to try to relieve my chronic back pain. I took Advil to try to numb my nervous system pain screaming at me, and I drank coffee to try to feel numb again, awake, present.
Internally, I felt like I was drinking my coffee a lot – full to the brim, and every day I had it ready to boil any minute.
Like many attorneys, I am a Type A Personality, setting high expectations for myself and then trying to exceed them. And like many women, I was sugar and spice and everything nice, because that’s what little girls are made of, right? I have used “goods” and “shoulds” as the road map for my life. How can Hassan A lawyer deals with this? What will be a file Hassan Mother says? What will be a file Hassan Sister doing? a Hassan Friend? wife? daughter?
Good’s assistant answered those unanswered questions. You are Should Bill more hours is a good lawyer. You are Should Volunteer on that school committee; Kind mother. You are Should The thinnest of all good women. You are ShouldYou are Should. And I did, or at least I tried.
This hot, hot cup of coffee just got hotter and fuller, and overflowed with good and must-haves.
Perhaps it is not surprising then that the epidemic has caused my chronic back pain out of control. This trip to the hospital was not the first for my case; I have been in the hospital several times in previous years, but previous visits were all outpatient injections, one day here, one day there. But not this time. This time, I’ve been accepted for about two weeks, which actually means taking time off work (although I probably got a call or two) and even leaving my husband and kids at home without me.
But my identity has been stuck for a long time doing everything. However, something like stigma and belittling like back pain threatens to retreat from that identity, and to get rid of it entirely. In previous hospital admissions, I’d post pictures of myself connected to an IV in a small hospital room, my laptop computer open in front of me, with sayings like, “The pain might be harsh, but I’m stronger.” But then the epidemic struck.
In March and April, I managed to bill for strong months, even while helping my kids in school online and trying to keep their spirits high. I checked in to my parents and in-laws to make sure they stayed safe, did two virtual conferences, brought in new clients, and faithfully logged in to the virtual coffee offered by my daughter’s schools.
But I felt the dark emptiness of the pain engulfing me. The pain entered my periphery of my vision and approached me until my world seemed to be broken, like looking through shattered glass. My bedroom became my permanent refuge, lying on my bed with my eyes closed to let my mind try to rest, exhausted from chronic pain.
This pain was not the real enemy. It was just a show. The way my body tells me … my brain’s way of forcing me … to stop, take stock, and get in perspective. The continuing pressures of our profession, the drive to bill more watches, the needs and requirements of the round-the-clock customers I care most about, the drive to pay more hours, despite the ensuing chaos around us, were the real culprits as they interfered with my inner perfection and my leadership.
So, as I sat in a hospital bed, detoxing Advil and a lot of coffee, hooked on another vein, and new drugs endlessly falling and flowing through my veins, I began to clear up. The fog began to break apart, and the prism of the aura receded. I could see again, literally and figuratively, and I especially could see that I couldn’t continue treating myself as if I was indispensable, indestructible. Instead of ignoring the pain and numbing it, instead of saying, “Oh, I’m fine,” I needed to pay attention to the pain, listen to what it whispers fiercely to me, and begs to hear it.
“You’re already enough,” he says, the sharp echo of every word vibrating down each of my nerve pathways. “There is nothing else you need to prove.” The lawyer in me wanted to argue, to stand up for good and duty. But the mother inside of me tried hard to listen, with love and compassion, the kind of listening and attention that I would give to my children, my husband, and my friend.
“Wellness” and “Mindfulness” have become common words in the legal profession, however, like other words – diversity, inclusion, and equality – they are posed like saying it, or posting some related initiative on a law firm’s website, enough is enough. Most lawyers do not consider the true and widespread consequences of what is happening not good And the Less Mind It seems like. Afia Lawyer means lawyers who are complete human beings, have lives, families, and passions – lawyers who are attached to their friends and communities and still remember what it means to work for justice.
A wellness attorney, to be meaningful and effective, requires breaking regulations and putting them back together. Attorney Afia encompasses diversity and inclusion efforts, gender equality, prevention of maternity penalty, initiatives that encourage healthy behaviors and eliminate disruptive behaviors that lead to depression, drug abuse, and … wait for it … Chronic Fatigue.
When I left my hospital bed, I was also determined to leave behind the habits that reward me and keep me as a bad lawyer. No more Advil (I have the right medications to use now), more time to practice and commit to a meditation practice, taking time to listen to my body before it reaches its breaking point. Oh, and … it hurts … no more coffee.
And maybe, with less coffee, I could stop feeling that brewed cup of coffee. Maybe instead, I can be like the ocean in the early morning, breathe and breathe, renew myself and remake myself according to my inner voice, and I hope to change the world around me for the better as I do.