Sunday, March 1, 2009

Turning the Corner?

Usually, when there aren’t posts at least every other day here, it’s because things aren’t going very well. It’s both because it’s way too much like whining to write about that state and because it’s not useful to focus on the bad stuff in life. These last few days, though, there haven’t been posts for a great reason: other writing was flowing well. The advice column folks would like it to run at least every other week, and preferably every week, while it gets established. The goal is to develop a reservoir of columns so if a really full week comes along, it won’t be a disaster to miss submitting one. Looking ahead, it’s predictable that once the MBA class starts on March 17, life will get much more complicated and the energy-balancing act even more intricate.

There’s even more good news: the vertigo (probably) isn’t brain-related so much as a cold/flu symptom. Once we got that word from the neurosurgeon, we were more aggressive and creative in experimenting with ways to mitigate it. Between our new approach and the (very slow) passing of the illness, it’s vastly improved. That makes my outlook correspondingly better: the vertigo is unpleasant and limiting. Getting distance from it is enlightening about how much it was costing on a daily basis. It is back, in a much milder form, this morning, but having experience vanquishing it, and knowing that is possible, combine to make it easier to tolerate.

The weekly papers come in today at 4, so the short-term goal is to get as much other work done as possible before then. It’s engaging and fun work, if challenging. It’s a form of writing that gets much more editing than these stream-of-consciousness ramblings, and the discipline of it feels good. A new pattern that didn’t used to be so evident in my writing is vocabulary-related: a word will appear early in a draft and then show up with tedious frequency throughout the rest of the draft. Editing requires first becoming aware of what the repeating word or words are in any given piece—it varies unpredictably—and then going through and excising or replacing it/them. This degree of repetition didn’t used to be so prevalent in my writing. There were other problems with my early drafts, and those are all still present as well, frustratingly enough. This feels like a constant two-steps-forward-one-step-backward endeavor. Back to counting my blessings and not focusing on the shortcomings, the reframed version of this is that at least writing is now possible, even if the first drafts are ugly, clumsy and clunky.

I’m still noodling about narcissism and leadership questions. The “And Stance” exercise I wrote has been really successful and feedback continues to trickle in from people who have been practicing it, sometimes months and months after they were introduced to it at a workshop. Surely there should be a corollary “I/We” exercise that could be equally useful; constructing it, though, requires a degree of subtlety and creativity that my brain hasn’t been up to lately. Any and all suggestions welcome. One of the big challenges embedded in positive daily use of these practices are the grammatical side effects: they can lead to passive voice and awkward constructions. There’s some nugget of insight to be mined from the patterns emerging from the grammatical objectors: the truly literate comprise one distinct set and the other seems to be some melange of those seeking to deflect focus from their own conduct and something else not yet clear. The insight is out there, and not quite yet within grasp.

Some days I get tired of being a grownup and tired of thinking of all the “shoulds” and “need to”s of my life. Then I remember how much I absolutely hated the feeling of being controlled even by benevolent despots (and mine weren’t any too benign) and work on reframing my concept and making my way toward happiness. I subscribe to a listserv that focuses on humanizing legal education, aimed at the unhappy state of lawyers and law students. It discusses mindfulness and ways to keep people focused on what took them to law in the first place, as opposed to how law school, huge loan obligations and big firm practice transmogrify personalities and goals. This blog and my communications with you provide a foundation for my own form of mindfulness. Thanks for being out there.

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