Sunday, June 2, 2013

Paying it Forward

First, let me apologise for abandoning the Blogging A to Z Challenge . . . I learned an important lesson:  Starting a new job is kind of a time-suck for anything else you think you may have to do in your life.  Yup, I started a new job half way through April and the rest as they say, is not history . . . .That new job, however, has taken me back to working in an area that means a great deal to me . . . an area that I would call my dharma.

Everyone has a 'calling'.  For some that calling whispers in the quiet of the night and they spend their waking hours trying to remember the sound and shape of the words.  Some people just know their calling from infancy and move toward it without many sidelines or detours.  Sadly, some people spend their entire lives not just unaware of their personal calling, but also oblivious that such things exist.

In the past several years, my calling has become clear to me.  I seem to have a gift as somewhat of a life change mentor.  Given that my initial career choice was divorce lawyer, this does not seem much of a stretch.  Getting divorced rates right up there on the life change scale. 

I always gravitated toward clients who were stuck in the mire that is left in the wake of disintegrating relationship.  The sludge that pulls even the most gentle souls into the abyss of anger and self-loathing over what was both done and left undone.  I listened patiently to tales of spousal betrayal and broken promises.  Witnessing their stories often gave them the opportunity for closure and healing.  Just as often it inspired a higher level of hatred and anger.  I learned to focus on the factual bits.  The details that were uncontroverted and unarguable.  Things like the date of marriage and the kids names and birthdates.  I changed my process to require new clients to write out their story for me.  This gave them the opportunity to vent their spleen and sprew the nasties on paper, where I could read through and pull out the germaine information that I needed to properly frame and present their claim.  But there was always something missing, something wrong with the system I was working within.

For example, I was somewhat limited in my ability to tell my client he/she was being a completely unreasonable idiot.  Which I never really knew, in any event, because I had only one side of the story.  And a very, very, very biased one side at that.  Sure, I would get the other party's version of events in the battle of the affidavits and letters from opposing counsel. 

As I edged toward burn out, I found myself exhausted from suffering fools.  Not just my clients, but the other lawyers and often even the judges who were charged with figuring out a solution to the client-created messes.  Most days I just wanted to sit and cry.  Tears for the clients and their former partners, but mostly tears for the children caught in the tangled webs of lies, anger, sorrow and mistrust that had been nurtured, fertilized and grown by their parents.  It was a relief when we left the Back of Beyond and I was able to take some time off.

The time off did not renew my desire to continue my former profession, much to Renfrew's chagrin.  He was quite taken with being the professional's husband. . . although I'm not sure why.  Once I realized that the law bus had left the station and I was happy just waving as it pulled passed, I began to look for other career options. 

For 3 years I had my 'dream job'.  I worked within the court system helping family law clients work out child support and helping self-represented family law litigants in the superior court with procedure and the organization of their materials.  I did not take sides and gave information freely to those who asked, including providing computer calculations for child support situations.  I explained forms and documentary requirements and tried to demystify court room protocol and process.  For the average person, speaking in court is not unlike confronting the Great Oz.  Terrifying.  By explaining the process and acting as cheerleader, I like to think I helped individuals present their cases in calm and clear fashion.

But in reality, I was only play-acting at understanding my clients until my own marriage dissolved near the end of my first year in this position.  Seriously, I try to empathize with the broken hearts and the feelings of anger and abandonment, but it was nothing I had ever experienced. 

Suddenly the affidavits of those both applying for and defending against protection orders seemed less crazy.  Now, don't get me wrong there was NEVER a hint of seriously angry words, much less actions, in my marriage or during its demise.  We were always civil, if not particularly kind.  However, I can admit that there were moments when I had Carrie Underwood thoughts of baseball bats and Renfrew's Mustang.  The only difference between me and my clients was:  I would never have acted on those thoughts.  Not in my DNA to act out violently.  And whether that disinclination was from some hardwired, genetic trait or just how my Mom raised me, I don't know.  But I'm glad for it.

Anyway, it wasn't until my own personal sh*t storm struck that I truly understood how bereft a person can become when those things that were TRUE no longer are.  How having the floor drop out from under your feet can send you on a spiral of pain and bad choices.  There was a part of me (probably the same baseball bat referenced part noted above) that wanted to become a screaming crazed scorned ex-wife complete with wild eyes and frothing mouth.  You know what I mean.  But I didn't.  It would have hurt not just Renfrew but also the Pumpkin. 

Strangely one of the things that I believe not only got me through those first several months, but ultimately allowed me to find a path to healing, was helping my clients.  I truly got on a deep level that helping others, helps us.  As I made suggestions to them on constructive, positive ways to try to deal with their situations, I took the advice myself.  I could see a little part of me in almost every situation.

In counseling my clients to remember the good things that attracted them to their former partners, I remembered the good in Renfrew.  I bent over backwards trying to involve Renfrew (who had his own way of dealing with the separation) in the Pumpkin's life. 

As time passed, I felt growth in parts of my character and soul that I didn't realize could grow.  Everytime I gave Renfrew the benefit of the doubt, I was equal parts irritated and genuinely forgiving.  Everything I saw my kid hug us both with abandon and talk about her dad with the adoration a 9 year old has for the man who is EVERYTHING to her, my heart grew.  I knew that my hurt and anger had NOTHING to do with her feelings for her dad and she needed those feelings to be strong.  He was the man who would teach her what a man is supposed to be.

Since my dream job ended I haven't had much chance to encounter people in that life change blender that is divorce.  Several of my old friends have sought me out and I like to think I talked them off the ledge and gave them some different ideas about how to look at their situation.

So how does this relate to my job change?  I am now working in a family law office . . . not as a lawyer, that is no longer something I have the desire to do . . . I am the assistant who deals with the clients.  My concern is helping my boss get the information she needs from the clients.  If I help some of those clients see their situation as a growth opportunity, that is even better.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post and your heartfelt life path. Sounds like you are in the place you're meant to be. I didn't get passed "R" in the A to Z Challenge for April 2013, but I did get introduced to you and your blog, and that was an unexpected bonus! =) Thanks for sharing!