I announced I was going to start posting some of my manual, When to Lay the Weapons Down, and why.
In truth, we are all suffering from stress of one sort or another, which is why I wrote the manual in the first place. Going with my gut, I’m going to post the manual in its entirety, a piece at a time, over this next year. While it was written for attorneys, I believe it applies to all of us. Keep in mind this was written back in 1994 and copyrighted first in 1995. Nearly twenty years or a score ago. I believe our stress levels have gone higher. Let me know if I’m right.
TO BEGIN WITH ….
By now, you have completed the participatory part of the workshop on Emotional Distress/Substance Abuse, Bias, and Law Practice. Generally, once you’re out those doors, you take a deep breath and get on with your life. Because the foundation of this class is required by the California State Bar to complete minimum continuing education guidelines, only your physical presence was mandatory. As in anything, the benefits come with practice. If you enjoyed the class, you might pick this up and peruse it. If you didn’t, this workbook may end up tucked away in some bookcase between phone directories and Civil Code Indices.
At whatever time you choose, when push comes to shove and you find yourself wanting to call a halt to the chaos and find that center point of balance between work and play, career and home, anger and laughter, justice and integrity vs. shortcuts and endless grind – come on back to this workbook. For some, the very act of pausing to reconsider the framework of their life is enough to point them in the right direction. For others, there is a great wall to break through. On the other side of that wall might be something or someone who will grab you by your throat and ask the very best you have to give and that someone will accept nothing less. For the time being, let it be me.
Attorneys, as a profession, are the modern equivalent of Knights. Even your very title stems from Esquire, a knight in training. While it’s true your weapons differ, as does your training, the intent is the same. To do battle, to right a wrong, to create justice where it hasn’t been.
King Arthur’s dream of knights at a round table was to establish a creed, a calling to arms, to create law and order out of chaos. He had a very deadly challenge on his hands. His people were sick at heart and in spirit. There had not been peace in a long time. Without fairness and equity, you have savagery. He wanted more for his people.
So, he challenged all of his knights to be better than they’d been, to stand for more than just an able arm in service to gold. He had them compete with one another, train and teach each other the best they were capable of. It became an honor to be of service.
And, it worked – for the most part. Like any dream or creed, it became normal, then rather boring – knights ache just like everybody else – who wants to go chase down some clodpole or villain, when there are the comforts of home – roaring fires, good looking wenches, ale overflowing.
In many ways, the times are similar for you. Each and every one of you studied, trained to be the best you were capable of. You picked your field to specialize in – when a civilian cries for help – you are there, brandishing your weapons – your mental agility to argue every viewpoint, a verbal barrage of hail and stone, not to mention a deluge of paper and ink.
You have been trained in an arena as fiercely combative as any Marine Corps recruit. Your weapons – your brain, your mouth, and a body of Law set to a flood of paper. The battlefield? The courtroom with the Judge and jury as king and audience.
There is one slight hitch in this battlefield. What to do with all those finely honed skills when peace is declared? No one has thought what it must be like for warriors at the end of the day. Peace and balance are not allowed to flourish because it is an unaccustomed state of existence. Your very being is trained for the adrenaline rush, the verbal attacks and strategies. If there is no war, you will create one because it is where you are most comfortable and, unless your family and friends are all attorneys, this is akin to firing on unarmed civilians.
The flip side is the attorney who is a lion in the courtroom and a mouse at home. BALANCE. The human being was meant to be a fully integrated person. Stress and its effects show us exactly where we need to create balance.
Within this workbook are exercises to help you clarify where the stress is.
Incidentally, when I say “stress,” I am not speaking of the form of tension that comes from trying something new – I am speaking of those times when you are juggling too much with too little and doing your best to ignore that if even one of those plates crash, they all will crash. If we could simply acknowledge that stress is a signal of a problem – a note being sounded to indicate an imbalance – we could stop and note the area, focus and resolve it.
With those images in mind …
While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a short story can illustrate a concept faster than a hundred lectures. To be continued…
Note: This is part of the AWOL Manual, “When to Lay the Weapons Down,” copyrighted 1995, renewed 2008.