As I wrote in the first of Notes to Self, these are to clear up any confusion or questions from the AWOL manual, “When to Lay the Weapons Down,” being published serially here. Much of the manual plays off of Rules for Being Human. Because this is a blog, I break individual chapters into parts, but they were originally written to be read as one piece.
We’re just winding up Rule 2: “YOU WILL LEARN LESSONS. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called Life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.”
This “lesson plan” was to assess how happy the reader was in his life choices. The manual was written to help attorneys specifically because the course was designed for attorneys and in response to that informal poll where 80% responded they would not choose to be an attorney again.
When I hope it is applicable to all professions, it is with the desire that each of us, wherever we are in our career or life path, can pause the rat race long enough to correct course before we crash and burn because we were too busy to notice the dull pain of lowered expectations, the loss of joy in the common hours, the mid-life crisis where so many of us seem to implode and run screaming from the room. When I wrote this manual, morale in the law profession was at an all time low and there were many reasons for it. My task, as I saw it, was to reignite the flame they began with before reality and life choices took them down down roads they had not foreseen, but had inevitably made because life is always moving forward.
If you are unhappy with your life, rather than just accept that this is life, make the effort to understand why. No one else can do this for you. You can spend years in therapy being gently coaxed by your therapist to confront your inner demons or, as seems to have become prevalent, point the finger, cry victim and hold to your grudges because they are safe and require nothing else from you except an acknowledgement that you got the short end of the stick. I think it was Carolyn Myss who said that all these 12-Step programs were designed to move you forward, like a boat across the river, except that nobody wants to get out of the boat.
It is hard work to confront these questions. It can also feel threatening and human instinct is often to close your eyes, avert your gaze and look anywhere but at that elephant in the room. And when I say you, I mean me, you, everybody you know. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an attorney, a secretary, a plumber, a CEO, a roofer, a banker, a candlestick maker. At the end of the day, at the end of your life, these were our choices. You may choose self-sacrifice, you may choose to say you don’t have time to think about it, you may indeed have made the right choices for yourself whether in the now or at the end of your days. It is courtesy to ask “How are you?,” much like we shake hands or break bread with one another, but only you can know if “I’m fine.” is the truth or “good enough.”