Sending a bunch of inspirational emails to an eloquence of lawyers, a huddle of lawyers, a disputation of lawyers (my Google research has revealed a number of fabulous collective nouns) is not in itself a big deal.
So why does it feel scary? Is it because I’m daring to share my way of viewing the world with professionals renowned for their expertise in tearing apart others thoughts and arguments limb from limb? Is it because, with each email I craft, I am making myself more and more vulnerable, revealing my soft underbelly, my sense of humour, my own failings and shortcomings? Is it because I fear some of my eagle-eyed recipients are trained to pounce upon a misplaced apostrophe and then dangle it triumphantly in the air as such clear evidence of misdemeanour that all the poor apostrophe can do is hang its head in shame and squeak helplessly? Is it simply because I still have so much work to do on not taking everything personally?
I remind myself daily “we are drowning when we are disregarding the mission within us”*. Right now, this is my mission:
- I help lawyers re-awaken to their roles as problem-solvers, peace-makers and healers.
- I help lawyers re-connect with why they were drawn to the legal profession in the first place.
- I help lawyers find new ways to bring their fullest selves to their legal practice.
I shall not be deterred by the “unsubscribe” messages. In fact, I am deeply grateful that rather than scowling at my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed missives until they slink in shame to the corner of the garden to die, you have taken the step of acknowledging that for now, there is no meeting of the minds. With respect, I would prefer you unsubscribe and let us go our separate ways.
To the lawyer who wrote to me about striking the right balance after the original email: you will never know how gratefully this first feedback was received. To the lawyer who thanked me for the only minutes of sanity in her day: you gave me courage to keep writing about mindfulness. To the lawyer who asked if I could re-send one of my emails that she’d accidentally deleted: it was like handing someone a small gift and then witnessing in the way they tenderly received it, that they really valued it and understood your intention.
I am not doing this for applause. Yet on the days my offerings are received with a deafening silence and dismal Mailchimp opening statistics I admit my Inner Critics begin to roll their eyes and whisper in the corridors of my mind “this isn’t going anywhere”, “no one’s interested”, “grown up lawyers don’t have time for your silly and frivolous messages”, “could you do something that makes money for heaven’s sake, rather than sending lawyers pictures of Superman?”.
When this happens, I remind myself I have done this before. I have risked everything when I originally quit the law to save my soul and found myself driving blindly from dawn to dusk across the country not knowing if I was running away in shame and fear or running towards opportunity and fulfillment. It turned into the most extraordinary two years of my life creating a college for impoverished students that grew me in ways I had not dreamed possible. I risked everything when I met the man of my dreams and decided to share all my deepest fears and darkest secrets. Admittedly it may have been a little early on in the relationship and he did nickname me “the Compulsive Disclosurist”…but I needed to jump off that cliff because some part of me knew that if he was waiting at the bottom with a bemused smile that he was the one. If I’d crash-landed and squinted back up at the cliff to see him standing there frozen, a shocked expression upon his face, well, I’d have known to run a mile.
So I shall risk looking like a fool for love and for faith and for fulfillment again and again. Despite crippling fear that sometimes has me huddled at my desk in my pajamas late into the night, despite the anxiety-induced illnesses that come with no regular income, despite the grey afternoons when all I can show for myself is a pillow wet with tears – what I have gained through risking it all, is nothing short of miraculous. I can honestly say that every year I realize I am actually living my dreams.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy.
I grew up in a family where it’s best you check your vulnerability in the umbrella stand by the front door. I then joined the legal profession where vulnerability does not win you cases, does not promote you to partner and definitely does not win you the corner office.
It was only when I got far away enough from my family and far away enough from the law that the bizarre truth was given to me: the gift I been given to share with the world is powerful vulnerability. It made so little sense that at first I stuffed this unwearable gift in the back of the cupboard with the gift tag still attached.
But after many years, long journeys and deep soul searching, today my powerful vulnerability happens to be one of my favourite outfits.
I’m going to keep writing to the lawyers however risky it feels. And when that feels “safe” I’ll publish the book that feels so risky to write! And then I will make videos that will terrify me! And when I’ve mastered that I will speak to audiences of 1000’s of people that will make my knees knock!
Maybe some future evolved me won’t find stuff so scary anymore. I imagine a Zen-like calm I shall one day possess, and a deep knowingness that whatever other people think of me is none of my business. But I’m not there just yet. Right now, I find a lot of things scary, I’m just not going to let that stand in the way of living the life of my dreams.
If you’d like to receive the Evolutionary Legal Leadership series, please go to www.integrativelaw.co.za and fill your details in the subscribe block. If you later decide it’s not your thing you can unsubscribe permanently at the drop of a button.
*Tama J. Kieves This Time I Dance. A wonderful book. I shall be writing a lot more about it.
The photo is my Apostrophe Mouse, scampering along the keyboard just waiting to be pounced upon by a eagle-eyed lawyer. It’s actually titled My Mouse isn’t Working Right by Nina Matthews Photography licensed under CC BY2.0
From one compulsive disclosurist to another…that was beautiful, touching and so very authentic. I began casting my thoughts and beliefs about a more civil workplace and a more mindful brand of leader, into the mindless wind nearly twenty years ago. I remember the same futilities, exasperations, fears, despairs…they still come. But satisfaction comes wrapped in plain brown paper most of the time – the kind response, the occasional affirmation, the generous hug of praise from a distant well-known name who happened to land on your article by merest chance.
“Plod on regardless”, the inner call out shouts all else. Plod on regardless, indeed. Inspire us, the few who love your message and to hell with the naysayers. We love the message…and the messenger.
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Thank you for sharing, amanda.
I cannot recommend Vipassana highly enough. I am going back on 1 Oct for another 10 day course. Feeling so much less anxious and managing to meditate 2 hours a day. Even if thatâs all I achieve in a day, I feel fulfilled. Nothing in the world seems more important.
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Be green â keep it on the screen!
Loved this, Amanda. As I read it I thought of Tama Kieves whose writing I admire too. Saw your credit at the end.
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