My colleague Jennifer Tull, a collaborative lawyer from Austin, Texas, is blogging about how to keep your center and sense of purpose while working with clients going through major life transitions. She writes beautifully and epitomizes the journey toward wholeness that is the hallmark of integrative law. Here is her first post (we’ll be offering others from time to time):
When I was a kid we would sometimes go to AstroWorld, a now-defunct theme park in Houston. Some of my friends were partial to the Alpine Sleigh Ride (which I did enjoy on some of those southeast Texas days where the temperature and the humidity are both somewhere around 10,000). Others went straight for the Bamboo Shoot, especially if there was someone in the crowd who didn’t know that the person who sits in front always gets soaked.
I was willing to go along with these wimps for a while, but before long I was impatient to climb aboard the Texas Rattler, and later, Greased Lightnin’ – once called the greatest roller coaster in the world. I loved everything about roller coasters – the dread that came with the click, click, click of the chain hill as you go up the first rise; that moment of liminal space when you’re not going up anymore but you haven’t yet started going down; the thrill of going 70 miles an hour down a 60 degree slope into a banking turn that becomes a full loop before you can catch your breath … and then it’s over, as you stumble in exhilaration to the back of the line to do it all over again.
I haven’t had the opportunity to ride a roller coaster in a decade or so, but it seems like lately I’m surrounded by people who are on emotional roller coasters: Clients who think they’re on the path to reconciliation only to learn of an ongoing affair; dear friends whose children are having life-threatening physical and mental health issues; colleagues being betrayed by trusted co-workers. It’s difficult to watch as their emotions careen from dark despair, through some double loops, to elation, then plummet to depths that seem to have no stopping point – all based on snippets of information that trickle into their world about things over which they have absolutely no control.
I was unprepared for life’s roller coaster with my own child, and because I never, ever want to be there again, I mined that event for everything I thought The Universe might be trying to teach me.
I learned that experiencing both highs and lows are equally important, and neither is reality. Reality is the platform from which you embark on your journey and to which you return when all the drama has ended – your place of spiritual poise or stasis. It’s where you live when things are not in crisis, and it informs how you perceive, interact with, and move through the world – in short, it defines your experience. I guess this place of repose is what some people would call your personality or prevailing world view. I like to think of it as my operating system – the thing that keeps everything running and from which all other programs are sourced.
I learned that if I start my roller coaster ride from a platform of chaos and fear, the ride will only make it worse. If I start the ride from a place of arrogance and perceived control, I just have that much farther to fall, and the process of falling might destroy me. But if I start my journey from a place of acceptance – the knowledge that the lows are temporary and so are the highs – I can have a completely different experience. Lows become rich times to absorb and appreciate all of the love and support I have from those around me; highs are opportunities for gratitude and giving back to others who are not as fortunate as I in that moment.
I learned that you can select the operating system you use. There are lots of fine operating systems to choose from, but if you don’t consciously choose, you will be stuck with the operating system that was installed at the factory, and that one is based on the limited amount of information available to you while you were becoming the person you are today. Much of that data is probably outdated, at best, and will leave you ill-equipped to take the next roller coaster ride that’s waiting for you right around the corner.
My roller coaster rides have caused me to upgrade my operating system, and I have settled on Joy. Joy combines all of the best features of Gratitude and Playfulness and is still agile enough to afford me a full range of emotions. Joy recognizes that there is no upper limit to how great things can be, while keeping me grounded and present. Joy allows me to be the one who yells, “BRING IT ON!” when faced with a challenge, and “WAHOO!” when an opportunity presents itself. Joy promises, when I get good enough at it, to allow me to be a solid, sturdy, centered me no matter what is going on in my world – and that’s so much better than AstroWorld it makes me laugh.
(Copyright © 2014 The Law Offices of Jennifer Tull, All rights reserved. Published here by permission.)
Copyright © |2014 *The Law Offices of Jennifer Tull, All rights reserved.