Summer has finally “spread her hand” here in Atlantic Canada. The weather is so nice our team decided to close the office early last Friday (yes, we often have to close early for bad weather, and we also — about once a year — close early in the summer when there is good weather).
Summer means pollen, allergies, BBQs, fly bites, road trips, Salmon Festival music festival, campfires, road construction and . . . my birthday!
Ah, birthdays, a time for reflection and introspection. There is something very human about self-reflection. I can understand why it is evolutionarily advantageous. Engaging in self-reflection gives us an opportunity to maximize learning from experiences. Essentially, to reconsider an experience and question whether there was value to it, and whether the process we engaged in could be improved next time around.
We lawyers do this all the time. We are always thinking about that last file we worked on: Could we have done something better? Was there an opportunity to provide additional value?
For me, the ying of self-reflection also comes with the yang of guilt. Why do I feel so guilty? Posing this question in the past has led to a number of potential answers, including my mother being raised Catholic and simply an inevitable part of being a lawyer and a mom. There are just so many things one can feel guilty about:
• not spending enough time at work;
• not spending enough time with the kids;
• not spending enough time with my spouse;
• not getting enough exercise;
• not unilaterally saving our environment; and,
• not achieving world peace.
Then I find myself driving up Logy Bay Road and seeing this sign: “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.”
I also read “Jane Marsh’s” article on her blog nothingbythebook.com, “Moving from guilt to gratitude.” In it she writes, “Why is guilt so much easier to indulge in that gratitude is to feel and practice?” She answers this question by saying, “ . . . guilt is selfish and self-focused . . . while gratitude requires humility and awareness of our interdependence, our vulnerability.”
I realize the yang of self-reflection should not be guilt, but rather gratitude. My 2014 birthday resolution is to focus on gratitude. I thought I would share my birthday gratitude list with you:
• My 15-minute “rush hour” commute from home to work. That’s right — 15 minutes. That brings me from my retreat of private serenity to downtown. Amazing. And, to most of my law partners, I live in the “boonies.”
• My neighbourhood. I have one of those streets where at any moment a neighbour will drop by, open your front door, and pour up a glass of wine (they may even bring the wine). Two dropped by last night with their kids. Several are lawyers. I am grateful that I know what community means.
• Opportunities. I am very grateful for my mentors and sponsors. If you don’t know the difference, you need to read fellow Canadian Lawyer commentator Lindsay Scott’s “A quid pro quo I can get behind.” I have had some incredibly interesting and engaging work lately that I am quite thankful for.
• Living on an island with lots of rural outports. Just got back from a weekend in Twillingate — the Iceberg Capital of the world — for a family wedding. Yes, Twila was in Twillingate. AND there was even a Twyla in the wedding party. That’s two Twi/yla’s in Twillingate. Try saying that 10 times fast! Anyway, my cousin-in-law (if there is such a thing) took us and the kids out on his boat. We saw plenty of whales and icebergs. It was the kids’ first time. It was my “umpteenth” time, but that didn’t make the whales or the icebergs any less amazing. Also, thankful that we only saw one moose on the six-hour drive back to St. John’s, and it was not running across the road.*
• The number 8 — it’s just so symmetrical.
• Activists, volunteers. All those people who are working tirelessly to save humanity from itself.
• The witching hour. You know, that awful hour towards the end of the day when everyone is tired, hungry, upset, crying, yelling . . . when one child is pouring buckets of water out of the bathtub; the other just destroyed two, no make that three, piles of laundry you just finished folding while trying to find her favourite pjs; the pet just had a bodily fluid accident on the floor; and your spouse just realized s/he forgot to pick up milk on the way home, and decides that NOW is a great time to go get it. The witching hour sure makes me extra grateful for the next hour, where the whole family sits on my king-sized bed, cuddles, and reads bedtime stories.
Also — one more gratitude item — thank you so much to all of you who wrote me indicating that not only did you read my first column, but you liked it, you really liked it! It was great to hear your perspectives, and I’m grateful for your feedback.
• In case you didn’t know: Moose are not native to Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the province, there is approximately one moose for every three people.