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Posts Tagged ‘personal growth’

Last week, I told you about Elvis the conch shell living in my ear. The doctor called Elvis an ear infection, but – as I told you last week – I know the sound of the sea when I hear it. Anyway, Elvis has mostly left my ear, but likes to come back every morning to check the fit of his jumpsuit before he heads for Vegas. Annoying, but better than having him full time in my ear. Bye, bye, Elvis. Leave the building for good. Thanks.

Now, as I told you last week, according to Louise Hay, whom I admire, Elvis took up residence in my ear because of the presence of arguing in my life. And, as I was quick to conclude, she can’t be right because my three children have grown up and found their own nests. And we didn’t argue much, anyway, when they lived here. And I can’t argue with my two Golden Retrievers. I mean, I could try; but they’d only lick me and love me to death in response. So it wouldn’t work.

But then I remembered what I do for a living. Truth to tell, I’m a professional arguer. My work life is just one big argument. Still, that doesn’t seem like the kind of raucous noise that would invite Elvis in. In fact, my job is largely silent, except for keyboard keys clicking.

So what do I do for a living? Well, when I meet people, I often say I’m a legal writer. That’s closer to the truth than saying, “I’m a lawyer” like the irritating guy at the end of “TMZ” every night. But I am an attorney, licensed in no less than two states and the District of Columbia. Conclusion: this chick is good at bar exams.

I’m an appellate attorney which means you have to be a bona fide loser to meet me. Sorry clients. You know who you are. If you lose your case in the trial court because your flashy flamboyant trial attorney failed to charm the jury, I am the next stop on your legal “to do” list.

Now, while I admit to a preference for flashy and flamboyant in my personal wardrobe, my work wardrobe is one black suit which I wear to the court of appeal once every two or three years for oral argument. (Although next time, I swear, I’m wearing the red suit and six inch heels.) The rest of the time, I sit at my computer surrounded by Goldens, writing scholarly, unbrief “briefs.” And these tomes of legal wisdom, gentle readers, are my “arguments.” I tell the court of appeal in polite terms how the trial court screwed the pooch and why my client simply must have a new trial. I put these gems of legal scholarship between Gamma green cardstock covers and ship them off to the court of appeal by FedEx ground. Each one is a fascinating, page-turning tale of legal woe. But the clerk of the court NEVER calls to say, WHAT A GREAT READ! (Although the guy at FedEx who copies, binds, and reads them, sees my potential as a fiction writer.) No, the clerk only calls when I forgot to sign some tacky service page. SIGH!

Several months after I launch my green guided missel into the office of opposing counsel, he or she fires back his or her own lemon-yellow hand grenade, asserting the trial court was brilliant in every way and made not one single mistake in the entire month-long trial. In fact, according to opposing counsel, His Honor is an unbiased saint, and twelve smarter, unbiased jurors could not possibly have been found on the planet. Appellant is just the sorest of losers. Twenty days later, I lob back a chicly neutral Bristol-tan reply brief that says, ever so politely, opposing counsel clearly graduated dead last in his class. He or she does not know what he is talking about.

After that, sometimes I put on my suit, go to court, and stand behind the too-high-for-short-people podium for an oral argument that lasts all of fifteen minutes. But rarely. I mean, after all that writing, who has anything new to say? And the court of appeal will offer to lynch me if I bore them with what I’ve already said.

So, upon reflection, I do have argument in my life. But not the loud kind that would invite Elvis for a week-long sleepover in my ear under Louise Hay’s view of the Universe.

While the stately, professional arguing I do for a living has a purpose – it lets disappointed litigants air their grievances in a safe, controlled environment which is kind of like releasing compressed air to clean a keyboard – I don’t have much use for argument in my personal life. Maybe that’s because I got “argued out” as a child. My parents went at it 24/7. They saw each other – or one of us – and automatically launched an attack. No wonder I grew up thinking being a champion arguer was a badge of honor. Not to mention survival. But no one ever persuaded anyone to change his or her mind. It was all just word bullets fired into our most vulnerable emotional places.

So when my own three children entered my life, I couldn’t bring myself to surround them with the hurtful, constant criticism and argument that was the only way my parents could relate to their children. I mean, when you love someone with all your heart, do you really care if they turned over their soda by accident or forgot to put the toilet seat down, or wanted an extra cookie? (Who doesn’t want an extra cookie?) Looking back, the stuff my parents thought was make or break makes me laugh because it wasn’t all that important. For example, one of my father’s favorite rants was I’d never graduate from any school whatsoever because I couldn’t spell. (Didn’t anyone tell him how English got its spelling rules? Printer’s misspellings!) But enter spell check! And I have three (count them three) post graduate degrees. Cum laude. Guess I showed him I could graduate. Over and over and over again.

But the most interesting thing about arguing is that when I let go of the rope and fail to respond, my opponent has no ammunition to continue the fight. Really, it is the funniest thing to watch in the whole world. Try it. You will die laughing inside when tough guy stares at you with nothing else to say. It is so much fun, you won’t even be tempted to argue back. Silence has enormous power.  Said by a professional arguer!

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For a week or more, I have had a conch shell in my right ear. The doctor called it an ear infection and said the ear is blocked with fluid, but I know the sound of the sea in a conch shell when I hear it. Sorry doc.

Now the sound of the sea is romantic. But with a conch shell I can put it down when I’ve had enough romance and use my ear for other things. But having an actual conch shell living in my ear is not working out. Do you know how hard it is to practice clarinet with just one good ear? (Ok, never mind that I still play sharp with two good ears. Working on it.)

So this thing has to go. And soon. There are a number of theories about how to remove the conch shell. The doc favors antibiotics. Only problem: who decided all antibiotic pills have to be the actual diameter of my throat? Choking to death is not an option for getting well. So just like any pediatric victim of an ear infection, I have a brown bottle of cherry flavored liquid and a squirting teaspoon dispenser. So far the results from option one are not stellar.

Option two. Holistic healing. Being a fan of Louise Hay, when some part of my otherwise reliable physical self is on the blink, I run for You Can Heal Your Life. I admit to loving the entire story of this book. Overcoming the odds and optimism. And I met Ms. Hay once in person and was totally charmed. But, the truth is, the chart in the back of symptoms and affirmations is a hypochondriac’s dream. (Don’t I wish the conch shell in my ear were just hypochondria. I’d have it out of there in a heart beat. Or thought beat, I guess.) (Notice cool use of the subjunctive to demonstrate the conch is not hypochondria. Only English majors even remember what a subjunctive is.)

Anyway, according to the chart, I developed this annoying symptom, not to romance the sea in my ear, but because I am “Angry. Not wanting to hear. Too much turmoil and my parents are arguing.” Well, if I am angry, I have no idea why. I do want to hear. Any yes, my parents were champion arguers but one of them has been dead for more than thirty years, and I haven’t lived with the other one for even longer.  Granted she is probably is still arguing alone,  but I can’t hear her with either ear.

But a good affirmation or two can’t hurt. So I am chanting, “Harmony surrounds me. I listen with love to the pleasant and the good. I am a center for love.” I like the last one, a lot. And after chanting these at least once, the conch vanished for about three minutes. Really. Like Elvis, it left the building. But not for long. So now I am an antibiotic swigging, chanting host to a conch shell in my ear. Perks: cherry taste of the med, and feeling good when I say “I am a center for love.” Downside: well, we know that one.

Option three. The Abraham-Hicks approach: that which you dwell on gets bigger. So DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. Kind of difficult when you are trying to HEAR, but I’m game.

Option four and final option for now: Go fill up the bathroom with steam from the shower and breath it to open my sinuses and hopefully, my ear.  Hey, it’s pleasant, harmless, and tasteless, and I can chant while I don’t think about the ocean roaring in my ear! And I can light the lavender candle to banish the anger I didn’t know I had. (Still skeptical about that one.) Will let you know when Elvis leaves the building for good.

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Several years ago, my youngest child headed off to college, and I was left to contemplate the change in my life now that all three of my children were away at school. Right away, I noticed that the word “change” was like a prism with many sides, refracting life instead of light in multiple directions. The more I thought about “change” the more I realized I didn’t really understand what it meant. Oh, I got understood the kind of “change” that outside forces compress onto our lives. Time is an example. Time had grown up my children and changed them into adults who didn’t live at home any more. I hadn’t asked for that “change” or attempted to create it, but it arrived on its own, nonetheless. And I accepted it cheerfully and asked, “What’s next?”

But “what’s next” appeared to have more to do with me than the outside force of “change” that had created my empty nest. The change that time brought by giving me adults in place of children was not going to also bring a new goal and a new meaning into my life. I had to make that “change” happen myself. And that’s when I realized how many times I had set off on the road of “change,” and nothing happened. Why? I’m a very disciplined person. Multiple graduate degrees, and I run my own business. Surely I knew how to create “change” when I wanted to. But the truth was, I didn’t. The word “change” was an empty box I didn’t know how to fill up with meaning. So I began an experiment to understand the nature of the “change” that starts inside and eventually manifests in the outer world. Or at least is expected to manifest in the outer world.

I have studied clarinet most of my life, and I am always trying to be a better musician; so this looked like a fertile area to study the nature of “change.” I had long needed to make some “changes” in the position of my jaw, lips and teeth on the mouthpiece. In musical terms, my embouchure needed to “change.” So one day, I sat with the instrument and repositioned everything the way my teacher had been telling me to do for some time. The new way I was holding the mouthpiece in my mouth felt awkward and uncomfortable, but I was sure I’d have a fabulous, deep clarinet sound the moment I pushed air through this new set up. But I didn’t! In fact, I sounded the way I had on the very first day I had picked up the horn, too many years ago to count. So, automatically, I shifted back to the old embouchure, and then realized why I didn’t know what “change” was. “Change” involved sticking with discomfort. If I wanted to be a better player, I’d have to keep doing this new embouchure over and over until it became comfortable, and until it gave me the results I was seeking. If I didn’t want to get better, I could just stay with the old way and avoid “change.” And then I knew why I hadn’t really understood the meaning of “change” from within because as soon as a”change” I was trying to make became uncomfortable, I’d slip right back into the old way, often without even noticing. I had thought I was “changing” but I wasn’t.

Since that moment of enlightenment, I have put my theory of the meaning of “change” to lots of different tests. And sure enough, the moment I apply myself to a “change” I want to create, I immediately encounter the “Zone of Discomfort.” But now I’m prepared for it; and, if it is a “change” I really want to bring about, I stay in the zone until I’ve gotten my results, and I’ve created the “change” I wanted to create. Knowing that I need to prepare for the rocky start that “change” brings with it, helps me focus on getting the results I’m seeking. And it also helps me evaluate whether a proposed “change” is one I truly want to bring about. Sometimes I try new things and learn they are not for me. Going back to the old way is just fine. But functioning from my new understanding of how to cause change from within has enriched my journey and allowed me to put meaning into the empty box of that used to be the word “change.” More about the journey of change and setting new goals next time.

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