Do you know that moment? After being sick for days you wake up one morning and suddenly you’re well. The fever is gone. Your head no longer feels like it’s going to explode. You can breath without rasping.
I had one of this mornings recently after recovering from a nasty case of the flu. On that morning when I woke up well, everything seemed like a miracle—breathing full, deep breaths, walking down the stairs, taking a shower. The sunlight on our porch was softer. The birdsong in the back yard more sublime.
As I got ready for work that morning, I was struck by the utter miracle of life. And I had this deep up welling of appreciation for being healthy and alive in this beautiful world. In that moment, I was convinced I had everything I needed for a full and happy life…
You know where this is going, don’t you?
A couple of hours later, I was in the office. Returning emails, fussing with opposing counsel, trying to work my way through the pile of papers and pleadings that had accumulated while I was away. The moment from earlier that morning—when the simple ability to breath felt like a miracle—was a lifetime away.
I write about this because my morning of waking up well was a visceral reminder of how many miracles surround us every day…if only we are awake enough to see them for what they are. Being present to those miracles requires us to slow down…to connect to what’s going on right here and right now.
And there’s the rub. As lawyers we’re conditioned to be anything but connected to the here and now. Our work is all about anticipating what’s going to happen next. Or reflecting on past experience, so we can identify what we need to fear in the future. We create our own reality (what if this happens? what if that happens?). And we live in that reality all day and all night. We are perpetually preoccupied (i.e. we are already occupied).
The thing is, it’s hard to be present when you’re already occupied.
Yes, we have to be strategic as lawyers. Yes, we are being paid to anticipate how things might unfold and to chart a course of forward. But that doesn’t mean we have to remain perpetually preoccupied. Strategic thinking is an important tool in our tool box, but it is only a tool. It cannot be the framework of our lives.
What we create with our thinking minds (our worries, our fears, our plans and strategies) is just that—our own creation . Those thoughts, those fears, those fantasies of disaster, are not real.
Waking up to life’s beauty and life’s gifts is what’s real. And once we’re able to see that beauty for what it is, we’re able to say “I can just rest in this. I don’t have to have anything, do anything, be anywhere. This–right here–is enough.”
And, for lawyers, to occasionally be able to say that, is as much miracle as it is gift.
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished. —Mary Oliver