If the rest of 2017 is anything like the first couple of weeks, this is going to be one wild and crazy ride. There are so many moving parts in my world right now that my life feels like one interminable game of Whack-A-Mole—taking care of one problem, only to have two more pop up behind it.
It actually started before the new year. For some reason (known only to God) Katie and I decided to move to a new house during the month of December. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the renovation that was supposed to only take a week took 4, and we spent the entirety of the holidays with everything we owned packed in boxes and covered with sheet rock dust. Then there were all of the year end projects for the firm, and lawyers scrambling to hold last minute hearings and complete discovery under expiring scheduling orders. Throw in some drama with my children, and you have the makings of a pretty crazy start to the new year (and a bit of an explanation as to why it’s been over 8 weeks since I’ve written a blog post).
It’s a little ironic that we use words like “crazy,” “obsessed”, “frenzied, and “out of control” not as synonyms for insanity (which is what they are), but as words to describe our work and our life. So much so that the “insanity of work” has become a part of our everyday vernacular and common experience.
To make matters worse we fixate on having to formulate a contingency plan for every eventuality. That’s an occupational hazard for lawyers—after all, we are paid to anticipate the worse outcome and prepare a response. As a result, when we face some challenge in our personal life we default to trying to develop a contingency in case things don’t go as planned. So, not only do we have too much to do, but we torture ourselves by trying to figure out what we will do if things don’t go well. And when we can’t craft a contingency plan (which is frequently the case when it comes to things in our personal life) we come unglued.
What if the contractors aren’t finished with my house by Friday? What if my son decides he’s not going to finish the project he needs to pass science? What if I lose the hearing or the judge refuses to allow us to amend the scheduling order? What then? I don’t have a “Plan B” for all of these possibilities. It suddenly feels almost like it’s too much to handle.
I was talking last week to a friend about this experience of having too much to do and the debilitating anxiety that accompanies not being able to formulate a contingency plan for all of the things I’m worrying about. She responded by saying that maybe I can’t figure out the contingency plan right now because I don’t need it yet. Her advice was to simply let go of my obsession with tomorrow. Simply do today.
“You can almost always do today,” she reminded me.
Given that lawyers are hard wired to worry, it’s a little difficult to follow. But good advice nonetheless.