While most of the country is concentrating on March Madness, my thoughts have turned to America's national pastime – and the concept of the curve ball (and not just because I had picked Kansas to win the NCAA Championship).
What happens when life is humming along just fine and suddenly you're up to bat and the unanticipated curve ball causes you to strike out? What do you do?
The curve ball can take many forms: the diagnosis of a serious illness; the death of a family member or friend; the unexpected end of a marriage; the demise of a business or loss of a job; or even the loss of property or loved ones in a natural disaster. The curve ball comes in many shapes and sizes, but the common denominator is that there was no predicting it.
How well you survive such a situation depends largely upon your coping skills and your ability to react to negative circumstances in a healthy manner. This can be somewhat difficult for attorneys for a number of reasons. First, attorneys tend to want to control situations. By definition, the curve ball is something that we cannot control. This can leave us feeling helpless and at the mercy of others, whether it be doctors or exiting clients. The feeling of helplessness can manifest as anger, sadness, depression, or a variety of other emotions. The first step to coping with the curve ball is to allow yourself to express those emotions. Don't bottle up your feelings or attempt to "tough it out" on your own. Try to rid yourself of anger in as constructive a manner as possible. Releasing negative emotions can put you in a much better frame of mind for making clear-headed decisions as you progress through the situation.
To cope with sadness or feelings of devastation or loss, enlist the help of family, trusted friends, clergy, or a professional therapist. This is often difficult for an attorney because we have been trained to provide help to others, not to accept it. Allowing yourself to accept help from others is a significant step toward dealing with unforeseen circumstances.
In a way, attorneys are short changed because they never receive training in how to take care of themselves, in direct contrast to the training received by physicians or therapists, or others in professions that deal with carrying the burdens of others. Other helping professionals receive training in self-care because of the psychological toll that comes from being responsible for the problems of others. Little wonder that attorneys might not be equipped to handle the curve balls in their own lives.
Lawyers are problem-solvers. They want to get to the root of the problem, analyze it, make sense of it, and fix it. The very nature of the curve ball, however, is that all of the analysis in the world won't result in making sense of it, or help in creating a solution. Sometimes the situation is just unfair and senseless.
So, what can you do? After you deal with the initial emotional fallout as well as you can, you should ask yourself some questions:
What do I need to get through this? How can I get that need met?
Is the situation one that I have the energy to fight? If so, what help can I enlist to do so?
What will it take for me to let go or accept the situation?
Answering these questions can help you to chart a path for action. Above all, be kind to yourself. Many find it helpful to turn the problem over to a Higher Power. Whether for you that means prayer or meditation, it can be helpful. Studies have shown the effectiveness of prayer and meditation in the healing process. Remember that you don't have to handle these situations alone. Give yourself time for reflection. Let other people take care of you for a change. Try to be patient. And remember that as trite as it sounds, time heals.