Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Man in Me

It has been an odd couple of weeks for me at work. Not in terms of quality of work done - just in case either of the names on the Firm's masthead or a representative of our legal malpractice insurer read this I wanted that disclaimer on the record immediately - but in terms of the pace at which the work is being completed. Is this something that would qualify as a problem in the life of a normal human being? Admittedly no. But when your DNA skill set comes with a very limited set of skills and the number of things you know how to do well - as opposed to know how to do - is even more attenuated, it is cause for pause when the only thing you do well seems not to be doing it for you at the moment.

Confidentially, reports of my work ethic, which notably I have never authored, edited or been cited as a source for, have been blown out of proportion for years. I think that I've been transformed by my partners into some sort of two-headed monster they wheel out to show to new hires as they exaggerate the willingness to work hard that the Firm shall expect from them. I have had young lawyers - some who have ended up just been passing thru our Firm (on the way to a better place somewhere down the line perhaps) and some who have stayed with us - backtrack to my office outside of the presence of whoever was leading them on the tour - and ask me if it's true that I only sleep 2 hours a night, work 18 hours a day and have never taken a sick day or been on vacation. I smile politely....and tell them that only 3 of those 4 things are true and if they don't get the hell out of my office they'll never find out which 3.

"You dance with the girl you brung to the prom" my grand-daddy used to say - or maybe it was Don Meredith who used to say that, my memory is not what it once was. It's a bit late in the game for me to complain too vigorously about a persona that has been - at my present place of business - eleven years in the making. Truth be told, I'm not an enormous fan of people and I am an enormous fan of peace and quiet. So, when I arrive at my office at or about 4:30 every morning, I enter an arena devoid of people and chock full of serenity. That's my kind of place. Same rationale applies for me to Saturday morning excursions to the office because unless the legendary "work ethic collective" we advertise in our brochure comes equipped with stealth technology applicable to both individuals and machines or everyone else has decided to go as the Invisible Man to this year's masquerade ball....well, you get the idea I'm sure.

The past few weeks however, while I've not deviated from my path in terms of work, I've simply not been firing on all cylinders upon getting there. I'm not moving at the pace or with the zeal that I typically move. I'm not sick and I'm yet so old that I suddenly cannot move as quickly as I used to (just two weeks ago, I legged out an infield single on a little squib shot I hit about 10 feet from home plate so don't tell me I don't still have wheels). I'm simply not all there.

I had it awfully easy in the parenting department as my kids were growing up. I'm married to a woman who is an absolutely amazing mother. Margaret works full time while simultaneously keeping track of where everyone is, what everyone is doing and who needs what and when for all of us. My role was simple: be the primary wage-earner. Her role was infinitely more complex: be the cornerstone. I'm embarrassed to say that she's handled her multi-faceted, immeasurably more difficult role with much more ease and grace than I have mine. When the kids were little, they were the three Amigos. I learned more of what they did thru the telling of the story about it after the fact than I did from witnessing it firsthand.

Maybe it was that sense of cool detachment that has made my response to Rob's departure so surprising, to me at least. It is as if the light inside of the little fridge atop my shoulders has finally gone on. And it has revealed to me what has been long known by the rest of the world from time immemorial: there's more to life than just working and dying.

I'd been very frustrated the past couple of weeks by my seemingly terminal case of distraction but I'll not be any longer. Now that I know its origins, I know it is neither a problem nor a bad thing. It's a good thing when you wake up - albeit a bit late in the game - to realize that it those you love the most and not that which you do for a living that are the most important.

And that when for one of those who you love the most the Garden State has given way to the real world and fallen away in his rear view mirror, it's OK to have a piece of you there with him - down across the Delaware.

-AK

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