I am one of those people who get a little sad when a book I am reading is near the end. Chances are, I've spent a number of days and hours becoming acquainted with the characters and their plights, the time period and setting, and maybe I don't want the story to end. But it does. And then I move on to the next book. That's how reading works, right?
What I find interesting about this analogy is that despite feeling a little disappointed when a story ends, I find some joy and hope knowing I'm now ready to start a new book, perhaps an even more exciting story. And yet this morning, this literary hopefulness is not translating.
There is an obvious fear of the unknown that we all carry with us. We become comfortable in our stories, even when they are sad or perhaps toxic because there is a level of comfort in our own chaos. We know how to handle at least some of the characters there. Perhaps we are a little unsure of the twists and turns of the plot, but we at least understand part of the pattern of the story. We may even convince ourselves that we are happy and safe because leaving the current pages of our own books is so incredibly daunting.
I need to turn the page. There is no other way to make it to the end of this current book I am holding and start a new story. I've known this for months, but it wasn't until late last night that this analogy hit home. Avoiding the inevitable just prolongs agony.
Once again, Pinterest came through for me and offered me this quote: "When you find no solution to a problem, it's probably not a problem to be solved, but rather a truth to be accepted."
I've spent nearly three years spinning my wheels trying to creatively solve a massive conundrum. I've exhausted myself, cried myself to sleep, cried my way to afternoon school dismissal, cried my way through Gilmore Girls re-runs and i-Tunes playlists. I've written about it and talked about it endlessly. I've done everything short of driving myself crazy (and I've probably done that too) to try and solve this puzzle when there is no solution other than to turn the page.
The truth that needs to be accepted is that I deserve more - from other people, from myself. And not to turn this into an Oprah style self esteem rant, but maybe we all forget who we are. I know I have. Every so often a glimmer of the fire that kept my cold coal engine running flares back up and I remember a layer of confidence - and not the fake smiling stuff I put out now to hide my insecurities- I mean the voice inside of me that used to drive me to take on challenges and to walk away from people who stood in the way of my success and happiness.
I know I have given more of myself to people who have no intention or perhaps no ability to give back to me. Emotionally, that is a lonely place to sit expecting or at least hoping for a little something in return and it never really comes. There is no question that I wear my heart on my sleeve and I admit to feeling more than the average person feels, but there is also no excuse anymore when people take advantage of me. If you can't give back to me at some level of intensity near to mine, then I have to get to the next page, and turn.
As painful as that is, the truth that has to be accepted is that turning the page is the only way to advance my story and maybe some characters are not in the next chapter. Or maybe, they come back at the end, just in the nick of time (I really have to remind myself to look up why we say "in the nick of time." Who is Nick?). Either way, until the page turns, we can never know.
That's my sobering and sad reality today. It's been my sad reality for some time, but one that I was not ready to face. I don't give up on anything - love, family, Eli Manning and his offense, or friends. The last thing I wanted to do this year was walk away from the world I have known for so long, but it is clear there is no other way.
The positive take away here is that I'm closer to settling down with a new story - new characters, a new setting and a new plot. I'm terrified, if I am being truly honest. And so, I'm going to read slowly, take my time. Now that I have committed to beginning a new book, I can fully immerse myself in the story. And maybe, just maybe, I will enjoy it more and the last book, as powerful as it was, will be a nice memory.
The thing about books - whether they travel with us in paper or on our tech devices - is that we can always re-open them and start them again. For now, my old book will be on a shelf in between Sense & Sensibility and Rabbit, Run. A good spot for a good story I once didn't want to end.
Last week, I decided a 5-day juice cleanse was exactly what I needed to drop a few extra pounds and lose those crazy sugar cravings I have. I almost made it, but Saturday we had double birthday parties and cake is just so...cakey.
But after following a friend's juice cleanse week through Instagram posts and seeing her results, I thought how bad could this be - it's juice? So I went on line and ordered my Jus by Julie 5-day cleanse kit. However, what I didn't plan well was that I would be attempting this cleanse over a weekend with birthday parties and playoff football. I resigned to do "my" best (translated: I'll go as long as I can without touching the cake). Had I done what I was supposed to do and stayed away from the cake (and the wine...) I have no doubt my results would have been spectacular. My results are still very good and this cleanse works.
The juices are delicious non-GMO products except for one, maybe 2 (the lemonade with the cayenne pepper was a little rough and the PB & Jus was not good but I don't even like a shake or smoothie with peanut butter, so that's probably just me.). I was not starving during the day, shockingly and I wasn't craving anything (until cake was shoved under my nose on Saturday night). There are 6 juices a day that you can easily space out every few hours, all numbered 1-6 so you know which one comes next. And even the gross looking green ones taste great.
Not only did my cravings for junk - I have a salty, then sweet, then salty snack problem - subside, but my desire to drink wine (even though I had "a day" on Friday that probably required wine) or beer went away. And with the lack of yucky food and alcohol in me, I realized I had more energy and more focus. Yes, I was a little hungrier than usual when I went to bed, but I also managed to shed almost 3 pounds - and that was with the cake.
My creative juices started flowing again too. Last Wednesday, I had a great opportunity to speak to a room of about 25 men, women and teenagers about writing, and their energy, interest and enthusiasm was inspiring. They all wanted to know what I was working on now. I talked about Rose of the Field and I started talking about my new project, Out for A Walk. The first book is the third and final installment of my Trinity of Kirana series. The latter title is a very adult, dark legal drama. Very different for me, but probably what I need to be writing at this stage of the game.
So with juices in hand, I've been focusing my spare time - which is few and far between with the uptick in my consulting work - on writing my great American novel and finishing a really good story. Jumping back and forth from different genres and very different characters is not as difficult as I thought it might be. The group to which I spoke was very interested in my "creative process." I explained that my stories were very character and dialogue driven and my process (if I even have a method) is to listen for them to speak to me. They do. All my characters tell me what they want to say and what they want to do.
I hear voices (not dead people, calm down, weirdos) in my head and that is how my stories unfold. I don't know if I can directly attribute the recent clarity of the voices to my juice cleanse. It sounds like a stretch, but there is something to feeding your body what it needs, clearing out the toxins and avoiding the stuff your body doesn't need. In any case, while the juice cleanse didn't locate my abs for me, as it did for my very fit and much younger friend, it did lift a little of the brain fog I've had from three months of travel eating and holiday gluttony.
I love when my brain starts producing ideas. Not just writing ideas, but work ideas, decorating ideas, fun parenting ideas - it's almost as if I dripped a little WD40 onto my overworked brain cogs and they started working more efficiently again. Problem is, there is only so much time to address these ideas. I write them in my notebook of "Ridiculously Good Ideas" and save them for later.
But the good news, at least for my amazing Trinity fans is that I've tapped into a new way to focus my brain to get all those good ideas on paper bringing Rose of the Field closer to publication.
A big thanks to Julie and her juice. I'm looking forward to another round in a few weeks in case my creativity needs a boost and I am overcome by cravings for Fruit Loops and Entemann's cookies again.
And now back to Avery, Timber and Marena...
One of the adventures I have embarked upon in this "new age" of Lauren is trial consulting. And hand in hand with helping attorneys navigate their cases and strategize for trial is another role I play and that is as a legal marketing strategic planner. I have to say, these are two challenging but rewarding areas of the business of practicing law.
As a trial consultant, my job entails teaching other lawyers to do what I do the way I do it. Over the course of my career, the team with which I work has developed a successful method for trying personal injury cases in front of juries in just about any jurisdiction in the country. Just as a product of our own geography, we tend to face juries in more conservative places. The challenge there is overcoming the notion of "tort reform" that the combined efforts of the insurance industry and politicians who accept donations from the insurance industry have spread to our more right-thinking neighbors. Persuading our juries to recognize that they are the gatekeepers of community safety and helping our permanently injured clients lends itself to this task, has been our approach and job for the past 12 years.
We don't persuade them with a lot of lawyering and words. Rather, we persuade them with the truth, facts and medicine. Teaching other lawyers, who may have been trying their hand at personal injury cases for many years, that they are the least significant part of their case can be challenging. Convincing them that what they say does not matter very much at all when a jury is deciding a case and can in fact hurt their chances of success can also be a challenge.
One of the core components of our trial presentation is "taking the lawyer out of the story." Sounds simple enough, right? What I mean is, framing the case around what the witnesses and experts say about the injured person. The lawyer's job is more like the host of an interview style talk show. Ask the questions you need to ask to provide the jury with enough information to make a decision in your client's favor.
I've had a lawyer ask "you want me to act like Oprah and ask dumbed down questions?" Not exactly. But this is the trouble with lawyers - they can be arrogant and act like the smartest guys in the room. Often, they are, but no one likes a smart guy/know-it-all, especially our juries. In fact, our juries typically dislike lawyers, whether they admit it or not. Lawyers are seen as sleazy, tricky, money-hungry liars. Lovely. Accepting that most of the people who have to make a decision to help your client hate you, should make "taking the lawyer out of lawyering" a little easier to digest.
And knowing this, it is not the lawyer's job to try to make the jury like them. They may in the end, but this isn't about the lawyer. It's about the permanently injured person that lawyer agreed to try to help.
So in taking ourselves away from center-stage in a trial, one of the things that is crucial is to leave the big words to the doctors and experts. No one is impressed that a lawyer knows big words that normal people don't know (except lawyers and maybe their moms.). Speaking "English" is important. In an opening statement, telling a jury that the injured person has "herniations at 2 levels causing radiculopathy" may sound impressive. But likely, the jury has no idea what you are saying and will turn off their brain and start worrying about more important things like what to make for dinner, work emails or whether the Giants will focus on an offensive line this year in the draft (like they should, poor Eli).
But if the lawyer lets the jury know that their client has suffered a "permanent spinal injury causing their right leg to go numb," he might get somewhere.
Another aspect of taking the lawyer out of lawyering is creating credibility for not just you as the lawyer, but the client. As much as people hate lawyers, they also tend to dislike people who bring lawsuits to get money. Of course, this is the only system we have - the law requires that a permanently injured person be compensated for their harms and losses - but the "tort reformers" have decided that this system, which dates back to ancient times, is the reason why our insurance costs are so high. (No, couldn't be the 8-9 figure salaries of insurance executives). The fact that the insurance industry rarely treats its customers with any level of fairness or respect when asked to do the thing people pay the insurance companies to do, pay claims, is a direct cause of why people are forced to file lawsuits. If insurance companies played fair, we wouldn't have to go to court and a lot of us lawyers would probably have to find another line of work.
The reason the insurance companies can get away with not playing fair and then blaming people who bring lawsuits for the cost of insurance premiums is 1) they have spent millions of dollars on brainwashing advertising that suggests that no one really gets hurt in car accidents and most people file fraudulent claims; 2) jury verdicts are "out of control" and lawyers are getting rich off of them; 3) in NJ and many other states, the rules do not permit any mention of insurance so juries may falsely believe that the poor old man who ran over the guy on his motorcycle has to pay a verdict out of his retirement fund. Not true. 4) they tend to win their jury cases (thanks to a lot of 1-3).
90% of the injury cases that go before a jury are losses for the injured person. The insurance lawyers have a good track record and the insurance companies know it. So they don't settle with lawyers who don't have a good handle of what they are doing and they don't settle with lawyers representing clients in certain conservative areas. However, success at trial forces the insurance companies to pay attention.
With all of this stacked against the lawyer and injured person, credibility goes a long way. In fact, without it, the case goes to the defense/insurance lawyer. The best way we have found to demonstrate that what the injured client is saying about their injury and its effects is true is through the experts and other witnesses. As lawyers at trial, statements like "We will prove Sally is injured and will never be able to play golf again" go no where because lawyers have no credibility. But when Sally's board certified near-radiologist shows the jury where the injury is in her spine and her board certified orthopedic surgeon explains why it's so bad, the jury listens. The jury realizes, this case is not like the cases on those TV commercials and they have an important job to do. And they want to do the best job they can.
Breaking what I would consider bad habits at trial takes practice. Accepting that there are effective trial presentation methods out there to learn takes some humility. But asking for help in honing lawyering skills is imperative in this very important area of the law. There are so many of us happy to help whether through consulting or sharing our methods at legal seminars or workshops. Taking yourself as the lawyer out of the case and focusing on what the jury really needs to know in terms everyone can digest is a difficult but good first step in creating an effective presentation at trial.
I've only been running somewhat consistently since about April of 2014. My initial goals had been fairly simple: 1) don't die (probably a good goal to have in any activity, really); 2) run a 5K (and don't die while doing it).
But since becoming a runner, and meeting and surpassing those initial goals, I've had to develop new ones so that I remain engaged in the sport. So I would set new personal record goals for myself and work toward taking time off of my 5K race time. I still haven't met the goal I set 2 years ago, to finish a 5K under 26 minutes, but I've been close and I'm sure I'll get there. I set a goal to not throw up after a race anymore, and that I have met thanks to Benjamin. So I've got that going for me, which is really a good thing for anyone within a close distance of me at the finish line.
Now I've moved on from quicker race times - and by the way, I'm not trying to win anything. Occasionally, 4 times to be exact, I earn a medal in my age group, but I'm really just trying to improve my time from year to year for each race. I've moved to trying to increase my distance. Up until this summer, the farthest distance I had run was probably 3 1/2 miles. That was until I joined the Salt Shakers.
I had been invited to join the Salt Shakers for years by my good friend, Dina. But I was intimidated. These guys are hard core. They run up the sides of mountains - 5, 6, 10 miles. A lot of them (including my brother in law and Benjamin) ran the NYC Marathon. They do Spartan races and Ragnar races. Like I said, hard core. I didn't think trail running was something within my wheelhouse, having limited myself to 5Ks on fairly even ground or at best the flat and straight "rail-trails". There's always the asthma too.
It took meeting Benjamin and creating an excuse to see him late this summer to get me to attempt my first trail run with this group. At first, I took it easy and did just over 3 miles with a few of the "injured" members of the group. But the next run, I figured I would at least attempt the full 5 miles and maybe walk if I had to. One of the nice things about trail running is that you have to slow down at times so that your run becomes more of a hike anyway. Needless to say, I completed the full 5 miles and now I was hooked.
The runs are challenging for me as a newbie, but equally as wonderful as an evening trail run, is the group itself. Some of the most supportive and generous people on the planet. They cheer you on, they wait for you if you are falling behind the pack, and are always finding ways to give back to community groups. And they are so much fun. To congratulate ourselves for a job well done after the run, we head to the bar for a beer (or 2). What's better than that?
The Salt Shakers are a large and diverse group - men, women, younger, older, runners, walkers - and besides a love for the outdoors and fitness, the other thing they all seem to have in common is a desire to help others. Whether it's through raising money for non-profit groups that offer free breast cancer screenings or volunteering as coaches for the Girls on the Run program or taking a day to clean up the trails, these guys give back.
I've always found that true athletes have a different mind-set than your average dude at the gym. True athletes know they didn't get where they are without the help of a lot of other people and so many of them have a natural instinct to help not only their fellow athlete, but their fellow human. Maybe some of the professional guys have public relations as motivation, but they still do it and they still do good things.
But I am also finding that these trail runners just do it a little better. Perhaps it's because everyone knows running is the worst. It sucks in so many ways. It's hard on your body, first of all (talk to my right knee and shins; they'll tell you.) and it's hard on your mind. There is a constant battle between the you who is saying "Ok, this sucks, I hurt, I'm done" and the you saying "Come on, you can do this." Runners all know that, so when they cheer for you and encourage you, they also feel your pain.
I'm lucky because I have a sister (who also happens to be an elite athlete) who runs with this group. Since she's coming back from a really bad injury, she has to work a little harder to get to where she once was, physically. Mentally, she knows that she can "do it."
And she was my inspiration this Sunday as we joined a group of cold-weather Salt Shakers for the Highland Challenge. Now, my sister and I only attempted about half of the 9+ mile, up a mountain, full course, but it was still more running than either of us had done in months. (And we ended up adding at least .5 miles to our run because we missed a turn on the trail and had to go back). My sister knew she could tackle this run and I figured, if she can do it coming off a broken ankle and very little exercise because of it, then so could I. And if I couldn't, at least she was there to carry me off the snowy and freezing trail since Benjamin was running the whole course and would probably be traversing the side of the mountain, while I was complaining.
Well, I ran the entire 5+ miles and stayed close to my sister the whole way. When we weren't running together, I took deep breaths and took in the beautiful snowy trail, the fresh air, the flowing water of the Morris Canal. A few of us were running close together (because we all missed that first turn off the road) and so we would wait for one another to make sure no one got lost. I loved every moment of it.
Upon returning to the home base (the bar), we all greeted one another with "how was it?" "how did you do?" and "great job today." And there was great beer on tap.
I'm grateful that I finally took my friend's advice and showed up this summer and that Benjamin also encouraged me to try. I'm grateful that my sister and brother in law are there to motivate me. And I'm grateful that this group is so welcoming, giving and wonderful. I'm looking forward to longer days, more sun and the trail this summer with this group.
Ps. Although I did feel it necessary to carry my inhaler because of the below freezing temperature we were running in, I didn't need it! So, there's that too!