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Delayed Gratification

February 26, 2012 2 comments

I was struck today by some of the ever stranger political murmurings (I am temped to say yammerings) which are everywhere of late. A pundit in  the Wall Street Journal opined that fiscal austerity is like the 1970s study begun (and ongoing) about how, when, why and to what end children can resist temptation. You might wonder what a study of 4 year-olds has to do with a global economic crisis, but in any case it set me to wondering about the premise of the study—some kids are better at this than others, and it serves them well.

Here is a link to a thorough article about the scientist, Mischel, and his work:http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/18/090518fa_fact_lehrer?currentPage=2

He says, at one point “…When Odysseus had himself tied to the ship’s mast, he was using some of the skills of metacognition: knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist the Sirens’ song, he made it impossible to give in…”  (This begs the question HOW DID HE KNOW??? I guess previous myths told him. Children don’t seem to have the benefit of this—but some resist temptation anyway.)

But I was curious if this applied to me, as I feel quite certain I’d have resisted any tempting marshmallows, at a young age. In fact I don’t think marshmallows would have tempted me,  but that could be amnesia… who knows? I do know I had –have–a lot of self discipline in my life. Was this luck? Genes?  Or my environment? (There is no definitive answer from the study to date.)

I think my other did me one huge favor, although her motives were entirely selfish. She made my study music. She wanted me to go to Julliard (where she did NOT go)—but she had me start studying piano at age 5. Talk about a habit that taught delayed gratification.  I dutifully sat and practiced my hour a day. EVERY DAY.

Later, when I added oboe and my sister added cello, she (my sister, not my mother)  rebelled—surreptitiously—by not practicing, but pretending she did. (I did not bust her. I think her teacher did in the end, but this is very fuzzy.)  I kept on practicing. I am not sure why. In high school I went through a depression and recall (somewhat vaguely) that I  sat and looked at my books when I was supposed to be studying. I didn’t read them—but I sat there! No TV… just… sitting and staring. I wish I could remember why I was depressed. I don’t. I just know it was probably my junior year—but I had skipped 8th grade, so I’d have been –what? 13? 14?  (I assume this was the junior year, as this was Berkeley Prep—but I went to Brandon High for my senior year.) But I digress–except to illustrate that I still delayed TV. Yay me.

I really think my sister would probably have gobbled up that marshmallow, if memory serves at all. She used to covet my Easter candy… which I kept in a jar for AGES. (I may have done this just to torture her-but I did not have that “gotta have it now” thing going on.) She invariably got so worked up on her birthday–which was Christmas Eve–that she was given one Christmas present early, so she’d calm down and go to bed. (I was in no way in agony over the fact that I had to wait to open what was under the tree—and we had to wait to open the wrapped gifts until our parents got up!) No, I don’t think she have waited to eat the marshmallow.

The study suggests these traits (ability to delay eating candy—or being “gratified”) are inborn, possibly genetic– but also malleable. I think my ability to delay “gratification” has many facets—but today, reading about the 1970s study and the ongoing investigation, I realized (or remembered) a few things. Like, my sister got into trouble in school for stealing—I didn’t. I kept studying music—my sister didn’t. I went to graduate school—she didn’t. She spent a lot of time overweight—I didn’t. On the other hand, she managed to marry and have 4 kids and stay for 30 years… I didn’t.

In any case, I had  used that ability, however I gained it and strengthened it to get through two years of intense study and the Bar Exam. Then I ended up using my chutzpah to get my first job. (Stay tuned. This chunk of my story took me all day for some reason. Whew!)

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Trauma and Personal Growth

February 23, 2012 1 comment

This will be a bit of a detour, but I am reading a very life changing book called “The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit”. It is a compilation of what many many transpersonal psychologists—Freud, Jung and many few have heard of—have explored about why it is so hard to heal trauma. The fact that it has stumped so many experts tells us something.

Trauma is tough stuff. What does this have to do with law school? It will have a LOT to do with my career, as my own trauma was a large part of what drove me to become a lawyers and them to work with divorce… and now to change the system as much as I possibly can. (The legal system TRAUMATIZES people. But almost NO ONE has a clue about trauma.)

So, knowing that we are clueless about the effects of trauma, it may seem clear that not only is it the traumatized people who end up duking it out in court… but  that the end result is carnage. And yet… it is still the norm. I will speak more about the sad fact that trauma recreates itself (and this utterly baffles the untraumatized who think it should be easy to just stop). For the abused women to “just leave”… and so on.

So, I got through law school with one third of my tuition unpaid, and graduated!  My first time wearing a cap and gown. My mother and sister came out… but I don’t remember much except what was in a photo. And recently my sister shared with me her memory of us having a row at the airport. (Of course I was at fault.)  This massive amnesia I have is one of the legacies of trauma. But I knew I had accomplished something very few people had. I had gradated from law school in two years—on my own steam with no help from my family at all. (My family were not, it seems, impressed. I think my mother was proud, but my sister still seems to think I am a complete idiot. To this day.)

The next step was… the California State Bar Exam. The California State Bar Exam is famously one of the two most difficult in the country. The SCALE passage rate was well above the passage rate for accredited schools, but we all knew failure was a statistical possibility. This is not a happy thought. We had just spent two years and many thousands of dollars molding our brains and forgoing almost all fun… and we might not pass the damn test.

After graduation and some degree of satisfaction and celebration comes… BAR REVIEW! My boyfriend (as we neared completion we actually did have a minimal social life) took BARBRI—I took Josephson. (I think my choice was also guided—Josephson, no longer doing Bar Review, made us laugh. BARBRI was dead serious.) So after a mini-meltdown (Jeff sensibly smacked me –verbally– and I got over that!) I buckled down and focused UTTERLY on the process of learning the rules of the game called “the Bar Exam.” (I just checked–the current price of this several month long marathon is $3,975.00!!!)

I carpooled to the live classes way down in LA—another good choice IMHO, opting for live over video—and took notes. AND I READ THEM!! I did every damn thing they said to do—and more. (Except that I was not able to read as slowly as they recommended. My reading speed and comprehension were just not on the charts.) I read the materials I took and reviewed notes, I made flash cards of the “black letter law”. (Stuff you ONLY need to know for the Bar Exam!!!)

And I wrote extra essays. I busted my butt. I studied. I jogged. I went to class. Rinse, repeat.  And then… it was the day before the Big Day. I was signed up to take the test in Glendale as I planned to type my test. (This was before computers.) As BADLY as I type, I KNEW my speed would far exceed what I could hand write and it would be far more easily readable. And it was. (And the test center was close to me and there were far fewer people. Both major blessings.) And the GUESS WHAT I DID?? I took the day off. I KNEW I had done the work and one more day was not going to change what I knew, I knew I might never have a day where I had such freedom ever again… so I played. Yep–played. All day.

Then I got up at whatever time and drove to Glendale with two typewriters– a manual and an electric as they have had power outages, and began the final ordeal.

I had one of my “Carroll’s world” events—one which led to my first law job– on day three of  The Test… where I will begin tomorrow.

Head or Heart, Dumb or Smart?

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

My “Left Brain Right Brain” post got a lot of attention. It seems it got people thinking, which got me thinking. I like this. (I like thinking.) It also got me remembering I have been interested in this since.. forever. I wrote my undergraduate thesis (yes you read that right) on “Mind Body” issues in American letters. A life long fascination.

It also made me think of  the saying “le Coeur a ses raisons…” which you can find here. The full quote is: “Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. On le sent en mille choses. C’est le cœur qui sent Dieu, et non la raison. Voilà ce que c’est que la foi parfaite, Dieu sensible au cœur.”  The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of. We feel the reason of  the heart in a thousand things… God is felt in the heart. (I was still an atheist in those days. Hmmm.) Seems true to me!

So– if we follow our heart—and we all know what that means somehow—is it our “right brain” or our “left brain”? (And why has no one s else asked this…?) Yesterday, I saw an article about a photographer who bought an underwater housing for his camera. He spent more than was logical. “Only months ago, Casteel struggled to pay his bills after he splurged on a waterproof camera case, making it possible for him to take these pictures” said the article; then the photos he took “went viral” and he made money. Probably a good bit of money. For sure, he got national exposure for his art. VERY heartwarming news!

Was that his head or his heart he followed? It seems not to have been his head. His left brain knew this choice was not “logical”–he had spent his “pay the bills” money–but it the end it turned out this “illogical” choice produced  not only joy  but ALSO the outcome logic would have wished—he sold the work! People who saw the work were happy and he is happy. His gamble “paid off.”  Or maybe he was guided. Who can say?

In any case, lawyers are trained NOT to do this sort of thing. REALLY REALLY not allowed to be intuitive.

See information on unhappy lawyers here and here.

God only knows how I managed to escape the annihilation of the intuitive guide inside me. (I don’t.)  But I kept a bit of it alive and more and more comes alive every day.

But this guide helped me with a lot of things, not just legal research. For instance, it kept me in law school when one of my loans went south, and LOGICALLY I could no longer afford school. You see, this unique program, SCALE,  consistgs of three academic years in two calendar years. That is, I was eligible for and should have received THREE separate student loans to pay for the program. But I was slightly busy studying and did not notice that the scholarship/loan department had dropped the ball—and one of my loans fell through the proverbial cracks. One third of my tuition money was gone—poof!

I seem to remember Wayne (the roommate of questionable cleanliness, remember?) telling me they would not dump me from the program (although I have had other false memories that guided me,) In any case, I just sort of kept on keeping on. I also seem to recall my friend Lori Lipman getting bills from the school. I didn’t. Nothing was said.

(Years later I tried to pay—I had settled a personal injury case for $30,000 and had a chunk of change. I called Southwestern TWICE trying to get them to let me know what I owed. Twice, the very nice lady who answered the phone gushed over how  great it was that I ad called; twice said she would have Mfr. So-and-so call me. Twice…  I got no call. I have not paid to this day.)
“Left brain”?  I don’t think so. Maybe it was my heart—God knows I had my “heart set on” law school. Guides and helpers? I for one cannot rule that out. Pure “high intention”? I may never know. But whatever it was it worked. I completed law school and then… BAR EXAM TIME.

Coming soon to a blog near you!

 

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Left Brain Right Brain

February 19, 2012 6 comments

Yesterday I did a play day. No papers to grade, no research to do—sunshine all day. I went for a hike with a friend and her two dogs, then we just did whatever we felt like all day.Of course, my left brain fired off a few “shoulds” but I told it to shut up. It mostly did. One of the benefits of hanging out with a friend is my left brain leaves me in peace.

Today I did some things I “needed” to do but they did not take all day. Naturally, that left my left brain—aka the Rational Mind—a lot of time to criticize. I “should” at least blog. Or jog. Or DO something. Anything, really.

Today I had an epiphany. Right brainers don’t live in the same strait jacket. If a sculptor isn’t sculpting on a given day there are not 2 gazillion “success” coaches telling him he (or  she) SHOULD be sculpting every day to achieve the “goal” of creating.

Writing is “creative”,  but there are so many people who think they “should” write every day. (I never did believe that, and I still don’t—but my writing has never been “normal”. I do very little editing. What I want to say comes out, either done or mostly done, most of the time. And if I don’t do it for a year it is still just fine.)

But law—law is all about the left brain. Geez—no wonder lawyers are bloody miserable. Left brain all the time.  The left brain is the prime source of the “lie that has to die.” So I shall be an artist.  For now, photography. Next? Dunno. It will be fun to see!

But  here’s the strange part: even in law school was not doing the whole thing “left brained.” For instance, one of the things you must learn in law school is legal research. (Never mind that most lawyers end up doing boring, repetitive mundane tasks that require NO research whatsoever.) I liked this. I have the mind of a sleuth—I love solving mysteries, solving puzzles–and doing legal research is puzzle solving. (EUREKA MOMENT- no wonder I like “House”!!)

Is there case law on this? What does the case law say? Does it help or hurt my client’s position? Had  that case law been periods or amplified? Many question MANY books. State law cases, federal cases —circuit courts, Supreme court—a veritable wonderland of clues and meandering labyrinths. Did I shepardize it enough?

Most law students agonize over knowing when they have done enough research. Lawyers do too, if they are working in a case.

I didn’t. I just knew that I knew when I had done enough. Of course, I never said this. I knew better. I am not sure how much  of this—of so much that I see now—is pure “intuition” (the right brain—see Jill Bolte Taylor video here) and how much is the “guidance” …about which more later.

Bu I do NOT regret learning law or doing law…but I think I will change hemispheres now.

The Lie that Needs to Die

February 17, 2012 Leave a comment

I tend to think deep thoughts when I am outdoors hiking or just going for a walk… alas I cannot jog right now as I have a knee problem. One usually suffered by adolescents! The irony. So this afternoon this is what I did.

I have thought a lot about all the masks lawyers wear and how they are stifling, and (having just escaped Southern California) I also think about all the masks we all wear. One of my boon companions, Ai-Ling Logan and I talked about this one day too I think there are fewer here in Sedona—people seem content to just be who they are.

But in any case these masks are lies and a lot if what we live in this frantic life of today’s society is lies—and the court system is lies (more on this later) … and long story short I had a thought suddenly.What if when we want to shift something in our lives—as I shifted my life when I decamped from the USAF to go to law school—what if there is a lie that has to die?.

The lie I had lived off of most of my life until I applied to and got accepted to law school is that I was a loser. I knew I had high IQ—I was tested in second grade and thy thought I would be harmed if they told me (!!) So they never did tll me– but they suggested I skip second grade. THIS they told me. (Boy was I bored in second grade. This-this shift– I wanted.) But “they” decided I was too maladjusted too manage it. (Duh—if my mental age was older than my calendar age I’d have done BETTER in a higher grade!!!!!) Hey-it was the 50s. We were stupid.

Probably I was just shy—it’s an HSP thing. (You can read about this here or here, but I got the message I was not OK. I got that message a lot.) I had asthma- they said it was “psychosomatic” which back them was not a good thing. It meant you were not really sick you just thought you were… you were… “Not OK.” I was bright and shy and being told this all made me not OK.  I lived that lie for a LONG time.

So I decided to shift my life and went to law school. The lie that had to die was “I am a loser.” But it didn’t die easy. I did graduate and I did pass the Bar Exam. After the LONG wait for the hand grading and the mail…. But I went to the Human Potential Movement group called Summit in there somewhere.  Actually it was March 17, 1984.

I had this GREAT hair dresser in Sierra Madre–Lisa Andreoni. I always talked to her about how much human behavior fascinated me so she had invited me, but beige in a fast track law school I had said no but she asked again after I had passed the Bar and I said “yes”—and she drove me over there and I signed up.

I never regretted it. In fact I just looked her up and found her here . Bless her for that invitation! Summit was pretty big on getting past the lies that had to die although they didn’t call it that. I’d have had a MUCH tougher time navigating being a newbie lawyer without all the interesting ways they gave us to learn about humans—and ourselves. It was like Landmark with humor. So I finally killed off THAT lie… the lie that had to die. The lie that I was a loser.

Now… I am working on what the next one is! Something to do with using creativity in the healing and growth I want to–WILL– share, based on my legal adventures and my adventures in truth land…

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What I did NOT go to law school to be…

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment

“Competitive,  a situational pessimist”–these are two of the three qualities another “integrative lawyer” described as what her assumed audience went to law school because of, or to become. (The last was self reliant.” That I have been.)

Now I am beginning to wonder… am I REALLY weird? I know there are a few people reading this so feel free to provide a response. Am I the only non competitive lawyer out there? (I have been competitive in a few situations–but it has NEVER been my real motive for any activity.)

I drove across the country to go to a unique law school to GROW. To BECOME. To be able to make a difference in the world-my world and the world at large. As a child I really did not have a voice, so it did occur to me, after several years in the human  potential movement, that this was a huge benefit of being a lawyer.When I spoke on behalf of a client, my voice was heard. But I went to law school to be of service. I said as much in my essay, to gain admission to SCALE. They (the admissions committee) seemed to think it was a good motive!
But my inner driver–and I was indeed driven–was much more about knowing stuff and about  justice, and not at ALL about being competitive. Lucky for me SCALE took much of the competition out of the program by using nontraditional grades, and stressing learning above being “best.”  All my life it has been painfully obvious that for every winner there was a loser and that winning all the time was impossible. It never motivated me. Never.

Seeking truth and justice is very different from seeking a win or seeking to prove someone else is “less than.” Can I be alone on this mind set, in law? I suspect not– but when  one has been enrobed with the mantle of “lawyer,” the projection and preconceived notions tend to hide what and who is REALLY inside.

Which is one reason lawyers are so often  miserable. And if only person can win, then of every two lawyers on a case one is going to go down in defeat.

I knew I was “different” even in SCALE because we did some sort of personality inventory one day. I don’t think it was Myers Briggs,but I know it charted us in quadrants and I was the ONLY one in the upper left quadrant. I think I was shown as more of a risk taker then everyone else. (This is true. Not physical risks– risks like.. driving to LA to go to SCALE!)

And take these sort of risks I did. And do.

Now if I just knew why…

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Living in my Skin

February 13, 2012 4 comments

It started out gorgeous today here in Sedona, sunny and cool. My favorite.  Then as I strolled the Farmer’s Market the clouds came up and the wind. BRRR! But I still feel so happy. Happy to be in  Sedona. Happy to be in a pace where the environment is important to people, and there is community. Happy to be… happy.

This is still not familiar, this feeling. Feeling at home in  my skin. Feeling SAFE. Feeling… at home. Within.

So meanwhile, back 30 years give or take in a land called Los Angeles, Carroll the Dreamer was living a dream called law school. She had left the United States Air Force a few months short of her six year commitment… thinking she might rejoin the Air Force as a JAG  officer. And…

OK, back to the first person.

I have some very vivid memories of that time. Professor Karlin who also taught us Contracts. Contracts and Con law are both very elegant… inside the “ivory tower.”  (Some high percentage of the human race has no idea of  what contract law actually is, let alone how it could be elegant. But more of that later.) Somehow I became car pool mates with Jack Burke, a SCALE classmate who lived in Pasadena, and was– is- VERY Irish. (Guinness is mother’s milk and that sort of thing.) Studying almost every waking minute. (Remember we read WHOLE cases–not the “reader’s digest  version. And they are almost all VERY BADLY WRITTEN.)

Thoughts like “I am living in a bubble–my world is law school and nothing else.. but no one else knows.”  (Probably fairly true.) Wondering if there was a limit to what my brain could hold!  (There isn’t.) Jogging every single day to stay sane.  As my superb luck  (or guidance) would have it, Sierra  Madre was the best jogging place I have ever lived–so many interesting places to jog, up and down  the hills and never ever getting bored. And if I was reading a case that made NO sense (once I thought “this is like trying to pick up Jello with my hand in a paper bag”)  then “BINGO–a 20 minute run  and it would all make sense. There is NO WAY I could have been in a better place for me to transform my life and myself. No  earthly way.

So 5 days a week Jack Burke and I would leave at I think 9:00- ish and drive to the Wilshire district, right across from the then thriving Bullock’s Wilshire, and listen and take notes as our professors explained things and asked us questions.  Yes, I sat in the front row. Yes,my had was always up. (I was having fun, remember?) Yes, it pissed off the folks who wanted to insist that there was no way we could not POSSIBLY do all the work. (I remember one name–Gail Paepke. Last I checked she never did pass the Bar Exam… but see below)

 

I did the work. I read the cases. I briefed the cases. (This is an art–useful ONLY for law school but essential for that experience. I think the music lessons starting at age 5  gave me an iron discipline.) And once in a while (usually after a test) we would stop for happy hour at some bar that had free hors d’oevres, or go to the Loch Ness Monster pub. But not much.

 
Contrary to what was recommended I also worked–made money.  I was in the Active Reserves. I knew I could do it, so I did. Looking back, this has happened to me over and over. I did what I knew I could. And.. I was “right.” Poor Jack– he wanted to spend what little free time we had going to Pfazgraf’s– a local bar. (The name is significant….but more of that later, also.) I dragged  him away and onto the LA Freeways  to beat the rush hour traffic– so I could jog.–MY drug of choice. Then  study. (Oddly, I never actually looked at the notes taken in class… until Bar Review.)  I did not study in the library like everyone else–it was too quiet. I studies at home as I listened to jazz… which is NOT my favorite  music. Years later I learned why– I needed something for my right brain to do while my left brain labored mightily! I think I chose jazz it is does not follow the melodic patterns I knew so well from studying music, so my brain could not predict what was next and just went along for the ride.  (A theory.  Unproven.) And I read and analyzed and read some more.

And, as Professor Kingsfield says in  Paper Chase.. I taught myself the law. And how to think like a lawyer. Which, for good or ill… is irrevocable.

Post script– Gail did pass. Just thought the world would want to know–she seems to feel it’s important. So there you have it, sports fans.

Oh– and Palgzraf was an very important tort case in which a long and improbable chain of events caused a distant person harm. There were two distinct sets of opinions on whether or not it was compensible. THAT I also remember! We “SCALE”ies  read the whole thing. I highly doubt anyone does in “traditional” law school. But we did. And we –I– really do “think like a lawyer.” God help us all. But I swear… it was fun. And is starting to  be again, because now I can CLAIM my gifts.

This… is a Good Thing.

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