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So how does an HSP who marches to a different drummer survive as a lawyer??

You may well ask.

Well first she gets lucky (a trait I seem to have which may or may not be related to the HSP/INFJ stuff) and goes to THE perfect law school. They encouraged is to really think. No hornbooks, we read every case from beginning to end with every footnote and every badly written account of what happened. Every. Single. Word. (In many cases much was not said that needed to be said. Like what happened at the level below in the appeal.)

Second the perfectionism that is so characteristic of the HSP helped. I read every case and I briefed every case. EVERY CASE. I didn’t resent it. I was thrilled to be there and thrilled to discover I was good at this stuff. (The 2 year SCALE program demanded dedication and motivation, and… determination. “Known as SCALE, the program features an accelerated law school curriculum that challenges students to master analytical reasoning and legal writing skills while remaining sensitive to ethical obligations and client needs.

A trailblazer since 1974, the SCALE Program has focused on integrating substantive knowledge and professional skills instruction, a model that is just now being incorporated into curricular reforms at many other law schools in response to the call for more practical skills training in legal education.”)

They–the school and our professors– also were determined to keep the destructive competition out of our experience, That helped, too.

I think the fact that i sued both sides of my brain probably helped–although the left brain was the one “hauling the laboring oar.” (It was years later that I realized why I had to listen to jazz while I studied– 4 or 5 hours at night, after class every single day. it gave my right brain something to do! Oh-and I don’t much like jazz.)

In any case, I didn’t study in the library. I sent home and jogged–outdoors in nature in the beautiful, tree filled  little town of Sierra Madre.This burned off anxiety and soothed my soul. The whole town did. And I didn’t have anyone else’s “stuff” distracting me. (Of course I didn’t know this was a factor then. I did know when I typed my Bar exam I was happy it was a much smaller group and there would be fewer crazies.)

So that’s how I survived that 2 years. I studied alone– no study groups for me. Probably an HSP control thing. I did all the work and did it on time. I did not wait until the last minute. (Control, perfectionism.)

And that is hw it all began.

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“Don’t go to Law School”—And Why It Wasn’t True For Me.

I just read a rant by a law school graduate turned best selling writer:  it gives multiple reasons why you should not go to law school” with “testimonials like this;” “As I write this, it is 85 degrees, sunny, with a slight, cooling breeze coming from the West. The only reason I know this is that I took twenty minutes to run to get a sandwich to eat at my desk. I am sitting in a basement office which houses three of us, putting off research on state law fair debt collection vs. the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the definition of a creditor to write this post. If that paragraph alone doesn’t deter someone from law school, then I don’t know what will.”

It also discussed the crushing debt, which is also a topic generally in this economic mess that is today’s business climate. “I’ve mentioned this multiple times above, because it is so crucially important to making the right decision about law school. Debt is the elephant in the room that law schools never tell you about, but ends up dominating your life.Law school is three years long. If you go to an average law school and don’t get any tuition help or scholarships, you are going to spend ~$150,000 all-in, at least.” (Above rant.)

And I wonder—how the hell did I do it? I had the GI Bill—I don’t recall how far that went. I worked, despite the 2 year program and being told that was impossible—I spent the first year in the Active Reserve of the United States Air Force. (I think that paid about $300 a month.) My school screwed up one of my three student loans… and never billed me. (An odd quirk of fate I mentioned previously.) But I was still paying for my undergrad degree, so I have o idea how that played out, net debt wise. And I was forced to pay of the remaining loans when I bought my condo in 1991—which was thanks to inheriting money from my mother.

But can I REALLY be that lucky? (Possible, given the many times I have been spared things others suffered…) or is this just the new reality—far different from the kinder gentler one of 1981? (Or… both?)  But as you know (if you have been following) I got a job right out of law school. And that job paid about three times what I had made before law school. I paid back my students loans. I don’t recall any stress about them–ever. But then I sold my mobile home as I drove way. I found things other did not. I had miracles. Synchonistic events have dominated my life,  AM I different???

My experience surely was, if this rant is accurate. Why? I know life in general was far more affordable in the 70s and 80s.  (I bought one mobile home in Florida with a minimum wage job, and my husband and I bought another in Mississippi in the mid 70s—brand new from the factory, on military pay. And I had savings when I drove west to Los Angeles.)

Money was never an issue in my life until I got fired from my consulting job in 1997 and developed PTSD. That was part an economic quirk—and a change in Workers’ Comp law—and partly a refusal to sell my soul. Stu Baron at WCCC was doing dishonest things as his response to the economic hiccup and I called him out… and kissed my job goodbye. but I went to law school to become something I was not before–and it worked. (See previous post “From Wet Behind the Ears..” https://ecarrollstraus.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/from-wet-behind-the-ears-to-hits-the-ground-running/

And life has been very strange ever since. How much is me? And how much is the very bizarre times we live in now? I truly do not know.

 

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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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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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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