Week 7: Things are Insane

Well friends, I’ve gone from being swamped with work to truly drowning. This April trial is coming up way too fast and I have way too much work that nobody else can help with. It’s all starting to become rather stressful. This is pretty much the nature of my job. I will endure a couple of months of complete overwork and horrible stress during which time I berate myself daily for not having made different life decisions and wonder whether it is too late to become a park ranger. Then suddenly life pivots to very little in the way of work obligations for months where I have oodles and oodles of free time and, on any given day, I can decide to work a few hours (or not) then go to the beach. Throughout all of this, I get paid rather well for work that is generally interesting and largely self directed. All of which is to say that I have got a pretty good gig going on in general. When I’m in the complete overwork and horrible stress phase though it can be pretty hard to see past it. And that is where I find myself right now. Unless something extraordinary happens, things will only get worse not better until the trial ends sometime at the end of April.

Everything I’m worried about once the trial actually begins is subject matter for another post and, believe you me, I have a lot to say…Now though, in the pretrial period, I have an outsize portion of the work to do compared to everyone else on the team. It’s just the nature of the case and the issues that I am a specialist on, but it means that I can’t delegate any of the work to anyone else and that is making me feel resentful in addition to completely swamped. I have to keep reminding myself that I can only give my best efforts and that sometimes that is not the same as my best work. As with many lawyers though, the idea of doing less than my best work is hard to swallow. I’m not a 70 percent kind of person. I’m either all in or I’m just not going to bother at all. I recall my dad telling me as a child, “If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well” (This advice was however doled out in relation to drying the dishes, a job that I did not want to be doing in the first place. I recall my immediate reaction being that I did not think drying the dishes was a job worth doing.) Sometimes though, you have to set aside this philosophy or it can become paralyzing. A job done 70 percent well is better than one not done at all. Compounding all this is the fact that the once trial actually begins things will undoubtedly be far, far worse than these next few weeks. It’s hard to not let the thought of that add to the current stress of the immediate situation.

Unsurprisingly my anxiety, which I generally manage rather well these days, has been boiling up and threatening to flood my brain. It’s hard not to be able to start each day with a run which has always been the most effective way to keep the anxiety demons at bay. Thank goodness I’m able to swim and ride a good amount now. On Friday evening I called the head of our special skills team to talk about my concerns about my workload. He basically told me that the only thing to do was to work as hard as I could but to be sure not to let the rest of the team sense any lack of confidence on my part. This had the effect of making me feel even worse, especially the “fake it till you make it” advice. Although I know this to be the right advice it is the kind of thing I absolutely despise having to do. Whatever my many other faults, no one has ever accused me of insincerity. I’m not big on bullshit and it stresses me out no end to have to play these games. I should be clear that my colleague is a big fan and supporter of mine who will do what he can to help me be successful (or I wouldn’t have called him in the first place) but the call had the opposite effect that I hoped for on my mental state. For the first time since surgery I lay awake for hours unable to quiet my mind enough to fall asleep. Making matters worse, I had a pretty early start for something I had really been looking forward to on Saturday morning, an open water swim race.

It seemed like an inauspicious start to things when the alarm went off at 5:15 a.m. and I felt like I had barely slept. I was still feeling anxious and had to battle myself to get out the door. Fortunately, years of early starts to meet friends for runs, rides, and swims has ingrained in me that I will never regret getting out of bed and showing up. Yesterday was no exception. I started feeling better as I got closer to the beach and the dawn was breaking. By the time I arrived and saw a few friends my spirits had soared. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful swim. I am undertrained and had no idea how my heel would hold up so I elected to do the shorter 1.2 mile distance and started right at the back of the field. Someone took my crutches after I got in the water and then handed them back to me at the end. I swam easy and relaxed and enjoyed being in the relatively cool Gulf of Mexico. The water temperature was around 70F/21C so we were allowed to wear wetsuits. Although I don’t normally like swimming in a wetsuit, it was great in this situation as I basically didn’t need to kick at all.

These are very buoyant wetsuits. My friend, a spectacularly good swimmer, won the 2.4 mile.

When I finished the sun was shining down and it was a beautiful day. Having survived the swim unscathed I immediately put my boot back on and crutched around catching up with friends I hadn’t seen since early January. I suspect my doctor would not have approved of any of this but was the perfect antidote to my stress and anxiety. For a few hours I totally forgot about the trial and everything I have to do.

Friends, sunshine, and swimming cure a lot of the mind’s troubles.

I managed to keep the good feeling through the rest of the day and actually was pretty productive with work. One of the issues with all that I have to do is that it involves some heavy brain strain lawyering and I can’t just grind away for ten hours at a time. (Studies show that actually no one is doing anything productive beyond a total of six hours of work a day but try telling that to the legal profession). What I’m doing is setting myself a timer for 20 minutes. I work for that long and then I take a break. It sounds like a ridiculously short period of time but actually I get quite a lot done and I don’t get distracted by Facebook or reading the news in that 20 minutes because I know I will get to do that during the break. On that note though, it is late morning already and time for me to start a 20 minute timer again.

One thought on “Week 7: Things are Insane

  1. Brilliant post. I hear you with the 70% thing but I have learned to do this or I would not survive teaching, where you pretty much never get your work finished or done properly. I was always a bit more slack than you though. I also agree with the 20 minute rule. I got through my post-teaching write up marathon where I had to write about 140 different parts of the teaching criteria AND provide evidence form my observations in 3 days. I used the microwave timer and allocated 20 minutes per topic. Totally worked.

    Liked by 1 person

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