Several weeks ago I talked about the demands placed on me by the partners and other associates in my firm as well as all the other time zaps as a means of explaining why I work so much. But this week, I want to get real and take some personal responsibility for my long hours.
The bottom line is this: I feel things. I feel things intensely, perhaps more intensely than many people do. I have objective confirmation of this. A few weeks ago, I was driving with my friend Damon, who had recently accused me of being too emotional. This annoyed me, so I sat in silence for the next half hour, listening to the music on my phone. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Listen to this music. Every song is emotional, and every song speaks to me! This is completely normal human behavior!” He looked at me like I was a lunatic: “You know who has never written a song, not a single one?” he asked. “Me! Me and every other steady person. It’s you and the other crazies that write songs!” Point taken.
So I know for a fact that I feel more than so-called normal people. The feels I feel make me uncomfortable. I don’t handle them well. I lose sleep, I cry, I laugh uncontrollably. Sometimes I’ll smoke a cigarette (yesssss, I know). I lose extreme amounts of weight. I take my car into the country, on back roads, blast my music and drive fast. Sort of like Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV, but blonde. And female. And with better acting ability. But I digress. The point is that these are all ways I’ve learned to cope with feeling all the feels. But the best coping method of all is work: it blocks the steady stream.
I’m lucky to be in a profession that pays well, but more importantly, one that takes a lot of time, mental focus and concentration. I also have hobbies. I work out, I love the beach, I have a great group of friends who I see as often as possible. Still, nothing fills my brain and stops the constant feels in quite the same way as work does. I can spend several hours researching an issue, reading case after case, and when I do, I don’t think about anything else; none of the feels. Exchanging semi-nasty, argumentative emails with opposing counsel works wonders. Writing something non-routine is excellent for muffling the feels too. There are so many feels to muffle.
Money issues, for example, are bad feels that I would rather not feel. I know a lot of you can relate, but I have a ridiculous amount of student loan debt, and it weighs on me. I also have a car loan, despite the fact that a car is marginally unnecessary since I live in a city with decent public transportation. Still, I wanted a car to get back and forth to work since my firm pays for parking, and to visit my parents every few weeks. And of course to drive like Rocky. I can afford it, but it just adds to the ugly mountain of my debt.
I also have credit card debt. I really love designer bags, shoes, accessories, clothes. I love makeup, and I love going out with my friends. I finance a lot of these habits with credit cards. While I regularly pay off my balances and make decent money, I tend to be highly disorganized, and often end up forgetting to make payments, which leads to embarrassing calls from the credit card company reps. Making me feel the humiliation feels. Worst of all, though, is when I’ve over-estimated how much money I have, or under-estimated how soon I would be getting paid again, and I end up overdrawing my account. Those overdrawn-account feels are really miserable feels.
The feels about my fiancé are also feels that I’d rather not feel. I love him tremendously. There is no dispute about this. But he drives me crazy in so many ways and makes me feel the feels. He’s at the same time too much for me and not enough. We fight. I feel the feels from our fights and from our threatened break-ups. And I don’t want to feel them. We ignore each other and we take each other for granted. I feel the feels of this, the pain. I feel the feel of being a woman who commits to one man who acts as if he fails to appreciate her value and to comment on it daily. I feel the feels of knowing I am being unreasonable and demanding, yet wanting what I want all the same. The feels come too from being hit on by other men, and being tempted, yet resisting. All the feels. These commitment feels are confusing and difficult to reconcile.
Then there are the parent feels. These come from way too many places. They come from the place where my mom guilts me whenever we talk. Those mom-guilt feels. Then additional guilt feels from being miserable to my mom. The feels come from the place where my dad has been battling cancer for the past ten years and is always on the brink of losing that war. Every time he has his levels checked, I feel the feels, the roller-coaster feels. Those fear-of-losing-dad feels. And there are those general grown-kid-irritation-at-almost-anything-my-parents-say feels, which then stay with me and makes me feel all the damn parent-child feels. Those feels are hard, because I shouldn’t feel them, but I do.
I had feels when my beloved cat was dying, I had feels when I got in a huge fight with my best friend and she didn’t speak to me for almost two months. I had feels when some asshole broke into a school in Newtown and murdered innocent people. I have Twitter feels, I have wardrobe-envy feels, I have political feels. I have FOMO feels.
I do not like the feels at all, and I do not want to feel them. I could drink to drown them out. I could do something else similarly self-destructive. I could numb the feels with food, or with gambling, or prescription pills. Isn’t that what real lawyers are supposed to do? No, instead I work. And I work more. I can get into the office at 7:30 in the morning and stay well past 8:00 at night, working steadily, filling my brain with depositions and medical records and lease agreements, muffling the steady buzz of feels. I take and make phone calls, I receive and send hundreds of emails a day. I work hard. And all of this work is a muzzle for my feels.
It’s possible that it may be good to feel the feels. I’m sure a therapist would say that it’s better to work through them rather than repress them and bury my head in the proverbial sand. But working through the feels has never been my approach, and the practice of law is a very convenient way to avoid working through the many matters that generate the feels. I guess usually, ignoring issues is not a good approach. But work is different: working so much brings its own reward. I’m becoming a better lawyer, learning my field, impressing my boss. Working hard will eventually lead me to successes. And the successes will make me stronger and help me deal better with all the feels.
So don’t judge me and call me an ostrich for wanting to ignore my various situations. Instead, applaud me for finding a healthy way to cope, and perhaps, a way to overcome the problems that cause all of those feels. But I still won’t turn away an occasional cigarette.