I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I’m usually too busy around the holidays, between the kids being off from school, end-of-year accounting for my firm, and dealing with January 1st foreclosures. I’m more reflective right after the holidays as I am gearing up to make something happen in the new year. I did make a resolution this year (albeit one I formulated back in the summer), but that will be the subject of my next post, “Resolution, Part 2.”
Despite not having the habit of resolving out loud on January 1, I have changed tremendously and accomplished a great deal over the last several years. I have become a better lawyer, a better colleague, a better dad, a better yogi. I have lost 50 lbs. I have learned the ins and outs of my new position as a bankruptcy trustee. I have built a new law firm. People have congratulated me for these successes over the years, but I am just at a point now of being able to take a deep breath and acknowledge the changes and reflect. The two things I can say with certainty are that: 1) I changed in ways I did not anticipate much less intend, and 2) the changes were accompanied by a lot of suffering.
By suffering, I mostly mean mental, not physical, pain. It’s worrying about an upcoming hearing. It’s the dread of making a mistake. It’s the disappointment of your client dropping off the face of the earth and not paying you. It’s the frustration that occurs when you’re trying to transition between two types of billing software. It’s the annoyance of trying to get a resistant kid out the door on time so you are not late to court. It’s the remorse over eating three slices of pizza and ice cream when you really only needed one slice and a salad. It’s the regret when you miss your yoga class because you couldn’t stop yourself from answering e-mails. It’s the pain of wanting something, but getting something different, which brings me back to my first point.
I did not anticipate the big changes in my life. I never even wanted to practice law (I went to law school because of my interest in legal philosophy, and I planned to be a professor!). I didn’t much want to have kids. I ran away from yoga and all things connected to my Indian heritage. I pooh-poohed diet and exercise. It is as though almost everything I am today is something I never wanted to be, and yet now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think the events that occur in your life don’t occur due to conscious choice, but based on the actions of the people around you, the choices of the market, your historical circumstances, and so on. The choice you have to make is whether to embrace the changes that come out of these forces, or to resist them or hide from them, through things like anger, denial, or depression, or even drugs or alcohol. And perhaps even this choice is not under your control. Perhaps it is predisposition or karma or luck.
Even if you don’t truly get to make the BIG DECISIONS, you do get to make hundreds of little daily decisions. For me, the primary source of my recent suffering has been my work, adjusting to being a dad, and dealing with the loss of my parents. I’ve turned to studying meditation and yoga to ease the suffering, and those have taught me to stay with my wobbly poses and my troubled mind, and that in turn has given me the strength to cope with kids, changes at work, and life in general. And these changes, which came with so much effort, have opened up a pathway to contentment and even joy. When I am able to calm a crying kid or a stressed-out client, or I’m able to accomplish something new, like conducting my first bankruptcy auction, I feel like I am doing what I was meant to do.