We had a fanciful bowl that my wife loved, a red and orange and yellow glassblown design all swirled together, that featured prominently on a shelf in our kitchen. It had a small bowl-like cavity in the middle surrounded by a flat decorative ring-like exterior.
It was much, much more artful than useful. In fact we never used it at all. But it was very nice to look at.
So needless to say my wife was very disappointed when I broke it about a year ago.
I attempted to move this beautiful glass piece without completely drying off my hands, I lost the grip and the bowl clanged on our counter top and broke into three pieces. My wife shot me a very disapproving look before she banished me from the kitchen and began to clean up and mourn over her favorite dish.
It was the last I saw of it.
Until last week. We bought our son a small fish for his birthday this year. Last week I found him and my wife cleaning out the fish’s small tank on the kitchen table. And while the tank was being cleaned, the fish waited patiently to their side in none other than the red and orange and yellow glassblown designed bowl.
The bowl looked exactly the same as it had prior to my breaking it, except for the three large cracks that my wife had expertly crazy glued back together.
And it was actually proving useful as a temporary fish home: Its flat shape made it easy to transfer the fish into. Its wide circumference served as a safe landing pad in case the fish squeezed out of grip during the transfer. And its bowl cavity was fairly shallow, making it easier to fetch the fish when returning it to its tank.
All in all, we found some use for it. It happened once we were forced to repair it and revisit it.
The same can be said for many of us unhappy attorneys
We don’t think we can be much more than a lawyer. We are litigators only, or transactional attorneys only or government attorneys only.
And over time, the combination of not liking our day to day job as an attorney and feeling that there is nothing else we can realistically do begins to break us. We get tired, we get depressed, we have less energy.
Cracks begin to appear. We hit what we think is our bottom and it hurts.
It’s only when we begin to repair ourselves, that we can actually see all of the many other things we can do.
First, we can repair ourselves by being more compassionate to ourselves. This doesn’t mean being too easy on ourselves or complacent or lazy. It just means that we accept ourselves for who we are and we begin to like ourselves.
We stop bemoaning the fact that we aren’t as successful as we want to be. We stop yelling at ourselves for not living up to our potential. We stop getting mad at ourselves that our life is not perfect.
Instead, we can be compassionate to ourselves by realizing that our life is a movie and we’re the star and we have so much more of the story to develop.
We can be compassionate to ourselves by treating ourselves like we want others to treat us.
We can be compassionate to ourselves by realizing that all we have been through, the successes and the cracks, have made us the special person we are.
We can be compassionate to ourselves by realizing that we can help others.
We can be compassionate to ourselves by realizing that we can bring value.
Our cracks may still be there, but they are only signs of what we have learned and not a gloomy harbinger of where we are going.
And once we embark on repairing ourselves through self-compassion, we can then realize how we are so much more than just a lawyer. We can then realize how our skills and strengths and know-how are transferrable to other non-law industries and jobs and roles.
We meet deadlines. We upsell. We put out fires. We present adeptly. We manage clients. We can be the adult-in-the-room. We can write persuasively. We are dependable. Loyal. Disciplined. We work hard.
And so many non-law companies are looking for people just like us.
When the tank was clean, we easily scooped the fish out of bowl and back into his home. My wife carefully dried the bowl with a towel and then placed it on a shelf near the window where the sun shown gently on its swirling red and yellow and orange.