Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

The Powerful Process of Gratitude

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Total Black: $63.41
Total Red: $230,611.32

Between interviews with temporary attorney staffing agencies today, I took time in the afternoon to read a bit more of the The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.  I’ve been reading a bit each night before bed in an effort to finish the book.  This afternoon I got as far as the first few pages of the chapter titled “Powerful Processes” before I got too antsy and had to leave.  Perhaps because I was reading the book on my iPhone in a Barnes & Noble cafe on Fifth Avenue.  The first process the book discusses is the power of gratitude.  This morning I had a brush with gratitude as I awoke.  Unemployment benefits did not come through today as they should have.  Luckily, I received a donation of fifty dollars.  My second donation and it came from the same person as before.  I owe him much, particularly today, because without that donation, I wouldn’t have been able to pick up my suits from the dry cleaner.  I would have had to wear something nice, but clearly not appropriate for an interview.  Explanations and apologies may have helped, but they wouldn’t have erased first impressions left by me arriving in cargo pants.  So, I thought I’d take the opportunity to note my gratitude to my benefactor, if you will, as well as in general.

It seems that many of us could do with a dose of gratefulness for much of what we’ve been given.  And what better time than in the month of November.  Byrne and her commentators note that gratitude is a powerful state of mind to be in and necessary to properly draw your dreams to you.  I’m not fully sold on all she writes of, but regardless of the veracity of her work, it does do each of us well to take an assessment of our current blessings and to give thanks for them.  I am thirty-three years old.  My health is well.  I may be facing a significant financial struggle right now, but it too shall pass in time.  I’m grateful that I grew up in a great, small town in Pennsylvania that really showed me what caring and community mean.  No better example of that can be found than in Small Town Boy in the Big City.  I’m also grateful that my parents married and stayed in love with each other until death separated them.  My mother recently discovered a lump on her ovary.  Tests came back to say it was not cancerous.  I may have lost my father to cancer but I still have my mother and I’m grateful for that.  I’m also grateful that through good times and bad, they supported me.  They certainly didn’t always agree with me, or with some of my actions, but I knew I had their help if I needed it.  Very few people know that when I was in high school I attempted suicide.  My parents had gone to my mother’s company Christmas party and while they were out, I gulped as many pills as I could find.  I spent thirty-five days in a mental institution, not counting the first week or so in the psychiatric ward at a local hospital.  I had difficulty facing all the years remaining in front of this seventeen year-old boy, living in a world where people would despise for something I had no control over: my sexual orientation.  Going to Catholic school in a small town didn’t help matters, I’m sure.  Everyone in my high school found out after I trusted the wrong people with that information.  But, because of that experience, I am the person I am today.  And I’m stronger because of it.  And grateful for it.  Since I’m also adopted, that makes two occasions when I could have had my life terminated prematurely.  So, I am most certainly grateful for my life.  Although times may look bleak, I know now that no situation is ever worth taking one’s life over.  I suspect that my brush with death and hospitalization brought my parents around as well.  It’s unfortunate that it had to come to that to get them to see the forest and not just the trees—they were struggling with their son being gay—but it did have that added benefit.  And I’m grateful that it brought my family back around.  Many young queer kids are ostracized by their families and end up homeless.  So no matter how dark my days might get, nothing can hold a candle to my earlier struggles.  I am extremely grateful for that experience.

To state the obvious, I’m also an attorney and I’m definitely grateful for that.  I worked for it too.  I earned a college degree and two graduate level degrees.  I was on law journal while in law school and graduated in the top of my class.  Before law school, I lived in Poland and studied in Germany and Malta.  During law school, I traveled to South Africa for a study abroad program.  Right after law school, I worked for one of the biggest and most prestigious law firms in the world as an associate, and even spent five months in the Netherlands for work.  In thirty-three years, I’ve had a great life.  I was a porter on a steamboat on the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee Rivers.  I taught English in Poland as a Peace Corps volunteer.  I was an art seller, a directory assistance operator, and a paperboy, among too many other odd jobs.  But I’m grateful for all of those various experiences.  As I noted in Darker the Collar, Lighter the Stress, I appreciate being able to relate to all different kinds of people.

Oftentimes, it seems, any attempts to list things we’re grateful for comes out seeming trite or contrived.  Perhaps that’s more so because we don’t give thanks nearly enough.  How many people actually give thanks on Thanksgiving Day?  Not perfunctory comments before the meal, but truly expressing gratitude for what they have?  I’ve never, but I will this year.  I have much to be grateful for.  Tomorrow I have an interview with a law firm for a contract attorney position as a quality-control reviewer.  A supervisor of sorts, I suppose.  It’s through a temp agency and it’ll pay $40 an hour.  It should last about two months.  Regardless of the outcome, at least I’m in demand.  And that’s something to give thanks for too.

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