Like many of you, I have encountered intense conflict at work. I recently read an interesting article about Jewel's meditation practice, where she observed that COVID's larger impact may be deteriorating mental health, more so than the disease itself. Boy, am I seeing that: more addiction, more domestic violence, and generally people unraveling and behaving badly. And at the same time, court resources have become more limited. It's really a toxic brew.
So we are doing our best to contain the madness. I think the intensity of the upcoming election doesn't help. I am yielding and just trying to surf the turbulent waters—praying for better days ahead for all of us.
On a happier note, my fourth grandson, Theodore Patrick Perez, was born September 2nd. They call him "Theo," but I am defying mom and dad by calling him "Teddy," hoping he'll grow up to be a Rough Rider. Big brother Bennett is digging his little brother. Mollie and Michael are tired but otherwise well. I know Mollie is enjoying her bonding time, but I selfishly can't wait to get her back to work!
Speaking of Mollie, a case we tried together was recently featured in an article in the Atlantic: When the Misdiagnosis is Child Abuse. This article examines the problems resulting from the unchecked power of child abuse pediatricians. Too often, prosecutors and child protective authorities take the opinions of these doctors as gospel—a huge mistake with terrible consequences.
In our case, Mollie and I (along with our co-counsel extraordinaire, Matthew Haiduk) defended a prominent professional accused of breaking over 20 of her baby's bones. Mollie's investigation led to the indisputable conclusion that the bones were paper thin due to a bone disease brought on by an independent medical trauma. The State nevertheless prosecuted based on a child abuse pediatrician's opinion, who insisted that the child was abused. Our expert, a renowned orthopedic physician from the University of Chicago, concluded (and proved) the child had diseased bones, and the injuries were not the result of abuse.
After a full trial, including both experts' testimony, the court dismissed all charges reuniting our client and her husband with their children. It was one of the most satisfying achievements of my career! It's rare that we have a "happily ever after" moment in family law, but this was one of them.
Without the ability to get away right now, I am self-medicating with books. I just finished a great Zen book, One Blade of Grass, by Henry Shukman. The book is about one man's journey from a troubled self-absorbed kid to Zen Master. The book is part memoir and Zen tutorial. Shukman is also a published poet and writer, and the writing is outstanding. It was one of those books that I couldn't put down.
I am also reading a book about the career of Gerald Nissenbaum, "Sex Love and Money: Revenge and Ruin in the World of High-Stakes Divorce." It is a far cry from a Zen tutorial, although Jerry is a legal Samurai who wields the law like a sword. You wouldn't think it is relaxing to spend my few non-work hours reading about the exploits of one of America's great divorce lawyers—but it is exhilarating seeing how he used his brains and finesse to defeat the bad guys (that often populate my world as well). It's almost "Sherlock Holmes meets Al Capone." I am inspired by this book.
Finally, I would like to recommend an Old PBS series, "Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth." Campbell, the philosopher and author of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces inspired the Star Wars Trilogy with his examination of the hero myth.
In this series, journalist Bill Moyers interviews Campbell about his teachings and insights into human identity. I watched this series when it first came out, and what struck me then was Campbell's notion of finding happiness by "following your bliss." Looking back 30 years later and thinking about my many transcendent moments in the courtroom, that advice has served me well.
My Divorce Trial Manual is winding down. What a vast topic, bigger than I realized when I agreed to write it. But it is a work of love, and I can't wait to share it with all of you. Stay tuned.
After the Presidential debate, I was so rattled, I got up the next morning and wrote this post about countering bad conduct during an argument. The debate hit way too close to home for me. As Sue told me, I obviously needed some therapy after the debacle, and writing is my way of making sense of things. In a similar vein, I also wrote an article on emotional regulation called Reactivity 101. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? I think we all need to turn down the volume a bit, particularly during these difficult times.
My writing teacher Ellen Fishbein has been teaching me how to write poetry in the style of a Shakespearean Sonnet––a far cry from my usual free verse format. It's much more challenging to convey the message within the confines of rhyme and iambic pentameter. But that said, it is a discipline that I like, and this format helps me appreciate the brilliance of the bard.
Speaking of poetry, I want to share a poem by another poet whose work I admire, Jim Harrison:
I'm trying to create an option for all
these doors in life. You're inside
or out, outside or in. Of late, doors
have failed us more than the two-party system
or marriages comprising only one person.
We've been fooled into thousands of dualisms
which the Buddha says is a bad idea.
Nature has portals rather than doors.
There are two vast cottonwoods near a creek
and when I walk between them I shiver.
Winding through my field of seventy-seven
large white pine stumps from about 1903
I take various paths depending on spirit.
The sky is a door never closed to us.
The sun and moon aren't doorknobs.
Dersu Uzala slept outside for forty-five years.
When he finally moved inside he died.
Jim Harrison at his cabin in Montana.
This poem is somewhat inscrutable to me. Much like a Zen koan, I don't believe it is accessible to the logical mind. It requires a different realm of consciousness to understand it. I'm not there yet! I find this poem mysterious and beautiful.
So long for now. Be kind to yourself and others. Be patient—we're all carrying a heavy load right now. Drop a line or give me a call. I would love to catch up.