Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merry Christmas.

Every year the darkness of winter hurts me more. The icy winds, the black mornings, the monochrome of brown green outside. From October 30 until December 21st I tell myself how many mornings there are until I can hope again, until I can look forward to a little more light. And I feel this enormous empathy for the pagans, for the local people on this completely miserable island past and present, who kick it up a notch in December, who drag trees into their houses, and string up lights, and busy themselves in contact with others. These nativity plays and parties and travelling to relatives, all this stuff is really just about people banding together with good will. Truly this is the death of the year, and humans where I live now have banded together to survive this death with song and wine and comfort for each other, having a month of being the best humans we can be.

The traditions that make Christmas special for me, that make it work to protect me from this cold foretaste of my own demise actually have very little to do with Christianity. Decorating a tree (pagan), caroling (ancient pagan tradition of singing in the round), presents, parties, Ebeneezer Scrooge, mince pies, banana bread, Champagne at 11:00 (I do give Christianity credit for Champagne, having been invented by monks), Bill Murray as Scrooge, the original Grinch Cartoon, It's A Wonderful Life - let's face it, these are pretty unrelated to the birth of Christ, but I am comforted intensely by the ritual of revisiting them, and I am trying to pass on that comfort to my children. To me Christmas demonstrates this need for all humans to come together and support each other, this need so richly rewarded and so frequently ignored. If we didn't do it during these dark months, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be any human life on this island. It's too dismal.

In the coming together we enjoy each other. I propose we come together, not only as a meek Christian who only gets to worship (rather limited activity), but just for now as humans, who many believe are made in God's image anyway. Humans who are fully all the parts of all the stories. In each of us there is a Tiny Tim who who desperately need love. In each of us there is a Grinch who delights in inflicting pain on others. In each of us there is a George Bailey desperately drunk in a bar wondering why the living fuck his life turned out the way it did. In each of us there is a Bob Cratchett who faithfully gets up and goes to work every day to provide for his family. Each of us is Clarence who sees so clearly the suffering of others. Each of us longs to fit in like Rudolph and his dentist friend.

So fellow humans, art tells us about ourselves, and I find this telling heals me of the wounds of this life. I love these stories, and I love Bruce Springsteen playing Santa Clause is Coming to Town. That one especially makes me happy every time I hear it even as I am telling myself -Grinch that I fucking AM - that it can't possibly do it again. Humans need the December hit of eating some yummy food, getting some love and feeling good. Christmas is enlightening for everyone. I find it enlightening - literally, against the darkness, enlightening.

Whether or not you are a Christian, the winter darkness is unavoidable, whether it is in the seasons of the years of our lives (unless you live in California, which is increasingly looking like the best option, frankly) or - importantly in our souls, part of our human nature. I think practicing pure Christianity mostly has too many concepts that blind you to your own darkness. That is why I really do not buy it anymore.

But I do love the story and I can lay claim to that. So here is my take:

We are all Roman Soldiers capable of genocide, we are all King Herod abusing our power, we are all Mary, and Joseph, naive and young, bewildered by bureaucracy and fleeced by an innkeeper. We are all the wise Kings watching and the cold shepherds laboring. We are all that hunted defenseless baby. You. You. You. You are the baby. You are the star.

So merry Christmas, entire world (really my 9 blog readers). Let us love and protect each other, let us give ourselves what we need, and guard against cruelty and the abuse of power, wherever it is found. Let us band together against the darkness by coming together under the light of a star.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Very Personal Comment

So I am working on my son's school's fundraiser, they are a new school and they haven't had a parent-led fundraiser ever. It's such a unique and special place and I really want to help it thrive. I am so grateful for what my son experiences there, and, truly, what I experience there. I have met some really wonderful people - wise, complex, artistic, insightful, kind and loving people. Being around them makes me rethink everything I had come to believe in the last decade. Their practice of Christianity is profoundly alive in all their interaction, a serenity and a loving kindness.

And here I am. The problem with unleashing former Skadden litigation associates on the world is a big one. We were successful in litigation a lot of other lawyers wouldn't take on, because we didn't act like a lot of other lawyers. We were paranoid, obsessive and we overreacted to everything. This is in part because were in hyperdrive as humans, all sleep deprived almost all the time, and we were thinking about nothing but the trial, not about relationships or about our lives but only about the case. Other lawyers called Skadden The Death Star. I would like to think that is because we usually won, but it may in fact have something to do with the fact that many of us acted like Darth Vader.

For, you see, Darth Vader was very successful. In litigation, all of these vices in fact create virtues. Paranoids do not miss anything. They assume the absolute worst about everything that happens, and sometimes their assumptions are correct. In those worst case scenarios, a paranoid person can really shine. And if the judge has hauled you back into chambers on a whim to make you spit out your damages case, you are well prepared if, as an obsessive, you read and reread the facts of the case until they were part of the fabric of your being. And then, the overreaction: we had thought through every contingency. We had a plan to get from where we were to victory and it absorbed our every waking moment and every neural circuit in our brains. And when we deviated from that plan, it was all kinds of bad news. Every type of manipulation was warranted to succeed in your cause. I remember my secretary marching in my office one day when a big brief was due and calmly announcing that she would not ride the emotional rollercoaster with me on this one. (Truth: Life with me is kind of an emotional rollercoaster, I am Rachel Mariner) The secretary was this Jewish lesbian who was raised in South Africa, left because of apartheid and became an incredibly enlightened Buddhist cat worshipper. One day, after two back-to-back trials in Paducah, Kentucky and Luxembourg, I started crying when I couldn't get the printer to work. I was so tired. I was so spent. She, a constant, caring presence in my life told me to JUST GO HOME, and I did. In some ways, my life started at that moment.

A year later I met Rhys and then I went off to have a normal life, and interact with normal people who had not been paid for a decade to foster mental illness. And those poor normal people! And here I am organizing a charity auction and lately a mock trial and working with them and I bring the drama. I get results, but I do bring the drama.

I apologize for these jarring aspects of my character. I apologize for the zero-to-sixty killer instinct. My brain has been trained in an adversarial system.