It’s another beautiful day on Nantucket. The sun is shining and there is a soft breeze on the beach. The sun reflecting on the blue water dances like diamonds. My wife and I were up early to go run so we could get back by the time the grandkids woke up. We are back on the island again for the summer and since we started having grandchildren, they and our children are with us for a couple of weeks. This is what I wait for all year, the time with my wife, our daughters, sons-in-laws, boyfriends and grandchildren at the beach. The long, beautiful days on the beach, playing with the grandchildren in the sand, taking them into the ocean, walking on the shoreline to look for shells. Later in the day cooking hamburgers on the grill for our picnic dinner on the front lawn. After dinner watching the grandkids laugh and run around until bedtime. This is as good as it gets, the reason for all the hard work in my office, the long days at my desk, the endless depositions and trial preparation, the long weeks away from home at trial. All of the hard work leads to the reward, the time at the beach surrounded by the people I love.
Why then do I struggle to be fully present. Why can’t I resist the urge to check the email, why can’t I get my office out of my head. I was at the office until past midnight the days before we left for Nantucket. I cleaned up my desk, wrote the letters I needed to, returned the calls. I have wonderful lawyers and staff who I trust completely to handle any issue that comes up when I am gone. I met with all of them and left notes about anything I thought could be an issue. I am only gone for a month. It’s the middle of the summer which I know is always a quiet time. I know all of this but still I can’t let go. I can’t just sit and completely relax and enjoy the time. I can usually last an hour or so before I need to check the phone, see if anything has blown up, if anyone is looking for me. I am confident the office would call if there was truly an emergency, and it has happened once or twice over the years, but I still……..
I wait for five o’clock, when the workday is over, but I know that in the present-day world, emails still come after that. I wait for the weekends, when my office is closed, but again, in my experience although less likely issues do come up on Saturday and Sunday. I hear my wonderful wife remind me to be present. I hear my grandchildren ask “Poppy, are you ok” when they see me drift off thinking about a case or problem in the office. I snap back quickly to give them my attention, but it only lasts so long until my mind wanders again. Did I finish the work on the Ramirez case, what if the scheduling gets screwed up for the upcoming Messina trial, did we file the briefs on time in the Langston case, did I ask the right questions in the defense expert deposition I took in the Martinez case the day before I left for Nantucket.
I often come back to the great line from the Godfather when Hyman Roth tells Michael Corleone “And I said to myself, this is the business we have chosen”. I smile when I think of it, but I know it’s true. It is the business I chose, the life I chose. I know from talking to my friends and colleagues who are trial lawyers that I am not the only one who feels this way, who struggles with separating work from home. It seems to be the fate of the trial lawyer. Being a trial lawyer can consume you, overtake everything else. The balance between winning and losing is so small, so slight, there is a constant challenge not to miss anything, to turn over every stone, follow every angle, every fact. The thought that a case was lost because I was on the beach and not doing everything I could to win is at the same time irrational and frightening.
I am certain that people in other professions feel the same way, have the same irrational fear, that this is not limited to trial lawyers. I do not know those people though. I only know my life and my struggle.
The sun is high in the sky, the sand is soft and warm, the water is the perfect temperature, the grandkids are calling for Poppy to come take them swimming. One last check of the phone and I get out of my chair, take their hands, and walk to the water’s edge. For this moment, my office is a million miles away and all I can see are the faces of my grandchildren. Please let this feeling last, please.