Rest In Peace Avijit Roy

“Raise your voice against militants.”

— Protesters in Dhaka, denouncing the murder of American Avijit Roy

Avijit Roy with his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna
Avijit Roy with his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna

Let the voices of peace rise, deafening the call of hatred;

Let us cherish, protect and defend our rights to freedom of speech and religion;

Let us be tireless in our actions to stop extremist violence.

Every one of us can make a difference.

Let’s start now.

Peace.

A Closet Full of Armani

What to do?

We are moving.  Again.  Including our anticipated move this summer, I will have moved eight times in the past nine years.  As with everything, practice begets expertise.  I’ve become an expert in weeding out–selling or donating–material items that are no longer used or useful.  With each successive move, I’ve become more aggressive in eliminating stuff we no longer use on a regular basis, be it clothing, electronics, books or furniture.  Indeed, I can count on one hand items kept “just in case” that we’ve actually unpacked and used move after move.

Despite my best efforts, there remain, of course, more than a few boxes of keepsakes.  In those boxes–currently in our garage, unopened–sit sentimental mementos with which my husband or I are unable to part.  There is the sturdy shoebox, lovingly packed with paper and too much bubble wrap, housing an eclectic herd of elephants–porcelain and carved wood and stone–hand-picked by my Grandmother as she traveled throughout Africa and Asia.  I can’t let it go.   My husband’s boxes contain beer steins bought in Germany, sake sets purchased in Japan and alma mater stamped washcloths.  And I have chopsticks from Korea, alpaca sweaters from Peru and a Paddington Bear from London.  I get it.  These items remind us of times and places from years past.  Proof that we were there.  Evidence that we traveled, took chances, and were up for an adventure.  Reminders of who we were and who we are.

Reducing clutter–any kind of clutter–is fashionable these days.  Articles abound about decluttering, be it house clutter, smartphone clutter or, even, wallet clutterMarie Kondo and Peter Walsh have made names for themselves by helping the masses organize and slim down belongings.  And cottage industries, such as the small house movement, have popped up leveraging our distaste for too many material belongings.  Yet ridding one’s home from all that is unused remains illusory at best.

Nearly a decade ago I left New York City.  Being an international move, I sold most of my material possessions, including my bedroom suite, bookcase, coffee table, bar stools, living room furniture, television . . . er, you get the picture.  Movers packed the scant remains–clothing, kitchen stuff, artwork, pictures, books and, of course, selected keepsakes.  It was still a lot.  Nearly 100 boxes of stuff was shipped overseas.

Upon arrival, I clearly recall opening wardrobe boxes and unpacking beautiful–mostly winter–mostly Armani suits, jackets, skirts, pants and underpinnings.  I carefully placed them in the spare bedroom closet, knowing that I would have no use for them.  I was, after all, living job-free in Grand Cayman.   Since then, I have repacked and unpacked those same designer pieces seven times.  I have worn a skirt here and a top there, but the suits have largely remained untouched, decoratively hanging in various closets, in various states, in various countries, for too many years.

Earlier this week I opened my closet and was greeted yet again by gorgeous fabrics in varying shades of grey and black.  The clothes are a size two–a size I outgrew several moves ago.  For a split second I wondered when and where I would donate them.  Before my next move, of course, no?  It will be another international move to another tropical climate, ill-suited for such designer duds.  I wondered why it’s taken me so long to jettison my one-time uniforms.  Then I remembered.  They too are remnants of my past life.  A life of spending long hours in a large office with a perfect view of the Chrysler Building.  A life where an after work scotch at the Oak Room was routine.  A life where cocktails at the Four Seasons were common.  A life where black-tie events were attended much too frequently. (Yes, I still have those dresses as well.)  A life where dining at fashionable eateries was de rigueur.  They prove once I could afford what I now consider to be ridiculously expensive clothing.  They evidence that once upon a time I was stylish.  They prove I once was thin.  They remind me of who I once was.

She was great.  Trust me–really great.  Confident, bold and unapologetic for living the life others envied.  But as I was reminded this week, she also was single, lonely, desperately seeking her life partner and wanting a family.  As I walked Blue and my daughter around the neighborhood this morning, a sight to be seen in my now uniform–baggy yoga pants, t-shirt, baseball cap and sneakers–befitting my status as the primary caregiver to our 10-month old daughter, I wondered how my husband was.  At that moment I was reminded of all the reasons I’m so thankful those suits hang in my closet untouched.

Finally, I’m ready to let them go.

What Am I Doing Here?

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“Lawyers are merely frustrated writers.”  I had heard it before albeit a bit differently.    “Lawyers are failed writers,” a former partner once told me.  He, like many other attorneys I know had started–but never finished–a novel.

It makes sense.  After all, many–if not most–attorneys are paid professional writers.  They spend hours in front of a computer writing, writing e-mails, correspondence, memoranda, legal briefs, reports, summaries and other documents.  A lengthy, seemingly endless, editing process begins once the initial drafting stops, resulting in draft after draft.  For litigators, weaving a compelling, persuasive and detailed laden narrative throughout a legal analysis is de rigueur.  Indeed, attorney wordsmiths build the foundation of the story–good, bad or ugly–to be told repeatedly throughout years of litigation.  We used to joke about the skills of a senior attorney in our practice, “If the facts themselves don’t tell a winning story, he revises the story to tell of a ‘crazy’ opposing party–an unlikable character, entirely lacking credibility.”

Once upon a time, notable attorneys-turned-authors were few, including the ubiquitous John Grisham, Erle Stanley Gardner and Scott Turow.  Today, attorney authors are so common that the Washington Lawyer, a Washington, D.C. Bar publication, includes an “Author! Author!” category in its Attorney Briefs section, showcasing fiction and non-fiction writers alike.

To date, I have left the practice of law twice.  As a result of a mixture of personal choices and ensuing circumstances, I was unable to practice law as a matter of fact during those periods.  I envisioned easily securing alternative employment.  I’m educated.  I possessed significant managerial experience, having been a firm partner.  And I worked closely with businesses my entire career, helping develop and implement best employment practices in the workplace.  Consultant.  Human resources professional.  In-house trainer.  For those positions I was qualified, I thought.  But I was wrong.  Responding to hundreds of advertisements yielded not one interview.  Rather, the single somewhat positive response received was from a sporting company, which took the time to write that my professional background was impressive and of interest to them, but no suitable jobs were available at the time.

Beyond frustrated at the lack of professional prospects, I wondered if I was qualified to be anything other than an attorney.  After several months of soul-searching, I came to the uncomfortable realization that lawyers possess the perfect skill set to be lawyers.  Or writers.  During both periods of unemployment, I secured paying work consulting with businesses.  But I found comfort and challenge in writing.  During the first period of unemployment I began a memoir.  During the second period of unemployment I finished the memoir and started a blog.  And then I stopped writing.

Like a dear old friend with whom you’ve lost touch, I longed to reignite the relationship.  I missed it.  I wanted it.  I needed it.  I wanted to write freely, unencumbered by the restraints of friendship and family relationships.  I wanted to know whether anyone other than those who knew me would be interested in what I had to say.  And I wanted to know whether I cared if no one ever read what I wrote.

Yesterday, we stopped by Staples to collect my manuscript.  It has taken me seven years–writing on and off–to complete one draft novel.  An ultimate failure in time management, to be certain.  But as I stood at the counter waiting to pay, I thumbed through the document, marveling at its heft.  251 pages.  “I’m scared to read it,” I revealed to my husband.  What if it was boring?  Irrelevant?  Poorly written?  I worried that I had wasted my time, telling a story no one would care for.  A more troubling–and more accurate fear–was that I had wasted part of my life writing a story that was uninteresting.  But my greatest fear was that my life, as written by me, had been unworthy of close examination.

But then I remembered that I love to write.  Today, I sit looking at a beautifully bound manuscript.  Its crisp white pages unadorned by rivers of red ink or creases from page turning call to me.  My red pen is at the ready.  I’ve decided to read it aloud to my daughter.  That way, even if it ends up in the bin, she will have heard her mother’s story once.  And if the manuscript fails my expectations, I take solace knowing that I’ll be able to write about my failure as a one-time author.