I was starting to stress with every snowflake coming down. I had to get my girls safely to school on time in this slippery slush and then make sure I was in the courtroom with my exhibits organized and ready to go promptly at our 9 a.m. start time. From the parking garage I half jogged in my suit and snow boots toting my rolling briefcase behind me and double checking that I had my high heels ready for a quick change in the courthouse.
I arrived somewhat breathless to find a dark courtroom. Neither the bailiff nor the judge had yet arrived. I checked my phone to find a message that my client was stuck in traffic too. I prepared my spot at counsel’s table. Then I waited. And waited some more. All of this added to the long wait since July when we had finished day 1 of trial. We did not finish on that day and due to the court’s clogged calendar, we were pushed to October to finish. Then the judge was ill on our October date and we were pushed even farther to February. And here I was – waiting some more.
I was thinking about my client and the judge no doubt feeling anxiety creep up with every press of the brake pedal. We were only permitted 3 hours to finish our trial today and that was already going to be a stretch. We were losing precious minutes. An hour into waiting and my client and the judge still had not arrived. The judge called and said that unfortunately he was still likely an hour away. Our trial date was going to be moved yet again.
It was beyond my control. My client finally arrived and the tears of frustration welled in her eyes. This was beyond her control. The last 7 months waiting to finalize a difficult divorce transition was beyond her control. Her husband up and moving out of the state with heartbreakingly little contact with their daughters was beyond her control. The surgery her daughter was scheduled for in four weeks time was beyond her control.
During divorce we find so many things frustratingly out of our control. We feel frazzled, depressed, stressed, and anxious. We keep looking for the day when our life will feel “normal” again. The court calendar is one of the single most frustrating “beyond our control” aspects for clients and their lawyers. And it is in this waiting for the days and months to pass that some learn what they can control.
My client kept the tears at bay and said, “I am going to be calm.” This was not at all the reaction I was expecting. I felt my stiff shoulders begin to slacken. She was taking control over what she could. She was directing her emotions and reactions. She was calm. She had learned how to manage this space, masterfully moving above what was beyond her control. I admired her and learned from her that every snowflake coming down is beyond my control.