I’m sitting at the kitchen table looking out the front window. It’s a rainy, cold spring day in Pittsburgh. As I sit here, I recall another time. There was snow on the ground and I was writing, sitting at this same seat. My older son had just left for school and I noticed his footsteps in the snow leading up the yard, away from home, to school. I felt a deep sense of sadness as I thought that the time would soon come when he would be leaving for good, heading to college and then into his own independent life. I thought of how much I would miss him and his younger brother who was only a few years behind.
That was about 15 years ago. Both of our sons are now grown and gone. Yet, the time between then and now feels like the blink of an eye.
I spent most of my life repressing, or denying, my mortality. Telling myself that I was still figuring out what I wanted to be. A lot of things came easy to me, especially the academic stuff. I graduated with distinction from the college and the law school at the University of Virginia. I worked for two elite corporate law firms- Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York and Hogan Lovells in Washington, D.C. Entering academics, I ultimately became a Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh. My record of scholarship is impressive, initially in the areas of race and poverty, later in legal ethics. I serve on corporate boards and have an ethics consulting and expert witness practice as well. In other words, I got the tickets.
But several years ago, I came to see that I had been coasting all along, never really committed to anything. Because of my gifts, I never had to push myself that hard, never chose to really put myself out there. My father died, my mother disappeared into Alzheimer’s, and my pretenses that I would live forever or that I was still trying to decide who I was going to be all came undone.
I began working with a therapist and rereading my most important spiritual texts, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki and the Tao te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation). It was a rocky road. It is a rocky road still.
But I have family, good friends. I am drawn to the mountains and to the ocean and am able to spend a good amount of my time outdoors. I am blessed with the capacity to hike, run, bike, snowboard, and walk our dog, Sammie. I am engaged in a book project that is meaningful and compelling. And more and more, I am centered, fully present in my moment. Each day I feel stronger and more alive. I am blessed.