Thursday, August 19, 2010

Judgment Day

Shabbat #29

Guests: The Garveys

Menu: Liberty Chips and Salsa, Tequila Lime Chicken, Sagaponack Corn Pudding, Deconstucted Guacamole Salad, Key Lime Pie Bars

What I Learned:

I've "appeared" before a judge three times. The first time was a proud moment. Judge Dowd swore me into the Eastern District of Missouri shortly after I passed the bar. The second time was the scariest of my life. Sandwiched between my father-in-law and my husband's best friend, I sat frozen waiting for Judge Jackson to announce whether Steve's sentence would involve a separation from our family. And the third was last Friday when Judge Garvey found me "guilty" of cooking up a killer Tequila Lime Chicken and Corn Pudding.

I've always thought that being a judge had to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. Making decisions that forever change a person's life. (Not to mention all of the people associated with that person.) Basing a conclusion on precedent and argument, even when that conclusion does not reflect your personal convictions. Forever being held to a higher standard in the communty. By my assessment, the only consolation was the black robe that all but eliminated those ill-conceived fashion days.

But now I'm not so sure whether judging is the hardest job. Maybe not judging is even harder.

Having been on the "judged" side of judgment, both formally in a court of law and informally in the court of public opinion I can report that it's not a fun place to be. A federal sentence brings a slew of complications that most people don't plan for. At least we didn't. And while the court of public opinion (and all of its anonymous bloggers) don't quite have the same lifelong impact, their punches still sting.

Prior to 2009, I was guilty of passing my own judgments. I'm not particularly proud of it, though I do think its probably part of human nature. Something about assessing someone else -- judging them as a worse mother, wife, employee, friend -- somehow made me feel a little bit better in all of those departments. Temporarily anyway until I inevitably ended up feeling worse for judging. And making no progress in becoming better in any of the aforementioned departments.

Since 2009 I've change my tune and tried to focus on taking something positive from the situation, because, really, what else can you do when life serves up a crappy hand. I've tried to judge less and improve more. When I feel judgment creeping up, I step back and search for it's source. If the source is a desire to find a weakness in someone else I consider whether I might really be the one with the weakness. And then I spend my energy trying to be a little better. If the judgment is motivated by "sport" or gossip, I hold my tongue and try to redirect my energy to my long (and growing) "to do" list. And if I conclude that my judgment is fair I try my best to share it fairly and offer support and solutions rather than idle criticism. And I own it.

That takes a lot of energy. Which most days I'm short on. Fortunately, it's proving to be productive. And contagious. And generally makes me feel like the road to wherever we are going is somehow a little more tolerable. And less scary.

I hope that my children will learn from me by example and try to do the same. I plan to teach them to leave the judging of others for the folks in black robes. I've already started telling Ben that the only judgment he needs to be worrying about is his own ... good judgment.

Because last Friday's "guilty" ruling on my Tequelia Chicken is the last time I ever want to find myself (or anyone in this family) waiting for a judge's ruling.

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