I have run out of vases

Trigger warning: death.

 

My mum died last week. Her name was Suzanne (never Susan).

I realised as I studied her face after it happened that I have never seen a dead body before. Her top lip was taut over her teeth. She looked weirdly waxen. Her forehead was cool on my lips as I kissed her goodbye.

Right now I am learning a lot about the stuff that needs to be sorted when someone dies. There is a lot of it.

And I am learning a lot too about the enormity of losing a parent. I can’t quite make sense of the fact that it is both something that almost everyone goes through at my stage of life if not before (i.e. quite normal really), but is also uniquely, overwhelmingly painful (does not feel at all normal) all at the same time. I think they call this cognitive dissonance. Whatever it is, it’s raging right now. I’m three days in.

The doorbell keeps ringing and flowers keep appearing. The house is full of flowers. But is notably minus one mum. We are waiting for the van to collect ‘the equipment’: the commode and other accoutrements of frailty.

I’m holding on to the fact that I was lucky to have a mum. Even more lucky to have a mum who loved me and who was willing and able to be there for me – for us – for almost 50 years. Not everyone is so blessed. Many of my clients are not. I keep telling myself that the loss we are feeling is the corollary of the privilege of having her in our lives.

When I’m ready I will tell you about my mum. For now, I just wanted to say that I have run out of vases.

And to the man who just commented on my post from a couple of weeks ago which said that I was taking a step back to prioritise family, just so he could mansplain that it was this sort of attitude that explained why men get all the best work – Bri, you should take a long hard look at yourself and ask if your mother would have been proud.

I wasn’t sure if it was wise to post anything when things are still so – I think the traditional word here is ‘raw’, but I’m going to go with the non-trad ‘fucking awful’ – but Bri’s stupid comment has made me think it’s important that I do. I’m not ashamed for doing what I need to do to look after myself and my family. Nobody should be.

The Lord Chancellor might still think its big and clever to promote the bravado of the never-sleeping bar, but I don’t. I’m also not a member of the stupid Garrick club either, Bri.

Some free advice from me: hug your mums. And your dads. And your family generally. Hugs all round.

I’ll be back on here when I’m ready.

What my out of office really means…

The other day I put a polite but hopefully firm OOO on my emails, explaining that I am not taking on new work and will deal only with emails relating to existing commitments.

This morning I seriously contemplated rewording it to simply read: “For the love of god, STOP. EMAILING. ME!” I flirted with the idea of adding some swears as a parting flourish (I love a good swear, it’s therapeutic).

Of course, I haven’t done that. It’s nobody else’s fault that I need to draw a line. And they aren’t psychic. Also, I am a professional.

But I have reached a stage where for the sake of my sanity and those around me, and to make sure I do right by my clients, my family and myself, I need to impose some serious boundaries. Otherwise I am at risk of providing a poor standard of work, parenting, partnering and daughtering. So I’m pausing on new commitments. All of them.

Our household, our whole family is undergoing a period of acute difficulty, following on from a period of chronic stress and change, and now is the time to refocus for a bit. If I burn out or run myself down physically to the point I can’t work then I let everyone down. On the work front I’ve had a great first year in silk, adjusting to all that it means in practice and working out who I am professionally. And if that was all that was going on it would be fine. But of course it isn’t. Life carries on. And it’s been increasingly hard to juggle any full time job with what’s going on at home, let alone this one.

I was going to say there is no shame in saying this, but the fact I am anxious about saying it suggests that really there is, so let me adjust that to say there shouldn’t be any shame in this. Looking after myself, my wellbeing and my family is good business sense. And goodness knows we get frequent enough reminders of what happens when lawyers don’t listen to the signs. So, I’m a big girl. I’ll say it. Doesn’t make me any less of a lawyer, or any less reliable. It makes me sensible (But the fact I am having to rationalise this at length is a reminder of how ridiculously dysfunctional our profession is).

So, I’m vetoing all new instructions and, for the time being at least, I’m just going to ignore unsolicited requests for help, pro bono work, free advice, ‘just five minutes of your time’, extra committees, to deliver a talk, or do anything that isn’t essential. Please don’t think me rude, but right now there isn’t enough of me to go around. Be assured, I will most likely continue intermittently tweeting inane or profound nonsense in between things.

Be back soon.

Look after yourselves. And for the love of god don’t send me emails asking if I’m ok. I’m fine. I will be fine.

Two more books, still working on that novel…

Hot on the heels of the second edition of Transparency in the Family Courts, released last week, I received these beauties in the post today. The Public Law Dictionary is a new addition to this family of dictionaries, and I am one of the authors. Other titles include Private Law, TLATA and Inheritance Act, and Financial Remedies.

It feels good to have both projects off my to do list, all finished and on my desk in glossy covered hard copy.

You can buy a copy of the Dictionaries via Class Legal here. They come in print or ebook format (including pdf if you prefer that), and the digital versions are a bit cheaper at £65.

For those who asked about discounts for the Transparency Book – the publishers for that, Bloomsbury, have kindly provided a discount code for junior FLBA members – check your inbox for that code as it went out in a recent FLBA mail out.

 

Anyway, that’s me done with legal textbooks for a while (although I have a further book project that I have long promised to do, which I probably should dust off and crack on with when the pace of life allows).

One of these days I will get around to some fiction… As I approach the half decade I am STILL mulling over my brilliant first novel…which I started when I was 18 and have been intermittently pondering ever since… I have the opening purple paragraphs written by teenaged me stashed away for when I finally think of a plot to accompany them.