“Rough patch. Holding it together by a string and cried at work this morning. So maybe that’s my authentic self coming through.”
-Me, in an email, November 7, 2013.
I thought the rule was important because although I’ve almost always worked alongside empathetic colleagues, my work world generally is dominated by men. In the early years, especially in a courtroom, often the only other woman was the court stenographer or the judge’s secretary. And way back when I began my career, I was the only woman litigator among my law firm peers.
So compliance with my no-cry-zone rule was mandatory. No one imposed it on me, of course; rather, it was of my own doing. It served me. I wanted to fit in. The guys weren’t boo-hooing, and neither would I even if I felt like it. Because I thought that in order to be in control, in order to be a litigator, I needed to be tough. For sure, I’ve occasionally gotten choked up at work for one reason or another but each time it was behind closed doors, virtually invisible to anyone but me.
But something set me off early in the morning on November 7th. I was angry about something. And frustrated. And working hard. Yet I remember rebounding from the meltdown [as I came to call it] pretty quickly and heading to court. I brushed it off, apologizing to those who saw it as out of character, not important, nothing to worry about. Still, I mentioned it in an email to a friend later that day.
I’m a little bit fascinated that after so many years, I broke my no-cry-zone rule exactly one week before I received the fateful call from the radiologist who told me there was cancer in my right breast.
I was reminded of it recently, and it started me thinking. Why that day? Was I over-stressed, over-worked, over-everything’d and came to a breaking point? Or was there something in me that already knew? Because, as I’ve written, once I received the diagnosis, it was Blubber Central, often in the office.
I’ve mentioned Brene Brown’s work before, especially her most recent book, Daring Greatly. It’s the first book that I’ve actually highlighted and underlined since law school. Seriously. It’s that good.
There’s a passage on page 137 that speaks to me every time I read [and re-read] it:
There’s a quote that I share every time I talk about vulnerability and perfectionism. . . .
There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
I thought tough guys like me shouldn’t cry at the office. I was wrong.