Loosely Applied

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One of the reasons I went to law school is because I have a voracious appetite for a well-crafted argument.  I will spend hours upon weeks researching and writing and editing.  I will tweak and realign and practice.  My record of winning cases is impressive.

I used to represent the government in employment law and labor cases, and I lost all track of time preparing trial notebooks and working on cross examination and creating dramatic opening statements.  I wore power suits and swept my hair back in a formidable bun. My boss thought it was fantastic.  The opposing side was annoyed, arriving in shorts, armed with a crumpled up piece of paper with some bullet points on it, and had a lawyer who was slightly hungover, usually named Joe, who would say “Oh, it’s you.”

The judge always rolled her eyes at me.  Often I’d object so much she’d have to stop and say “the rules of evidence in this hearing, Ms. Hill, are only loosely applied.”

I’ve grown up since then.  I don’t always have a need to dive so deep, I recognize the value of efficiency, I speak less, and my compassion has grown for people.  But there is still the satisfaction I get from winning.  And winning, as a professor once told me, is reserved not for the best, but for the one who practices the most.

Boy, am I good at practicing (except for the piano. sorry mom).

But this desire to win has some negative consequences in one’s personal life.  Spousal disputes become opportunities to prevail, through research, well-crafted storytelling, emotion, and persistence.  Often if I’m trying to prove a point, I’ll have multiple angles as to why my point is superior, not only through my own words, but through the words of an expert, an article, real-life examples, a metaphor.  If I could create a one-act play to illustrate my point, along with a song or jingle and perhaps a video, I would.  This is why I write, to get feelings out through characters and imaginary angst that is a thinly veiled version of my own anxiety.

The thing is, I can’t help myself.  I’m not trying to be obnoxious.  I was trained to be this way. And in certain situations, it has worked out very well for me.

But often in a relationship, the best thing you can do is to simply let things go. Even if you’re right.  Even if the research points to something else.  Even if it goes against your training and personality. Because peace is often more important than the satisfaction of winning.

One thing I am still learning about step-parenting is that you sometimes have to take a back seat.  A back seat to child-rearing, discipline, being the Expert on Things. Which is obviously hard for a person like me.  I’m a front row, front seat, I-have-a-thing-to-say-about-that type of person.   But when you are in the moment, and faced with a discussion about the hard thing that starts a fight or a simple back rub, you just have to push back your desires to win and do the thing that soothes.

I have not yet mastered this. My husband is exceedingly patient, and is logical enough to know my background and see how hard this struggle is for me.  My therapist is fantastic, helping me form boundaries and give myself the permission to let things go.

I am one year into this Step Parenting Adventure.  To those children whom I’ve become closer to, I’ve woven in some wisdom (“please don’t drink those energy drinks, guard your heart, protect yourself, always wear a seatbelt on road trips, don’t drink that trash-can punch at parties, I love you, kiddo.”) But with others I can simply smile, stir up the brownie mix, and keep my thoughts to myself.

But letting go doesn’t mean holding in your thoughts and slowly developing a case in your mind so you can vomit it out at a later time. That’s the opposite of letting go. Letting go means truly saying to yourself:

This is not your argument to craft.

This is not yours to solve.

This is not your fight.

That is so hard for a person, especially a person like me. But I trust that God is merciful with my failings, my lack of humility, my selfishness.  I trust that my husband loves me enough to see through to my heart.  And I trust that kids grow, life moves forward, and we all have the capacity to change.

Letting go is hard on all fronts.  But there is joy to be found in letting go.  Spiritually, it’s the only true pathway to freedom. It’s a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again, and it’s still a challenge for me.  But one that’s worth facing, worth re-learning, worth pondering.

This life is short and meaningful.  Spend your energy on what matters, what is appreciated, and what counts.  If it’s a drain on your soul, peel it off and drop it, focus your eyes on the positive beautiful things, and march forward with your power suit on, your hair in a formidable bun, this time with a few more wrinkles and a squishier midsection, and say to yourself,

It’s a wonderful thing to be alive. I don’t have to be in control to relish what is all around me.

That’s when you know you’ve really won.





  1. Outstanding. Oh, man, do I get this. And I never spent a minute in law school!! Well done.