Tales of a wandering lesbian

Inside out

I find it pretty amazing how the way I feel about myself colors the way I feel about the world.  And sometimes the other way around.  For example:

When I went to Hawaii a month or so ago, I wasn’t feeling too great about my physical self.  I really do like almost everything about my body (I know, that’s a big statement.  It’s taken me a while to feel that way), but I go through cycles where I’m more content or less content with the way I feel about my physical fitness.  When I got to the island for the three week stay, I was already three weeks into the resumption of my workout routine.  Typically, it takes six weeks for me to see a difference once I start working out, so I was pretty sure I’d be feeling good by the time I left the island…as long as I kept working out.

I was feeling the effect of two months of over-eating in Italy.  And while I walked a crap-ton, I didn’t do a lot of cardio or weight training.  Things had shifted around in a way that made me uncomfortable in my skin, so I was committed to getting back to a place where I was happy chillin’ in a bikini.

So I started working out.

The condos had a decent gym, so I took advantage of the fact that my body was still on Pacific Standard Time, and got up early every morning to hit the elliptical for a good workout and then fell into my weight-training routine from college, something I’m super-happy to have in my memory bank.

It took about a week to see a change in the way I was feeling.  This was interesting, because it should have taken at least three to see an actual, physical difference.  I’m not sure my body changed much in the first week I spent in the gym, but the way I saw my body sure did.  I expected this to happen at some point.  I’ve gone through enough of these cycles to know how it works, but this time it was pretty dramatic.  It might have been due to the fact that I was also spending a fair amount of time in the sun, or the fact that I was texting non-stop with a beautiful woman.  It’s hard to say, really, but at the end of the first week, I felt good.  Really good.

I was excited to put on the bikini to go to the beach.  I stopped trying to hide the parts of me that I was least happy with.  I laughed, met people’s eyes, and even smiled at the super-cute lifeguard at the beach.  I took time for myself, thought through the next steps in my life, and felt generally excited about being me.  Not because I looked any different, but because I saw myself differently.  I saw the beauty above all else.

And here’s what I noticed:

People were beautiful.  I mean really beautiful.

I even turned to my mom at one point and said, “You ever notice how when you think you’re beautiful, everyone else is beautiful?”  And it’s true.  When things are working right for me, I project beauty out into the world, seeing everyone at their best, because I see myself at my best.


I’m back from the trip, and I’m in better shape now that I was when I started.  I’m still working out.  I look great.  But I’m not in the sun anymore.  And there aren’t texts from a beautiful woman anymore.  And I’ve been less sure of the next steps in my life.  And here’s what I’m noticing:

I forget that I’m beautiful.

It’s not just about physical beauty.  That part’s easier.  I forget about my inner beauty.

But I understand when other people aren’t at their best.  I give them a break.  When they cut me off in traffic, or say something mean, or just act like they don’t care about what they’re doing, I understand.  They forget that they’re beautiful, too.

I know how that feels, so I’m able to see it, and to have empathy.  For them.  But I’ve had a hard time when it comes to me.  I’ve beat myself up for not seeing the beauty in me, and then for beating myself up.  I’ve beat myself up for not having empathy for myself.  It’s a vicious cycle, really.

But what I do have is fantastic friends.  People who see the beauty in me even when I’ve forgotten.  The ones who give me a break when I cut them off in traffic, say something mean, or just act like I don’t care. They’re the people who have empathy for me.

So I think maybe, if I can see myself as a good friend, as someone who I care about, who has just forgotten how beautiful they are, I’ll be able to have a little empathy.  And to give myself a break.  And isn’t that all we really need?  To be our own friend?  To give ourselves a break?  To see how beautiful we are, so that we can see the beauty in others?  I think yes.

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March 12, 2010   3 Comments


WARNING:  Political Content.  If you don’t want to know my political views, stop reading here.

When President Obama announced his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, he outlined the qualities that he admires in judges:

“First and foremost is a rigorous intellect, a mastery of the law, an ability to hone in on the key issues and provide clear answers to complex legal questions.

“Second is a recognition of the limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge’s job is to interpret, not make law, to approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

“These two qualities are essential, I believe, for anyone who would sit on our nation’s highest court. And yet these qualities alone are insufficient. We need something more. [Emphasis mine.]

“For as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, the life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience; experience being tested by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune; experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately overcoming those barriers. It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion, an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live.

“And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court.”

President Obama’s “empathy standard” has caused an uproar in some political and legal corners.  That standard was articulated in 2005 when then Senator Obama voted against the confirmation of John Roberts.  Here’s – in part – what he said:

“[W]hile adherence to legal precedent and rules of statutory or constitutional construction will dispose of 95 percent of the cases that come before a court, so that both a Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time on those 95 percent of the cases — what matters on the Supreme Court is those 5 percent of cases that are truly difficult. In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction and interpretation will only get you through the 25th mile of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one’s deepest values, one’s core concerns, one’s broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one’s empathy.

“In those 5 percent of hard cases, the constitutional text will not be directly on point. The language of the statute will not be perfectly clear. Legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision. In those circumstances, your decisions about whether affirmative action is an appropriate response to the history of discrimination in this country or whether a general right of privacy encompasses a more specific right of women to control their reproductive decisions or whether the commerce clause empowers Congress to speak on those issues of broad national concern that may be only tangentially related to what is easily defined as interstate commerce, whether a person who is disabled has the right to be accommodated so they can work alongside those who are nondisabled — in those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart.”

Here’s what I find interesting.  In listening to the Sotomayor hearings, especially the opening remarks of the Senators, I hear two distinct groups.  One group talks about the importance of a person’s background and the perspective that informs the decisions of a judge.  One group talks about the dispassionate application of law that is critical to our system.  Both have a point.  But here are my two cents.

I’m a lawyer.  I love the law.  I loved studying the law. I loved applying the law.  I drafted legal opinions for a living. It was a fun game.  I was not, however a great lawyer.  The great lawyers and judges that I worked with weren’t the ones that could plug facts into a formula and come up with the answer.  If that were all that is necessary to be a great judge, any first year associate could do it.  The great judges and attorneys that I knew were the ones who understood how the law would impact people’s lives.

That doesn’t mean that they didn’t apply the law.  It doesn’t mean that they bent the law to their whims.  It meant that they had the empathy to understand, in situations where the law did not dictate a specific answer, (this happens far more than you might think) how the law would impact all people.

For me that’s the interesting thing going on in the Sotomayor hearings.  Some see empathy as a weakness – akin to bias.  They have plapable and articulated fear that someone who has empathy will have it for a particular party or policy position.  That is not empathy.

Those who see empathy as a benefit understand that a justice who has empathy has it for ALL parties and for NO policy positions.  A justice who has empathy makes decisions in the murky grey middle based on an understanding of how all people will be impacted.  They use the law, and they use rules of construction to get as close to a dictated result as possible.  And if they are then left without a clear result, they look at the possible results and how they fit into a broader picture.

For me, this is a critical piece.  I was able to apply the law directly, suscinctly, and absurdly.  I did it repeatedly.  It made me a good gamesman.  It did not make me a good jurist.

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July 14, 2009   3 Comments