Why I believe Christine Blasey Ford

I am home dealing with some medical issues, so I took the opportunity to watch the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

I debated whether to post this, whether to go public with this. But watching Kavanaugh rage in his opening statement, listening to his partisan rant, and hearing him play the victim, seeing his crocodile tears and the disrespect he is showing women on the committee, I felt I needed to speak up. First, setting aside any sexual assault allegations, this man is a partisan bully who has no business serving on any court, let alone the Supreme Court.

But it is the sexual assault allegations, and the absolute rage and victimhood with which he denied them, that compels me to speak. Like most women, I have my own decades-old stories. Yes, stories – more than one.

One incident occurred when I was in my late teens, in my very own bedroom. A family member’s friend, a few years younger than me, was at the house. I was in my own room, lying on the bed studying or reading , when he came in and locked the door behind him. He climbed on to my bed and made his way toward me. I put up my foot – or perhaps it was my knee – to block his way. I remember him making the kind of “come on, it will be fun” or “you know you want to ” comments that are often said in those situations as I pushed him away, making whatever excuses I could think of. Eventually I pushed him off the bed and physically pushed him out of the room as he laughed. To this day, 3 decades later, I still don’t know if it was all a big joke and he was messing around with me or if he would have done something had I not resisted. For years, I dismissed it as the former, but could never dismiss the possibility it was the latter and that he was testing how far he could push. I have lived with it for years, impacting me in ways I probably still don’t realize. And, no, I never told anyone about it until recently.

The second incident was a couple years later, when I was traveling alone in Prague. I was 19 or 20 and traveling alone (before Prague really opened up to international tourism). I was walking back to my relative’s apartment, where I was staying. Two guys (around my age?) came up to me and started walking beside me, one on either side. One tried to put his arm around me which I shrugged off. I tried to ignore them as best I could and kept walking a little faster but, moments later, as we approached an alley, one of them tried to guide, then shove me into the alley. I ducked and started running toward an open bar/restaurant I could see down the street. They didn’t follow – they just stood there laughing. To this day, I don’t know if they were just fucking with the tourist, if they intended to rob me or worse. I still look askance any time I’m walking alone and someone gets too close. Again, I never reported it, although I think I may have mentioned it to people about it over the years. I was a foreigner traveling in a country that was recently emerging from Communism – who was I going to report it to?

If we go back even farther, there was the time when I was in elementary school and wearing really short shorts (it was the 70s) while at the grocery store with my mom.  My mom was some distance away. An old man came up to me and said he could see my panties. I think he probably meant well, as disconcerting as it was. I think he was just saying I should cover up – I don’t recall anything lewd about it. But still… even if it was just a man telling a girl how to dress/behave, it has stuck with me for 4 decades.

I can guarantee you that not a single one of the men involved in my decades-old incidents remember them. I guarantee you no one nearby at the time remembers them.  But I do. They will forever be seared into my memory. I may not remember every detail, but I remember the incidents. I remember the men. I remember the laughter.

For these reasons and the millions of other stories out there, I believe Christine Blasey Ford and believe Brett Kavanaugh is unfit for the highest court in our land.

Things happen for a reason…

… and, in the same way, it seems people come into your life for a reason.

I mentioned in a couple prior posts about how my recent foray into dating didn’t work out and how the person was randomly on my mind recently. I think I now have a better sense for why the universe brought them into my life.

I have never been good about keeping up with medical appointments, including routine physicals. I was only about 4 months behind on that, but a few years behind on some other routine screenings. I have a pre-existing condition that makes one of those routine screenings particularly important and, at present, I appear to be having some issues related to it.

During a text conversation this person mentioned their own upcoming physical. At that moment, I was sitting at my desk, my computer and phone conveniently beside me, and nothing but our conversation distracting me at that moment (there was a contract I was taking a quick break from, but I digress). Without a second thought, I scheduled my overdue annual physical (for the very next week). Had that conversation happened at any other time, I would have made a mental note to schedule the appointment and then forgotten as work, school, or other distractions took priority.

Typical of such exams, my doctor scheduled a slew of tests. She also referred me to several specialists for additional testing. The results started coming in and there were a bunch of minor abnormalities, but the doctor felt most were not of concern. But last week, a different test came back with more concerning abnormalities. I have been awaiting additional results related to the issue, which finally came in yesterday. Fortunately, the remaining tests were normal, taking a huge weight off my shoulders. But it is a situation that will now require monitoring and more diligence in my personal health care.

Which brings me back to my initial point. I believe this person came into my life at this particular time for a reason. While I very much hoped we could remain friends when the dating relationship didn’t work out, I am grateful to them. They helped me refocus some of my personal priorities. But, more importantly, if not for that conversation at that particular moment in time, I would not have made that doctor’s appointment and would not have finally scheduled the other screenings. It remains to be seen what, if anything, comes of those appointments, but I will at least finally have them. And for that, I owe this person a debt of gratitude.

And so it begins again…

School, that is…

Today was the official start of the fall semester for my final year of my LLM program. I am finding it a little challenging to get back into study mode, but I suppose that is typical for me. I do have excuses I could make (I haven’t been feeling well the last couple days and Saturday did start with a memorial service), but it is pretty typical for me to procrastinate. In fact, I am doing so right now…

This semester’s class is Corporate Compliance: Law and Ethics. It struck me as something particularly useful for a corporate counsel in this day and age, even if my employer is not international. The course was probably not the most useful toward my dissertation, but I found its case-study approach to be interesting. This week, Enron and Wells Fargo are included in the reading so…

Truth be told I’m looking forward to writing my dissertation over the summer (at least at this moment – I’m sure I’ll burn out again before that), because that will be a chance to do some substantive research on an IP and/or tech law topic of personal interest.  I still don’t fully understand the process for submitting and getting approval of my proposed topics, but that process doesn’t start for a few months. Suffice it to say, I already have an overly-long list of topics I will need to narrow down.

As a random aside – have you ever met someone who you just feel so comfortable with, who you can talk with about nearly anything at anytime and just feel comfortable being open about things? I don’t make “real” friends very easily and it is so rare for me to find someone like that.  When someone like that comes into my life, their subsequent absence is noticeable. Today was one of those days, where my momentary instinct was to text that person about something that happened. I didn’t/couldn’t, of course. But the instinct apparently still lingers.

Live for today because tomorrow isn’t promised…

I spent Saturday morning at a thought-provoking and moving memorial/celebration of life for a colleague’s wife who died far too young (less than 3 years older than me). These types of things inevitably make you think about your own life and this was no different. There were anecdotes and messages shared in this service that resonated about my own life and I hope they will stick with me

First, a slight aside – at the service, I ran into several people who I hadn’t seen in several years (some I do see on Facebook, at least).  I commented to one that it always seems to be funerals/memorials that reconnect people. The same was true for my family – it was at a memorial service a few years ago (it must have been about 4 years, since it was just before my divorce) that the family gathered and I saw extended relatives who I hadn’t seen since I was much younger. Why is it we only seem to gather in our times of grief? I admit, I am terrible about maintaining contact with people on a regular basis. I get busy – we all do. And I tend to be an introvert, so social situations have a tendency to drain me. But there is something to be said for maintaining contact. I said to one person that maybe it is time for us to gather a group of us for lunch. I am resolving to put that into action, even if just that one lunch.

A second aside – another message I took away from the service had to do with how we treat our fellow humans. Speakers at the service spoke of community, of getting involved, of finding mentees. As a natural introvert, these things are very difficult for me. But I do try to do what I can to help others.

But I digress…

I have lost too many friends and colleagues over the last few years, most before their time. I discussed their impact a little in a prior post, and this service  (for the person whose death I learned of while high on a mountain) reiterated the messages I had taken from those prior deaths.  I realized that I need to remember to live in the present, to appreciate the life I’m living and to not focus too much on a future that is never guaranteed.

That’s not to say I have given up considering my future. I have spent the last 18+ years ensuring my future was secure, very often at the expense of the present. I have worked for a salary that is significantly below market because, from a long-term perspective, it provides a pension and, in the short-term, it provides other benefits that are above-market. But I have never been able to have anything close to the lifestyle I envisioned when I went to an expensive, highly-ranked private law school. I certainly didn’t expect to still be paying off my student loans (which I still will be doing for years to come).

Over the last few years, I have started to make a greater effort to stop putting things off until “someday” because that “someday” is never promised. The future plans I have worked so hard for whether my pension or my plans to do certain things when I retire – can all evaporate in a moment.

The truth is, I will have absolutely no regrets if something happens to me and my student loans are never fully repaid. But I would regret if I never saw the Northern Lights or Michelangelo’s David or the Roman Colosseum or the canals of Venice.  I have a long bucket list, especially where travel is concerned.

I am no longer waiting for someday. Someday is today.

In defense of defence…

One of the most interesting – and somewhat unanticipated – consequences of studying for an advanced legal degree at a top Scottish university is dealing with the difference in terminology, particularly the subtle differences between British English and American English (for example, I am in a programme, not a program). I was reminded of this when fellow Americans mocked my use of “defence” – a correct British term that my phone auto-corrected to – versus “defense,” claiming I was clearly incompetent because I didn’t know how to spell “defense.” While I try to be more cognizant in my legal writings than in my Facebook posts, my professors are more cognizant of and tolerant of the differences between global forms of English (at least so far!).

I recently did a search and found that there doesn’t appear to be a good comprehensive guide that compares the difference between common English words. It has been particularly challenging as the UK and EU courts seem to rely far more on Latin terminology than the US courts do. It strikes me that it might be useful for law students and lawyers who are engaged in similar studies or global practices. I did find the following posts:

Perhaps I will keep track of interesting terminology I encounter in my studies in this final school year and will make that the subject of a future blog post. In the meantime, here are a few American-to-British translations that come to mind:

American Term British Equivalent
Defense Defence
Offense Offence
Honor Honour
Color Colour
Dicta Obiter
Trademark Trade mark
Antitrust Law Competition Law

Reflections on life

Life is interesting… and too damn short.

When I wrote most of this post I was off the grid on an Eastern Sierra trip. I had started writing on day 4 of the trip. On day 5, I had a cell signal for a short time and got word of the deaths of a colleague’s wife – someone about my age – and another colleague’s husband. I was standing on a mountaintop with a vast panorama all around me, when the news came through.

If you are going to learn of someone’s death, I suppose there are worse places to be than surrounded by nature. At over 9,000 feet, surrounded by ancient mountains and trees, the insignificance of our individual lives in the scheme of the universe is pretty apparent.* But our lives are significant to us and those we encounter – some even for just a moment. Even on this trip, I encountered people whose memory will stay with me.

I have had many friends and colleagues die over the last few years – almost all of them dying young by most standards – and those deaths have had a profound impact on me. Some helped pull me out of my post-divorce depression and led me to focus more on me. And they led me to realize I needed to spend more time living in the present, rather than just focusing on my future. I started checking things off my bucket lists and decided to go back to school with certain goals in mind.  And this moment was no different – at another turning point in my life, it made me stop and think.

My friend and I stayed in Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park’s high country. We drove separately (for logistical reasons), which had the pleasant side benefit of giving me plenty of “me” time and space. It was time when I was free to go at my own pace and do whatever I felt. I could crank up my eclectic iTunes playlist and just drive. My time was mine, with no one to answer to (although I enjoyed texting with someone when I would stop for a break).

The last time I was in Tuolumne Meadows (a decade ago), I was one day removed from a breakup that hit me hard. Hindsight being 20/20, it probably shouldn’t have impacted me that significantly. But I was blindsided and my heart recklessly opens itself too wide to people. He would later tell me that he chose the timing because he knew I was going on vacation and he thought I would be able to take my mind off things. But that’s the thing up here – it’s pretty off the grid and it’s really easy to get lost in your thoughts. My memories of that trip aren’t great. I was absolutely miserable and I regret that I made things unpleasant for my aunt (who I was traveling with) because I was in a funk and pretty unmotivated to do anything. And dining in Tuolumne is at communal tables, so I’m sure there are others who were impacted by my mood.

This trip was better for me, albeit very different. Things happened, as if the universe was sending a sign that things in my life are moving in the right direction, tho now I have had to reconsider the meaning I imputed to them. There were dragonflies, in particular, and a butterfly that came out of nowhere and landed near me for a moment before flitting away. Both have long symbolic histories across cultures – the dragonfly of courage, strength, and happiness and the butterfly of transformation and change. I took them as signs of what was, but perhaps they were actually harbingers of what was to come.

The first afternoon in Tuolumne, I was along the river bank with not another person around. As I turned to go back up the bank, I caught sight of a mother deer and her fawn, grazing less than 50 feet away. She looked up and saw me, we shared a momentary acknowledgment as if she recognized I wasn’t a threat, then she went back to what she was doing. I didn’t have time to pull out my longer zoom, so I zoomed my lens to it’s max and shot a few photos. Then they moved on out of sight.

I climbed back up the bank, crossed the bridge, and started up the trail when I saw the deer cross the river and then cross the trail in front of me, just as close. There was still not another human around. I fired off a series of photos as the pair crossed the trail and then went off out of sight.

Maybe it’s a little cheesy, but I felt that moment was special. It was something all mine – just me and the deer – with not a single other person having shared it. It felt like it was a message, of sorts, from the universe. The deer is seen as a messenger and a symbol of  harmony, happiness, peace and longevity, particularly in Buddhist tradition, and it felt like a message.

But, while the message was mine alone, I had a feeling that I actually wanted to share it with someone – not a stranger, not my friend, but a partner. I’ve had those feelings with increasing frequency and intensity, especially in my travels. Perhaps therein lied the message?

I enjoy being single, particularly the freedom it affords. But, sometimes I do find myself missing having someone in my life, like in moments such as the one down by the river. I thought these were signs that maybe the timing was right to find someone. I thought it could be a sign that maybe I was on the right track with the person I was texting during my trip.

But my first foray back into dating convinces me otherwise – that maybe the timing isn’t right and that I still need to focus more on myself. As I mentioned, my heart is reckless –  I wear it on my sleeve and it opens itself too widely, even when my brain screams for restraint. Whatever the relationship – whether trusted colleague, friend, or a possible romance – once I let my outer barriers down for someone, my heart takes that as an invitation to fully welcome and embrace them. I don’t trust easily, but when I do it is with little reservation. For this reason, I maintain few truly close friendships. I also don’t date much and I try to maintain some emotional distance for as long as possible when I do. But I slipped this time and found in someone a degree of familiarity and comfort that caused me to let my guard down early. My reckless heart took the opportunity to run amok as my logical brain made a futile effort to restrain it. As is typically the case my heart found itself battered and bruised from its escapade, with many wounds it might have avoided had my brain prevailed.

Which brings me back to my earlier comment – life is interesting and short. There was a time when I thought I had my future planned out, with certain goals and even plans for the future. But planning rarely leads where you think it will. I spent 3 years planning around a single goal, only to have someone else’s actions destroy everything I had been working toward. Ultimately, interests change, opportunities change, people come in and out of your life.

Maybe my future won’t be what I “planned” but I’ll roll with it and embrace it because life is short and we need to make the most of the time we have.

 

* A couple of my tattoos reflect this concept, one in particular. On one shoulder I have a dragonfly surrounded by fallen cherry blossoms, being carried by the flowing water. In Japanese literature, cherry blossoms reflect the impermanence of life and beauty – the blossoms are beautiful in bloom, but they only last a few days until they fall. The dragonfly is symbolic of courage, strength, and happiness. On the other shoulder, I have a frog – symbolic of returns – and maple leaves, another symbol of time passing.