This Isn’t Happening

Whatever problem you are facing at any given moment seems like the biggest problem in the world. No matter how hard we try to make ourselves feel better by comparing our hardships to those of our friends and neighbors, the stark reality is that when your girlfriend breaks up with you, or you fail a test, or are fired from a job, or miss the game-winning foul shot, or break your arm, or lose a grandparent, or bounce a check, discover your spouse is probably cheating on you, argue with your best client – – at those moments of distress – – nothing else in the world seems to matter.

Last week, I nearly lost a case because of a stupid mistake. I couldn’t eat or sleep for two days. I growled at my family, spent too much time in isolation, and felt the weight of my world crashing down around me. I knew, with absolute certainty, that my career and life were effectively over. That lasted less than a work-week before I ended up winning the case. But, the after-shakes still rumble around the edges each time I open a new file.

With that near-disaster safely in the rear-view mirror, life was just getting back to its relative normal. Treading water until the next problem. Turns out, that came this week and the very first lesson I learned is that, for all my sleepless nights, I really have not known pain, misery or misfortune in my life. Until today.

A very close relative is diagnosed with cancer. She is a teenager. The prognosis seems good, but the second lesson I learned is that “good” and “cancer” never belong in the same sentence. A better word is “hopeful.” But, the stakes are too high for hope. Hope seems puny and insufficient. I hate having hope. The devastating news comes almost 17 years after this same family lost a child three days after she was born. For three days I had hope. I don’t want to have hope. I hope the Jets make the playoffs. I hope I get a raise this year. I cannot bear the thought of hoping that my family doesn’t die.

I broke the news to my 12 year old daughter last night. Despite my efforts to minimize the risk, to conceal the worry, she could not stop crying. I asked her why she was crying and she answered “because I just don’t understand.” The more I explained things to her, the more I began to see the problem. I just don’t understand either.

That is what pain is. It doesn’t need to be understood and it often doesn’t need to justify its existence. It is the opposite of happiness and we rarely think about why we are happy. And, when we do, it’s given short shrift and superficial analysis. But, when we are in pain, the task of understanding the pain and its cause and its remedy becomes all-consuming. I am not wasting another minute trying to figure this out. The epiphany is that so many of the things that bring us pain on a daily basis are meaningless. There are only a few things in life that really matter. We only have the capacity to worry so much. I am done with the small things.


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About aweisbrot

Ari is a prominent litigator in New York and New Jersey. He has been featured on CBS Radio’s Wall Street Journal Report, quoted in legal and non-legal periodicals, and has been recognized as a “SuperLawyer” in New Jersey and a "Top Ten Lawyer to Watch" in New York. Mr. Weisbrot is a true “client’s lawyer,” representing a diverse range of clients from among the largest retailers in the United States to smaller local businesses to religious and charitable organizations. Ari was appointed by Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey to a three-year term of service on the Committee on Character. The Committee determines the fitness to practice law of each candidate for admission to the Bar of the State. Mr. Weisbrot also continues to serve on the District Ethics Committee (IIB - Bergen County), which operates under the auspices of the New Jersey State Office of Attorney Ethics. Mr. Weisbrot has been awarded an 'AV' rating for his professionalism and the quality of his legal work from Martindale-Hubbell, the premier directory of legal professionals, and has been selected by his peers as a Super Lawyer. In addition, Mr. Weisbrot has written several articles on commercial litigation, which have been published in the New Jersey Law Journal and the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel. A Former New York City prosecutor, Mr. Weisbrot is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law, where he was a member of the Urban Law Journal and a featured columnist in the Law School newspaper
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3 Responses to This Isn’t Happening

  1. An Old Friend says:

    The Serenity Prayer

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    Enjoying one moment at a time;
    Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    Taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    Trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    That I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    Forever in the next.

    –Reinhold Niebuhr

  2. cougel says:

    Moving post, Ari. Thanks for sharing.

  3. We wish her a speedy recovery. You know she is in our prayers.

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