From the Multnomah Lawyer: Staying Resilient in Uncertain Times

With fall approaching, many of us have hoped we would return to some semblance of normalcy. That day has yet to come. We continue to grapple with decisions on when and how to safely return to social activities. For instance, because of the Delta variant and new county restrictions, we may have to rethink the format of, or postpone the long-awaited annual Absolutely Social event, where MBA members network and support the Oregon Food Bank. With the pandemic, it feels like we are hiking a volcano - with every two steps we advance, we fall one step back again.

Dealing with this uncertainty can be hard. I, for one, struggle with uncertainty. Like many lawyers, I feel the need to be in control. The best example in my personal life is my desire to read spoilers while watching a suspenseful TV show or movie. I tell myself that this helps me see the foreshadowing better and appreciate the artistic touches that might be missed during the first viewing. But let’s be real - it is a byproduct of my strong desire to comfortably know what happens next.

The pandemic has required us to live with uncertainty. There can be upsides to this, such as compelling our community to embrace technology to work better and stay in touch. Yet, at times, I feel burnt out from needing to constantly deal with changes - the fear of the unknown and the fear of making mistakes. My patience runs thin as a result. I am sure I am not alone in these feelings. The reason I share this is that we should not shy away from acknowledging our vulnerabilities. I have been fortunate during this pandemic. Both my significant other and I kept our jobs and were able to work remotely. We remain healthy, and we traveled. Yet, even with these privileges, the past 18 months took a toll on my mental health. No one has been immune from the trauma and grief, whether it affects you directly or indirectly.

The additional challenges posed by the pandemic compounded our profession’s already-stressful and demanding work environment. After all, our job is to worry on behalf of our clients and those who need recourse in the law. And for the caregiving members of our profession, besides client needs, family and caregiving needs also demand their attention. Balancing work and our personal lives can be overwhelming.

Now, before you think this article is about doom and gloom, I wanted to share what has rejuvenated me over the past month. First, I took some needed time off. Not everyone, though, feels they can do that. For managers, I encourage you to demonstrate healthy boundaries and understand the need to make sure those you manage feel safe - both physically and mentally. Allowing mental health days is crucial. After all, we do our best work when we feel our best.

Second, I have had the privilege of meeting our new committee chairs as we plan for this year. It has been invigorating to hear new ways to reach out to our members through our committee work, and I am really looking forward to our program year. Please refer to page 11 to meet this year’s committee chairs. I thank each committee chair and member for their service, along with our wonderful staff. Social connection matters. If you have spare capacity, I encourage you find ways to stay involved in the community. Our committees remain welcome to new members.

Just a year ago, during her presidency, Valerie Colas reminded us to have empathy and compassion for ourselves and others during this time. Those words still ring true today. Be kind to others. Avoid compassion fatigue if possible. Acknowledge that people are hurting.Also, acknowledge that others may be in different parts of the recovery process. Everyone we interact with is likely facing challenges of their own, and our ability to be understanding will help us all get through these current and future challenges. Most importantly, take care of yourself.

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