The loss of a gallbladder can equal a change in perspective

Lisa Henderson-Newlin, The Levison Group

These first weeks of the new year have been difficult for me, and not just because it’s no longer acceptable to drink Baileys Irish Cream in my coffee in the morning. (Apparently that’s only okay around the holidays. Who can keep up with these rules and social norms?)

Unfortunately, I recently had my gallbladder removed, which isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds. The only positive side to the surgery is the large influx of cards, balloons and flowers I’ve received at the Levison Towers. My hope is to obtain enough gifts to create a barricade around my desk. It will prevent Spencer from eying my lunch every day, and it will also make him feel badly for not getting me flowers and a get well card. It’s a win-win situation.

As we all know, after surgery comes the heavy prescriptions of pain medications. I’m not a fan of taking any prescription pills, no matter the type. From pain pills to muscle relaxers, I prefer to tough out my pain and not put unnecessary chemicals into my body. It’s not so much because I don’t want to hurt my liver, but more because I don’t want to pay the co-pays. I’m frugal, which is another reason I don’t want Spencer stealing my lunch.

Typically, when I get prescriptions from doctors, I ignore them and never fill them. I’m tough that way. However, this time around I wasn’t quite as strong and I caved. I stayed in the hospital a few nights and when I was discharged, my doctor gave me strict instructions not to work until he took me off the pain medication. I thought that was a fairly harsh restriction, as it wasn’t like I operated heavy machinery for my job. I was a lawyer. Why couldn’t I work?

He told me he thought the pain medications would cloud my judgment, and he didn’t think it was smart to work while under the influence of prescription pain medication. I laughed at him (and the mysterious troll that magically appeared beside him) and told him he was crazy. I was fine on the pain medications and was perfectly lucid. I considered asking him if he would tell his troll friend to put some pants on, but decided against it.

Regardless of our disagreement, I heeded the doctor’s advice and didn’t work during my recovery period. It was strange to go several days without working, and I assumed I would enjoy a few days off without responding to emails or phone calls.

It was one of the few times in my life that I was wrong. I hated it. (I hated both being wrong and being away from work. I rarely experience either.) During my time off, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that I genuinely enjoy being a lawyer. Who knew? Although the fast pace of the job and the overload of paperwork is exhausting and frustrating at times, being away from it is even more frustrating. I found myself calling my secretary just to see what kind of mail was in my inbox. I knew I couldn’t do anything with it, as I suspected my malpractice carrier wouldn’t approve of that behavior. Yet, I just wanted to know what was going on with my cases.

No one was more surprised by this revelation than me. I knew I liked my job and found my work interesting at times, but I never thought I would miss defending a Motion for Sanctions. Granted, as long as I’ve been a lawyer, I’ve never fully been “gone” from work. Lawyers never have a day off, regardless of the situation, so most of us don’t know what it feels like to actually be removed from work. It’s just not done in this profession. I remember handling an issue for a client while driving to my own wedding. Even my wedding day wasn’t reason enough to take time away from the job.

In a strange way, having my gallbladder out taught me a lesson about life and about my job. How could I ever miss something if I never stepped away from it? How could I learn to appreciate and value what I had if I never took a moment to stop and take stock of things? I also wondered if the same held true for other things in my life. Would stepping away from Little Debbie Snack Cakes make me appreciate them more? Then I realized it’s impossible to appreciate them more. They are tiny cakes of goodness.

I’m getting ready to return to work after my time off, and I feel like I’m coming back to the office with a new outlook on things (and with a drawer stocked with Little Debbies). I am going to make an effort to step away from work more often and enjoy life a little more. I just hope all my legal knowledge wasn’t stored in my gallbladder. If so, this job is going to get a lot harder.

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Lisa Henderson-Newlin is a member of the law firm McAnany Van Cleave and Phillips. Contact Under Analysis by email at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2013 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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