I am a servant to the community and also happen to be an attorney. In 1999, I committed what some considered career suicide: I leaned out to stay at home with my children and then started a law practice devoted almost entirely to representing children in the child welfare system and assisting older adults with handling their affairs. I also abruptly stopped actively participating in my community, dropped off the radar, and went underground. Looking back I did not just lean out, I completely checked out.
In February 2006, I suddenly found myself starting over as a single parent with two children, two months of outstanding mortgage payments, an empty refrigerator, $120.00, and no support. My marriage had ended and I was on the road to divorce. Divorce is a sea changing life experience. I had to immediately begin rebuilding my career and re-enter the larger community. That task proved extremely difficult for two reasons. First, I had allowed my professional network to dry up and die. Second, I was physically, mentally, and emotionally broken. My mental reserves were depleted. I had completely lost touch with who I was. My inner and external self had to be strengthened and completely rebuilt. That rebuilding process was long, difficult, and painful. As part of my rebuilding, I had to stop confusing my brokenness with being a victim and allow myself to become vulnerable. Losing the connection with my inner voice was a casualty of checking out. Although rebuilding was tough, it was also oddly liberating in that it allowed me to reconnect with my inner voice, regain my equilibrium, and begin moving forward.
What does any of this have to do with leaning in? If anything, my story could be cited as an example of why women, particularly professional women, should not have such ambitious career goals, have children or leave the work place to take care of them. Such a conclusion misses the point. In my opinion leaning in is less about career and more about discovering my life purpose. Leaning in is about living mindfully and authentically. I believe that leaning in is about possessing the confidence and self-awareness to know what I want and stand on the choices I make with respect to both my personal and professional life. To truly lean in gives me the space to freely build the personal and professional life I want. As always, be encouraged.
This blog post was originally published in the online edition of The Women’s Book, December 23, 2013
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