The Almost Daily Word – Failing the Bar Exam – And Gratitude

Gratitude is the fairest blossom that blooms from the soul. Harriet Ward Beecher


I’ll be straight with you. Feeling and expressing gratitude on a daily basis are practices that I came too relatively late in life. Temperamentally, I suppose you could say that I’ve always been much more of a “glass-half-empty” kind of guy” – a worrier.


This may seem ironic to no one other than me, but what turned me into a proudly and overtly grateful person was a series of personal disasters and failures that could very well have done me in. They didn’t though, and although I can claim a little credit for my survival, most of what saved me came by way of gifts from others. I believe this because there’s just no way else to explain how my recovery – my salvation if that’s how you’d prefer to put it – was so stunning and beautiful. By no means was it a straight line from darkness and discouragement to joy and a sense of fulfillment, but the blessings just kept on coming, whether I deserved them or not.


After much reflection, I’ve concluded that these gifts: among them my health, my sons, the moon coming up, the support of friends, the comfort of a quiet home, the satisfaction of working hard on things I love, working out, hiking in the hills, even folding laundry, have always been there for me. I just never noticed them enough, or never noticed them at all.


There are understandable reasons – my preoccupations mainly: with making a living and raising children, with wanting to have dumb fun (and plenty of it), with wanting to be (or, rather, to be seen as) “important.” Still, it was also very much the case, that even though I knew better, I simply didn’t look up or around enough. I didn’t pause for a deep breath enough. My field of vision was way way too narrow, and I missed many signs that, even with its ups and downs, life is good, miraculously good.


When I became the State Bar Exam Director, July examination results went out on the Friday following Thanksgiving. This was not popular, to put it mildly. Applicants complained that the holiday was an agony of not knowing. Their complaints resulted in the release date being moved up by a week, and guess what. Unsuccessful applicants, who often comprise 40% or more of those receiving State Bar letters, complained that the new release date ruined their holiday. Perhaps my reactions at the time were harsh and more than a little glib. I figured that failing the Bar just sucked, no matter when you got the news, and that that fact was the bottom line.


This Thanksgiving failing the Bar still sucks, and no one, most of all me, should underestimate the effort it takes to get through defeats like this. Nonetheless, the “glass-half-full” part of me has these thoughts.


When we take time to look above, beyond, under and around our set backs to the rest of our private universes, the view can often be pretty good. If, using tomorrow as an example, we are healthy and safe, if we are with loved ones, if there’s football, and the food and wine are tasty, we are well off – better than well off. Try to dispute that.


So .. to all, and especially to those who will soon be working their ways back into Bar Exam preparation, I wish you a very very happy Thanksgiving. Please don’t forget to give thanks, early and often. Put your worries aside. And, if it comes to whether you should have seconds on dessert or another glass of wine, go for it!