Dreamed During the Night, June 16, 2011:
I was in a large meeting room in the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, VT, which was a place my mother and maternal grandparents always took my brother and I for vacation in the winter and summer. This appeared to be some kind of lawyers conference, and I recognized some of my former co-workers from when I was a trial lawyer. The room was buzzing with loud and obnoxious men, and I was trying to get people to settle down and begin the meeting. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't manage the situation. As I struggled, I ran into one of my former co-workers, Winston, who died of a heart attack about a year ago. He was one of the real trial attorneys who did a great job and was tough as nails. He was smiling, as always. He made a funny comment that I wasn't going to be able to do the job, so I should watch how he does it. He picked up a rubber scraper-esque cooking tool and began banging it on the table as if it were a gavel, and he began screaming, "Order, order!". The rubber was jiggling and not making much noise. I started to laugh and forgot about my stress a little because he looked so ridiculous. At first everyone ignored him, but then they all began talking in hushed whispers and making their ways to their seats. Some people started teasing him, but he was impervious. He made smart comments back and they smiled and moved toward their tables. I was amazed by how fearless and clever Winston was.
I admired Winston when we worked together because a young lawyer could be having the worst day, and Winston would always give a free pep talk. For years he couldn't remember my name, even though we frequently ran into each other at the office and chatted. When he retired, he suddenly knew who I was. We had all written notes to him in a photo album, and I wrote about how we should retire his office phone number the same way they retire numbers for jerseys in sports. After all, his phone number was pretty much the hotline for panicking newbies. One day he saw me in the halls of the courthouse and came running up to me, yelling my name. Yes, he still hung out there, even after retiring. He said the note I wrote was the best in the whole book, that all of his old buddies loved it, and that he really appreciated the times we had together at the office. I almost cried when he told me this because I realized that the culture of the office would never be the same without him, and actually, the office culture never was the same again. Winston had a special way of giving people strength when they needed it and injecting humor into what was a thankless and sometimes dirty and unappealing job. Few other people at the office were talented and unselfish enough to sacrifice themselves for others like he did.
I think this dream was just another example of Winston giving me strength when I needed it. He did this several times when I was a young newbie. The rubber scraper was an attempt at humor, and I think the greater message is that you don't have to be so serious in life. At times I'm way too serious, and even though I try to work on this, I often fail. I've realized in the past six years or so that I'm much more vain that I thought and that I really cherish the perfect image I have of myself in my mind, even though doing this conflicts with the Buddhist teachings that I try to follow. In this dream my embarrassment/vanity prevented me from getting the job done.
I never really considered Winston and I to be friends when we worked together because he had throngs of groupies that followed him like lost puppies, and I didn't have the time or energy to jockey for position within that group. Nevertheless, Winston made a big impact on my career and life. I cried at his retirement party, and I cried when he died. I sometimes wished that I could have learned more from him before he retired, but when I really think about it, he already taught me the most important lessons that I ever needed to know.