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File Under: Lessons learned from "boiling water"

File Under: Lessons Learned from “boiling water”

A quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt is coming to thought often these days: “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” I’ve always liked First Lady Roosevelt, as she seems to have been a strong, smart, no-nonsense woman. My kind of gal. My lovely mare, Grace, is actually named after her; Grace’s registered name is, “Lady Eleanor Grace Roberts.”

Well Madame First Lady, you and that tea bag quote are spot on, in my book. And while, from my highest perspective, my cup indeed always “runneth over with blessings,” (Thanks very much, God!), there are times when it feels more like, “my cup boileth over . . .”

Rather than recite a laundry list of current woes, let me just say my present circumstances provide abundant opportunities to rely on faith, trust God completely, and try and figure out this thing called “life.” Whenever I actually demonstrate abundance, I’m going to write full-time and rescue animals. That’s it; those are my two big goals, and not necessarily in that order. But in the interim, I have this law practice that pays the bills and challenges my mind in positive ways.

And it is an absolute fact that I have the Best. Clients. Ever. If one’s alternative career to winning a Pulitzer is working with brilliant folks who create incredible things that need patent, copyright, or trademark protection, then I am blessed beyond words, period.

But the focus of this moment is: how does one process feeling absolutely duped? You’ll need some backstory, so here it is.

A couple of years ago, I had an awesome administrative assistant. Awesome. So awesome, in fact, she got recruited away by a monstrously huge bank that could double her salary and then some. Of course I understood, wished her well, and hired a new assistant.

New assistant was also awesome. AWESOME. But she – as was certainly her right – failed to disclose a lifetime of serious health issues. Numerous catastrophic medical issues arose during her year-long tenure with the firm. So she missed weeks and weeks of work, but when she was there, she was fabulous. But one day, another catastrophic medical issue arose, and her doctor ordered her to cease working immediately. As in, right then. Right. Then. Understandable, and necessary, and I wholeheartedly supported her decision. Yet, from a business perspective, the impact was dreadful. No two week notice. No two hour notice. Nothing. And no corporate transfer of knowledge to train a successor, either. (Thank goodness for written “standard operating procedures” manuals! And thank you, Uncle Sam, for teaching me about the importance of written SOPs when I was a gubmint attorney . . .)

So all this means that, in October 2015, I was interviewing for an administrative assistant in an absolute time-critical mode. I needed someone immediately. “When can you start?” was one of my top three interview questions during that round of hiring.

And this one person, an acquaintance (cue dramatic/foreboding music in a minor key), contacted me and literally begged for the job. “I know you; I respect you; I admire you; I want to work for you; I know I can learn this job quickly; please give me this opportunity, etc., etc.” So I took a chance, and offered her the job.

And she was AWESOME. BEYOND awesome, even, in some areas. Computer skills like you wouldn’t believe. Super smart and a very quick learner. And a seemingly settled person with two children, which translates in a boss’s mind: she probably won’t move away and she definitely needs a job, and both those factors indicate to a company that this person will probably stay with the company for a long time.

And yet, that thing called “life” comes along . . .

Miz Acquaintance Employee told me this past Friday morning she is quitting. Why is irrelevant, other than it wasn’t the job and it wasn’t me being a horrible boss; nor is she moving away and she’s not (to my knowledge) taking another job; it was entirely her choice. It is all out of my control. I hate those words, “out of my control.” I much prefer, “under control,” and I especially like, “under my control.”

Not that I am a control freak. I am so exhausted from living for decades trying to control everything I possibly can! I would love to give up control to someone I trust! Not by any stretch of the imagination am I a control freak. Oh, no.

I am afraid.

I know, I know, “Oh, ye of little faith.” So sorry, CJ, but this disciple goes all “doubting Thomas” on you sometimes. Not because I want to lack trust, or be afraid. I just get afraid. And control is sometimes a great antidote to fear; everybody knows that. “Don’t wander dark streets alone at 3 a.m.” translates to: control your environment and thus reduce the fear of bad things happening. “Get to the airport two hours early” translates to: take into account extra traffic or long lines at check in and thus reduce fear of missing your flight.

But I could do nothing to control this other person’s decision to leave a job after less than three months’ time.

So I controlled the one thing I could control.

My response.

I asked about a couple of alternative possibilities, and when those were declined, I said, “okay” and immediately started networking towards finding a new assistant. Focus on the view ahead, you’re not walking backward is a very wise point to remember. Thus, once she said she was leaving, every second spent regurgitating her decision and the “whys” is wasted time.

And yet here I sit, Sunday morning at 2:30 a.m., writing about it. Why? Because I need to process through this as a human in order to move forward as a lawyer and a businesswoman. I am angry. And hurt. And disappointed. And upset. And, yes, afraid.

Someone I knew and trusted has greatly betrayed that trust. Shattered it, in fact. Why on earth would anyone take a job and then leave within three months, knowing such capriciousness was going to exacerbate the very issues they were hired to remedy? Who does that sort of irresponsible thing? What mature human is that utterly irresponsible?

I’m furious at my own poor judgment, and for the time lost between October and now that was invested in training that person, and for all the holiday time off they were given (with pay), and for the several days of sick leave they took (with pay), and so many things that just create this maelstrom of negative emotions inside.

And I absolutely hate feeling “played.”

The emotional water is boiling, indeed.

What sort of tea am I?

In my deepest soul – the part of me that remains calm and sane while the emotions swirl and boil in this internal cauldron – I believe there is no real loss, only learning. Lessons learned. Growth results if one is humble enough to allow the lessons to be learned.

So, what are the lessons I can take from this, and share here, as well.


There is a reason why the age-old adage, ‘never hire relatives or friends’ is an age-old adage. The lines are too blurred from the outset if one is naïve enough to think, “well, this situation is different and we can make it work.”

[[Interesting side note: my law clerk is a steadfast and cherished friend. But the marked difference is that relationship began as total strangers in the work environment. Four years ago, I took on a stranger as an intern at the firm while she was being her brilliant self as a senior at the local S.T.E.M. Academy. She could literally rule the world and I hope she does so, someday. The world could use leaders like this young lady. But the point here is, we started as strangers and have grown to be friends. And whenever her own life’s journey leads her to things greater than Knoxville, TN, we will remain friends if I get a vote on the matter. ]]

But the rule against hiring family or friends is a wise one, and one I will heed henceforth.


First, compassion towards my assistant who is leaving and is turning the firm on its ear until another administrative assistant can be hired and trained. That’s the kernel of absolute truth in all of this, I believe – compassion for the one who hurt me. Why? Well, Christ Jesus would have been totally justified in feeling outrage at being strung up on a cross and murdered for no reason. And yet CJ felt compassion. My present woes are trifling compared to CJ’s sacrifice. And I’m no saint, let alone Savior, so I have no choice but to let Divine Love pour into my soul like a flood and wipe away all the anger and hurt and outrage and fear. I need to sincerely wish this woman well as she leaves the firm and moves on in her journey. If she has been deceitful, God will help her see that and provide opportunities for her to learn whatever lessons she needs to learn. Not my bailiwick. God’s turf. My duty is compassion.

And that includes compassion towards myself. Harboring anger – even if it appears justified – only really harms oneself. That ubiquitous song, “Let It Go!” from the movie, “Frozen” is actually rather profound and spot-on for many of life’s situations. Let. It. Go. Find sufficient quiet time, even in the wee morning hours, to be quiet inside, feel the negative emotions, process them, and let them go.


Forgiveness must be given to oneself first before one can forgive others. This I believe to be an absolute truth. Why? Because those wicked voices in my head must be silenced. “You were so STUPID to hire this person!” “How could you be your age and yet still be so NAÏVE?” “HOW could you have such poor judgment in character?” Those voices. And mine could out-shout a stadium full of Vols fans. SO loud. And SO unrelenting.

Self-condemnation is a merciless demon.

So, I play lawyer for myself, and here goes.

“Ms. Roberts-VIH (voices in head), in this mediation, we hope to resolve some issues and find peace. Ms. Roberts-GD (God’s daughter) is ready to speak. Please listen carefully to what she has to say.

Esther, I forgive you for making such an unwise hiring decision. I understand your need to always think the best of people and I applaud your resolve to never give in to hatred or cynicism. Rest assured your Divine Daddy is close at hand throughout this situation, as with any situation, and God has every tiny detail well thought out. You have only to do two things:

Be still.

And know.”

Once I forgive myself, forgiving the person who supposedly “wronged” me is easy. It’s also necessary and brilliant!

“THANK YOU, Person who wronged me! To my limited perception, it feels like a big, awful, hurtful wrong, but to GOD, it is merely clearing my path for something far better. And clearing your path, too! So continue on your path with a happy heart, and I’ll continue on my path with a happy heart, and let’s both be grateful that, for even a small space in time, our paths converged.”

I saw a meme on social media not long ago that said, in effect, when something unexpected happens, just shout “Plot Twist!” and move on.


So, Divine Daddy, what’s in the next Chapter?


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