Playing the Cards You’re Dealt

Let’s just say that 2014 hasn’t been a banner year for me. The trade association I co-founded nine years ago and helped grow to 55 members at its peak imploded. I lost a motion that I’ve never had denied- nor ever even seen denied in 25 years of practice – and  managed to pull out a narrow save only by pulling an all-nighter on a reconsideration request before driving 8 hours north to drop my daughter at college. I’m likely going to face my first professional action and while it’s utterly groundless, that won’t spare me from ponying up my deductible. I even dropped my iPhone in the toilet – first time ever – and had to replace it after a grain of the rice that I’d submerged it in to dry it out lodged in the charger hole. Oh, and my husband has a brain tumor, of a serious variety (some aren’t as bad as others. This one is). Oy, this is one sorry post.

When bad luck hits and sticks, many of us start to wonder whether we’ve done something to attract or deserve it. After all, if good luck flows from a good attitude and strong work ethic, then arguably, the opposite holds true. And then, we find ourselves living out a big self-fulfilling prophecy, giving up before even trying because after all, what’s the point?

But there is a point and it’s this.  Life is wildly random. Bad stuff happens. Not all the time.  Not to everyone. And when it does, “why me?” isn’t nearly as useful a response as “what now?”  After all, as Randy Pausch of Last Lecture fame eloquently put it, “We can’t control how the cards are dealt, just how we’ll play the hand.”

Sometimes, the worst inspires our best as it did with Randy Pausch or JK Rowling (living in unheated poverty til she sold the first Harry Potter ) novel. More likely, most of us will play our cards clumsily and without finesse — maybe bluffing unconvincingly or folding quickly to get through to the next round and a fresh hand. Whatever works, so long as you stay in the game.


  1. Susan Cartier Liebel on October 6, 2014 at 9:05 am

    It’s time to rally the troops, Carolyn. The first few things are hassles. Everyone’s been there. Your husband, a game-changer. Remember, there are many helping hands out there. You just have to grab hold.

  2. Mudpie on October 6, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Prayers your way.

  3. Paul Spitz on October 6, 2014 at 9:46 am

    That’s a really unfortunate run, but it sounds like you have a good attitude. Hang in there, keep punching back, and know that you have our support.

  4. Your Readers on October 6, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Our thoughts are with you and your family.

  5. Charlene Ross on October 6, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Wishing you all the best. Especially with your husband. I’m so sorry.

    This post especially spoke to me because it seems that life has been serving me a sh*t sandwich lately (and I much prefer lobster). 🙂 I’m an optimistic person by nature (some friends call me Pollyanna), but lately it’s been hard. Thanks for the reminder that it IS how you play the hand you’ve been dealt, and as bad as you have it, someone else has it much worse (and could very possibly be dealing with it much better).

  6. Susan Cartier Liebel on October 6, 2014 at 8:27 pm

  7. Jilted Reader on October 7, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Even though I’ve reached out to you privately for career advice (not a job just a little guidance) and never received even an automated reply… I hope your husband is able to pull through and things turn around for you.

  8. myshingle on October 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I am really sorry about this. I try really hard to respond to the emails I receive – sometimes I start drafting a response and then just forget to send it and sometimes I set them aside and don’t get back to them. Can you email me privately again just so I can check to see what I did with your email? Thank you

  9. Alex on October 7, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Wishing you and your family the best.

  10. Jim on October 7, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    wishing you the best for you and your family. Great attitude and I am sure it takes reinforcement on a regular basis. keep going. My experience is we make it through the tough times if we just stick with our principles.

  11. Chadwick C. Busk on October 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    This blog and your publications have been of great help to me, and you are obviously a nice person. Will keep you and your husband in our prayers!

  12. J. Flanders on October 7, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing. Keep your chin up and don’t stop believing in yourself and your loved ones.

  13. Emily Smith on October 7, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    So sorry you’ve been hit by so much at once! Thank you for sharing and showing that lawyers are humans, too.

  14. Karen Robbins on October 7, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    You have done so much to help and support other lawyers, I hope we can all return the favor by sending you enough warm thoughts and positive energy to buoy you up and support you through the really rough patch you’re having. You’re in my thoughts.

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