Making Lemonade out of Lemons: The Triumph of a Positive Attitude

Remote work reveals new insights about being your best self, working efficiently, and maintaining personal connections.

Like everyone else in California, I am writing this article from home under the stay-at-home orders issued by Governor Gavin Newsom in mid-March. Initially, I saw the orders as a grave threat to my business and an end to my personal life, at least for now. But I have always loved challenges. They keep us mentally sharp and creative. And as I have said before, I consider myself the queen of making lemonade from lemons. So, that is what I have been doing.

On a personal level, the stay-at-home order appeared to be my worst nightmare. Ever since I was a child I have hated to stay home. This was true even when I was sick and during my summer vacations. I equated staying home with being bored and accomplishing nothing. I couldn’t stand the sound of the soap operas on my mother’s television. Not even Hostess CupCakes made it worth my time, and I would sit on our front steps, waiting for my father to come home and take me swimming. 

As an adult, my work life has taken place outside the home: at my law office, other attorneys’ offices, JAMS, or the courthouse. Until now it was inconceivable that my work could be accomplished anywhere else. I have always enjoyed setting out from home every weekday morning with a purpose. Although I love my home and enjoy relaxing on the weekends, watching Netflix or HGTV, with logs burning in the fireplace, I still have anxiety when I am forced to stay home during the week. So, when the stay-at-home orders were issued, I nearly panicked. It felt as if the orderly world I had created was about to fall apart around me. However, after a few nights of sipping tequila, I came up with a working solution. 

Challenge yourself to find tranquility, happiness, and productivity no matter what life throws at you.

The well-known proverb, “If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain,” is certainly apropos. If you have to stay home rather than going to the office to work, then you must make your home more like your office during the week. Establish physical boundaries around your workspace and make it off-limits to members of your family during work hours. Resist taking your laptop to the couch or the patio, or making phone calls from the kitchen. You should have one designated workspace and do all of your work there. Also, you should make sure to get up out of your seat now and then to exercise just a bit and keep your circulation flowing. Then, when the workday is over, put your work away and enjoy quality time with your family. Be your best self by focusing on one thing at a time.

[To read more of Lisa Helfend Meyer’s thought leadership click here]

During the workweek I maintain my old schedule. I wake up at around 4:00 a.m. and begin my work. Instead of in-office meetings, I use Zoom, FaceTime, or the old-fashioned cell phone. Aside from when I have to go into the office, which is sometimes inescapable (I consider aspects of my work to be part of the essential critical infrastructure, as do others), I take depositions, participate in court hearings, and hold meetings via Zoom. I must say, I was a bit timid around technology just a few short weeks ago, but I was required to face the challenge; now, I can say with measured confidence, I am hooked. 

Certainly, videoconferencing is not ideal, but it is the next best thing to being there in person. It also gives you a unique opportunity to see how your private judges and opposing counsel live, which may even help you in terms of strategy. I have also found that during these video conferences and hearings, everyone participating seems somewhat more relaxed than when we were having in-person meetings, which seems like a lifetime ago. Perhaps it is the fact that we did not have to rush through traffic to make it to court on time, or deal with parking, but merely had to ensure that we were prompt for our call-in time. 

In some ways, the stay-at-home orders have provided new insights regarding ways to improve the efficiency of our firm. For example, we have implemented weekly Zoom meetings, with every attorney at the firm attending from their homes. These meetings are unexpectedly fun and they have brought us together as a firm. Before now, it seemed that the only time we were all in one place at the same time was at our holiday party at the end of each year. Now, as a result of these Zoom meetings, I am feeling more connected to my legal team than ever before, and we are sharing and staying on top of our workload in an efficient and effective new way. With nearly my entire administrative staff and attorneys working mostly from their homes, I have learned to lead with trust, and I am proud to say that my team has not let me down.

In the evenings when I finish work, my husband and I try our hands at making dinner together. Although my cooking skills are admittedly limited, it is still fun to interact in a creative way and try out new recipes. We sit down together for dinner, and give thanks that we have continuing work and our family has enough food to put on the table. 

On the weekends, I have been catching up with friends and family via Zoom. I now schedule Saturday Zoom calls with my high school friends and have dinner with friends via Zoom. Dinners that would otherwise last two hours in a restaurant are over in 40 minutes and I can go straight to my bedroom to watch television or read in comfort for the rest of the evening.

[For more on Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyer’s approach to Family Law click here]

For me, maintaining my beauty regimen is essential and I still regularly see my hairdresser, manicurist, and yoga instructors (all of us wearing masks) at my home. When I go into the office, I am sure to put on makeup and wear one of my favorite outfits. I miss the fun of shopping in person, but still enjoy shopping online and buying things on sale. One of my newest passions is searching for the best designer face masks!

The bottom line, to my way of thinking, is that whenever you are dealt a setback you have to do your best to turn it to your advantage. Challenge yourself to find tranquility, happiness, and productivity no matter what life throws at you. As devastating as this global pandemic has been for so many families, it has nevertheless brought about an opportunity to bond with your immediate family and reach out to other friends and family electronically. Hopefully, this pandemic will be over or under control by the time I write my next article. However, you never know what life will be like after quarantine or what adversity each of us will face next.

Whatever happens, it is your positive attitude and ingenuity that will get you through. Finally, take refuge in being good to the people in your life and the strangers you encounter. We are all in this together.