As I have mentioned in recent posts, I am currently in a period of transition. Sandwiched in the middle of the good-byes to being a student for five years and the hellos to the professional life of a private practice therapist, I hover; squished between the grief of loss and the unknown of the future. Friends and family have bid me to relish this time of uncertainty for its absence of assignments and their deadlines, governing boards and their requirements. And yet, having operated at 100 mph for the last five years it is nearly impossible for me to downshift so abruptly to a 40 mph coasting speed or even to where I find myself most frequently these days, at a complete stop. So, I toil with days of no appointments, obligations, or responsibilities, wondering what to do, how to make use of my time, where to be needed and where to serve. Blessedly, the district court answered my call for duty and summoned me to be a juror.
I did not approach my civic responsibility with dread as I have often heard many citizens do when they hear they have to report for jury duty. I was actually excited to be invited to learn about a process I knew virtually nothing about. It felt meaningful to be asked to sort through contradictive material, while using discernment and analysis, in order to arrive at a decision that would have significant impact. I felt important entering the courthouse – on a mission to see justice served.
When I googled what to expect from a day of jury duty, I was warned that there would be a lot of sitting and waiting and was advised to come prepared with something to occupy my time. So, I packed lots of snacks, a water bottle, two books, my laptop, headphones and of course, my cell phone. For the first part of the day we waited in a large holding area while the courtroom was preparing for the jury selection process. My time spent there was productive. I listened to music, caught up on emails, ate, drank and was relatively merry. When we were called up to the courtroom to begin answering questions in regards to our fitness for being a responsible juror, all snacks, drinks and activities had to be put away. Additionally, we exchanged the comforts of office-type chairs with cushions for hard wooden pews that were probably a part of the original 1916 construction.
It was after sitting in those particular seats without snacks, drinks, books or anything else to keep my mind occupied where I began to curse, rather than bless the district court and their call for duty. Although the curious answers that came from 75 different jurors in response to questions like, “Do you have any memories, good or bad, in regards to encounters with law enforcement?,” were both fascinating and often amusing, my body was no longer placated by my mind’s optimism that this opportunity might be fun. My legs were restless, my bladder was full; my back was bowed and my shoulders were slumped over in what can only be the result of sitting still for half the day on a wooden pew. Growing up, I sat in long church services several times a week and learned to tolerate tedium; listening to ideas that were over my head or being bored with nothing but the back of a receipt from my mom’s wallet to doodle on. But at least the church pews I sat on had cushions.
By the end of the day, I was hurting and my body finally communicated a message that my mind needed to hear. Pain brought my previous lack of gratitude into sharp focus. I’ve been complaining about having too many empty days without direction or purpose or meaning. But were I to be chosen as a juror, I would have been in that kind of pain and discomfort daily for a month (the projected length of that trial). While I was grateful for a chance to learn how our justice system operates, the greater lesson was the call to practice gratitude for how I spend my days. This life transition phase I find myself currently in is not comfortable for me. It is unfamiliar and directionless and open-ended. Yet, I realize now, that this time is a gift that I have never had before, and imagine I won’t likely have again. For the first time in my life, I am not in school, or working full-time, or at home everyday with babies, or having to meet requirements put upon me by someone else. How in the world have I not responded to this particular time in my life with anything but gratitude?
I’m sure the reasons are myriad. But since I got excused from serving in the jury box for the month-long trial (it helps to be number 65 out of 75), I now have more than enough days to practice thanksgiving for multiple reasons – only one of which is never having to sit on a wooden pew ever, ever again.