Monday, June 16, 2014

The Bamboo Stalk and the Vase

While I was packing for the move north, I sorted through a bunch of stuff. There was a pale green, six-inch tall vase with clear marbles at the bottom that I hadn't been able to part with.

A friend from law school had given it to me when I officially opened my own law office. The vase contained a single bamboo stalk. According to Chinese tradition, bamboo symbolizes good luck and wealth. And good luck I did have.

Until 9/11.

I'm not blaming 9/11 for everything. The Twin Towers were as much a symbol of the bad luck that followed my family in 2001 as the bamboo had been a symbol of promise in 1999.

DH and his partners had sold their computer consulting firm, and the purchasing company planned an IPO in May. With the tech stock crash in April, DH's shares became worthless. When I balanced my practice's books on September 10th, I excitedly told DH that August was the first month I turned a profit. It was also the last month. My business withered under the effects of 9/11 and the collapse of Enron a couple of months later.

By April of 2002, I could no longer afford the rent on my office. I tried to run my business from home, but by the end of the year, I got a part-time job at a local bookstore to make ends meet. The little bamboo, now sitting in the kitchen, reflected my depression. The leaves started to yellow, then slowly brown.

I landed a job with another law firm the summer of 2004, about the same time new leaves sprouted from the bamboo. Things weren't better for long. I got sick. Really sick. I tendered my resignation a couple of years later. And the new bamboo leaves never acquired the healthy emerald shade of the original leaves.

Despite my best efforts, I finally had to call time on that poor little bamboo stalk the summer of 2012. Ironically, this was the same time I was finally down to writing fiction as my only job.

It still took me another year to throw out the stalk. I didn't want to give up that little plant even though it had been clearly dead for sometime. It had been a gift from someone I cherished after all.

And as we packed, I was still determined to keep that little vase. But as I cleaned it (remember it was still cake with partially decayed bamboo roots), I discovered a crack in the bottom of the vase. And the more I cleaned, the more cracks I discovered.

It seems the vase had been barely holding together for sometime, and I hadn't noticed because I'd been so desperate to hang on to it and its bamboo. Despite layers of bubble wrap, one solid jolt in the moving van would shatter the fragile glass. I finally had to admit defeat and toss the vase.

And I had to admit, truly admit, to myself, I was no longer an attorney. I'm a writer now, and I need to embrace that role.


  1. I do that too -- hang on to things long past any reasonable hope that I'll ever use/enjoy/return to them again. It's a purely emotional clinging, and in my case it's often fueled as much by guilt as by nostalgia. Letting go is healthy, but damn, it can be tough.


    1. *sigh* There's been a lot of letting go lately, some of it very necessary. You're right, Angie. Old things need to be cleared for new things to come into your life.

  2. You're a writer, yes, but you're also the sum of many parts and bring a lawyer's training to both the business and craft of writing. I hear you on the need to clear out, but don't dismiss the breadth of experience you have. And visit Houston once in a while, won't you? We miss you.

    1. You've been talking to DH, haven't you, Pat? *grin* He said my IT and legal careers put me in a unique position to capitalize on the changes in the publishing industry. And you are both right!

      And if I'm down your way, I'll definitely stop in!