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Navigating Landmines Without Creating Fireballs!

These days, hot button issues abound. Posting anything online can feel like a political minefield. No matter how you tread on that landscape, you’re bound to step on something. As a practitioner of law, I have to deal with people who don’t have the same beliefs… but I want to put them at ease. And often, we’re dealing with a minefield of more than just politics.

Ronald Reagan once said, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help." While I’m no longer “from the Government” in that sense as my time in the military has long since ended, I am still here to help. In spite of this, when people come to my office, there’s often something traumatic in their space that either brought them to me or made them avoid coming to me because they’re afraid to put it into writing. But I don’t want to incite terror or fear, I want to instill a sense of calm. So, I often begin by talking them through happy times — “Tell me about yourself.” I find that tends to create comfort, even as we must still tread through the tough stuff.

Talking about estates, probates, and death can make people very uncomfortable. One practitioner I know even uses the term “maturing” instead of the word “dead.” We all “mature”… and our significant other will also “mature” eventually. He makes a joke out of it, to ease some of the tension. My husband deals with death at his job, too. At home, we’ll sometimes banter about it — “when he expires,” “when he’s pushing up daisies,” “when they’ve kicked the oxygen habit.” Death happens to everyone, and when we’re dealing with estates, it’s a landmine we can’t simply ignore. We’ve got to identify it, mark it, and deal with it in an appropriate manner. I know it’s a serious topic, maybe even one that can offend or upset people, but sometimes, just the topic alone can cause fear in people. And I understand that, completely — it’s a fear of the unknown and a fear of the worst-case-scenario. I try to put my clients at ease as much as possible. I paint scenarios for them: “So I like to kill off your husband first so you can marry the pool boy…” People have a fear of talking about death or dying, and just a little humor and compassion can make all the difference.

In the military, we were trained to conduct UXO sweeps (sweeps for unexploded ordnance). When you’re doing a UXO sweep and you spot something, you mark it without disturbing it and notify people who have the tools and knowledge to properly take care of it. Sometimes we got to do fun things like train with and blow up ordnance. One time in particular, we got to blow up some materials that created a gigantic fireball. It was called a “Hollywood Shot” because it literally looked like something you would see in an action film. (There’s even a picture of it here on my website.) When you mean to make a fireball like that, it can be pretty freaking cool. But when you’re dealing with people’s lives, the goal is to make sure it doesn’t blow up like that. You want to spot the potential landmines, mark them, and make sure they’re dealt with before they explode. That’s where I come in. I’m here to help — and not in the Ronald Reagan sense. I’m here to run through the what ifs, those mines you don’t even know to look for, and make a plan for you to get through it all safely, without explosions or fireballs. And when you have a plan, you don’t have to be afraid of what might happen. I help clients get back a little of their calm amid whatever crazy minefields their personal lives might have created for them, by removing some of the fear of the unknown.

Next month, I want to go deeper into discussing the fear of the unknown by sharing with you a personal story — my experience during September 11th, 2001 — and how that has helped me be better source of calm for my clients.

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