Tap into Joy – for Military Justice

Joy.  It seems a simple enough concept. Tapping into joy does not seem overly complicated. Over the last 16 years of practicing in military justice and from personal conflicts, it would seem my ability to tap into joy has become challenged.

In 2018, I made a commitment to myself: that I would find an opportunity to raise the bar in my own practice. I never want to become complacent. If I ever reach a point where I feel like I have learned all I need to know, then that is the day I believe I should hang up my sword and shield.

I applied for and was accepted to attend the Trial Lawyers College run by Gerry Spence in Wyoming. Giving oneself the gift of three and a half weeks largely off the grid to devote to bettering oneself and one’s advocacy skills is a large commitment. Especially for someone in private practice. I was anxious about how to manage my calendar and commitments but I am grateful that I did not run away from TLC (which I almost did about 3 times).

My friend and colleague Joshua Karton was there, and what an absolute gift he is to the world. We first met in 2006 when I attended a weeklong working group at the JAG school in Charlottesville, VA. I flew over from Germany for the opportunity to attend his Advanced Trial Advocacy seminar. It was there that he told me about the Ranch and encouraged me to attend TLC. Well, it only took me 12 years, but I am grateful he planted that seed.

During one of the last weeks we were at the Ranch, we had the opportunity to select the classes we wanted to attend. I opted for Josh’s, not knowing what he might do. But I knew it would be magic. And it was. I watched him select classmates and identify their individual needs. He drew them out and revealed beautiful ways to enhance their skills. I was enjoying the time to watch, to reflect, and to learn. That is until about 20 minutes before lunch, he chose me. What?!

I dutifully marched up to the front of the class, and from what I can recall there were about 35 of our class’s students in attendance. Josh directed me to give the close of a close, which is to say the last 3 – 4 sentences of a closing argument where I am asking my jury to return findings of not guilty. So I did. Others would tell me later they were especially interested to see how Josh might improve what I had done; it was great, they said.

I will never forget what Josh said to me as I struggled to improve with his guidance and tutelage. He explained to the class that we have known each other for quite some time and he knows some of my personal and professional history. He looked into my eyes and he said “Jocelyn, you have experienced an enormous amount of sorrow in your life. You have seen the darkest side of humanity. And you are very good at tapping into that sorrow. I want you to tap into joy.”

Seemed simple enough. Not so much. He asked me what gave me joy, and I could not come up with one single answer.

Then he took me through a list of events and people and items that should have been fairly obvious as joyful. But with each suggestion, my mind went blank or dark with each one.

Your children? I was overcome with guilt at my impending divorce from their father and the pain that process was sure to cause them.

Your parents? I don’t speak to them, and I cut them out of my life officially in September 2016.

What’s your favorite food? I had been diagnosed Celiac, and food no longer gave me positive emotions it once had.

I was flapping around like a fresh catch out of water. And as people’s eyes narrowed on me, I felt shame for not knowing joy.

Josh proclaimed that no one could go to lunch until I found a way to tap into joy and to redeliver the close of my close with it.

I finally delivered a satisfactorily joyful closing four lines. At least for the benefit of everyone’s stomachs and to dispel the idea that I was completely dark and twisty.

But if truth be told, and that is my goal in these posts, I faked it. I was emotionally drained and unable to identify what gave me joy. Which is not to say that I do not love my children and the people in my life who love me unconditionally. But there is an inherent difference between knowing there are people whom I love and who love me, and knowing joy.

I committed that day to finding joy, to knowing joy, and to never letting go.

On my journey, I have recommitted to placing music as an important part of my life. I am forging deep connections with women friends who support me in ways I never imagined. I carve out time and space to connect with my breath: yoga is bringing me deep and lasting joy.

Are there still dark days? Of course. But my advocacy and my wellbeing have improved by being able to tap into joy for military justice…and also for those who are in my life.

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