First, You must survive!

First, You Survive!


The first twenty four hours are the hardest


                It seems like it was a long time ago, and it was.  It seem like it was only yesterday, and it was.  The day was a Wednesday, and it was January 13, 1993.  After a tortuous meeting with two of my law partners who confronted me with all sorts of wrongdoing on my part, I slowly walked out of the building I was in and walked, with one of the two lawyers who had been in the meeting, across the state capitol grounds on the way to downtown Raleigh.  We were not going anywhere in particular but just walking to see if there was still air I could breathe.


                It wasn’t long before we saw former U.S. Senator Robert Morgan walking towards us.  I said to my friend Steve, “let’s turn around…that’s Robert Morgan, and I can’t see him or anyone just now.” 


                Shortly after returning to the building, gathering myself a bit, I walked out of the office, got in my car and started to drive around Raleigh.  I had a car telephone, and so I called a friend and lawyer and told him I had left my law firm, probably for good, and asked if he could he see me soon.  He asked me two questions.  “Jim, have you done anything criminal?”  That was easy.  My answer was “No.”  I could have passed a polygraph for I was in a complete state of denial.  The second question was “Jim, are you getting ready to run away with a blonde?”  I laughed and said “No”, and he said “good, we can handle anything else.”


                We met soon thereafter, within an hour, at a local restaurant, where we sat, had coffee, and I watched him take notes on a legal pad as I tried to tell him some, though certainly not all, of what I had done.  He offered to go with me that afternoon if I needed him to help me tell my family what had happened, but I said that was not necessary.  He suggested I see a doctor (read psychiatrist) and made an appointment for me to meet her the following day.  I would cancel that appointment but would finally go on Friday.


                Finally, my lawyer friend told me he thought we could put me back together, and that I would be okay. I didn’t believe him, but was in no position to argue, so I just nodded yes.  He didn’t tell me how long it would take, but I am sure I did not think it would take the rest of my life.


                My point in telling you all this is that the last twenty years would not have been possible without that first afternoon and week.  I later heard that one of the lawyers who was in that meeting with me said, “this was the day that Jim Blackburn’s life collapsed.”  That may have been so, but it did not end.  That is because I did not spend it alone.  After that afternoon, I talked with my family and told them part of what was happening, not all, but certainly enough for one day.  I talked with other friends.  And I prayed.


                Every person has misfortune or disappointment visited upon him or her at some point in life.  I survived by keeping walking, just putting one foot in front of the other, going through the motions and not shutting down.  Somehow, I got through the night, got up the next morning, drove back to the office, met with other lawyers in the office, answered email, talked on the phone, and got through the day. 


                I did not know what was coming…only that it was going to be a big storm.  But for me, what I needed most at first was unconditional friendship and love, patience, no one being judgmental just then…and time…lots of time.


                The need for Resilience can come when you least expect it, and it will come in many forms.  But if you take it slow, take deep breaths, and keep on keeping on, you will get through that first day.  Before you can even think about the future, you first must think about the present.  And… you must not quit.  Only then can you survive.


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