I once had a romantic relationship that ended so elegantly … we looked at each other for a long moment in a conversation where we were not connecting … and simultaneously knew … it was over. No fight. No sarcasm. No venom. No words at all … until, “do you want to … get your things?”
I relish that memory. My favorite from a relationship that wasn’t all bad.
What in the world does that have to do with advocating for disabled Social Security claimants? So … I’ve gotten dumped a fair number of times – by clients. I consider myself particularly competent to pass critical judgment on the art form of the attorney-client break up. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a pretty good dumpee.
Common knowledge has it that people trying to get Social Security disability benefits think of those programs as a golden ticket they’d hang onto through a hurricane. But when you sit across the table from disabled people and properly listen, wade through the bravado and posturing, you learn that the common knowledge … is … well, it’s common, I’ll give it that half. The fact is, Social Security disability benefits are more of a hot potato a claimant’d toss off in a nano second if they didn’t absolutely have to hold onto it for their sheer basic sustenance.
In an earlier post, Yippee! The gu’ment’s givin’ away free cheese!, I wrote “If I had a nickel for every time a client sobbed, ‘I’d give anything just to be able to work!’ … I’d have a boat somewhere sinking from the weight of all those nickels.” Not being able to work leaves a human reeling.
Us working stiffs have a half-time job complaining about our full-time job. We complain about our co-workers and our bosses and our darned parking spot. We look forward to time off, and vacations, and probably even fantasize about retirement. With all that complaining, it is easy to assume that not working is the deal. The grass is glowinky green on that side of the fence. It is easy to fail to appreciate how much it means actually to be able to work, to hold your head high, and even to complain about it. But, wait until that last day of your working life … when you’re too sick to work, or too tired, or just too old. You might find that the glowinky was toxic.
My friend Lisa told me that when her 27-year-old mare, Sadye was literally put out to pasture because of arthritis and sciatica, the mare was cool with it for a few weeks, but then demanded, by pawing at the ground and whinnying incessantly at the gate, to be let out to do her job of giving riding lessons to Lisa’s students. Lisa got the message, and let Sadye work a reduced load just to keep her from going nuts in the pasture.
In reality, there is little else that takes a toll on a person than not being able to work. And I encourage my clients to try to work if at all possible. In fact, I don’t personally know any attorneys who don’t encourage their clients to work. I know – crazy. It’s like we court being dumped.
I am told by clients that the effects of chronic boredom and of a lack of daily structure causes depression to affix itself like a relentless, soul-sucking leech. The loss of the ability to provide for yourself, and to contribute to your family, is almost unbearable.
Once we get past the bluster, my clients describe themselves as valueless, as ashamed, of being always in a one-down position to virtually everyone. It’s beyond difficult … and causes most claimants to want to isolate themselves from nearly all other people. It eats away at a person.
So … when my client called to tell me his new medications were helping immensely, that he had been working successfully, full-time, for many months, he couldn’t have been more thrilled. And I was thrilled for him. He cheerfully asserted, “I want to dump this case and … I want to dump you!”
Awesome. I love a good break up.