The day I got the call from the prosecutor, a letter stating the same information was waiting for me in my mailbox. It was the beginning of me no longer enjoying that short walk to see what was in the mailbox. First, I noticed the return address address, the United States Of America. I took a gulp. How daunting. I read the letter and the news sunk in further, as if that was possible. If there was the slightest doubt what the prosecutor had told me on the phone, it was all there in writing. Indisputable.
Now, it was time to meet Dan. Potentially, he was going to be my attorney. Stepping into Dan’s office on my daughter’s 10th birthday to begin to discuss what to do about being the target of a federal investigation was indescribable. It’s as though I walked into a world that I never knew existed. I met three people: Dan, Brenna and Sheila.
Wide-eyed I looked at them with all the hope I could muster, this may be my legal team. I am sure it was so obvious how incredibly green I was to what was going on. I didn’t know the questions to ask. I smiled nervously hoping that they would like me and help me in a miraculous way. I knew nothing – is what it felt like. Except, I knew that I was in big trouble and this was a mistake. That was my starting point.
Dan started asking questions and I was “on”. Ask me anything. I will tell you everything I can possibly think of because if I tell you everything, you will think of some way to make this go away. You have to. It’s wrong what the Government has done. I didn’t commit a crime. My whole being was staring Dan down saying “please save me”. I started explaining who I worked for now and in the past and the nature of the work we did. I explained my credentials and education. I brought in some information that I had to show Dan the Fund offering memorandum and other documents that may be helpful.
I wanted to talk until there were no words left. Even at our first meeting, I felt I wore Dan out. After a few hours, I pulled myself out of the trenches and made it home to celebrate my daughter’s birthday. She didn’t need a sad Mom and I didn’t want to be that. There were smiles, laughs, a cake, and presents and no signs of being a target because the Government could label me a target, but they couldn’t make me feel like a target or take away my joy.
Learning the right questions to ask is a big deal. Bigger than I ever knew.
Asking the right question will get to the source of the issue. Asking less than the right question is or can be a distraction. I didn’t need any distractions. I couldn’t afford the time or energy to go down the wrong path.
Concurrently, I had to learn to listen better. I couldn’t listen casually as if I was preparing my rebuttal while my legal team was talking. I listened like I knew nothing because well, ….I knew nothing. Truly hearing Dan, Sheila and Brenna was much different than listening to them. My very liberty was on the line. I hung on their every word. It was humbling.
Asking the carefully selected, well thought question, choosing to listen with all my might and then just stopping to think – it was a vital process I had no choice but to adopt. Guessing, being ill-informed, or acting on my emotions was not going to help in any way and I needed to manage myself at a very high level.
I had found a new little community in Dan’s office. They didn’t have to like me, I was just a client. Even on that first day of pouring out everything I could think of to help them help me, I felt they believed me. I was as vulnerable as I could remember being with anyone, ever. I knew they cared and they were going to do their best to defend me, if it came to that. It was a long day with Dan on our first meeting, mostly because I had the sense that it was the first of many more long days to come. At least I had found my way into a community where I could be who I was and people believed and understood me. For now, that’s all I could ask for.
When have you been at a place in your life that it was so vital to be truly understood? The stakes were high and you had to do your very best.