On Working, Making a Living, and Having an Actual Life
by Hal Humphreys
I travel quite a bit for work. My investigations haul me to the far corners of the continent. I see the best and the worst on offer. I’ve canvassed neighborhoods in rural Texas looking for clues. I’ve driven down “hollers” in eastern Washington to locate unsavory characters. I’ve found witnesses in run-down trailer parks in northern Florida. I’ve interviewed multi-millionaires in swank restaurants.
I’ve talked to folks from all walks of life. The one thing I can count on is that human beings are never boring. One unsheathed a Colt .45 caliber Model 1900 handgun and pointed it in my face. Another (crystal-blue left eye boring a hole through me while the lazy, cloudy right eye looked off in the distance at god-knows-what) racked a 20-gauge round into his vintage Winchester 1300 and shoved it in my general direction. Yet another chased ’round and ’round the ruined sofa in the front yard with what appeared to be a Royal Industries model 112 ice pick, while I maintained a perfect reciprocal position, circling the sofa until we came to terms.
What I’m trying to say is, the work is nothing if not interesting.
I do it for the money. I make no bones about it. I’m here to make a living. But there’s no amount of money that would keep me going back into these insane situations without the work having meaning. And I feel my work has meaning. I help citizens accused of horrible crimes. I help their legal teams tell better stories. I help their attorneys find facts that bolster the defense. I love this work.
My clients are attorneys. Their clients are people accused of crimes. The state has vast resources. Our side does not. I know for a fact that there are too many people incarcerated in our country for crimes they did not commit. I’ve met several of them. I’ve worked on some of their cases.
The remuneration—and sense of purpose—keep me going, despite the guns and ice picks. But they aren’t ever enough to keep me fully sane. For that, I find time to take care of myself. For the past several hundred days, I’ve done a much better job of self care than in the past. I’ve managed to take in a yoga practice every day. It makes a difference.
I may be the only yogi PI in the country. I’m okay with that. I’ve grown comfortable with being a little bit different.
Here’s the thing: My work is (like everyone else’s work on earth) important. The stakes are high, and people’s lives are on the line. That, in my estimation, means the self-care is all the more important. If I’m a disaster, physically and mentally, I’m no good to myself, my clients, or anyone.
My friend Andrea, a yogini with the shock of dreadlocks atop a tiny frame, and I talked about the necessity of taking care of myself when we first met for a private session. I felt it necessary to explain to her that my work was stressful, and I needed to make the time to practice. I wanted to improve my practice and learn the best alignment and breathing and postures.
She smiled that huge smile she has. “Of course you need to take time to care for yourself,” she said. “Shit, we all do.”