The Uphill Slide

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The Peacemaker

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I have always been the peacemaker in my family. I was talking to a friend the other night about conflicts between family members. She said, “You are the peacemaker.” She understands because she is the same. But I often feel like echoing Rodney King when he asked, “People, I just want to say, can’t we all get along? Can’t we all get along?” (http://www.biography.com/people/rodney-king-9542141#synopsis). This is such a profound statement, and his statement goes on beyond those words. But no one was listening, then or now, almost 25 years later.

I remember only a couple of years after I married that I found myself playing the peacemaker with an in-law. And so it went. I often find myself listening to the complaints of one family member against another. In the last few years, my husband complained because our son was not making house payments. I went to my son because I was afraid he had money problems after his marriage. We talked, and still he did not make payments. Jacob’s wife complained to him that my husband did not like her because I usually visited alone. I explained that I visited on the nights Roy played cards, though of course, she was absolutely right about the reason he seldom visited. But I wanted to placate her because my son had to live with her. Last year after Cary came home with her son, my husband complained to me that she did not cook or clean, so here I go again. She claimed she cooked sometimes but her father often did not like what she wanted to make. Then she complained about him and called me one night almost crying saying she had never felt so unwelcome. Months later when I said I should have been at the house more often because they were fighting, my husband claimed they did not fight. I felt like a yo-yo pulled in two directions by people living in the same house who could not talk civilly to each other. But what can I really say about that since I stopped talking to family, except for my son who was a captive audience trapped behind glass walls and forced to listen. I was exhausted and overwhelmed by so many demands.

Why did my family turn to me with their complaints about each other? That was a part of my job in the workplace, but this was home. Who nominated me for this role? Was it because I was a woman? Was it because I was the mother? Or was it my personality that made me the more sympathetic ear? Fighting and conflict is unavoidable and valuable if it brings a resolution. But sometimes there is no fighting or honesty or resolution leading finally to a point of no return. People should learn how to fight and how to resolve conflicts without an intermediary. There is no guarantee of success especially when someone is unable to communicate their feelings and what is going on in their life. How can we know each other without talking? These last three years have been the most devastating of my life and those in my family. I want to escape it now, but I am bound by my maternal instincts to support my family.

But I am not a successful peacemaker, and I resign now. Let the chips fall where they may.

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