Finding peace with family

Five years ago today, I had one of the most challenging family experiences of my  life. One of my older family members lived alone, and would sit in her kitchen most of the day listening to AM talk radio. It was Halloween, and just a few days before the 2012 presidential election. By this point, the voices coming through the airwaves had convinced her that our country and our world were (literally) going to come to an end if a certain candidate did not prevail over his evil, incumbent rival in the upcoming contest.

That day, I just happened to think about her, and decided to call her to say hello. The ensuing conversation was like nothing I could have ever expected. This beloved relative could talk with other family members about just about anything, but with me, she always wanted to focus on politics. I really dislike talking about politics. I learned from an early age never to discuss politics, religion or money. Our views on these three things are highly personal, and really none of anyone else’s business – and for good reason.

That October evening, I don’t know why she chose to lash out at me. Maybe it was just conveniently close to Election Day. Maybe it was because she associated me so closely with my mother, whom she also liked to taunt with controversial political topics. Whatever the reason, she was looking for a debate, and the bait was not something I was taking.

Common sense and respect dictated that I should not argue with her. I simply did what I could to help comfort her – reassuring her that everything would be okay either way, and trying to steer the conversation into more neutral territory. She wasn’t having it, and I didn’t want to argue. She tried and tried, and the more I didn’t fight back, the more frustrated she got. We finally agreed to disagree, but when the conversation ended and she hung up, that little click on the line was clear: I had a feeling that I would probably never hear her voice again. I think we both understood that sometimes it’s better not to have a conversation at all than to have an ugly one.

The lesson in this? Let common sense prevail over blood. So often, we yield to our family’s wishes and desires, just to keep peace, sometimes to our own detriment. We let people push our buttons (or vice versa), even though we know it often ends in resentment. While no one was really harmed in this incident, it certainly was more peaceful for all concerned to just avoid unnecessary confrontation.

When we see something in someone else that we don’t like, even in (or especially in) a family member, it is usually a reflection of something deep within that we don’t like about ourselves. Rather than fight it, take time to look deeper into the situation to understand where it is really coming from. Perhaps you will see the other person in a new light, even if it is something you really didn’t want to see. More importantly, you may discover a lot about yourself!

The law of Karma tells us that what we sow, so shall we reap. The energies we put out are the ones that we get back in return. It isn’t punishment. It’s just a natural reaction to our choices and actions. When we are unpleasant to others, we are harming ourselves. On the other side of that interaction, we have a choice on what we are willing to receive. Sometimes the choice is obvious, but when we are dealing with family, the obvious choices can sometimes be the most difficult. Sometimes we have to make that choice, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be.

No, we never spoke again, and that’s okay. I found out later that she had written me out of her life (literally), and to some extent, I had to do the same, but that’s okay. Last year, well into her 80s, she made her way to the great beyond. She had sadness in her life, and a lot of fun, too. We had a lovely celebration of her life – all positive. Despite the unpleasantness of this particular situation, I remind myself that it was just a brief moment in a timeline that spanned more than five decades. I never stopped loving, and I go on with plenty of warm, happy memories of her to keep in my heart, and I only wish her well. Hopefully she did the same for me. God bless her.

God bless us all…