A Different Kind of Fall Cleanup

By Laura Melton Tucker, August 30th, 2012

Listen to this entry.

Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer – a season for getting out of our boxes (think house or office cubicle) to see things afresh.  It also signals the beginning of fall when we return to schedules and the structure imposed by school, extra-curricular activities and regular bedtimes.  I admit I love throwing out the schedule for at least a few weeks over the summer.  I used this blog space one year ago to tell you about last summer’s eye opening adventure in the Pacific Northwest.  I had no idea then that this summer’s adventure would be even grander!  As of July 30 and the birth of a precious baby boy, I’m a grandma for the first time! Everything that I knew about the world is a little different because of it.  Admittedly, life delivers few such happy changes of perspective with so little work on our own.  Instead, we must schedule these opportunities for ourselves.  Of course I’m referring here to mediation.  But scheduling something difficult isn’t easy.  When some clients call, I can hear in their voices the same energetic excitement reserved for making an appointment for a teeth cleaning or annual physical exam. If you’re one of these reluctant types, read on to see how scheduling mediation may do for your emotional landscape what fall cleanup does for your yard.

Although our judicial district requires mediation for divorce and custody disputes, clients turn to mediation for other reasons.  For some who’ve not yet filed for divorce, but are moving in that direction, mediation is an opportunity to hold a safe conversation on record so that written notes or a memorandum of understanding can be referred to later as a measure of progress or merely a starting point to define questions, make lists of information needed, or set boundaries and expectations with one another. One client asked for mediation so that he could speak about concerns he had for his wife’s health.  Having a mediator in the room felt essential, according to this client, so that he could work up the courage to ask his wife to enter drug rehabilitation.  During their conversation, I asked typical mediator questions like “What would you like her to understand about this situation?” or “Do you have any questions for him that he hasn’t yet answered?”  in order  to help the dialogue flow in a respectful and productive way.

Another recent couple used mediation as a way to float ideas back and forth to puzzle through their disagreement about sharing physical care of their son.  When they’d tried to talk on their own, they said the atmosphere was charged and inflammatory. With a stranger in the room their tone became civil.  They explained that their custody arrangement was no longer working now that their son was entering grade school.  The commute between parents’ homes made getting the child to school extra difficult for one of the parents.  After several hours of talking back and forth, which included many creative “what-ifs,” they came up with a unique solution of their own design.  They agreed to enroll their son in a school half way between each home, making drop off and pick-ups, and even school friend visits, a shared inconvenience of a lesser magnitude than the one originally asked for by the parent who filed for modification.  I was honored to work with these parents who lovingly put their son’s school experience and need to see both parents ahead of their own wishes.

Deciding to call a mediator is a big and sometimes difficult step in a conflict.  But, it is a step forward.  There are no guarantees that talking will bring conciliation, closure or even greater understanding.  But there is a guarantee that silence, avoidance and the numb refusal to “go there” will shut down any possibility for the above.  The takeaway is that scheduling a time to sit down and talk, in the company of an impartial third party, trained to help balance and bring forth both perspectives, is a proactive choice to begin to work on a problem. Breaking through your comfort zone and choosing to sit with what is difficult is one of the bravest choices a person can make.  As Robert Frost wisely says, “The best way out is always through.”

Comments are closed.

© Peacewise Mediation, Iowa City. All rights reserved. Design by Christina Willner