To Autumn

By Laura Melton Tucker, September 7th, 2013

Listen to this entry.

Living in a small college town, I am feeling the energetic shift of fall as students come back for classes, football fans clamor in their black and gold to tailgate and root for their team, and school aged children fill the sidewalks in the morning and afternoon, moving in small swarms to and from school.  The landscape shifts, too.  Leaves are starting to drop, bees hover with intensity over the fall blooms whose petals are fading in anticipation of dropping their seeds for next spring’s bloom.  Keats, in his poem “To Autumn” calls this the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” I love autumn’s rust and gold pallet, its crunching leaves, its smells of loamy dirt and ripening fruit.  It can’t last.  Nothing lasts.  The world around me is in process.

My mediator role has made me a connoisseur of process.  The mediation process is also organic.  I never know what clients will want to talk about, or how they’ll respond to the stress of speaking openly about painful topics.  I assist them by providing the space for their talk, and by supporting them with calm energy and patient attentiveness.  I take notes, ask questions, remind them of what they’ve said, or ask if they have questions or need more explanation from one another.  Always I am checking to see if the process is working for them.   I want the conversation to ripen, not rot.  Ripe conversations grow ideas, expand awareness, soften feelings, and sweeten understandings.  When conversations rot, connection ceases.  Something dies.  Maybe clients stop feeling curious about what the other person is thinking or feeling.  Or they stop listening, shrinking into themselves and contracting their perspective as their feelings and attitudes constrict.  Rather than softening toward one another, they harden.  My job as mediator is to hold a presence that supports the flow of conversation…for the exchange of feelings and ideas is what allows a conversation to ripen.  When the flow ceases, or when clients harden in their views, no air, light or space can penetrate the conflict.

In a recent mediation the clients arrived in the same car, a sign of their congenial relationship.  Their gentle conversation was notable for its warmth and easy banter.   I asked the couple if they could share their secret for their friendly divorce?  They explained that they’d been “in the process” for a long time.   When I inquired what they meant by a long time,  they explained that a period of a year had passed between their decision to divorce, their filing, their interaction with attorneys and their arrival at my office for the mediation.  As they described it, the process had given them time to soften toward one another, toward their shared care routine with their young children, and toward leading separate lives.  Time had mellowed their experience during the divorce process.

The phrase, “it was a process,” was also used by my friend to explain how she had come to a place of peace after her husband of 25 years asked for a divorce so he could begin another relationship.  Seven years after their divorce, just last month, my friend’s ex-husband died, only one year after being diagnosed with cancer.  My friend grieved with her children who lost their father, but she also grieved her own loss.  Though no longer married, she still feels linked to her ex-husband through their shared life experiences and memories.  I read his  obituary and marveled at how rarely children of divorce can write: “He and his wife divorced amicably and remained friends.” The family mourned as a group, the new wife, the old, the children from both families, a true blending of loving family and friends, sharing the reception space, introducing friends who knew this loved man from one time in his life to those who knew him from another.  This is how relationships ripen, I think.  This is how life sweetens over time.  But, as my friend conceded, “it was a process.”

All living things are “in process.”  Conflict is alive, too, and undergoes its own processing as time softens its sting or shifts its meaning for us. In the early stages of conflict we may want to root deeply into our anger, hold on and shut down. But we can hasten the conflict process by sitting and engaging with it. The takeaway is that bringing thoughts and feelings forward during mediation is a powerful way to process conflict. There are others.  Venting our feelings to sympathetic listeners helps.  So does writing down our thoughts, or searching for information that helps us process on our own.  Whatever the method we choose, talk and time help us process conflict; softening, sweetening and ripening are the fruits of our work.

To your fruitful autumn.  Cheers!

Comments are closed.

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