No peace on Peace Day
One of the greatest compliments I ever received came from a reader who said that my anecdotes made her feel more normal. At the time, I wondered if it even was a compliment. But the more she talked, the more I understood that people appreciate it when I am real with them. So be forewarned — I’m being real today, but just like my face without makeup — the real stuff ain’t always pretty.
My dear friend Tiffany e-mailed me the other day to tell me that today is the International Day of Peace. It’s a good thing she mentioned it, because I’d never heard of it before. Neither had my husband. That might have something to do with our collective upbringing.
I love our families. Honestly, I do. But “peace” isn’t a concept either side of the family has ever fully embraced. My husband and I try our best to live at peace with everyone, but some people make it hard to do that. Some even seem unhappy unless they’re stirring up some kind of chaos. I hear that every family has a few people like that.
We sure could use a cease-fire amongst a few of our relatives. They don’t call them in-laws and out-laws for nothing. Most of my and my husband’s roots can be traced back to the British Isles, and dang if that’s not a crazy lot to descend from. If you don’t believe me, go rent the movie “Braveheart.” That’ll give you a little glimpse into the kind of folks we’re related to.
The past few months have felt like living in that scene from “The Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy is walking through the haunted forest and the tree branches are attacking her. In our case, it’s the “Attack of the Family Trees,” and it’s not coming from just one side of the family. The scrapes and jabs are from all directions, and I am tired of it. I just want to click my ruby slippers together and go back to a place that is peaceful and lovely, where I don’t feel I’m under assault everywhere I go. Either that, or get a really good set of pruning shears.
My friend Kathleen says that no good deed goes unpunished, and lately it feels like that is true. We’ve helped people, and gotten used in return. We’ve extend grace beyond what we’ve ever extended to anyone before, and all they can say is that it isn’t good enough.
The greater struggle isn’t in dealing with these difficult people, but in figuring out how to explain them to my children. Like most kids, my sons are astute observers of human character. Neither is young enough to be dismissed with candy-coated versions of the truth, but neither can I bear to share the issues behind the arguments because it’s too much for a little kid to understand. Heck, I’m 40 and even I don’t understand it when adults choose to behave like hungry, nap-deprived toddlers.
My children simply know that certain people are missing from their lives. And they don’t know why beyond my pathetic attempts to explain that sometimes grown-ups don’t get along. I reassure them that no matter what, the adults that have always loved them still love them, but they aren’t able to show it right now because they’re angry.
I don’t know what my kids are making of this. I know I can’t shelter them from all pain, but it kills me that we’re stuck in the midst of turmoil, and try as I might, I cannot make it go away. My husband and I both grew up surrounded by conflict, and we never wanted our children to know what that felt like. Yet, here we are.
Today I will hug my boys and tell them about a holiday that none of us have heard of before. We will talk about the importance of peace. And then we’re going to pray together that peace comes to those we know who are choosing to embrace unforgiveness instead. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to post an update that says it worked.
Because I may have lost a good bit of faith in certain people, but I will always believe in miracles.