I first learned to become a peacemaker at the tender age of three. That’s right: Three. Growing up in a home with parents who raised bickering and arguing to an art form created the need for an ambassador, and as the only other member of our household, that role automatically fell on me.
Many nights were spent traveling from one room to another, carrying messages from one parent to another, like the Secretary of State attempting reconciliation between two warring countries. It was exhausting and usually only worked for a few hours – but a few hours of peace was worth the effort.
Like most traditional Catholic households of the time, my father was the only one bringing home a salary and not only paid all our bills, but also sent a monthly support check to his mother in upstate New York. This religious affiliation and financial situation help explain why divorce was never an option.
Of course, cutting your teeth on diplomacy as a child clearly prepares you for the role of The Fixer as an adult. The talents and traits required to make peace and “make it all better” are highly prized in the professional world, and have certainly contributed to any success I’ve enjoyed.
But the need to control your world and create order anywhere you find chaos can also cost you dearly.
Two weeks ago, while vacationing in the healing desert of Tucson, I was lucky enough to be invited to a dinner with a small group of professional therapists. Coincidence? I think not.
Like many, I had been sucked into the vortex of political hatred and partisan rhetoric broadcast repeatedly on every major news network and was in the middle of a self-prescribed, 14-day “news detox” period. So, I shared this therapeutic approach with one of my dinner partners, along with my inexplicable feelings of fear and anger regarding this presidential election; including how one presumptive nominee’s screaming and vicious remarks had stirred feelings of being unsafe.
He listened quietly and intently, then touched my hand and asked why this particular candidate bothered me so much; especially since I’m no shrinking violet and have always followed political campaigns and issues on both a local and national basis. I looked at him and said I really didn’t know why, but that it was really starting to affect my health.
His next question hit me hard. He asked me if this fighting reminded me of something from my childhood that had also created a feeling of fear and of not being safe.
The proverbial light bulb went off over my head and I suddenly realized the constant verbal disrespect and demeaning remarks being spewed during this presidential race recreated my daily life experiences from the time I was age 3 until the day I left home at age 20.
More importantly, I also realized in that moment that there was nothing I could do to fix it. No matter how I tried, acting as The Fixer and crossing my fingers for luck would not work in this situation. No more than it did with my mother and father.
Our dinner ended and I returned to my hotel, took a deep breath, and then I cried for a very long time.
I cried for the little child who was forced to take on far too much responsibility without the tools needed to survive. I cried for the child who lived with loud, violent voices and angry, frightening looks. Then I cried in relief that my feelings about this election were not a sign that I had lost my life balance or become a hater myself.
Sooner or later, The Fixer realizes that most things in life work out just the way they were supposed to be (and The Universe has a way of showing up to remind you).
It’s a long time from June to November. But we will all survive. You can’t always change the way things turn out. But you can certainly cast your vote.