Jennifer Safian. Divorce and family mediator

Life is like a giant mobile; you disturb one piece and all the other pieces are affected. You take one piece away, and everything else falls apart.

In the vernacular of today, “mobile” is another word for a cell phone, but I am not referring to a phone. I am referring to Alexander Calder, the American sculptor known as the originator of the mobile, a moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended colorful shapes that move in response to touch or air currents.

What happens if you touch one of the shapes? Every other shape in the entire mobile changes position, creating a different sculpture.

What happens if one of the suspended shapes is taken away? The mobile loses its balance and looks lopsided.

Life is somewhat similar. If our business is good but we are in bad health, or if our marriage is great but we have major worries with a child, or if … you get the picture… we will be lopsided, just like the mobile. Most of us have been through tough times when one or more elements of our lives were taken away, or badly damaged. It took time and effort to find our balance again.

A few months ago, I met with Kate and Bob, a brother and sister whose Mother had dementia. They were each happily married, had grown children with successful lives of their own, but their relationship with each other was in a total state of disarray over the care of their mother. They disagreed on:
• Where their mother should live;
• Whether she needed full or part time help;
• Whether they should let her pay her bills or take over for her.

They disagreed on pretty much everything regarding their mother. Ongoing conflicts created a lot of pain for Kate and for Bob, even spilling over onto the happiness of the rest of the family. Spouses and children were voicing their opinions, taking sides, and causing further disruptions.

The siblings met with a neurologist and a geriatric internist to better understand their mother’s condition and what to expect going forward. Knowledge was good, but did not really help with their conflicts. They firmly hung on to their individual positions.

A mediation session in my office followed their meetings with the doctors. We addressed the 3 main points on which they disagreed. We also addressed concerns they had about each other, which they had never been able to talk about openly.

It took time for the siblings to be able to have a calm and constructive conversation and make decisions jointly, but eventually they did. They recognized how relieved they each were to be able to communicate better and face upcoming challenges as a unit rather than being at odds with one another. Like the mobile, this immediately positively affected their relationship and their interactions with the entire family.

Have you ever faced situations where one piece of your life seemed to impact everything else? Feel free to share your experiences in the box below. It can be helpful to see that one is not alone.

Jennifer Safian. Divorce and family mediator
Divorce and family mediation
Upper East Side of Manhattan (NYC)
New York, NY
(212) 472-8626

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