The banner on the top of the page is a picture of me with my family taken at Disneyland. My husband, my three kids, their spouses and all of the grandchildren are depicted in the picture, some hidden in carriers. Notice I am right in the middle and I have a huge smile on my face, an authentic smile. Being a California girl, Disneyland has been “the happiest place on earth” for me. This vacation was wonderful and we made some great memories. But we don’t live in Disneyland. We have a real family, the kind that struggles, blows it, gets angry and has to make hard choices sometimes. We are a family in progress.
I know that in-law issues have been present since the beginning of time. I, however, began the in-law journey believing that our family would be the exception. We have a great family! Who wouldn’t like us? I observed the mistakes my own family, in-laws and friends had made and I determined we would be different! What I learned was that idealistic assumptions set you up for dangerous discoveries. I was quite idealistic and presumptuous. Singer, songwriter Leonard Cohen made this observation in his song Anthem, “There are cracks in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” As I began my journey as a daughter-in-law one of the first things I noticed were the glaring cracks in my husband’s family. They didn’t do life like we did in my home. In fact, I became an expert “crack finder.” I identified the cracks, named them, complained to my husband about them and congratulated myself on my astute observations and insights. I also decided that I would never make such careless mistakes with my future son and daughters in-law. I learned something along the way, however. There are indeed cracks in everything and everyone. But no one appreciates crack finders unless the crack finders are identifying their own cracks. I now realize that focusing on my own cracks is what brings in the light. Such light gives way to growth and change for me even when those around me choose to stay stuck in their own darkness.
Observation: Looking for the cracks in others produces fertile ground for resentment to grow. Resentment is a private emotion that has little impact on the person it’s directed towards but a very destructive impact on the one who holds it.
Reflection: I wish I had understood the destructive nature of resentment years ago. I might have saved myself a lot of heartache.