Monday, November 23, 2015

The 90 Day Challenge

Mindy was frustrated.  Years of bitterness grew in her heart.  Years of resentment waiting for the dead soul of a man to revive.  Yet, the harder she pushed, the more distant he became.  The harder she fought, the colder he grew.

She knew the answers.  She knew the problems.  They leaked out of her mouth every time her wounds were stabbed.  Every time she was triggered.  Every time the emotional burdens overflowed from her insides, boiled up and released through her pressure value.  Out came the venom.  Out came the nagging.

Mindy hated who she had become.  She did not get in this relationship to become the mother to a grown man who refused to mature.  Who refused to handle his responsibilities.  Who refused to carry his side of the family.

Mindy would go to her friends and bash her husband every chance she got.  She wasn't aware of it, but her friends were.  Her friends had different responses.  "Me too."  "Men... typical."  "It will change sweetie.  Just be patient with him."  "When are you going to finally dump that dead weight?"

One day, Mindy heard something from a friend.  A challenge.  A 90 day challenge.  Not another one of these Mindy thought.  But for whatever reason, something within her told her that perhaps she would try this challenge.  The challenge was simple.  Every morning, write down 3 things that she was thankful for that her husband did.  Mindy, laughed.  This was going to be difficult.

I guess he works.  He is here and hasn't abandoned me.  He hasn't cheated on me.  At least I don't think he has.  That jerk, he probably has. That's probably why he is so cold to me.  He probably is texting that x-girlfriend of his.

Sigh, Mindy thought.  Day one complete.

For the first few days, it was hard to find something to be grateful for that her husband did.  She actually had to spend most of the day trying to figure out what she would write the next day.

Mindy was tired of being let down.  Her whole life she had been let down.  She decided she was never going to allow herself to be hurt again.  She would never allow herself to be that vulnerable.

By the time day ten came around, it was actually easier for Mindy to come up with things.

I am grateful for the burdens he carries that I do not even see.  I am grateful for his willingness to stay with me despite my terrible attitude.  I am grateful that he is able to make the kids laugh.  I forgot that he used to make me laugh.  Before the kids, before life just became difficult.  Why is that?  How does he do that?

Mindy was browsing through some books.  She still couldn't come up with anything really remarkable about her husband.  She was still exhausted each day.  But now she was curious about what made him tick.  About what she could come up with besides her list.

Mindy noticed in the book store that there was a women's section.  It was filled with romance.  It was filled with pictures of fathers spending quality time with kids.  It was filled with beautiful homes and wedding dresses.  Yes!  Mindy thought.  That is exactly what I want.  A beautiful home with my husband actually doing something.  A real partnership.

Then, Mindy browsed the men's section.  Sports.  Ughh.  Sailing.  Hiking.  Mountain climbing.  Life stories from famous boxers and quarter backs.  Coaches.  Hmm.  Hero.  Bravery.  Adventure.  Why are men so drawn to that?

Day 30 came along.  Mindy was grateful that her husband did not take the job in the city which would have advanced his career but leave less time with the family.  Mindy was grateful that her husband did not backlash when she cursed him.  Mindy was grateful that he never spoke badly of her when he was with his friends.

Mindy started to the think about some of these things.  More and more, she realized, he too had not signed up for this.  When they met, her husband had hopes and dreams.  He wanted to attack the world.  To make it a better place.  But Mindy's vision of what a family was, forced him to make sacrifices.  Of course, he, like most men was living a life of quiet desperation.  And he did it for her.  He said it would be okay.

Mindy paused.  He did it for her?

Mindy was still angry.  She was still bitter.  That's why she leaked venom.  Where did this come from she thought?  But, she started to feel that her husband was already experiencing as much pain as she was.  What if he actually wanted to please me?  What if he wanted to be my hero?  What if he wants that childish adventurous part of him to bring color and laughter in my life but I am getting the way of my own happiness?

Mindy decided to read up on anger.  She decided she actually had a real issue with anger.  Mindy had never been in the book store so much her entire life.  But she figured that someone somewhere had been through her struggles and figured out how to get out of them.  And they probably wrote a book about it.  So she was determined to work on herself and learn about herself.

Day 63 was ironic and somewhat funny.  Mindy wrote, "I am grateful my husband does not do everything I want him to do.  It gives me an opportunity to experience things I never would experience doing things my way.  It allows me to be challenged.  Honestly, my life would probably be boring if we just did things my way.  I am grateful my husband is not perfect.  I never would have realized I struggle with anger and releasing control.  I never would have realized how much my childhood left me afraid to be vulnerable because I didn't believe I could trust people to come through when I needed them.  I never would have realized that I need to do a better job of identifying my own needs and communicating them.  In fact, I will have to do a better job of clarifying to myself what is most important to me so that I can focus on getting those things addressed.  I am grateful that I do not feel unworthy of my husband.  I do not worry daily that some girl will come and steal my man.  At least not any of my friends since I tell them all the dirt on him."

By the last week, Mindy's husband hadn't changed a single bit.  But Mindy was learning to be thankful for what she had.  She continued her journey well beyond the 90 days.

A year and a half passed before her husband had a birthday.  On that day, Mindy wrote him a thank you note:

"I am grateful for all the sacrifices you make for our family.  I know many of them I don't even see or acknowledge.  I used to wonder why the kids laughed so hard with you.  In fact, I was even a little jealous at times.  But now I see that you are simply their hero.  For some time, I was afraid to let you be my hero too, even though the little girl in me wanted it so badly.  I just didn't know it.  I wanted to force you to prove that you were worthy of being trusted because I wasn't going to allow my heart to be broken.  I know you aren't perfect but you are a good man and you ARE my hero.  Happy Birthday.  Love, Mindy."

Tears streamed down her husbands face as Mindy reached over to squeeze his arm.  Mindy decided a while back that life and the world had broken her husband enough.  She did not need to add to it.  From now on, she was going to work on healing her own wounds as well as tending to his.

<SI> Scott Izu, PhD
Copyright November 2015

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