Around a year ago, I was in a dark place. I wasn’t happy on any kind of consistent basis. My marriage was struggling, with what felt like more downs than ups. I was having a tough time connecting with my kids, with some days feeling good and others feeling tedious and impossible. I was overwhelmed by much of the day-to-day, as well as the rare crisis. I really didn’t like my life very much.
I found myself on a friend’s back porch, with a stiff drink in my hand and a sob story on the tip of my tongue. I’m not sure if I went there looking for her to talk me into a decision, or out of one. I just knew I felt like I had to do something, and had no idea how to figure out what. I was feeling at a rock bottom, and knew something had to change.
My friend had been through a divorce. I asked her how she knew it was the right thing to do. She told me when she was struggling with her marriage, a friend of hers gave her some advice. “You’re either 100% in, or you’re out. You can’t be 98% in, in a marriage. If you’re less than 100%, then you’re out. And if you’re 100% in, it means you’ll do whatever it takes to make the marriage work. And a marriage doesn’t work unless both people are 100% in.”
I thought a lot about that advice. Honestly, I still think about it often today. At that time, I realized I couldn’t cut out a relationship or walk away from a commitment – I couldn’t make major life changes – unless I felt like I had done everything to make it work. So I made the choice and the commitment to be 100% in. The funny thing was, simply making the choice, brought immediate relief. I no longer fretted every moment of the day about what I was going to do; I knew what I was going to do – I was going to be 100% in.
I thought about what a good wife would do; a wife who was 100% in and doing whatever it took to make the marriage work. I stopped thinking about what I thought I deserved, and what I thought I should get, and I started thinking about would make my marriage better. I did things I was scared to do, because I knew they were best for my marriage. I stopped saying things that wouldn’t bring anything positive to my marriage, and I started saying things that would help it. I was by no means perfect at this, not even close, but I was certainly better than I had been before. I started to feel better about my marriage. The tough things were a little easier and a little less scary to do. My marriage started to feel better.
I started trying to be a better mom, to be 100% in on that relationship. I asked myself what would make my bond with my kids better. Not what would make my kids happy right now, but would make our relationship better; because sometimes making the parent-child relationship better, means making them unhappy in the moment. I started respecting my kids more, and resenting them less. I started trying to see them for who they were, not who I thought they should be. We started having more discussions, and less fights. I started feeling happier when I was with my kids.
In some areas of my life, I realized there was never going to be a 100% on the other side. It was never going to work. Relationships where I was constantly judged and treated without respect, I chose to be out. I learned to let them go. I decided my husband and my kids get my 100%, and other areas get what I am comfortable giving after that.
I slowly came to see my life is good, when I make it good. I am intentional about where I am 100% in and where I am not. I feel like I can let some things go, because I gave it 100%, and I realized it still wasn’t working.
My life isn’t perfect. It never will be. My husband and I fight, often about the same thing a million times. I still catch myself feeling entitled or allowing words to fall out of my mouth that shouldn’t. I still have days where I feel a million miles away from my kids, and wonder if we will ever be close again. I still sometimes miss the chance to embrace them, because I’m looking through the haze of how I wish they were. I still have days where life feels crappy.
The difference now though, is those are just a day, here or there. And even at the end of the awful days, where nothing seemed to go right and everything seemed to go wrong, I still believe. I still believe in my choices; I still believe in the people I surround myself with; and I still believe God has led to me to where I am for a greater purpose than what I can see. The difference is, when I choose to be 100% in, I make my own happiness.