People often ask me the question – how did you find the inspiration to turn your marriage, and your life, around? I think you know when “inspiration” hits – it’s like a light bulb going on. Something very central to who you are and how you think changes dramatically enough so that you find hope, balance, and a sense of self that rings true and provides drive from the inside out. Inspiration, whether it comes as an “aha moment” or as a steady set of choices about being a better person, can come from many sources, and I would like to suggest a few here.
Learning from other’s: Today I sat in a presentation/discussion at my son’s middle school given by Dr. Terrence Roberts of the Little Rock 9. Here is a man who risked his life as a teenager because he felt that segregation was not the way that people should live. He says that his decision to go to a white high school was completely intentional, and that it took great effort and perseverance – every day – to get up and go to school knowing that the instant he got there he would be beaten up, sworn at, stabbed, poked and ridiculed. The penalty for any sympathetic white person was a sound thrashing, too.
His message today is one of forgiveness, human imperfection, choices, and personal control. You control your own life because you choose whether or not to respond to those who taunt and hurt you. Their actions are a reflection on them – not on you. You forgive those who are imperfect because, quite frankly, we are all imperfect. We can choose to try to learn more and to try to be better people, or choose not to. He tells students “strive to learn all that you can” and always choose not to interact with violence. Even when you are abused by others, you should just leave violence behind.
He even mentioned marriage in his talk. His point of view is that many people who get divorced are doing so because they are searching for some perfect person…yet there is no such thing. No one is perfect. His message about the strength of personal choice in shaping the world around you was an inspiration to both the adults and the kids, who gave him a standing ovation.
Reading: There are a lot of ways to absorb inspirational ideas from books – and not just books on how to have a happy marriage. I have always thought Dare to Forgive by Ned Hallowell is a great one because forgiveness and acceptance are so central to strong marriages. But I have also been reading a book about education called Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fox which is highly relevant and inspirational within the realm of making choices that strengthen people – and is particularly relevant for those with ADD. She makes the case that people should do what they are good at – not try to remediate what they are bad at so that they can be well rounded. Make your choices based on strengths. By thinking of ourselves as a community that works together so that multiple individuals with specific talents team up, anything can happen. (It’s a great recipe for a successful marriage!) She is eloquent on the topic and, best of all, has a whole section at the back about how to identify your strengths. A great resource for heading in a new, more productive direction.
Competition: Inspiration to change can come from less lofty places, as well. I admit to being hit upside the head by competition. Finding out I had a rival for my husband’s attention inspired me to assess whether or not all the fights we had been having was really worthwhile (the answer was no). I was challenged to improve my attitude and my behavior just so I could continue to respect myself. After I once again respected myself, my husband started to respect me again, too.
Religion: I have had a number of people tell me that they turned to their God to help them find the patience and inner reserves to make a change in a direction that helped their relationship. This intensely personal approach generally centers on the concepts of forgiveness, acceptance and self-respect. By living these ideals these people found ways to create change in their own lives that encouraged their spouses to interact with them in more constructive fashion.
Treatment: There are cases when a person wants to make changes, but has difficulty finding the tools within themselves to do so because of untreated ADHD symptoms. In these cases beginning some sort of monitored treatment plan helped them make enough progress to regain hope and inspiration. It also provided a boost for their often exhausted partners.
Whatever your source of inspiration, the main idea is this: What you have been doing in the past has not been working and you and your spouse are exhausted by your efforts. Inspiration is about finding your inner reserves to make a leap into the unknown and, generally, towards being a more forgiving, accepting person. Whether it is injustice that inspires, as it did Dr. Roberts, or a book about how every single person has strength that can be tapped into and developed, inspiration is what keeps you going when you have to get up to face another crisis.