NOTE: This was a very hard article to write, as it required revealing some vulnerabilities, which I hate doing. But I've come to realize that GOOD writing, the kind of writing that changes people, is about being willing to be vulnerable.
This morning I had a reminder of something I felt needs sharing. I was driving to work and about 5 miles from home, I realized that I had not kissed my wife goodbye. I turned around and went home, and gave her a kiss godbye before heading back to work.
It was because of a discipline I've developed over the last year after a stark realization hit me. I've learned over time that it takes 2 to 3 weeks to develop a good habit, ONE DAY to break it. That's why so many diets and exercise plans fail. See, one day awhile back, I had been driving and was well on my way when I remembered that I hadn't kissed my wife goodbye. I was going to continue on to work, but like a splash of cold water, quickly realized that I wouldn't hesitate to turn around if I had left my cellphone or laptop behind. SURELY my wife must be more important than a cell phone or a laptop.
It was, in essence, the ongoing result of a learning process. I hadn't intended to address this, but there are a lot of people out there who might want to know about "the dash"...the time between "then" and now (longtime JU users will know EXACTLY what I'm referring to).
My life had become an unmanageable mess. I was trying to do too much with too little, putting too much work into the wrong things, and came home to a home that was unkempt. In my misguided state, I honestly believed that the home falling apart was because my wife and kids were not pulling their weight; after all, I was putting in 80 hour weeks, certainly I was doing my part.
I couldn't be more wrong, and it took me a long time to truly put my finger on the problem. The messiness was just a symptom, the problem was much, much worse, something I never ever thought I would be the problem.
The problem was infidelity. Not with another woman (which was why I had missed it for so long; an affair would only be obvious). The problem was that instead of seeking respect at home, I was busying myself with community involvement, classes, and yes, forums like JoeUser, to find the respect that I felt I was missing at home. It was MY emotional absence, MY lack of leadership that ultimately caused things to turn out the way they did.
And in a rather interesting twist, what happened on JU was EXACTLY what I needed. If people I had met on JU had been understanding or supportive, I would have never ever truly gotten to the root of the problem. It took losing the very thing I sought on JU (respect) to see what it had become in my life. And as painful as it was, the dogged determination of some people to persist in holding me accountable kept me from substituting community activities; I KNEW that if I tried to substitute the respect from any source other than my wife, I would be held accountable.
Let me be clear in closing, though, that I am NOWHERE near finished with the process. There is still the matter of making some things right financially, which will be done once we are out of financial "survival mode", and the matter of properly managing my priorities is one that will be an ongoing process. But, using old and oft repeated phrasing, "that which does not kill me makes me stronger".