Lately, we've been watching a lot of a show called Alone as a family. It's a reality show where 10 people are dropped off in the wilderness with only 10 survival items (parachord, tarp, hatchet, gill-net, etc...) and the person who survives the longest wins half-a-million dollars. I'm married to a pretty avid outdoorsman and have three boys, so we're taking it all in.
One of the first things a hunter or survivialist needs to do is look for signs of wildlife. To do that, they look for animal excrament. Poop. They look for animal poop. It's kind of amazing to behold how excited one might be to find some kinds of poop and how fearful they become when discovering other kinds. For example, one might find deer or elk or moose skat and get excited...that means hunting is a possibility and eating won't be as difficult. Cougar or mountain lion skat on the other hand is quite fear inducing. Bear poop can be one of the most informative piles a survivalist can find. When bear skat is discovered the survivalist looks deeply into the pile.
"Hmmmm....bear poop. I wonder what the bears are eating...."
You see, the thing is, bear poop can tell you what food is available for you to eat. If there are blueberries in the skat you know that there are blueberries nearby that you could eat - to survive. In the same way, if the survivalist catches a fish, he is wise to empty the stomach to see what the fish are feeding on. If you know what fish are eating, you know how to catch them. If you know how to catch them, you will survive. We sometimes have to do hard (gross) things that seem highly unappealing in practice to find what we're looking for or what we need.
I think we can all agree that none of us wants to stare into a pile of you-know-what to find the key to our survival.
However, we will all find ourselves in the deep valleys of life more than once. In marriage, in friendship, in most relationships there are peaks and valleys. I tell my clients in couples work all the time, marriage is the harder choice. Working on a marriage can be one of the most painful processes two people will ever take on. Two people, with two stories, from two different families, with two totally different brains trying to find one way to live toegether (peacefully) can be like emotionally wading through piles of poo. It's stinky, smelly, oooey-gooey grossness that no one actually desires. I've had several clients remark to me that they hate where they're at or that they don't know what the point is or maybe even that they don't see any progress.
To them, and to you if it is fitting for where you are in your life, sometimes you need to really look at the poop. Are there any blueberries in your pile? Is there anything that you can celebrate and get excited about? Any sign of progress? Any hope in that pile? Ask your partner what they see.
If you find yourself in a deep valley that is difficulty, just remember, the valley is just part of the journey and it's a necessary part if you ever want to reach a peak. Look for those blueberries in the bear poop and keep doing the work. It will be worth it.