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Rocking and Rolling with Anxiety

Anxiety is Love's greatest killer. It creates the failures. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic. - Anais Nin (from Teri's Facebook profile)

This post is mostly related to what I wrote on June 9, The Hardest Part of Grieving: Feeling Misunderstood

A few days ago, I engaged in a heartfelt conversation with a close friend I haven't spoken to in awhile. She candidly discussed her relationship challenges, many of which reminded me of what I already wanted to share here in this post. I shared my own struggles. Her thoughtful advice from reading my blog and our conversation was that I should perhaps allow myself more time to heal before re-entering the dating world. She sounded like my therapist who shares a similar perspective: true healing takes time.

Not too long ago, a remark like this would have upset me. However, this time, I took it as a compliment. It made me smile and feel like I'm on the right path. While it is true that I would rather be in a relationship than be single, feeling and understanding my emotions makes me feel more alive and human, even if the roller coaster of grief is often painful and riddled with anxiety.

So when the waves of anxiety and other emotions come, I try remember Teri's words she often repeated to me: "Calm, quiet, relax..." This is easier said than done. But I do feel like I'm making progress in this area. At least, I hope I am.

Playing Tennis with Friends

I'm so thankful I made it halfway through the busy week. Before sharing a story from late 2008 about how my anxiety got the best of me, I'd like to share that I spent a relaxing weekend in the Nashville area. I visited my friend Allan and Zoey. They've recently begun group tennis lessons, which was one of my favorite activities growing up. Part of my visit was to lend them my tennis ball machine, which had been collecting dust in my garage. We had a fantastic time using it and playing together:

I decided to take a pause from my diet and hit the tennis court, which brought back memories of my high school days when I was pretty good at the sport. However, playing this time around was a bit disheartening. The enthusiasm I once had seemed to have faded. Tennis, after all, is a sport that demands time and practice to regain one's touch. Tennis also holds an emotional connection for me – it reminds me of Teri. She had an unwavering passion for the game and made a significant mark with her tennis team in Atlanta. I couldn't help but share with my friends about the triumphs of Teri's team and the special commemorative plaque with her name on it at the Rock Springs tennis court in Atlanta.

Teri's tennis community in Atlanta always had a special place in her heart. They are always such a friendly group to me that made me feel like family, with no shortage of stories about Teri's positive influence on them, along with lots of funny stories. Even after she moved to California, they'd always keep a spot for her in matches whenever she was back in town. Her absence on the court is undeniably felt by all.

When special friends like Allan and Zoey spend time with me, our conversations usually touch on most or all of these topics:

  • Small talk about work, recent events, family, and relationships.

  • I'd share that, for the most part, I'm doing okay.

  • They'd empathize with me, reinforcing that it's okay to not always be okay.

  • I'd recount recent stories of encouragement or hurt I've experienced during this grieving period (without naming names).

  • I'd share insights from my therapist and or my marriage, aiming to offer them encouragement through my experiences and lessons learned.

Allan and Zoey are getting married next year, so what's most interesting to me is the last bullet point since just like many people who have visited me, I am eager to give advice to since I want to help. But instead of telling people what to do (I learned from my marriage and work that this doesn't work) I will just share some stories that come to mind, like the time Teri and I went to the Relationship Lifeline Seminar in October 2018.

**Commercial break** Here's a short video of Terwin's trip to Santa Barbara in September 2019 for our mini moon (feel free to watch later since it may be getting late):

Okay the truth is the video didn't have anything really to do with this post. Another close friend shared that she's getting married next week and I asked what her honeymoon plans were. Talking with her reminded me of our mini moon and prompted me to spend some time this past weekend making the video.

The Relationship Lifeline Weekend (and 5K)

Last month, I was so thankful to take "The Third Option" course at Mariner's church. This course was to help with relationships and communication for people in all stages. Since I've attended several seminars with Teri, there wasn't too much new content for me, but were all great reminders that I can apply in my current relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. Most of the attendees I met also attend attended the four-day "Relationship Lifeline" intensive retreat that I we attended in late 2018:

Teri and I had registered for the seminar, hoping to navigate the complexities of our long-distance engagement. We faced challenges in aligning our core values, reconciling faith differences, planning our wedding, and deciding where to live. As a last-minute decision, we were recommended the seminar by friends who testified to its positive impact on their marriage.

There was one slight dilemma, well at least to me. Teri and I committed to doing the Halloween Themed Rock and Roll half marathon with my friend Wesley in LA. I've done several races in the past with him and this race was not an "A" race for either of us. It was inexpensive and local, so why not? This was scheduled on Sunday, the last day of the seminar.

In signing up for the seminar, we both agreed to skip the race because we would most likely arrive late and we didn't want to over stretch ourselves.

We had a very memorable time at the seminar and I recommend it to anyone that is struggling in their relationship. Each day was filled with intense content and exercises that exceeded our expectations. The most memorable part for me was how we all pretended we were on a plane (with dramatic music and all) and the plane was going to crash. We had to discuss who should use the one parachute among the both of us. We had to share our "good byes" just like many of us did in real life, at the hospital. Almost everyone doing the exercise, including us, was in tears since the simulation felt so real. Discussions like who should live and die really helped give us a perspective on what's really important in life.

On day 3 of 4 (Saturday), we ended the day with a group activity with a few other couples to find clothing from a thrift store to do a fashion show:

Each couple had to pick what the other person was to wear. We all had fun, it was a great way to end the day on a positive note while getting out of our comfort zone. Unfortunately I don't have any photos from the fashion show, but if I do get invited to a real fashion show I'll be sure to write about it and take pictures.

Throughout the seminar, I was still anxious about the race since I realized I could still make it because it started so early (~6:30am) and there wouldn't be much traffic coming home. On Saturday night, I asked Teri again if I could go do the race on my own if I promised I would be back in time to carpool to the seminar and not be late. She said no. We already talked about this but I couldn't let it go. I was torn on what to do because:

  • I love doing races and really didn't want to let my race entry "go to waste"

  • I find a lot of thrill in pulling these sort of these back to back schedule heroics off (I have no shortage of stories)

  • I told Wesley I would be there and I was worried he would not show up if I cancelled on him

  • I've done the race the year before and was confident I would make it back in time

I don't recall giving Teri a definitive answer on what I would do. I chose to participate in the race on my own. Ask for forgiveness later. But to ensure I had ample time afterward, I opted to run the 5k instead of the half marathon (you can downgrade for free), believing I'd return well before she woke up.

At the start line, I encountered Wesley and explained my situation at the seminar. Aware of our struggles, and being a married man with more experience, he said, "What were you thinking, you really shouldn't have come today." He wished I had been straightforward about the scheduling conflict, instead of feeling obligated to him. Despite the differences in our races, we began the first 5k together; I finished mine while he continued with his half marathon.

Driving home, I felt a sense of achievement, thinking I had made everyone content. However, upon arrival, I found Teri awake, deeply hurt and upset. Our disagreement escalated rapidly, making the extensive efforts from the seminar's initial three days feel wasted. My "objective reasoning" centered on honoring my commitment to Wesley, choosing the more conservative 5k option, and being home with plenty of time to spare. But seeing no end to our dispute, I forced myself to let it go and hoped the last day of the seminar would make things better.

This incident frequently resurfaced in our subsequent marriage therapy sessions. Teri labeled it as "The time I abandoned her during Relationship Lifeline over a stupid race." I couldn't understand her fixation on this event or why it became a focal point of her distress. Her inability to forgive and move past it always confused me. I felt like she kept living in the past. Why waste any energy bringing something up when we can focus on the present and future?

Reflecting on this incident several years later and after the "How We Love" seminar with Teri in late 2021, I then learned:

  • The issue wasn't about my punctuality, but about consistently prioritizing my anxiety and others over her.

  • It was only logical to put Teri first, especially during a relationship seminar weekend.

  • This pattern of letting anxiety dictate my actions was frequent. I was oblivious to it being anxiety-driven. Every time, I felt I was right and perceived Teri's reactions as overblown.

  • I had always seen Teri as the anxious one, never myself. I didn't even really understand anxiety in the first place.

  • Most people wouldn't label me as anxious, but then, they don't share a life with me.

I felt like we got to a good place on this issue. Since our talk, she stopped bringing it up. I felt like we finally got past something and was relieved that we can finally move on. But I never really understood why this issue was on the shortlist of issues she kept bringing up.

Until now.

It's only after Teri's passing that I more fully understand the pain my actions caused. Her passing, coupled with moments of extreme vulnerability when minor incidents after Teri's passing deeply affected me, similar to how my decision hurt Teri. Teri was in a very sensitive place in our relationship during that seminar. I then screwed it up by not keeping my word because my anxiety got the best of me and I thought I could please everyone (which was really just trying to please myself). While I wish I had this clarity when she was alive, I now strive to grow from this realization. I also feel like I am in Teri's shoes, wishing everyone would totally get it with understanding what I am going through and would just listen to me when I need something. Thankfully, God always gets it with me and reading His word daily reminds me of this truth.

These reflections help me manage my daily battles with anxiety. Activities like early morning workouts, cold showers, deep breaths, and prayer also have been extremely helpful. There's no question that when I get up early and have a productive morning before I get busy with work, I have a lot less anxiety throughout the day.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Another long one, I'm touched if you made it this far. Thank you for letting me share. I'd love to hear your stories and see if you can relate. On a lighter note, driving to LA and doing the 5K was not a complete waste, I did pick up our complimentary race t-shirts, which we joyfully used at a Photo Booth later on:

May the rest of your week be blessed and filled with intentionality and God's grace.


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3 comentarios

Jenny Scott
Jenny Scott
29 oct 2023

I love your anxiety post. Thank you for sharing honestly and humbly about your marriage struggles. I can relate to these situations in our marriage and am thankful God is helping us through, just like He helped you and Teri. Thanks k you for sharing your heart. I also love the videos and photos you share with us about Teri. I truly see how much you loved her, just by taking the time to cherish her with your photos and videos. You look at Teri and record her with so much love and adoration that you reflect the heart of Jesus toward your wife. It is so beautiful to see and I love that so much! Thank you for sharing…

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Oh, man, thanks for sharing about that race. I also have that tendency to try to cram stuff in anytime a crack of free time appears in my schedule 😅 😅 😅 It was a great reminder to me that God cares more about our hearts than our productivity, and doing less can sometimes serve others more.

Also: I need to try making a beer float ASAP!!

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Tiffany Wong
Tiffany Wong
26 oct 2023

A few things.

I cannot believe you didn’t get any pictures during the fashion show. Inexcusable.

I’m consistently impressed by Teri’s strength of character and putting her foot down. She seemed to always speak up for what she felt was right and I think you needed her to do this in an “overblown” way because despite all that, it still took a while to sink in. Imagine if she just stuffed it inside and “let it go”. You wouldn’t have learned this lesson about yourself and the consequences of your choices.

Teri truly balanced you. I love that she would always remind you to be calm, be quiet and to slow down. She was also such a deep…

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