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Three Month Milestone | Regrets & Reflections

"Here’s my point: the solution to an overbusy life is not more time. It’s to slow down and simplify our lives around what really matters.” ― John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

Three Month Milestone


I guess at this moment, writing here is what matters to me. It's been three months since Teri passed away. This period has been a challenging journey for all of us, especially for those still following along here. Thank you for reading and your continued support. I'm also thankful that I got to spend this past Sunday with Teri's mom and her sister, Khoa. It's been a while since I've seen them, and I am very thankful that they seem to be doing well.


This past Saturday morning, during my walk with Mayo, I found myself trying to relive what happened that fateful Saturday when I was all alone with Teri in the hospital from 7AM-11AM. It was the day we were told the news by her doctor about our options to go into emergency surgery or hospice care. Reliving those moments, singing the songs we shared, like "The Stand" and "Who You say I am," brought back a lot of pain and sorrow as if it had happened just yesterday, and it made me cry.


I understand that the past few weeks have been heavy for many of us. I know some that may be hurting a lot more than I am. Some of you have shared with me about losing your jobs, facing relationship problems that seem hopeless, navigating life after divorce, dealing with terminal cancer in your immediate family, and experiencing recent deaths. While I may not have much to give at the moment, please know that my prayers are with you. I attended my first funeral a few weeks ago, which reminded me of Teri's funerals. My heart breaks for all the pain everyone is going through, and I wish I could be there to sit with each of you, grieve together, and pray together.


I've also learned from some of my grieving books that after three months, most people have moved on from grieving and have gone back to their normal life. Recently, I've noticed that I can have a meal with friends, and Teri or how I am doing wouldn't even come up in the conversation. I understand this is a natural part of the process, as I've done the same in the past when I was on the other side. Talking about loss is very difficult. I may appear to be doing well, as others have mentioned, but I feel like I still need a lot of help. Thankfully, Teri told me countless times to "say what you need." I'm learning to do this, starting with prayer, and then with the few people around me who are willing to listen.


What do I need? To share our whole story


The most meaningful moments of the last three months have been the opportunities I've had to share the "whole story" of my marriage. The truth is, I haven't really shared all of it with anyone, just bits and pieces. The only way I can think of doing this justice is to write a book one day. This aligns with what my therapist told me in early April that I need to have a holistic view of Teri and our marriage to achieve true acceptance.


Practically speaking, I need to share about the struggles in our relationship and not just focus on all the good times. No surprise, my first struggle is deciding what I should process on my own and what I should share here. Teri was not a saint, and she knew that, but selfishly I want everyone to only remember the good. However, when I think of Teri and how transparent she was with everyone she met, I know she would want me to share as much as I can, including the bad.


Struggling with Regrets in our Marriage


I'll start with myself. Losing Teri after only being married for 3.5 years is a challenging experience that I wouldn't wish upon anyone. Lately, I've found it even more difficult than the initial months, as I was kept very busy with "good things" like serving at church, work, working out, and spending time with people I love.


I knew it was a matter of time until the busyness would slow down, forcing me to reflect on regrets regarding my marriage and the relationships I took for granted. These are areas I've tried to avoid thinking about. My biggest regret lies in not utilizing my time wisely, assuming I knew better than everyone else. I used to believe that coming home late due to work was justified because I considered my job of great importance. However, I now realize that I lacked the ability to set boundaries and was simply afraid to say no. Since work takes up so much time, my life was filled with anxiety and constant rushing, but now I'm actively trying to slow down and focus on what truly matters.


I also deeply regret the impulsive decisions I made out of anxiety, which often resulted in unnecessary purchases and unwise investments. I lacked humility and hid behind a facade of my worldly success before I met Teri. As someone who helped companies make significant decisions regarding IT hardware and software, I believed I knew what we should spend our money on. This prideful attitude prevented me from seeking help from close friends, family, or professionals in areas we needed it the most. Additionally, I made poor investment decisions out of greed, causing us to lose some of Teri's hard earned money before we got married. I also hid things from her because I wanted to avoid conflict. I regretfully believed I could figure everything out on my own within our marriage, but I've learned the hard way that this approach caused a lot of conflicts.


Struggling with "Calm, quiet, relax"


Recently, one of my close friends recommended me to read a book titled The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry that deeply inspired me. Initially, I had reservations about reading it, but once I started, I found myself unable to put it down. Upon finishing the book, my immediate instinct was to think about who in my life could benefit from reading it. After giving away two copies, I soon realized that this pattern mirrored what I had always done in our marriage—trying to fix someone else's problems instead of focusing on myself.


I'm sure all of you appreciated how Teri would often remind Mayo and me to be "calm, quiet, relax." Just as Teri could sense my anxiety when I was with her, you could also sense Mayo's anxiety when he encountered another dog during our walks.


Reading this book prompted me to reflect on why I always find myself rushing and how it connects to my childhood. Fortunately, Teri had a keen interest in childhood development, and we frequently shared stories from our pasts, drawing lessons from them. Initially, I didn't actively participate in these discussions, but in hindsight, I'm grateful that we did. I felt like it nee, and eventually, I felt like I had exhausted my list of stories about my own upbringing.


My initial theory was that my tendency to rush was linked to consuming excessive amounts of sugar. I ate the most candy out of all the siblings. I am currently working on addressing this issue as I am now on a diet. In my family, someone used to call me "rush rush" regularly, even informing my friends and people I dated about this nickname. At the time, I didn't pay much attention to it because I always had tasks to complete and places to be. I simply became irritated and never found the time to explain why this person perceived me as constantly rushing. I also never argued against it; after all, who has time for that?


As the years passed, I became accustomed to the adrenaline rush of doing things at the last minute due to anxiety. Now fast forward to when I met Teri—an equally rushed moment in my life. Mostly driven by superficial reasons, I wanted to showcase our photos and receive compliments like "she is SO pretty." I attempted to get engaged to her in record ti


me. I desired to skip the dating phase, which I perceived as a waste of time. As some of you may recall from my previous posts, I met her in late February 2017, but we didn't officially become a couple until July of the same year. On April 15, 2017 (yes, the same year), I took Teri ring shopping to understand her preferences. Sharing this now fills me with embarrassment, and I will strive to avoid repeating such behavior. Nonetheless, we proceeded to the store, and Teri didn't judge me for it:

And believe it or not, I rushed into planning our wedding as well. In early July, we received news of Cancer #1, and despite not being officially a couple and already experiencing frequent arguments, I remained committed to her. I Fortunately, we got engaged in September, and upon reviewing some old emails, I realized I wanted to get married that same year. I attempted to organize a small wedding with our immediate family in early December 2017, taking advantage of my extended family's presence for my grandpa's birthday. It seemed like the most efficient option.


There are so many more stories that I haven't had much time to think about until now. What most people were unaware of was the pain I inflicted on our relationship. As I read Teri's journals, I discovered so much that I had been oblivious to due to my self-centeredness. In May 2019, the stress of wedding preparations reached a tipping point. Teri threatened to call off the entire wedding. Out of pride, I resisted spending money on a wedding planner and being told what to do. I planned my own birthday conference at the same venue (see link). I then gave into getting professional help for myself and was diagnosed with ADHD. Through numerous counseling sessions, our situation improved somewhat, and we decided not to cancel the wedding.


But my tendency to rush didn't end there. When Covid struck in 2020, it proved to be an immensely challenging year for us newlyweds. I then was furloughed from my job and that created even more anxiety. Work was always a sore spot for us and my job was why she needed to move to California. Fast forward to 2023 (this post is getting too long), when we received news of Cancer #2. On the day we returned home from the hospital, I immediately ordered numerous supplements without her consult, feeling compelled to take action. I continuously tried to get Teri to watch YouTube videos I found on how to combat cancer. Regrettably, I failed to truly understand what Teri needed during that time, until my therapist (whom Teri found for me) graciously called me out on my behavior. Once again, I learned the hard way as we engaged in numerous arguments regarding her treatment plan. Fortunately, we were participating in the How We Love Class and began utilizing the Comfort Circle. In retrospect, I wish I had prioritized understanding Teri's desires over imposing what I believed she needed.


So, what am I rushing now? The grieving process


Putting everything I've mentioned above into writing helps me connect the dots with my present state. Lately I feel an unnecessary urge to rush through this grieving process. Mostly its because I feel lonely and miss having a wife like Teri that always wanted to spend quality time with me. I miss her getting on my case because I came home a few minutes late. Earlier this week, I had the intention of writing a heartwarming post about reaching the acceptance stage. I wanted to convince my therapist and all of you that I had put in enough effort and deserved to move on with my life. Once again, I find myself wanting to get back into "rush rush" mode with more commitments. My thoughts have been scattered, oscillating between Teri, grief, life, relationships, children, and even the future of these Caring Bridge posts. Should I continue with it? Perhaps start a personal blog? Or since I have more free time now, should I really just write a book? At least then, I wouldn't feel like I'm overwhelming people with these posts that get longer and longer. I guess I'm unsure about what to do. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know. I could use some guidance. For now, I'll continue writing here for another month and assess how things unfold.


Conclusion


This is where I find myself today. Additionally, I feel a sense of loneliness as I have a few trips scheduled for the first half of July, which means I won't be with Mayo. As some of you know, I am actively striving to simplify my life, applying the lessons I learned from the book. I have sought advice from close friends regarding what specifically to eliminate from my life (assets, relationships, commitments), but truthfully, I didn't appreciate some their answers. Deep down, I know they were right, but I still exhibit selfish tendencies and prefer to do things my own way.



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Grace H Lee
Grace H Lee
Jul 26, 2023

Erwin, I admire your courage to be so honest about your journey and reflections. I know Teri would be so proud. God is smiling at you. He cares for you so much, brother.

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Jenny Scott
Jenny Scott
Jul 20, 2023

I love the new format of your blog, Erwin. Great job.

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