A History of Anxiety, Part 1: origins

Relationship Status
Image by Geran_Smith via Flickr

For quite some time I’ve been thinking of writing a blog series about anxiety. Like infertility, the experience of prolonged, debilitating anxiety is one that really has shaped me as a person. I’m not going to do it in the intensive way I did the infertility series, but I will take some time in the next couple weeks to break open the subject. Today’s topic: Origins.

At the dawn of 1995, I thought I knew where my life was headed. I’d been in a relationship for two years, I had a ring on my finger, I was finally coping with the tendinitis and carpal tunnel that had threatened to derail my shining plans for a career as an orchestral flutist. The only trouble? I wasn’t really happy. Only I didn’t know it, because to me the commitment was made, and my emotional state was pretty irrelevant. I had grown up watching my parents live and work together. I’d watched them smile and laugh and bicker and argue their way through a twenty-five-year (at that time) marriage. It didn’t really matter if my chosen partner drove me nuts, if he refused to see reality or spent too much money. It didn’t matter if he hated everything that defined who I was. It didn’t matter how often I thought how much easier it would be if we agreed on things. Once committed, love was unbreakable.

And then, late in February of that year, after yet another fight, he told me, “I’m not as committed to this relationship as I ought to be.” He left that night with the engagement ring in his pocket instead of on my finger, asking for a little distance to think about things. My world was spinning. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I’d made a commitment, and all of a sudden, instead of the clear line that had stretched before me for so long, I saw a crisscrossed web of paths, with no clear direction as to which one was my destined road, and which ones were going to land me in the path of oncoming traffic.

As the spinning stopped, I began to recognize that I, too, had not been seeing reality. After eighteen years of dreaming of romance without ever once finding the barest hint of it, I’d been so bewitched by the idea of being loved that I was willing to throw away everything I was. My mother, who surely had been praying for this day as fervently as Monica prayed for St. Augustine’s conversion, came rushing to my side. We took a long walk in a state park—one of the many things denied me over the past two years because of my fiance’s refusal to accompany me, or to let me go alone—and I began to reorder my view of the world. Yes, once the commitment is made, it’s made. But the public wedding vows are the point at which that commitment is sealed, not the engagement. Engagement is a time of discernment.

The break wasn’t quite as painless as I’m painting, but as breakups go, it was pretty clean. As the spring of 1995 began to flower, I found myself renewed as well. I had a different idea of what I wanted in a life’s partner. I recognized, too, that God had been nudging me for some time that this wasn’t the right path for me. I’d shoved the instincts away, not out of disobedience, but because I didn’t recognize them for what they were: divine promptings. I vowed that from that point on, I would be open to those promptings, and nothing would ever get in the way of my faith relationship again.

You can probably see the pitfalls in this… But I think that’s long enough for today. (After all, I have a cute 4-year-old patting my arm and a 6-y-o asking to go ride on a train, and a 2-y-o on the toilet. Definitely time to get the blog posted & on with the day.)

For part 2, click here.