I woke up to see thick fog.
It was smothering the trees and crowding the clearing just outside our backyard. It was gazing in at me, greeting me with a serious and poignant “hello.” It has been a while since I’ve seen it. Little glimpses here and there throughout this Autumn season, but it’s been noticeably absent this year, which is atypical for the Pacific Northwest.
It was one of those captivating fogs, arriving on a morning in which I woke to realize that I had nothing planned. Plenty on the to-do list, but nothing pressing, not urgent. Nothing that I cared enough about to peel myself out of bed for. Fog, chilly air from the open window, and my warm golden nestled next to me and into my pillow. I felt like I was being spoken to, as I gazed out of the window. There was a vitality to the fog and to the morning, something I haven’t felt in quite some time. I wasn’t energetic, though, just fully awake and alert. No desire to do anything, but just sit and think and listen.
Truth be told, it’s been a very difficult season for me. Depression has been with me in ways that I haven’t encountered before. That might be one way to describe it. Throughout my life, I can recall a pervasive sadness that I’ve carried. Psychologists often call this dysthymia, which can mean a consistent depressed mood, not always as severe as major depressive episodes. Periods of grief, irritability, often criticalness. Those are unfortunately my familiar companions. However, this is different. It’s a deep grief, one that seizes you at your very core. One that feels like thick mud. I’ve been more irritable, more angry, full of more despair, than ever before. My family has noticed it, but otherwise, I’ve largely kept this one to myself. Unwise I know, but it felt protective and necessary all the same.
In some ways, it makes sense or at least isn’t shocking. I recently finished a very long and arduous journey through graduate school. It was trying and I am likely still exhausted from that process. It can also be heartbreaking at times to reflect on things. Both the goods and the bads. To feel it all. Nostalgia, longing, gratitude, regret, wishes, hope, guilt. I might be trying to adjust to this new phase, to figure out who I am now that I’m not a student. Plus, I’m in a weird limbo state, where my future steps or career choices are unknown. Tomorrow is unknown. Things are still new and somewhat foreign here in Portland as well. Roots are fragile. I miss my friends. I miss the sun. It would make sense, then, that I might be feeling sadness, anxiety, grief.
But, the despair. That’s the thing. That is the formidable foe that, up until this point, I have easily kept at bay. And then, the realization. That perhaps I have been working so hard so that there is no time for feelings of hopelessness or despair. It feels deep, whatever it is. Everything on the outside is well enough. It’s a beautiful Autumn season. My children are healthy and doing well in school. Everyone is starting to make friends. There’s enough on the schedule, but not too much. I am able to clean my house and bake and exercise. Things I’ve missed doing over the past seven years. In some ways, I feel a happiness that I haven’t felt in a while. A breath of fresh air and a chance to exhale it. But then, there’s me.
Something’s shaken up inside. An identity crisis perhaps? Or maybe a real awareness of who I am and who I want to be, and the seemingly cemented gap between the two.
And the world, the country, the election. What a mess. Heartbreaking, disappointing, discouraging. It doesn’t seem coincidental that all of that is happening as I’m feeling the weight of what sometimes feels like human depravity. Yet, those are not the primary cause of despair for me. They illuminate a lot of what I question and feel, but the despair stems from the stuff that’s embedded internally. Or has been. It is the questions I have for God and for all of us. For my close friends and my husband. For my children. For myself. Who am I, and who are you?
Maybe it is clearing, and what I gaze upon is hard to bear.
I prayed this morning for the first time in months. Sure, I’ve said the quick prayers here and there for family and friends. I’ve bowed my head at church and tried to offer words to God, I’ve prayed at the dinner table. But, this morning, I prayed. I’m not sure how to describe the difference, other than it was one of those times where I made myself present. It was the intention perhaps, or the willingness to really show up and then to communicate with God in a way that involved me in my vulnerability. Similar to when you have a conversation with your friend or therapist, and you aren’t fully there. You aren’t really sharing you and who you are in that moment. Do you know those times? When you are speaking and being as authentic as you can, but the real you is hidden or present somewhere else. It was a quiet prayer, with few words. I sought to listen and found myself not really needing to speak. But just to sit with God, silently. To begin to show him my face and my heart in ways that I haven’t wanted to in a while.
I only closed my eyes for a minute, maybe two. And I opened them to see sun brilliantly shining on the tree tops. The fog was almost completely gone. Incredible. I have never seen fog clear so fast. I had to squint and move to different angles to try and see. There were only whispers of it in the distant trees. This morning, I had woken up after the sunrise, so it was as if the sun had been waiting being the curtain. She was the second act, just after the fog did its work.
It brings tears to my eyes as I write about it. And that gives me a healing sense of hope. Because something was exchanged there. It was real and a step in the right direction. There were no promises made, no apologies, no steps planned. Just a meeting. A meeting with the God of the universe, who I have struggled with over the past year. A God who I have distanced myself from, because I have big questions. Who are you and who am I? I have anger to express and a lot of guilt and shame to lay down. But, it must come in good time. A relationship, a reconciliation, that’s hard work. It’s just beginning, but I was so sweetly broken by just the slightest beginning this morning that I knew I wanted to share it.