Recently, my life-long friend and I took a trip up one of the most scenic roads in the world--the Pacific Coast Highway. Since I first discovered this route ten years ago, I have longed to traverse it again with my friend. So we went.
The Pacific Coast Highway runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean from San Diego up the coast to California's northern most border with Oregon. Along the central coast of California, the road winds through the Santa Ynez mountains, with miles of vineyards and grazing land for California's happy cows, alpacas and llamas. While I enjoyed the miles of mountainous inland views, I kept waiting for that first glimpse of the ocean--telling my companion that it was just ahead, that we were almost there.
We finally rounded the bend in the road where we could see the ocean again and I inhaled as I anticipated the spectacular view. But, a thick marine layer had rolled in and while we knew the ocean was to our left and that the view was amazing, all we could see was thick mist--miles of it. I was stunned and oh so very disappointed. We had talked of this trip for a long time and we had finally arrived--but our long-anticipated view was clouded by, well clouds.
There was silence in the car for a few minutes and then we began roaring with laughter. We laughed as mile after mile of thick fog rolled by. We laughed until our sides hurt. Our laughter shook our bodies and the car. I finally stopped laughing long enough to blurt out, "There is a lesson in this but I'll be danged if I want to learn it." But the fog reminded me of three things I have learned in recovery:
Presence: we had a choice when the fog rolled in--stay present in the moment or get lost in the "what ifs." The recovery slogan reminds me that "Expectations are resentments waiting to happen." So the choice was to resent the fog and God or to stay in the moment and enjoy the unexpected. Because the fog was beautiful--the way it lingered on the mountains and occluded the view of the highest peaks. And belly laughs with a good friend is always a wondrous thing.
Perspective: as I drove through the thick clouds, I felt anxiety rising up--I had promised my friend a spectacular experience and the fog was ruining that. I was not delivering on my promise--my old nemesis shame began whispering in my ear--"you failed, you are not worthy, you are not enough." But I realized that I am not God (a good thing) and that I had no power over the weather. This was not my problem or failure--it was just life. Life happens, fog rolls in and I am not responsible.
My friend and I have experienced similar journeys in life--the road we thought we were traveling on with spouses ended abruptly and we both are living in life's fog right now. A term used years ago aptly describes us. We are "displaced homemakers." (By the way, I hated the term then and hate it still). But the road of life that we are traveling on is no longer clear, we are living in the fog. What will we do to make a living? How will we parent our children as single women? What do we want to do with the rest of our lives now that our first plan evaporated? How do we make meaning of what we have experienced? How do we use the lessons learned to help another?
We have more questions than answers right now. We are living in the fog. But the lessons of the fog certainly hold some truths to ponder and apply to life in the here and now.