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The Gray Daze
Turning on the fog lamps
Recently, I got up in the wee hours of the morning to join my trainer and other students as they prepared for a horse show where they would be competing. There was a sense of reverence in the dark before dawn; horses were groomed to look their best, trailers cleaned and checked, supplies and tack loaded, in a constant but quiet flurry of activity.
I was not preparing to compete. I was just there to support my friends. Trudy and I have a long way to go before we are ready for competition. We spend our lessons working on the basics, the foundations, one building block at a time. But that doesn’t stop us from being part of the family and participating.
The morning took on an almost otherworldly air as we traveled to the competition space and found it fully enveloped in a thick fog. The stillness of the air gave us all a moment to consider what lay ahead. For my friends, perhaps it was time to breathe and steady nerves or review a dressage test sequence in their head one more time. For me, I took the opportunity to absorb the show atmosphere as I marveled at the fog that covered us like a shroud and made everything seem a bit softer and muted somehow.
There are no soft edges in the world right now. The news is full of terrible, horrifying events. We want to look away, but we can’t. Even though it might not be happening to us, we can picture and empathize how frightening it must be. We want to help those who are suffering and many of us contribute our money and time. We are not directly in the line of fire, but we feel the pain of family.
We do what we can and when there is nothing we can do, we just have to get on with living.
And yet, it can feel like there is little solace to be found in our lives when so much is expected of us. We are judged on our job performance, how we manage our family, our pets, our homes. We are held accountable for the thousands of tasks and chores we must accomplish every day: accomplish, produce, achieve, repeat, accomplish, produce, achieve, repeat.
It’s fair to say the last couple of years have been particularly draining for many of us. We may not have been at war, but loved ones were still lost. Others lost their jobs and struggle financially. Even for those of us fortunate enough to be able to work through the pandemic, it wasn’t easy. Working remotely tested everyone’s patience and mental health.
Now, returning to the office, there are new challenges. Even showering, putting on makeup, and dressing in something more professional than my normal leggings and tank top seems unfamiliar. I’d almost forgotten how much I hate sitting in LA freeway traffic. After spending so long avoiding being around others, just being in the office with so many people at one time, with all the noise, chatter, and distraction, not to mention the lingering worry about contagion, can feel overwhelming. By the time Friday rolls around, my brain is all but spent and as the weeks go by, I find myself emotionally, intellectually, and physically exhausted.
Sometimes it is a struggle to find the space to recover when all I can see is what is happening in the world and my heart breaks all over again.
When it all becomes too much, this is when the fog rolls in. The fog can feel like the weight of the world, come to land all its problems on your shoulders when you are least able to fix any of them and you can’t see your way through.
I used to hate this fog and the feeling of being detached, unable to function fully. But recently I’ve come to accept that I need to see it differently.
When you’re driving a car in the fog, you can’t see very far ahead. Everything in the distance is obscured and if you drive too fast, you risk a collision and hurting yourself and others. You must take your time. You must focus on what’s just in front of you. You must be more cautious and deliberate in your actions. You must go slowly.
In the same way, this mental and emotional fog only allows you to see what is immediate and right in front of you. It obscures the distant future, slowing you down. When you can only deal with what’s right in front of you, only able to do what is absolutely necessary, that might mean all you can do for now is breathe.
I thought about that day with my trainer and friends and that softness, the feeling of being in another space and time and only thinking of what was in front of us, the task at hand. I thought about how much I wished for them to succeed and that I hoped they felt my support.
Today is not my day to compete. Today, I just focus on what is in front of me, on the little things I can do and the small ways I can help.
And I know the fog will lift with the warmth of the rising sun.
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