Finding Clarity Through the Fog

On looking back, struggling through a difficult time and discovering how to move forward.

“Don’t look back. Keep your eyes in front of you and focused on what’s ahead,”

My husband, Garth, recently said those words to our dog, Bailey, as she pulled on her leash and strained her head to see the dogs that just passed us going the other direction.

And yet, somehow that gentle instruction to our dog seemed to have way more meaning for me. In many ways, it seems like a metaphor for my life right now.

Lately, it seems my eyes have been constantly fixed on what’s behind me… where I’ve been, what I’ve done, how I’ve been wronged, how much I hurt, how we’ve failed or perhaps how life has failed us.

When life is difficult it seems almost impossible to focus on what’s ahead. Your focus tends to be on one of two things:

The good old days and wondering where they went; and
The terrible things and how to avoid them in the future.

You see, when you’re broken, you’ll do almost anything to repair the damage. Sometimes, that means trying to claw your way back to where you were. And in other situations, it means avoiding things that may potentially cause you pain.

Much like our dog Bailey, I find myself constantly snapping my head back to look behind me at where I was so I can repeat success and avoid failure.

The Fogginess of the Future

Focusing on the future, especially right now, seems impossibly difficult. I’m a planner, dreamer and doer. And yet, the path ahead is clouded with uncertainty. It feels as if I’m in a constant fog and I can only see a step or two in front of me.

Normally, I love dreaming about what’s ahead. I’m excited by the possibilities, exhilarated by new challenges, and love working hard toward a goal. But, what do you do when your dreams have grown dim and you’re not quite sure what you’re striving for anymore?

It makes it incredibly hard to trudge forward when you’re not sure where you’re going.

I feel lost. Bewildered. Frustrated. Depleted.

My energy levels have sank to new lows. My enthusiasm for my work has dwindled and I’ve lost the verve and zest for many things.

I feel like I’m hiking on a winding trail on the edge of a cliff in the middle of a dense fog.

Nothing is clear. Nothing feels easy. Nothing is pushing me forward other than the desire to get out of this dark place.

But, perhaps that’s the point. Maybe this time is all about slowing down. Trusting in God. And being present in the moment. This one. Right now. Right here in this dark, desolate place addled with thorns and clouded with fog.

In many ways, that’s difficult to do. I’m anxious for what’s next. I want to rush through this challenging time and fast-forward my story to the rosier parts where I’m standing on top of the mountain experiencing the bliss of overcoming my challenges and celebrating the achievements.

But, I’m not there yet. I still have a long way to climb.

Struggling Through the Dark Places

So, here I sit in the dark stillness of an uncertain future. Waiting for the next step in our journey to have a child. Struggling to stay on top of my business that no longer gives me joy. Overcoming the pain of my husband’s cancer last year. Dealing with the frustrating of a knee injury that won’t heal.

It sucks. It’s unsettling. I desperately want to pick up the pace to my normal sprint. But, at this stage in the race, I’m meant to walk. Slowly. Deliberately. Cautiously. One foot in front of the other. One day, one hour, one minute at a time.

Who knows how many days, hours and minutes God will grant me on this earth? But, if I fast-forward through the valley, I might miss out on some of the most beautiful parts of my journey.

What I’m Learning About Trudging Through the Dark

I believe that this time in the fog may be teaching me a few things:

  • To find the joy and beauty in every day — even in the midst of difficulties;
  • That I will appreciate the top of the mountain way more by spending some time in the valley and learning how to climb my way to the top;
  • I might have some more growing and learning to do before advancing to what’s next;
  • This time is shaping me into who I’m meant to be for whatever lies ahead; and
  • Success isn’t about what I do, but being okay with who I am — regardless of title, performance or accolades.

That last one is particularly challenging. When you start stripping away titles — entrepreneur, marketer, parent, runner, etc. — it’s difficult to identify what’s left. Who am I without these things?

Who am I if I’m not an entrepreneur?
What kind of work do I do if it’s not about marketing?
What kind of business do I have without employees?
What kind of person am I if I never become a parent?
Who am I if I’m never able to run again?

No matter how much I would like to wrap myself up in those convenient titles, I’m way more than that. I know it. I just have to dig deep and find it.

Digging Deep and Discovering Who I Am

Here are a few things I know for sure about myself…

I value deep friendships.

I care way more about having a handful of close, dear friends than a large collection of thin connections. I would rather spend a few hours with one or two close friends over dinner than go to a large party or a bar where it’s all about impressing people.

I care about people who are hurting.

I know there are so many broken, hurting people in the world. I wish I could fix it all. But, I know that’s not my job. We have a big, bold God who sent His Son to save the world. I was just called to love my neighbor. And, I know there are so many people out there who crave authentic connection as much as I do. It takes opening my doors more and building a bigger table, not a higher fence.

I want to serve.

It has always been in my nature to help and empower people. But, I think much of that stems from being a people pleaser and what I receive by giving. Instead, I really want to shift my heart to one of service. Where it’s more about the receiver, not about what I get out of the deal. Don’t get me wrong — I get great joy from helping others. But, I want to become more selfless and not worry about the gratitude or appreciation that comes as a result. I want to serve because it’s the right thing to do.

I want to use my gifts.

I believe I’m talented at a few things — writing, speaking, leading and problem-solving. I’m a good communicator who can untangle complex things and sort out what needs to be done. I believe God gave me these gifts for a reason. But, at this moment, I’m struggling with why. I’ve begun to wonder if what’s happening right now is the story I’m meant to tell. It scares me to share the intimate details of our journey with cancer and infertility. But, perhaps God needed a good communicator to help the world understand this difficult thing. Or, maybe our struggles were only meant to help one person. And if that’s the case, I need to be okay with that. But, I’m absolutely not okay with letting my God-given skills go to waste. I want to help people, add value to this world and make a difference with my life. I’m just not entirely sure what the looks like right now.

I love God.

The last year has made me rely on God more than ever. And yet, I know I’m still searching and yearning for intimacy with Him. I long to clearly hear His voice. And while I don’t always see evidence of God in the moment, I do see His fingerprints on my life every time I look back.

This is where looking back is supremely valuable. When I look back at Garth’s cancer, I see how God answered our prayers and has taken it away. I see how God expertly maneuvered to put a friend in the waiting room at the fertility clinic one day last August — just when we both needed each other most. I see how God brought another friend back into my life when she needed support — a perfect answer to my prayer that my situation could help someone else.

I know that God is with me. And in the dark times, that’s my solace. I don’t know the way out or the next step on the road ahead. But He does. And that’s all that matters. I just need to hold His hand and trust in him.

Because when I look back, I do see evidence of His guidance at every twist and turn.

And in looking back, I know I have the confidence to move forward.