In the Fog

by Elizabeth deGraw Renna

A week ago on a Monday, my town was blanketed by a thick fog that lasted all day. I happened to end up driving in it three times that morning, back and forth to work twice for reasons beyond my choice and control. I had to drop off a laptop at work so other people could use it and then drive downtown to report for Jury Duty. Once at the Courthouse I discovered that they had no power and potential jurors were asked to call at noon for an update. So back to work I went, driving through that thick fog.

Fog, noun

– Condensed water vapor in cloudlike masses close to the ground

– A mist or film clouding a surface

– Confusion or bewilderment

Fog, verb

– To cover or be obscured with or as if with fog

Visibility was very poor along certain sections of my route, where the fog was so thick that I could only see about 100 yards ahead. I knew the roads well, but I ended up feeling really disoriented at one point, wondering, “Am I going the right way?” I had this feeling of not being quite sure where I was, despite being so familiar with the route that I often make the drive automatically enough that I can’t remember getting from there to here. That feeling of disorientation was a strange thing, especially happening at 50 miles per hour on the freeway.

Disorient, verb

– To make somebody lose their bearings: to cause somebody to feel lost or confused, especially with regard to direction or position

– To confuse somebody: to confuse somebody by giving misleading information

I realized, after the moment of confusion had subsided, why the foggy conditions were so potentially disorienting: the fog was completely obscuring all the landmarks that I unconsciously count on to guide my way, to confirm for my brain that I am indeed on the right road, headed in the right direction. I take those bridges and buildings and off ramps for granted; they are always there and I am vaguely aware of them, but very rarely notice them in a conscious way. Until they were suddenly seemingly gone from the landscape.

“Am I going the right way on the freeway? This doesn’t feel right for some reason. Is this the right lane, the one I need? ….. Oh, OK, there’s the bridge that I go under… whew!” The bridge had emerged from the thick fog, becoming visible at the last minute as I approached, looking familiar, and confirming that I was going the right way, in the right lane, headed in the direction I intended to be going.

I’ve been reflecting on the contrasts between being (or feeling) in a fog versus being or feeling more aware and mindful of my surroundings. I rely on the landmarks of familiarity, throughout a normal day. They reinforce the normality and onward I go, fairly unconsciously at times, going through the motions of my daily routines. Ironically I am in a fog of sorts when I am acting so unconsciously, yet the landmarks of my day are clearly visible even if I’m taking them for granted. Despite the unsettling nature of feeling disoriented on the highway, it shook me out of auto-pilot mode and caused me to become more aware of the importance of those landmarks along the way and how much I rely on them.

On Tuesday, the low-hanging fog had cleared, leaving cloudy skies behind. And back to the Courthouse I went, where this time the power was on. And I discovered that when a day holds something different, such as reporting for Jury Duty and being selected to engage in the questioning and jury selection process, then all of a sudden the landmarks of a normal day, a familiar day, disappear and I am plunged into an experience that is crowded with unknowns. My senses are heightened, my energy rises to meet the occasion of differences, but I also begin to look for landmarks to guide me. What, if anything, is familiar about this experience? New experiences can be overwhelming and can result in a different kind of fogginess sometimes. Some of the lawyers’ questions seemed to cause confusion or bewilderment, for me in certain moments, and for others around me. It was an interesting day.

I didn’t get selected to be on the jury. I realized that the disorienting aspects of the Courthouse experience held similar benefits to the foggy driving conditions, jolting me out of auto-pilot mode and resulting in a cascade of self-reflections and emerging self-awareness, on various levels.

I wonder if this makes sense or if my descriptions of these experiences is a bit foggy?