Journeying Through the Fog: A Lesson on Inner Strength
In this post, discover a gentle lesson on finding your inner strength when you must rely on yourself to be your own hero.
Journeying Through the Fog
Trigger Warning: Mention of eating disorders and food control.
I had spent the day in Boise shopping for Christmas presents and navigating the holiday traffic when finally, mentally and physically exhausted, I decided to drive home.
It was December 2016, and I lived in Baker City, Oregon, a small town of about 10,000 people in eastern Oregon — 128 miles and a two-hour drive away from Boise, Idaho. I had moved to Baker City just two years earlier, but it had been a constant presence in my life growing up. It was the town my parents grew up in and where they met in high school, marrying soon after graduation. It was the town where my grandpa had lived in the same house for four decades, watching his children grow up and his loving wife pass from this world, and it was where I spent his final quiet morning with him in 2015.
This was the town where each of my older siblings had touched down in at some point in their lives, a safe place to stay for a while as they figured out where they were supposed to go next, but it was never meant to be a permanent place to land. Eventually, they had all moved on in their journey.
And now it was my turn.
But there was a problem. Two years in, I had started to grow roots here. I had friends. A community. A good job. A home. On the surface, everything seemed perfect. And it was what I wanted, right? Growing up in a Coast Guard family, we had moved every couple years. I’d said hello and goodbye to a lot of houses and a lot of friends during my first two decades on earth, and I had often dreamed of growing up in exactly a town like this, where I could stay in the same house and have the same friends for the rest of my life.
This was only supposed to be a brief stop on my journey — a bridge between the past I was releasing and the future I was stepping into — but something had happened along the way. This place was safe and comfortable, so I planted myself into my own pretty pot and convinced myself I could be content, maybe even happy, here.
All the while, though, I felt like a foreign species. A flower that didn’t belong in this type of soil, trying desperately to make it work, even as my petals were wilting and my roots were becoming malnourished in this alien soil.
December 2016, I was at a crossroads. Deep down, I knew I couldn’t stay much longer. I dreamed of moving to Boise, where my sister and my best friend and my closest cousin all lived, and where there was so much potential and possibilities. Something within me knew that Boise was where I was meant to be. And I trusted that inner voice. I knew it wouldn’t steer me wrong.
But I wasn’t sure I was capable of saying goodbye to this place, and even more, I wasn’t sure I could say goodbye to the comfort and safety I had found here.
When I had arrived in Baker City in 2014, I felt like a shell of the girl I’d once been. I had just spent eight months in Hawaii living with my brother’s family, and while that may sound like a dream, I had spent most of those eight months laying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. It had nothing to do with Hawaii itself. It was what had happened before the move across the ocean that caused me to run and hide.
An earthquake had rumbled through my personal life, shattering everything I thought I knew.
As a result of this metaphorical earthquake, I left my job and cut ties with almost everyone from my former life, something I knew I needed to do to save myself. I flew to Hawaii and lived under the shelter of my brother’s roof. I hid. I spent entire days not talking to a single soul. I starved myself in an attempt to gain some semblance of control of my life. I focused on making my body as small as I possibly could, because I think deep down, I wanted to disappear completely.
Eventually, I traded one roof for another. I left the safety of my brother’s home in Hawaii to the safety of my parents’ in Oregon. In order to avoid thinking about things that I didn’t want to confront, I focused all my energy on exercise and controlling my food intake. I built spreadsheets where I calculated calories and macronutrient intake, scheduling all of my snacks and meals a week in advance. Any deviation from my spreadsheet gave me rampant anxiety. I dreaded eating out because I couldn’t stand the thought of not knowing the exact calorie and macronutrient count of every meal.
After a few months, a job landed in my lap, and having no excuse not to take it, I accepted. A year later, I moved out from my parents’ home into my own place. I adopted two brother kittens, Yadi and Lou. Anytime there was a problem, I could call my parents, and they’d be there to save me in a moment’s notice. Just like my brother had saved me a couple years before. No matter how bad things got, it was the one thing I could always rely on: I always had a family member willing to save me when I didn’t know how to save myself.
Back to December 2016: I had done that two-hour drive between Boise and Baker City a hundred times before. I knew the roads well, and I knew the parts that were more harrowing and caused what seemed like daily freeway shutdowns during the winter due to accidents. On this day, luckily, it wasn’t supposed to snow. The first hour of the drive went by quickly.
But then something happened.
As I passed the nearest small town onto a winding stretch of freeway with nowhere to exit for miles, a blanket of heavy fog descended upon the earth.
It happened suddenly, before I could fully comprehend what I was driving into: a deep, thick cloud of white that made it impossible to see more than three feet ahead of me.
My heart stopped.
I slowed way down, turned off the radio, and tried every headlight setting to see which one would give me the best visibility. None helped. I turned on my emergency lights on the chance that if anyone came up behind me, they’d see the lights and slow down before hitting me. Deep down, I knew that if another car came up from behind, they’d hit me before they even knew I was there.
My fingers tightened around the steering wheel, the skin around my knuckles becoming stark white from gripping so hard.
What do I do? I couldn’t drive in this. I couldn’t even see. Do I pull over? I could try, but I couldn’t even see the side of the road. Chances were, I’d end up stopping right in the middle of the road, or I’d drive off it. My phone sat in the drink holder next to me. My parents were only an hour away. If they knew what I was experiencing, they’d leap to my rescue. I knew they would. It was ingrained in their DNA.
For a brief second, I wondered if I could tear my fingers away from the steering wheel long enough to even reach for the phone.
But then I realized all the holes in this plan to have my parents save me. Even if I could somehow figure out how to pull over to the side of the road to wait for them, they didn’t have x-ray vision. They wouldn’t be able to see through the fog any better than I could. One would have to drive their car home, and the other would have to drive mine. That meant I was putting them at a greater risk of an accident.
I couldn’t pull over, and I couldn’t ask my parents to save me.
I had to keep driving.
I’m not sure how long I drove through nothing but white fog that night, but I’m sure it felt much longer than it actually was.
Finally, the fog parted.
The world appeared around me again: dark and vast with rolling hills stretching as far as the eye could see. I let out an audible sigh as the tension melted from my body. It took some time to unclench my fingers from the steering wheel, and I didn’t turn the radio back on the entire drive home.
For the rest of the drive, I sat in silence, staring at the open road in front of me.
I had done it, I realized.
I had saved myself.
When I think about that time in my life, I think about that fog. I think about the moment I realized I had the strength and power to take care of myself. That I could trust myself. As humans, we need other people to survive and thrive, and we need to know we can rely on others and how to ask for help, but at that time, that wasn’t the lesson I needed.
The lesson I needed was that I possessed more strength and power than I even knew. Everything I was looking for, I could find within.
Just over a month later, I gave my notice to my job that I’d be leaving, even though I had no plan or job lined up, and I had no idea what I was going to do. In a series of mini-miracles, I was offered the first job and apartment I applied for in Boise, all in less than two weeks. I moved my life to this new city with nothing but inner knowing and a lot of hope.
And after some deep inner healing, I was able to recover from my eating disorder and cultivate a love for myself that knows no conditions.
It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. But even in my imperfections, I love myself completely, and I know I have the strength and resilience to handle any obstacle with faith and grace. And I believe in myself. Truly believe in myself. Even though I can’t see the entire road in front of me, I trust that I’m always exactly where I need to be, and in every moment, I’m headed in the right direction.
I had only been driving through that fog for minutes, but I had been living through the fog for years: alone, scared, and lost. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know my purpose.
I realize now, looking back, that the physical fog that night may have obscured my vision for a short while, but it lifted a veil that helped me to see that I was meant for so much more in this life. The universe didn’t give me what I thought I wanted, but it gave me what I needed, and I realize now, what I needed was far better than what I wanted.
I believe most of us, at some point in our lives, journey through that fog. Sometimes, it lasts weeks. Sometimes, months. Sometimes, years. Even if the fog only lasts minutes, those minutes often feel like forever. And often, we turn to outside sources to help us through the fog, and that’s okay, but know this: what you’re looking for isn’t out there.
Your fists may be clenched. Your shoulders may be tight. Your heart may feel like it’s stopped beating inside your chest.
But within you exists a strength you may not yet have even fully comprehended. Not just strength: courage, power, resilience.
If you’re walking through a heavy fog and have lost touch of your purpose and truth — if you’ve lost touch with who you are — know that you don’t have to force yourself to speed through it, and you don’t have to stop in fear, either. You have so much more strength than you realize. You can do hard things. It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let fear stop you from living the life that’s meant for you. Because this fog you’re experiencing? Eventually, it will lift. And when it does, the world will look a little different. Not because it’s changed but because you have.
And it will be beautiful.
It will be real.
It will be transformative, and it will be the truest thing you know.
Often, when we’re immersed in the fog, we believe it’s obscuring our vision, blocking us from seeing the world in its entirety. But what if it’s really doing something else? What if it’s removing everything outside of you so that you’re forced to stop running from yourself? What if it’s a gentle guide, leading you home to yourself, revealing the strongest source of power that exists in the world: the power you possess within.
For more words on love and daily affirmations to remind you of your unconditional worthiness, be sure to connect with me on Instagram and Pinterest.
Here are a few more posts you may also like:
- Following the Path That Feels Most Like Love (Personal Essay)
- 4 Undeniable Reasons Why You Are Not Broken
Hi, I’m Zanna! I’m a blogger/freelance writer living in Boise, Idaho. My mission is to help you break through the barriers holding you back from accessing infinite abundance and to inspire you to gather the courage and confidence to follow your dreams.