I'm looking out my window, in the great Northwest, at dense fog. This makes the fifth day where I can't look across the street and see what I normally do. It's clouded; a shroud of confusion and so quiet. Lucky for me, I am a Northwesterner through-and-through and revel in these foggy days. But, as the deep, longing fog horn echoes somewhere out in the mist, I begin to think about living in the fog. What if you are living life engulfed in not knowing where to go, and strain as you might, you just can't see through the thickness?
We've been talking a lot about new beginnings this month, but what if you ache for a new beginning, yet can't get out of the fog? What if you are ready and willing to plant that garden of dreams, but you wake up on the fifth, or fiftieth, or one hundredth day to more dense fog? I've heard too many stories of fog - financial stress, isolation and loneliness, depression and anxiety, or just plain stuck. How do you move forward?
I think we can take a hint from the ships currently navigating this thick fog on the Puget Sound: though tracking a steady course, which they can't rely on sight to get them through, they blast the fog horn. In a practical sense, to warn others nearby of their location, but for the sake of our fog - is it not to find one another? If you are silent and alone, hidden by fog, then no one knows where or how to find you, or even that you need finding! You have to reach out, blast your fog horn and allow community to surround you. To navigate the fog together, to encourage and learn from one another. Do you have that community?
I recently watched the documentary, Happy, which examines the question: why are people happy? Where does happiness come from? And in each case, those who we think should be the most unhappy because they are living in abject poverty, or have horrible working conditions, no life insurance, no retirement...in fact, are the most happy people found on earth. How could this be? In each case, those interviewed gushed about the community within which they live. Family, neighbors and friends - living side-by-side. And if one suffers, there is always someone to be there. If one loses a job, there is always abundance in food. If one loses their health, the community surrounds and works to bring healing.
Do I need to tell you who the most unhappy were? Those that seem to have it all. Wealth, power, money and all the material possessions you could dream of. Community always trumps stuff. Need more convincing?
I recently heard about Touching the Void, the story of Joe Simpson who, when climbing with a partner, fell down a crevasse and assumed dead, his partner cut the rope as nothing could be done. Miraculously, Joe survived though he was broken, starving and frostbitten and facing death. His motivation for ushering all strength and dragging himself to find help? Not the strong will to live. Not the items and gadgets waiting for him at home. It was because he didn't want to die alone. He knew he was facing death and couldn't bear to be without another human. How powerful is that realization? We are made for community. We are made to live dependent and generous with one another. Yet, so often we choose stuff believing the lie that it brings fulfillment. But, in my experience, all that brings is fog.
So, even though community is messy, and frustrating, and requires patience and selflessness - it also brings support, love, connection and according to some research, happiness! Raise that fog horn -- take the first steps to making community: face to face at work, at school, with neighbors, with the wider community. When you do, watch your life transform and the fog begin to lift.
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-Jennifer Anderson is Content Director of The Authenticity Project, you can contact Jennifer at TheAuthenticityProject@gmail.com.