The Fog

The city we live in gets notoriously heavy early morning fog. This is always true in the Spring and the Fall. I don’t know if it is the presence of the Rhine/Rhone Canal that is just a hop skip and a jump from our front door, or if it is our proximity to the Rhine (although it is not nearly as nearby) that does it…but fog is the name of the game around here this time of year.

I always forget about the fog until it starts up. As a matter of fact, the fog is such a part of our life here, that it shows up in one of my novels as an entire season in one of the countries I invented, a season that is called “The Fog”. “The Fog” begins the first day the fog rolls in from the sea, and ends several months later when the fog finally lifts. There is a festival, which is called “Lifting”, for which the people spend all of “The Fog” preparing. On the first morning the fog lifts, everyone drops what they are doing and they have a party.

I have been likening what happens in my brain sometimes as a fog. It had gone away for a few months there (incidentally, months during which my monthly cycles were incredibly regular. Coincidence? I don’t think so.)

I had entirely forgotten what it feels like to stand up with every intention of doing something important, and by the time I have both feet on the floor, having forgotten what that important thing was. I can stand there for a good two minutes trying to remember.

Because the fog had “gone away” for a few months there, I had forgotten some of strategies I’d developed to deal with it: notably, say everything out loud and repeat it until I get it done, or else write everything down.

Because the fog had made itself scarce, I had lost the habit of being gentle with myself, rather than getting harsh and angry when I can’t remember what it is that I was supposed to be doing.

I noticed that the fog was back on the day the time changed. It started because I simply couldn’t get out of bed. I was just too tired.

This never happens to me, BTW. I am a “feet on the floor the minute the alarm rings” kinda girl. I have a detailed plan of everything that I need to do between 4AM and 7AM, and I use every. single. minute.

So the fact that I couldn’t get out of bed meant that I was putting myself behind…behind on things I love to do. And, if you have been following along at all, I believe that adding little beads of joy to the necklace of our days is critical to living a life of joy. So by not getting out of bed and doing the things I love to do, I was missing out on little moments of joy.

And without those little moments of joy, already on that first day, I started to feel pretty grouchy.

Plus, my brain started fogging up. I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing. I spoke pretty angrily to myself. I berated myself…thinking it was all about the fact that I had overslept.

This is *not* the secret to a more joyful life, in case you were wondering.

“How quickly everything can change,” I got to thinking. I went from feeling genuinely satisfied to being angry, judgmental and helpless.

The second day after the time change it happened again. I couldn’t get up. The brain fog got worse during the day. I couldn’t remember what time I was supposed to pick up the boys from school (they have different end-times on different days of the week.)

Third day. Even worse. I got all the way to the car before I realized I didn’t have the keys. Again, I know this sounds small, but it’s just not like me.

It’s incredibly scary to feel this way. I mentioned it to my husband, because I didn’t want him to think I was intentionally being stubborn or not listening to him. I’m not sure he got it…he might have thought I was just being dramatic. One morning, in a moment of everybody-getting-out-the-door-tension, he said something about an activity he had that day, and I must have acted surprised. He said to me, “…well, I told you last night…”

Right. But I can’t even remember what I was thinking two seconds ago.

It was on Friday, though, when I think he understood. I had a panic attack because our usual grocery pick-up time wasn’t available. I know this is stupid. I should have stayed cool.

This is ironic, of course, because I was, at the same time, working on a future episode of the podcast about the Ideal Life theme of Scheduling and Planning. In it, I talk about how we can make our lives easier by eliminating decision fatigue…and this, by developing habits and routines.

But on Friday, I managed to convince myself that I would forget to go pick up the groceries if I had to do it outside of my usual routine. Routines are what save my life, period, but especially so when my brain gets like this. Anything outside of the routine will probably not get done.

I set all kinds of alarms. On my phone, on my tablet. I put notes in the car. I did manage to remember to pickup the groceries.

I am not losing my mind, it’s just the wandering womb again.

This is hormones, and right now there is nothing I can do to change the reality of my hormones. In the midst of the helplessness, there was rage.

I felt like if I had enough rage, I could make the fog dissipate. In the middle of the night, I had a vision of myself tilting at windmills. “Drop your weapon, milady. The windmill is not your enemy,” the voice of Antonio Banderas said very seriously in my ear.

So if I can’t fight it, what I can do is:

  1. Accept that this is going to happen from time to time
  2. Keep up my good habits, even when things are going all right
  3. Be kind to myself
  4. Refrain from verbalizing my frustration (it does not help.)
  5. Write down everything important
  6. Say what I am intending to do out loud
  7. Ask for help
  8. Put things away where they belongs
  9. Get enough sleep, drink enough water, eat healthy foods and take a walk

Episode 31: Mental Health Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: Rage; Sublimation; Mental Hygiene. Episode 31: Mental Health is part of our series on the Ideal Life Categories. The series began back in Episode 15: The One About Our Bodies, in case you want to get caught up. Links: The Great Bathrobe Refashion: https://lilyfieldschallenge.com/2021/05/18/the-great-2021-bathrobe-refashion/ Rage Refashioning: https://lilyfieldschallenge.com/2021/05/27/rage-refashioning/ Sublimation: https://lilyfieldschallenge.com/2021/06/09/sublimation/ You can contact Lily by email: lily@lilyfieldschallenge.com. A great big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse, France for the use of the song "La Joie" as the intro and outtro to the show. Thanks also to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 31: Mental Health
  2. Episode 30: Contentment
  3. Episode 29: Commitments
  4. Episode 28: Lucidly Ever After
  5. Episode 27: Passionately Curious

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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