Managing Stress in the Midst of a Pandemic

Lighthouse

“When a boat is lost in a misty fog, does the sailor focus on the lighthouse or the fog?”

You’ve got to be kidding me. In the middle of my mental breakdown, he’s giving me a trivia question.

With a muffled groan, I throw my glasses in the cupholder and push the stray hairs from my messy ponytail back with my hands. When stress and anxiety land, they settle on me like a thousand bricks. Suddenly, my glasses are tight goggles, and my hair is a constricting helmet. I jerk the denim jacket off my body that all at once feels like the stuffed Jansport backpack I carried in middle school. He watches the jacket fly in the back seat of his Ford, not letting me out of the question.

“The lighthouse,” I mumble, searching my messy purse for the Peppermint oil to dab on my forehead as the pulses of stress rise.

“That’s because the fog isn’t hard to get through. It’s easy to get through. Heck, water is harder to get through than the fog! Focus on the lighthouse, not the fog.”

Curse you, husband, and all your metaphors. And while I’m at it, curse you, Fog.

The Fog is someone I’ve unwillingly become quite acquainted with in the last several months. You know, since March 12th when the world flipped upside down. Since I left my classroom with pencils on the floor, never to be picked up until the end of May. Since Ben had his last real production gig, and we became a single income household. Since our plans for the coming months and years had to be put on hold for the foreseeable future. That gray, confusing Fog came knocking on my door on March 12th. In one hand, he brought confusion, doubt, and a dozen erasers to edit my planner. In the other, he carried enough luggage to stay until, well…indefinitely.

I can’t tell Fog that he’s worn out his welcome. He’s already unpacked. I can’t tell him to go back to where he came from. He’s already taken up too much space in my home.

Fog is paralyzing. He clouds my decision making abilities until every option seems like the wrong answer. He leaves this muggy presence in my home, where certain topics become too gray to discuss without a stiff drink. So, we avoid the big decisions and pretend Fog isn’t here.

But when the bill collector sends his notice, Fog smirks.

Fog is confusing. He erases our clear black and white choices and blurs them with his stubborn mist. Suddenly, every door seems like the wrong one. So, we clumsily stumble through the door that seems right.

But Fog stands waiting on the other side, greeting us with a grimace and more confusing clouds.

Fog is embarrassing. It puts vague, unpredictable words in my mouth that make other people wonder if I’m okay. So, I own words as confidently as I can, using phrases like “everyone’s being affected by COVID” and “God is in control.”

But Fog creeps his way into my heart and paints my words with doubt.

Foggy career decisions, unclear medical conditions, loss of loved ones, indecisiveness with future plans, conflicting thoughts on relationships…Fog leaves us all reaching for light and longing for clarity.

I thought 2020 would be our year. A year of financial gains, exciting plans, and monumental career moves. As quickly as our plans were made, they were just as quickly cancelled. Everything seems to be a set back. Worst of all, everything seems foggy. And there’s nothing worse than Fog.

But then, Ben mentions the lighthouse. That thing, far in the distance, that is designed to be a navigational aid for those at sea. I urgently begin searching Wikipedia for the gibberish of his lighthouse analogy, annoyed that he can’t just use plain English to explain his point.

As it turns out, lighthouses are supposed to warn sailors of dangerous coastlines. In the midst of fog when the light can’t be seen, the fog horn sounds, and sailors are warned of danger. They must then focus their minds on the lighthouse – on the fog horn – to steer them away from catastrophe.

Once my eyes scan the cracked iPhone screen for this clarity, I toss the phone in my purse and stare out the window. If I focus on this said “lighthouse” to keep me from danger, I’m no longer focusing on the next paycheck. If I focus on the lighthouse to protect us, I’m no longer focusing on our creative career plans. I’m no longer focusing on family plans, or vacation plans, or 5-year plans, or any plans. I’m simply focusing on the lighthouse. I’m trusting the lighthouse will lead us to safety. It will lead us to clarity.

The knots in my shoulders begin to lessen and the burn from the Peppermint oil soothes my stress headache. I take a cleansing breath in, just like Adriene from my favorite Yoga Youtube channel taught me.

“So in the middle of my fog storm, when no light is visible, I should focus on the lighthouse?” I ask nonchalantely, trying not to sound too convinced of this analogy.

“You should focus on the One who is steering you away from the rocks,” he replies, “Fog isn’t hard to get through. It’s easy to get through. Like I said, water is harder to get through than the fog! Focus on the lighthouse, not the fog.”

Your fog might be daunting. It might be catastrophic. It might be all-consuming, confusing, and debilitating. But beyond the fog stands the Lighthouse. This tall, majestic, harbor of safety. Strong and able to lead you away from the rocks.

Even if it’s one day – one moment – at a time, we can look to the Lighthouse for our hope, not the calculator. We can look to the lighthouse, not our own predictions.

In the midst of our biggest fears and greatest failures, the Lighthouse beckons. It sounds its horn of safety.

And somehow, the fog doesn’t seem as scary anymore.

Sincerely focused,

Becca

The Lord is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1 (NIV)

3 comments

  1. Sometimes the fog is blinding and I can’t see anything but I know the lighthouse is there to see me through. For me, this fog makes me angry, and filled with blues, and feels so isolating. But then, I see a new baby and wonderful parents, and prodigal sons returning home and loved ones getting married and starting anew and I can see the lighthouse then. Especially with that new baby. I see God’s hands are still there in the midst of my woes. And I can praise Him for this valley that has another side. I must remember, His timing, not mine. All that to say, I’m ready to go out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner every meal. This from someone who likes to cook and enjoys home and hearth. Let the beacon shine forth with bright, bright light so we can see the other side with clarity!

    Liked by 1 person

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