Fog Reminds Us that All of Life Is Not Black or White


Sometimes we need the fog to remind us that all of life is not black and white. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The other day I wrote about the movie Girl Interrupted. I like and respect several things about that movie, but one point that bears repeating surrounds the discussion of the word ambivalenceGirl Interrupted is loosely based on  the writer Susanna Kaysen’s own life and the time during the 1960’s that she spent in a mental hospital.

Even before she was committed, Susanna Kaysen was a writer and writers spend a great deal of time analyzing life. However, anyone who truly ponders life’s mysteries becomes aware of the fact that living cannot be reduced to either black or white. Truth is more complex than that, but human beings differ in the ways that they handle [or deny and refuse to handle] the gray.

I think that it is this gray area–the area beyond the black or white–the fog–that Kayssen discussed with her psychiatrist Dr. Wick when she accused herself of being ambivalent.

Susanna: I’m ambivalent. In fact that’s my new favorite word.
Dr. Wick: Do you know what that means, ambivalence?
Susanna: I don’t care.
Dr. Wick: If it’s your favorite word, I would’ve thought you would…
Susanna: It *means* I don’t care. That’s what it means.
Dr. Wick: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings… in opposition. The prefix, as in “ambidextrous,” means “both.” The rest of it, in Latin, means “vigor.” The word suggests that you are torn… between two opposing courses of action.
Susanna: Will I stay or will I go?
Dr. Wick: Am I sane… or, am I crazy?
Susanna: Those aren’t courses of action.
Dr. Wick: They can be, dear – for some.
Susanna: Well, then – it’s the wrong word.
Dr. Wick: No. I think it’s perfect.

In several of my previous posts, I have said that I myself write to try to organize my own thoughts and to try to untangle the wires that tend to crisscross themselves inside my head. Jumbled wires tend to cloud or fog my mind. Other writers have described writing as a way of clearing–or at least driving through the fog:

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. – E.L. Doctorow

I spend most of my time in a room alone where eight hours go by, and I have no sense of time. I work seven days a week, and I live in this sort of vague subconscious fog a lot. – Dan Gilroy

In tragedy, it’s hard to find a good resolution; it’s not black and white: it’s a big fog of gray. – Paul Dano

Admittedly, writers and artists spend more time than most, trying to decipher the whispers that many do not hear, but I do not believe that they are the only people who experience the vagueness that presents itself in the process of living:

Most of us live in a fog. It’s like life is a movie we arrived to 20 minutes late. You know something important seems to be going on. But we can’t figure out the story. We don’t know what part we’re supposed to play or what the plot is. – John Eldredge

I am suspicious of people who would prefer to deny their feelings rather than trying to understand them. Most of those people have learned to compartmentalize their emotions and anything that is not black or white defies compartmentalization. Too many people just toss the gray areas–and even the colors–away. Perhaps too much scares them.

Derive happiness in oneself from a good day’s work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us. – Henri Matisse

Color is a driving force in my life. Oh, please, don’t take my colors away–and don’t take away my gray either.


I love the way that the fog adds mystery and enchantment to the process of living, but too much mystery and enchantment can lead to depression. Heaven knows that I have wasted a great deal of my life being depressed. No doubt, that is why many people tend to compartmentalize the grays away–they are trying to avoid depression. In my own family, there are people who say that because I have experienced depression, I am weak, but I challenge that. I believe that I am much stronger than the people who refuse to even look at anything beyond their immediate scopes. I wear no blinders. I see it all, and I love things that are not black or white.

Tulips, Tulpenbluete, Flowers, Tulip Field, Colorful

I love the way that color celebrates life. God Bless My Colors.


And I love the way that the grays frame and draw attention to the color. God Bless Me and Deliver Me through My Grays.

©Jacki Kellum April 20, 2016



4 thoughts on “Fog Reminds Us that All of Life Is Not Black or White

  1. The joy that comes after pain is the joy that lasts. So much for seeing depression and other challenges making you weak.

    I like fog, too. To me, I am reminded that the earth is real. I think if everything were clear all the time, the vague parts of the way I think and feel would turn into severe anxiety.

    Dickens writes about fog at the start of Bleak House. We are reminded that fog in a city wraps around us all, poor and rich alike. Fog here stands for community.

    I admire your assertion to keep color and to keep gray. Why not have the spectrum of perception?

    Thank you for your reflections (speaking of colors) here!


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