Sometimes the pace of life and it’s changes can become almost overwhelming – we all experience times of adventure, excitement, stress and crisis, terrible and beautiful storms to navigate. And even when life’s journey isn’t a stormy sea, it’s comforting to know we have an anchor point, or two, or more – something or someone that connects us to our deep, authentic sense of self.
To some extent I am my own anchor. I’ve survived a crisis or two and I’ve picked up some self awareness and some skills and techniques to steady myself when life gets stormy. There are things and places that help me – the reliable comfort of a good cup of tea, or standing at the end of a pier staring at the sea (ideally the North Pier in Blackpool), or listening to “Oh What A World” by Rufus Wainwright… you’ll have your own list, I expect, of things that help you to centre yourself.
And there’s professional help available too, of course – as a life coach I am a temporary anchor point for my clients.
Presently I have 3 people I would identify as anchors in my life. They are the people I will reach out to connect to, in the eye of the storm and I know that their presence and guidance will be helpful until I can steer my own course again.
They might just sit and hold a space for me while I talk, or cry. They might make me that vital cup of tea, or pour me a glass of wine, or feed me buttered toast when I’m too discombobulated to know I need to eat. They might take me out to dance. They might ask me the tough question that I don’t want to answer, the very question that I need to answer. They might pull me back from the edge, or nudge me towards it to take the leap.
Whatever they do, it will be helpful, because they are my anchors, and our relationship has enough depth for them to understand what might help me to be me.
Two of my anchors are old friends. Both have known me over 20 years and have seen me at my best and worst – as I have seen them.
The third is one of my partners. He is the partner other people refer to as ‘the most important’ or as my ‘life partner’. But I’ve already written at length about why nobody is ‘the most important’ – there are no hierarchies and it is what it is.
We don’t live together – we have a long distance relationship. We are in contact frequently and usually know the daily narrative of each other’s lives. None of that is critical to his role as an anchor.
So what does make someone an anchor?
There are three elements:
– love – each of my anchors cares for me, with a sincere affection and warmth, a genuine desire to be in my corner, to be the best version of me I can be.
– knowing – I’ve shared enough of my self, my life, my experiences, my feelings, my ideas, my ambitions and my challenges with each of my anchors for them to know me, to understand my passions and drives, my limitations and failings – they see me for who I really am.
– acceptance – my anchors love, know and accept me as I am without judgement or blame – when I am lost in love or joy they will celebrate with me whilst reminding me not to get lost in my own euphoria, and when I mess up, they can hold me to account without me feeling that they’re admonishing me for it.
None of this would be possible without them holding tight to their own boundaries. Their love is not beyond reason, and it must be nurtured and cherished. Their knowledge requires ongoing communication and connection. Their acceptance does not allow me to cross a line where I could abuse or harm them.
Over the years I’ve lost and gained anchor relationships. As a child, my anchors were my family – growing away from the anchor to my parents was a part of growing up, and now that’s a relationship that could be developed into a new kind of anchor, but for me, isn’t. The gap is in the depth of the acceptance – time and space has eroded the knowing, and our differing life choices are a challenge to acceptance.
Friends, partners and lovers have drifted in and out of the anchor role, often without me noticing as connections deepened or waned. Many of those connections remain, in a new shape and form. Some of those lost connections I grieve, and grief being the corollary of love shows me the depth of that loss. It teaches me to take care of the anchor relationships I have now, to continue to invest the time and energy required to preserve those deep connections.
And new friends, lovers, or partners may become anchors. During the early passionate days of new relationships it can feel like a new overwhelming love is a new anchor. But depth of knowledge is not possible – it takes time. And acceptance can only be meaningful with that depth of knowledge. Only when the new relationship energy (NRE) has faded can we know if a continuing relationship is an anchor or not.
Anchor relationships also do not have to be a two-way street. Often a reciprocal depth of love, knowing and acceptance may emerge – but it is certainly not a requirement.
And I don’t wish to devalue relationships that aren’t anchors. There is great value, for me, in relationships of all kinds with people who bring joy and passion, energy and ideas, fun, challenge, or a just different way of seeing the world than mine – becoming an anchor is not a relationship goal.
An anchor is a descriptor, a particular value and role that describes certain relationships – and that demonstrates one of the reasons why those relationships are important as well as underpinning a desire to prioritise and invest in them.
I’m so grateful to my anchors, past and present, for seeing me through the storms I’ve weathered in life so far.
Thank you for bringing me back to me.
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