Anchors Away
/ Author: Roberta Vriesema
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Anchors Away

Nostalgia can be a teaching tool. But if we aren’t careful, it can weigh us down with ill-founded expectations

By Roberta Vriesema, Representative

Last week, during conversations with friends and family, the image of an anchor kept coming to my mind. Though its symbolism wasn’t immediately apparent, after some thought I realized that these discussions all centred on the theme that what the future holds is a concern most of us share.

What does an anchor have to do with our apprehensions about what’s to come? Before we dive in, allow me to take a step back.

It feels as though living with the COVID-19 crisis has pitted many of us against each other. There is an undercurrent of paranoia and judgement against organizations that in previous decades we had believed to be trustworthy.

The scientific establishment, the media, and the government are all topics that very quickly lead to divided conversations and the questioning of intellects. I have even heard some people wish for the days when you could trust science, get the straight facts from newspapers, and count on the government to provide good leadership.

Admittedly, there is significant historical whitewashing at the root of these assumptions, which brings me back to the image of an anchor. Different sized ships require different kinds of anchors—the size and shape must be appropriate to both the ship and to the surface upon which the anchor is cast. An anchor is deliberately set and meant to hold firmly.

But an anchor is not always needed, and if used improperly, can lead to significant damage. Yet without an anchor, there is even more that could be lost.

An anchor is also not attached to a ship with a firm and inflexible chain. Instead, the right amount of slack allows the ship and anchor to remain connected despite the conditions surrounding them. Sailors must monitor the slack and adapt it to weather and wave conditions. Too much or too little and the anchor becomes a threat to the ship’s ability to weather the storm.

Nostalgia, an expression of our desire for stability, can often act as a mental anchor. Wishing for the good ol’ days is another way of saying we crave certainty and familiarity. We want something firm and stable, just like an anchor. But nostalgia can lead to assumption, which can be a barrier to rational thought.

These days, tasks and processes that we used to do routinely, like grocery shopping, are changing. Our government, healthcare, economy, education, and social systems are all in flux. It seems like there is little we can do right now without having to stop and think, and that can become overwhelming and exhausting.

This brings us back to the anchor that popped into my thoughts last week. We collectively long for security and the confirmation that we will be able to weather our current storm. When we look back at the past, we have the clarity of hindsight, because we know how the decisions we made back then affect us today.

To be successful, especially in these trying times, we must be deliberate in identifying what we need to anchor ourselves, apart from nostalgia. Is it emotional, familial, financial, internal, external, intellectual, religious—or something else?

Once we identify what is best suited to our unique situation, we then need to be deliberate in putting this anchor into place. From there, we need to actively work on managing our connection to that anchor, tightening or extending the cable as needed to adapt to our changing situation.

Your anchor should reflect who you are, your values, and your budget. Your anchor could be a midday tea ritual, a conversation with someone who fills your soul, a hard run in the park, a commitment to personal growth and learning, or a routine that prepares you for your workday. At its heart, your anchor should be an intentional and deliberate choice that you cast purposefully knowing it adds stability to your life during this time of uncertainty.

No sailor puts down an anchor determined to leave it in place. Similarly, you shouldn’t build a foundation of beliefs based on nostalgia, nor should you expect your anchor to remain the same during changing times. After all, just like a sea captain midstorm, we are not planning on being in this situation permanently!

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