Anchors and Metaphors, Oh My

anchor [ang-ker]
1. any of various devices dropped by a chain, cable, or rope to the bottom of a body of water for preventing or restricting the motion of a vessel or other floating object.
2. any similar device for holding fast or checking motion: an anchor of stones.
3. any of various devices, as a metal tie, for binding one part of a structure to another.
4. a person or thing that can be relied on for support, stability, or security.

What is an anchor? It is a device–typically with hook-like arms that bury themselves in a secure surface to provide a firm hold–that can hold an enormous amount of weight in place, it will stop unauthorized drifting, but still give a little leeway for small movement. An anchor and anchor line are essential to the safety and integrity of a much larger mass. Both are sunk deep into water, debris, earth, and/or ice, and are completely hidden from view at the surface while holding the vessel steady against storms, currents, external forces and other potential instability. In fact, in many ways an anchor is often forgotten until it starts to slip and the once safe and secure cargo starts to lurch and sway.

Let’s talk about the life of an anchor for a minute (yes, this is a metaphor). Anchors have enormous hooks and barbs to secure their load, they often get hurled onto and then dragged across treacherous surfaces while trying to find a point of stability. An anchor carries countless scars, is covered in grime or barnacles, and spends its existence clawing for security in order to exert all its integrity and leverage in order to keep the load steady. An anchor spends every important and worthwhile moment of its life submerged.

Sometimes we are the cargo ship.
Sometimes we are the anchor.

Right now, and for the last several months years, I have been cast in the role of anchor…and I’m tired. I’ve clawed at everything within reach to try to stay steady, I’ve scraped and scrambled to eliminate or redistribute weight, I’ve grimaced during the storms, hoping I can force them to cease and desist by sheer willpower (not possible). I’ve held on with my teeth, when necessary, exerted strength and determination I didn’t know I had, and, in a lot of ways, I’ve had success. But, I’ve also been slowly drowning.

I’ve been sinking for a long time, bumping along a rocky field trying to find something to latch on to, and several weeks ago I hit my lowest point. A few days later I had a massive panic attack in my doctor’s office and my medication that had been an “as needed” fix became a wonderful, wonderful daily lifeline.* I took a few days off work and tried to let go of anything that was dragging me down. I tried to float. I cannot be the anchor anymore, I need to be the ship, one with multiple anchors and lifelines.

Is this scary? Hell yes.

Hell. Yes.

Do I feel like an anchor-failure? In most some ways, yes.

Will I give up completely on being a force of security and stability? No. But I need to make some serious changes if I have any shot of coming out on the other side. And, for right now, that is as much as I can process. I need to be the ship, and I need to (re)identify my anchors.


Harriet sig

*Re: medications. Dude! I had NO IDEA people could sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time! I had no idea they could breathe without having to consciously think about it! I had no clue that nausea and panic were not a normal person’s regular bedfellows…and work-fellows…and gym-fellows…and lunchtime-fellows…and Tuesday-fellows (and marshmallows?). I really wish I had known all of this much, much earlier! Better Living Through Chemistry, man. That should be tattooed on my (out-of-whack) chromosomes.

0 thoughts on “Anchors and Metaphors, Oh My

  1. janetloveisblonde

    Oh, honey. It’s definitely time to float. I admire how loving and giving you are to the people in your life, but you also have to HAVE TO take care of yourself, and heck, maybe even let others take care of you too. Sending so much love!

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      Thank you, my dear, for listening and responding and checking up on me. I’ve been doing MUCH better at the “take care of self” thing, and doing better at not feeling guilty about it.


  2. Melanie

    Yes, you should get to be the ship – or on the ship: a big, fun, fully-stocked-buffet cruise ship with a luxury spa. Take those meds and enjoy a nice long nap and some chocolate covered marshmallows!

  3. Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks

    Life is full of cycles. It’s OK to be the anchor, but not forever. You’ll sink! I think when you’re used to being the anchor and actually OK with being the anchor, it’s particularly hard to acknowledge when it’s too much. To change the focus from others back to yourself. But, it’s survival and sanity and so many other things. Hang in there and be good to yourself.

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      It’s been trickier than I thought to remove myself from the anchor piece, but I finally feel like I’m closer to floating than I ever have been. Now, where is my cruise ship?


  4. Saskia

    It took me a long time to learn how not to be an anchor (or not exclusively, I guess), and it was hard, but my life really is better. Also, meds are wonderful. I took them for a year and I credit them with allowing me to work through whatever I needed to work through to be a more happy, functional adult. So good for you for doing whatever you need to to get to a better place!

  5. San

    Oh man, I hear you. I’ve been cast as an anchor and I’ve proudly played that role for very, very long… but we also need to be the ship sometimes. It’s hard to not be able to float and have anchors that help us be strong and stable ourselves. I hope you make time for yourself and figure this out. It’s so important to find a healthy balance.

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      It can be a totally exhausting place to be…but, the kind of exhausting where you hardly realize it until you are completely worn down. At least, that’s how it was for me. This is definitely an ongoing learning process.

      I really hope you can find some balance in your life as well!



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