Anchorage

No, not the city in Alaska. The word. A place to drop anchor. Most people long for this. Now that I’m a homeowner again, I kind of feel like I’ve finally found such a place. It’s wonderful. It’s a huge relief. As a matter of fact, for the first time in my life, I look forward to coming home, I feel safe here, and I am a part of a community. I’ve had maybe one or two of those things before, but never all three simultaneously. I’m 52, and this is a first. And I like it. A lot.

But anchorage is one of those amazing words that brings up conflicting emotions in me, depending upon the context. I hate to see people who are trapped in their lives. There’s nothing worse than doing a job that you hate because you feel as though you have no choice. It’s awful to stay in a relationship simply because you’re afraid to be alone. (Been there. Done that.) It’s heartbreaking to see someone stay someplace simply because it’s all he or she has ever known.

I know several people who have limited themselves in one way or another, and it makes me very sad. To me it looks like wasted potential. I want the most for the people I love. My expectations for them are high. It makes me crazy when I know people are capable of more than they are allowing themselves to achieve. I want everyone to go to college and travel and take risks. But a lot of people don’t do these things. Their fears hang on their necks like… anchors.

And now’s when I have to remind myself that everyone is allowed to live their own life. If you are content living in the place where you were born, and never expanding your horizons or learning anything new or being exposed to other cultures, then it’s really none of my business. You can and will make your own choices, including making no choices at all.

Is your anchor a connection or a hindrance? I’ll let you determine your own anchorage, as you have every right to do. Meanwhile, I’ll try to scream into my pillow as quietly as I possibly can.

Anchor

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The Past Isn’t Going Anywhere

I heard that somewhere recently and it really struck a chord in me. I know so many people who dwell in the past. They’re bitter about unresolved issues with people, or they’re longing for better times, or they are using the past as a convenient excuse not to move forward, or they are just exercising a lifelong habit of facing backwards. It makes me sad.

All that time we spend gazing at bygone experiences is really wasted energy for the most part, because that stuff does not require any care or feeding. It will always be there. It doesn’t need your nurturing or attention. On the other hand, what is happening right here and now, with the people who are standing right in front of you, most certainly does need your focus.

I’m not talking about reminiscing. It’s nice to recall happy memories every now and again. I’m talking about obsessing. I’m talking about being so stuck in your ancient history that you cannot progress. People who make that mistake rarely look up to see those around them. They don’t stop and smell the roses because they don’t even realize that any are in their midst. They are missing the everyday gifts that are given to all of us: the feeling of wind in your hair and sun on your face. Potential friends. Opportunities. Growth.

Am I some sort of expert at facing forward? Hardly. I have my issues. But at least I’m making an effort. I hope you are, too.

Take a moment to breathe in the now, and be grateful for it.

LiveNow

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Facing Forward

I’m on the brink of amazing change, and it all stemmed from a giraffe. You just never know when a figurative cue ball will send your eight ball careening off in an entirely different direction. That’s what makes life so exciting.

I have been watching April the Giraffe’s live feed on Youtube since February. I watched her pregnant belly as the baby kicked. I watched any number of contractions. She kept me company at least 8 hours a day. She became a big part of my life. So when I woke up on April 15th to discover that the birth was in progress, I got really, really excited.

Unfortunately, I still had to go to work. I broke all land speed records getting there, believe you me! And then I immediately logged back on again. Fortunately, the front hooves and the head where the only things that had made it into the world up to that point, so I got to watch the rest of the birth, live.

I’m not ashamed to say I cried some ugly, joyful tears when her calf finally made his entrance, and even more when he stood up an hour later. Life, man. Life! You know? What a miracle it is.

And just like that, I realized I hadn’t been living, not really, for quite some time. It occurred to me that life is like a flowing river, and we float downstream with it. As we go, we see things come toward us and we experience them and then they recede into the past.

But that’s only if you’re facing forward. Many things can cause you to face backwards. Trauma. Grief. Fear. Depression. They all cause you to focus on the past. And if you’re like me, you get stuck there, and try to recreate the past in your present. You want to get back to where you were before everything went so wrong.

The problem with that is you’re still floating down the river. Life goes on. But now you’re not seeing it. Because you’re facing backwards, by the time current events flash past your peripheral vision, they’re already a thing of the past. That’s no way to live.

Time to face forward again. Live in the present. Plan for the future. And don’t do so as half a person, presenting yourself to the world as a broken shadow of your former self.

For example, if you’re grieving, don’t avoid music or experiences that you shared with the person you lost. Why are you narrowing your horizons like that? Would the person you lost want you to only be half of yourself? No. You’re still alive, and to have healthy relationships moving forward, you need to be able to give the next person ALL of you. Yes, grief changes you, and that’s okay. But it shouldn’t limit you, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for continuing down the stream.

So I’m making a conscious effort to face forward again. I’m house hunting, and I’m exercising, and I’m eating right. I’m trying really hard to live in the now. Because life is happening right now, and it’s a precious and limited commodity. I plan to make the most of it, rather than putting it on hold.

And I got all that from a giraffe. Imagine that.

As my friend Carole likes to say, “Onward and upward, into the future!”

river-tubing.jpg

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Gilding Your Cage

All too many of us find ourselves trapped in situations not of our own making. Untenable working conditions. Desperate poverty. Bad marriages. Unsafe living conditions.

By all means, if you can get out of these situations, move heaven and earth to do so. But each of us has our own story. Some of us are stuck, pure and simple. I get it. I’ve been there.

One of my favorite books is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. I’m not going to lie. It’s kind of depressing. But in the end it’s also unbelievably inspiring. Here’s a man who survived four Nazi death camps. The reason he was able to get through it with his sanity intact is that he assessed what he had no control over (which was practically everything), but then he realized that there was one thing no one could control but him: his mind and his spirit. They could starve him and torture him in countless ways, but they couldn’t dictate what he thought. That’s pretty powerful.

Most of us aren’t nearly as trapped as Dr. Frankl was. We have even more control than he did. Even if your work life is a nightmare, you can go home and make your living space special and unique to you. Even if you are poor, you can create. You can learn. You can explore the world around you. There’s always something. You just have to look at your situation with a clear eye.

I’ve found that I’m much happier when I focus on what I have instead of what I want or can’t have. So, what can you do with what you do have? What can you change? What can you control?

Hold onto those things and make them as amazing as you can. No one can take the ability to do that from you. It’s yours. It always was. Don’t ever forget that.

Gilded Cage