Thursday, February 26, 2004


I feel like I’m into fluidity at the moment. Embracing change, going with the flow, constantly evolving – I’ll start sounding like someone out of a cliché-ridden self-improvement book if I’m not careful ;-)

Yet in amongst all that feeling of swirling motion there's a half-formed thought circling around that’s finding partial expression in metaphors of fixity, solidity, permanence.

It goes like this. However varied, full and changing their lives may appear, most people have an anchor of some sort; a fixed point of certainty. Though all else may be in doubt, so long as this one thing can be trusted to hold true, hope remains; there will always be a place of safety and refuge. A wall against which you can lean your back for support when your strength feels insufficient; a well from which to draw refreshment, where renewal can be found; an anchor that holds you firm when winds and storms would drive you from your intended course; a sure rock on which the superstructure of your life is built. (Enough metaphors for you?)

These havens of certainty can take a number of forms – for example, a supportive relationship, religious or spiritual beliefs, or a particularly strong self-belief (this last being the norm, I believe, amongst entrepreneurs. And Tony Blair).

Self belief may make you a survivor, but whether that's good for the survival of the rest of us is another matter. Self belief alone has no system of checks, no feedback. Whatever you do is by definition right and good. But from a selfish perspective, at least you have no worries. We have all those for you…

Religious and spiritual beliefs are safer in that respect; they do at least provide the potential for some reference system outside the self. But by their nature they require faith, which so often deserts us (or we, it) when we need it most.

Other things too can be an anchor of course, like place. Home, surrounded by friendly sights, sounds, smells. Familiar haunts, places to renew the spirit and inspire the soul. Or if not specific place, then type of place. Mountains and hills are places I return to in order to reconnect with self.

Identity, who we think we are - perhaps related to a job role - also can provide an element of constancy, but it can be fragile, wiped out by corporate reshuffles or changing markets. Brittle too; this model, once created, doesn't flex easily and resists change. (At least another six paragraphs needed to address this one properly...)

But when the context of life is change, perhaps best anchor of all is a supportive relationship. One that moves and changes with you yet is still rock-solid. It could be with a partner but doesn't have to be. Someone who can be mentor, cheer-leader, coach, shoulder to cry on, who will hold your hand when you’re lost and kick your backside when you’re lazy – but above all, someone who cares deeply, who will stand by you, regardless, purely for the sake of who you are.

Don’t take this as true, by the way; like I said, this is a half-formed thought. A hypothesis. Maybe plenty of people get on fine without anchors. But times of change in particular seem to need at least some element of stability; a balance bar to hold on to and carry with us as we step out onto that tightrope. And of all the metaphors here, that's the one I like best; the tightrope walker's bar that steadies him, aids his balance, yet he still has complete freedom.

Have you got an anchor? Or a balance bar?

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