There’s a painting on my living room wall that was done by Charles Hazelip, my mom’s darling husband, and its one of my favorites. The title is The Wreck of The Hesperus, a tribute to a poem of the same name by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The story in the poem is of a skipper who takes his daughter to keep him company on the most recent voyage of his schooner. One of his sailors warns of a hurricane and the skipper scoffs, for he can manage any storm.
(Did you get a mental image of a super sailor, hands on hips, bulging muscles, possibly all braun and not as much wit? That’s what I picture.)
When the storm comes it is fierce and swift and the skipper, in his efforts to save his daughter, ties her to the mast of the ship.
Cue the phone call to DCF. To report the skipper who is totally ego-focused for taking his daughter on board a ship “to bear him company,” for not taking the old sailor on his crew seriously, and finally, for tying her up to the mast.
Of course, I’m also not sure what else he could have done to try and save her.
Despite the skippers ultra-ego based motives, his move to attach his daughter to something stable is one that makes sense.
The skipper found himself on a stormy sea. The wind was raging, the sea frothing, and all around was chaos and confusion. And the response he had to the need to keep his daughter safe was to tie her to the mast.
He sought out stability in the midst of chaos.
Which, maybe DCF would relate to – what other options did he really have? In the midst of a hurricane, the odds were pretty good that they weren’t going to make it, and tying her to the mast may have seemed like the lesser of several evils.
Unfortunately, the daughters fate was to watch her father and the crew all die before her. But who’s to say that wouldn’t have happened either way, whether she was tied to the mast or not?
Storms come up.
Sometimes we get a warning and sometimes we don’t. But almost every storm, good or bad, rocks the boat at least a little bit.
Storms come in all sorts of clever disguises. New babies. Illnesses. Moves across the country. Losing a job. Starting a business.
When storms hit we have choices. The changes going on around us are going to impact us one way or another. We experience something new and that experience becomes a part of who we are.
Keeping hold to something stable can also be part of the process. When it feels like a hurricane is blowing through your life, it is perfectly normal to want to grab an anchor, something that feels stable and secure and that we can hang onto to ride through the storm.
The funny thing is that anchors can be good for us or anchors can hold us back from reaching our full potential.
A good anchor is one that keeps you feeling stable despite the chaos and helps you ride through the storm with a strong sense of purpose or self. This could be a healthy routine or habit that you commit to and stick with through the time of change.
Write in a journal.
Go for a walk in the morning.
Have coffee with a friend on Tuesdays.
Keep a gratitude list on your bathroom mirror to which you add one item a day.
It could be as simple as an affirmation. One of my favorites is Louise Hay’s “All is Well.”
These are healthy anchors. Habits and daily practices that we use to take care of ourselves and stay present and focused to the changes going on around us.
There are other times that we grab our anchor and it might not be the best thing for us. We are determined not to let go of our mast because the storm could change too many things and we like life just the way it is, thank you very much.
So we hang on. We hang onto what feels safe and familiar.
And when we do that, we repel some pretty cool stuff that could be coming our way, simply because our energy is focused on hanging onto what we’ve got and not looking forward to what could be.
The skipper used the mast to secure his daughter in an effort to literally preserve her life. He thought it was his one last hope. And it didn’t work out.
Is there a message here? I think so. Longfellow was a pretty smart guy.
(Of course, he didn’t necessarily write his poem thinking it would ever be referred to in a blog post written by a 21st century woman who has the ability to have kids, be married, work and earn her own money, and use this groovy thing called a computer.)
Perhaps the skipper was literally hanging onto his daughter. Maybe he was in denial about her growing up. What I bet he didn’t consider was that he might be putting her life in actual danger – after all, he could make it through any storm, right?
When we hang onto something, we want it to be for the reasons that benefit us most. We all have anchors, or things we won’t let go of. Some of those things are habits that no longer serve us. Sleeping in every day when we tell ourselves night after night that tomorrow is the day we will get up and workout. Jobs that don’t support who we are and allow us to serve the world in a bigger way.
Is it time to let go of some of the anchors and replace them with the ones that help us through transition?
What daily practice or routine do you want to create in your life to be an anchor that helps you through times of chaos and keeps you ready for the fun that change can bring?
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Sara Marchessault is a coach, writer, teacher, and mom who helps busy women use journaling to create more space in their life for being productive without feeling overwhelmed. To learn more about Sara and her work in the world, please visit joyfulbydesign.com or saramarchessault.com.