Hope as an Anchor Members’ Post

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AUDIO VERSION



THE WORDS


More than ever, we need our best coping mechanisms to carry us through the day-to-day.

One of my favourites is the notion of the forward anchor — a simple mental and emotional mechanism that essentially gives you something to hang onto, so that no matter what’s happening in your life right now, you can always look to your forward anchor for potential and imminent respite.

It’s one of many nautical metaphors, of course, and can take an infinite number of forms depending on your own needs.

RECTIFYING BAD HABITS

Last year, I noticed that I was burning out yet again, even though I wasn’t travelling on the coast.

It felt like I had a bad habit of running myself into the ground, no matter what the circumstances.

In this case, my mind was whirring in overdrive as I worked out ways to adapt and survive in an ever-shifting seascape.

But as my mind whirred and whirred, I became more of a scatterbrain than an efficient, well-oiled machine.

As it transpired, there were other things going on with my health too but I knew I had to change my routine and give myself a new forward anchor.

It was in those moments that my friend and patron Tom messaged me to say, “You need to turn your phone off for the day and have a break.

He was spot on. I heeded his advice and created Bubble Mondays — a weekly day without social media, emails or business calls.

It’s a routine I’ve stuck to religiously ever since and, goodness me, it really helps.

No matter how fried I feel from Tuesday to Sunday by emails, social media, the website and computers in general, at least I know my Bubble Monday is coming — my mental saviour, my forward anchor.

MY ULTIMATE FORWARD ANCHOR

Taking this approach one step further, I’ve come to notice that I have an ultimate forward anchor — one that I’ve used for years and wouldn’t have been able to carry on without it.

So, what is this ultimate anchor?

Hope.

That’s it. Such a small word yet it provides so much.

It’s a forward anchor that has carried me through some of my darkest times as a self-employed creator.

It’s something we usually need to draw upon when we’re not feeling so great or when we’re trying to achieve something difficult.

When we’re having a good day or something good happens, we don’t find ourselves hoping in those moments because we have our reward for our previous perseverance, for continuing to simply put one foot in front of the other when times weren’t so great.

To pursue the analogy even further, you don’t have to look too far to realise that the anchor itself has symbolised hope, security and safety throughout the ages in all walks of life.

For seafarers, it could represent anything from new nautical adventures to steadfastness, loyalty and strength.

Take a closer look at the RNLI flag and you’ll see that an anchor features right at its heart — perhaps the ultimate anchor of hope for those in peril on the sea.

RNLI Flag anchor by Jack Lowe

The latter puts me in mind of a gripping story I read some years ago from the unusual perspective of the rescuee — American sailor Noah Darnell aboard his yacht Proteus.

After setting off from Falmouth bound for Cork one December morning in 2014, he ran into trouble. The weather had taken an unexpected turn for the worse and he wasn’t sure he could make it to his intended destination.

In short, Noah ended up calling for help. He wrote:

So, call the lifeboat station, we did… And, out they came. Like something from a movie, this massive powerboat, lit with millions of candlepower spotlights, came barreling out of the 4-5 meter seas as a tank might growl over rolling hills.

They threw over a tow rope as big around as your forearm and dragged all 24,000lbs of Proteus through Force 8-9 winds and huge waves the two hours to safety. In fact, it was like we weren’t even there: they pulled us at over 6kts for two hours as we held on for quite a wild ride. Not one I would ever want to take again, mind you.

Imagine that! Seeing the RNLI barreling out of the darkness to your aid.

Although it was pitch black and the seas were huge, Noah knew that as long as he stayed alive and kept a cool head, there was hope.

Then hope arrived for him in the grandest manner, that anchor of hope fluttering from the masthead of the Kilmore Quay lifeboat.

And that brings me to a quality that shines through in the lifeboat volunteers I photograph — a quality that, I must confess, I knew was there but hadn’t pinned down until I started formulating this post.

These great people are the embodiment of hope — evidence that if you can just keep going, you never know what mighty forces will come to your aid.

WE MAY NOT COME BACK FROM THIS ONE

On that note, I’ve spent the week reworking an audio recording that I first published on Patreon in 2019, an interview with Mark Mitchell in Portrush.

It’s a recording that’s niggled me a little bit because my sound editing knowledge was limited at the time, and I wasn’t sure how to surmount some technical issues.

Since then, of course, I’ve learned a whole lot more and am really chuffed to have finished not only remastering the interview but extending it by a few minutes with additional anecdotal nuggets from the original recording.

You can find it on the Members’ Audio page but I’m also including it here for ease:

You’ll hear Mark describing that he was only 22 when faced with a rescue from which he might never return.

As he strapped himself in, he fully admits to being scared and at 7m 55s, you’ll hear Mark say:

Is anybody else coming in that could relieve me of this fate?

For me, those are chilling words from such a young man at the time. But he faced the challenge head-on and clearly savoured the sensation of having survived.

He goes on to cite it as a life-changing moment that has helped him throughout his life.

Mark hoped for the best in the most dire of situations. With that, he was able to function and lived to tell the tale.

And with hope, I can function. It’s as simple as that. And as long as I’m alive, I know there is hope whatever difficulties I may be going through.

As you now know, it’s my ultimate forward anchor and in these unrelenting times, perhaps hope can be your ultimate forward anchor too, knowing that the mighty forces and mighty people around us have got our backs.

Cheerio for now and keep on keepin’ on,

Jack

Newcastle upon Tyne, 23rd January 2021


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