Anchoring Our Lives To Weather The Storm - from The Inconvenient Parent

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This piece is about finding things to anchor yourself to in order to build your own support systems, provide inner strength, and to ultimately build a true foundation for parenting.

Submitted: May 02, 2014

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Submitted: May 02, 2014



Anchoring our lives to weather the storm

By Henry Duthler

I have always had a predictable routine.  Every day ran like clockwork.  I did what I knew I had to do and at the end of the day felt some comfort in having done just that; doing what I knew I had to do.  I worked and I worked until that just wasn’t working anymore.  The world as I knew it had changed.  Its axis seemed off, its rotation unfamiliar and its meaning blurred.  As I gazed around me, all that I had known seemed to have changed; my routine was no longer viable.  Feelings of loss and confusion continued to haunt me. I realized that I had lost more than my footing and I had lost my direction. 

Faced with uncertainty and fear, I came to the conclusion that every journey begins not with a single step.  It is more remedial than that - it begins with the ability to place your feet on the ground.  I’ve heard it said that as we sleep our dreams awaken, and those dreams, although vivid in every detail wash away from existence as our feet touch the floor when we wake.  I felt my dream wash away and woke into a new reality I was unfamiliar with, and it was with this, that I placed my foot on the ground, and began my journey. 

Surrounding me was a sense of change - a sense of chaos.  There were things I didn’t understand, questions I couldn’t answer and it seemed like any step in any direction would invariably lead me astray.  In order to cope with this undeniably stressful dilemma, I reached into my former routines, my schedules and my own life patterns.  I searched for things that felt familiar, things I could bring with me as I made that first step, things that could make this new day seem more approachable.  So I made coffee.  Sometimes it’s the little things in life that not only make the most sense; it’s the basics that make the complex more manageable.  I started small, and as I prepared the coffee maker, as I added the sugar to my favorite mug, and filled my cup, added a splash of milk, and made my way to the table, I felt a calm come over me. I felt capable. 

As I drank that coffee and held the hot mug in my hand I thought about what this new day would bring.  So many things could happen, with or without my consent.  So many things could be left to chance.  I could bounce from one reaction to another, searching endlessly for meaning in it all, but what would I gain from that?  How could living in reaction mode help me cope, help me to find closure, provide direction, or give me the strength to follow that direction?  I sipped my coffee, and realized the simple pleasure of such a boring, mundane and routine act of having that morning coffee carried with it. 

One of the things that I thought about while I refilled my cup was that I needed to anchor myself if I hoped to make it through to the other side of this storm.  I needed to find a few things that I could do every day that I could ground myself with.  So I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and made a list.  The list I made was not a big list, but as I wrote the list it became clear to me that every item I listed fell into one of 3 categories:

1.Personal Anchors

2.Parenting Anchors

3.Family Anchors

As I reviewed the list and separated them into these three groups, it was clear that I had chosen things to anchor myself to, according to my own value system.  Even the order of my categories seemed to make sense to me.  The first was “Personal” for the simple reason that if I wasn’t stable, if I wasn’t anchored, how could I show that in my parenting, and comfort my family and guide them through the storm.  The second had to do mainly with daily routines that allowed me to establish a consistent routine for how I would deal with the day to day life of being a single parent to the kids, thus laying a foundation for the third category.Finally, once I had been anchored, had my own feet on the ground and developed a routine on building the groundwork and structure for my role in the children’s life, I looked at ways to develop a more intimate role the whole family could take part in together. 

This simple list was not etched in stone, and I had no guarantees that each item I put on the list were the most effective things to do, but they were a start.  The main goal was to achieve a baseline, a starting line.  I remember growing up in a very structured environment.  I was the youngest of three kids, and my father worked 9-5, while mom stayed home.  Certain things had become so routine that they become habit.  They were engrained in our lives.  The dinner table was always set up the same way, and dinner was served promptly at 6 p.m.  Everyone always ate together, and after dinner we each took turns doing the dishes.  Evenings included watching specific TV shows on specific nights.  Thursdays were Taco nights, and although my father worked late on Thursdays, he always made a run for the border on his way home.  Mornings always included having breakfast while mom and dad had a coffee together.  We sat at the same chairs, and considered those chairs to be our own.  There were things you could count on, things that your felt comfortable relying on and just knowing they would be happening and in that knowing, there was a sense of peace.  No matter what else the day brought with it, we held on to our anchors.

I wanted the same for my children; I wanted them to have simple things to anchor themselves to, and a structure that they could rely on.  I knew from my own experience as a child that structure didn’t necessarily mean rules, structure meant consistency.  Just like when you visit any chain restaurant across North America, you can rest assured that the recipes are the same, the food will taste the same, and there are less surprises, and therefore less disappointment. 

Children are not unlike adults, we all thrive on routine.  Children, although much more able to adapt than adults, take comfort in knowing what to expect from their parents, their environment, what is expected of them and how they are treated.  As adults we cling to our rituals sometime without knowing it.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at the increase of addictions across North America in the past 50 years, even the very concept of work becomes ritualistic and routine.  As humans we require this structure, and we are naturally drawn to it, we crave consistency in our day to day lives, and we are at loose ends when we can’t find it. 

Some of our rituals from yesterday are beneficial to take with us as we make our way from today into tomorrow and some are not.  If we look at our lives as a series of choices, of routines that brought us to where we are today, and there are things we are not happy with right now, then maybe we need to rethink some of the things that brought us here.  One of the amazing things in this step of creating and establishing your own routines, especially during a time of transition, is that we actually get to choose which habits and routines we want in our lives, and which ones we do not want.  Sometime setting up a new anchor is simply the removal of a negative one.  We have all heard it said that the definition of insanity is in doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.  This is the time to take stock of what we have been doing and actually qualify whether or not we want to continue to do these things.  Consider today to be like New Years Eve, a time for resolution, the dawn of a new day, a new year, and a new direction.  Build the tomorrow you want, on the efforts of today.

© Copyright 2018 Henry Duthler. All rights reserved.

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