Normally what comes to my mind when I hear the word “grounded” is a flood of memories from my years as a teenager, as I happened to have spent the majority of my 11 – 17 era being just that, “grounded.” It wasn’t so much that I was unruly, but rather because “grounded” was apparently the only word in English my dad knew when I ticked him off, and the only way in which my mom could guarantee free child care for my youngest brother, Nick. While the word will always send a shiver down my spine when I think about it in the context of my early youth and my overly critical parents’ exasperation with their headstrong daughter, the word has evolved for me as an adult.
Grounding. What tethers us to reality, and guarantees that we will return to earth when we find ourselves circling in orbit somewhere because life has spun us off the grid?
I think the majority of the population prefers to display a reasonable amount of social poise, and in the event a circumstance takes an unforeseen nosedive south, they possess an innate instinct to “save face” (of course there are always exceptions, just look at reality TV). But there comes a time for all of us, when we reach our “boiling point” and lose our resolve to give a flying $@#! I’m sure there is a scientific equation that can be plotted out on a linear graph or a vapor pressure chart that would show us the exact temperature and pressure combinations where our emotional resolve can no longer withstand the environmental elements and our mental discipline/sanity vaporizes. I can think of a few recent situations where this is where I found myself.
A few months ago I was returning to the United States and grabbed something to eat in the London airport a couple hours prior to my flight. As the plane was taking off I knew something was wrong and I was going to get sick. Yep! I had serious food poisoning. My initial trips to the lavatory were discreet and rather ladylike, which should solicit major kudos in its own right considering the beads of sweat dripping down my forehead, the look of terror across my face, and my ability to simultaneous flex my ass muscles and swallow my own vomit, all the while waiting in line. But after several hours of the food-demon’s tyranny, somewhere between London and Seattle, I lost my “give a $!#@” and no longer had the social grace to protect my ego or shelter the innocent passengers around me from my plight. I quickly went from the quiet girl with the groomed curls in the maxi dress, to the disheveled girl with the crooked bun, puke spattered dress, and who spent 20 minutes at a time curled up in a ball on the lavatory floor. No horrified stares from onlookers or desire not to be a spectacle could affect me. I was just too sick to care.
Another situation that comes to mind is last summer when I had the unfortunate task of packing up the house I’d lived in for several years and getting it prepped for a renter who was scheduled to move in the following week. Since all my earthly possessions were going into storage, it was important that things were actually inventoried, packed, and labeled carefully. Yes, this is when my OCD can make me a danger to others and myself. There were many reasons that I found myself completely alone with this daunting task. I’m sure some of those reasons contributed to my weakened psyche (cough, cough… flaky fickle family members). Regardless, one evening, after a few sleepless nights and too many days of fast food, the realization that I had not made nearly enough progress was undeniable… and I snapped. I ended up sprawled out half naked on the floor of my walk-in closet sobbing uncontrollably. Hear me, this was not a “dainty girl cry with a delicate glistening tear caressing my cheek as it fell” moment, but rather an ugly, snotty, mascara running cry that could cause the average passerby to call the wildlife authorities because they were positive a loose walrus was in distress and/or ravaging a herd of wild goats… In hindsight I would have benefitted from the tranquilizer dart the rescuers would have needed to take down a 2000 pound walrus. Suffice it to say, I had reached my boiling point. I remember waving my white flag, dragging my fatigued body across the floor to my cell phone (with a pit stop at the shoe rack that was holding my glass of wine, of course), and calling my friend Danielle. Who immediately stopped her life without hesitation, then saved my ass and took over. Had it not been for Danielle, I am pretty sure I would still be on my closet floor… I was just too overwhelmed to move.
Oh, little moments like these…
As potent as these situations can be, I’d say the majority of our “I don’t give a $@!#” moments are brought to us by an emotional factor. I can think of several times in my life when the emotional component of a situation has left me paralyzed… the death of a loved one, the loss of a significant relationship, or having to process major life changes.
Levity & relationships are both important grounding forces in my life. It is a gift to have the ability to not take myself or my first world trials and tribulations too seriously. Who knew flippant humor could be so valuable and such a helpful tool for re-centering? Likewise I feel fortunate to be surrounded by people who love me enough to grab my ankles before I completely float up into space. There are times in my life when I have had those seasons where I really did need someone else to remind me of what I know to be true, to remind me of the big picture, and to help my feet not lose their footing. We all need to have people in our lives that will love us through our most unreasonable and ugly moments.
Despite my reflexive teenage recoiling, being grounded can actually be a good thing.