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The Importance of Being Grounded

With Lily, the ultimate grounding instrument!

I’m not a believer in absolute formulas or rules.  To the contrary, you’d probably find me singing verses from that 1960’s folk song made famous by the Byrds, with lyrics originally penned courtesy of  King Solomon: To everything (turn-turn-turn) there is a season ( turn-turn-turn). . . .

That said, I’ve been in a season of grounding for close to 50 years, and, while most of my contemporaries were focused on moving up, I was geared to the earth, the pavement, the grass and the sidewalk.  As the self-avowed expert on the subject of being grounded, I figured it was high time to share some pearls of wisdom on this generally unpopular topic.

Grounded – 1. In touch with reality; 2. Based on evidence; 3. Confined at home as punishment; 4. Connected to the ground.

Though definition #4 is what I’m generally aiming for here, I must admit I’ve often related to definition #3, the one about being confined at home and somehow feeling like it wasn’t my favored choice. In point of fact, I recall more than once telling my husband, “I need to get out!”

Always kind and supportive, Jimmy would eagerly respond, “I can make arrangements for you to fly to some exotic destination.  Where would you like to go?”

“Jimmy, it’s not that I want to travel to a particular destination, it’s that I need to GET OUT!” (OK, I am just a tad passionate.)

Abstract explanations would eventually stump this linear, logical and pragmatic thinker.  My oriental reasoning couldn’t communicate to my husband how GETTING OUT was more about a state of mind than it was  identifying  longitude and latitude coordinates on the world map.  Yet, for nearly as long as I can remember, I’d felt confined, sort of like someone dwelling inside a box.  Surely, I reasoned, if I could feel the sense of limitation,  there must also exist a life outside that box . . . somewhere!

Back to the original subject of grounding. Let me give you a few examples of how I’d managed to step down to the ground over the years while much of the world around me was seemingly climbing upward and onward.

Way back in the last millennium, as a transferring high school sophomore who realized I wasn’t understanding much of Spanish II (my previous teacher was a recent transplant from Cuba with no knowledge of the English language), I asked to repeat a year of Spanish I without credit – and I did. A few years later, though having served as editor of my high school newspaper, I was told during my first semester in college that I didn’t know how to write. As a result, I diligently met with my English Comp instructor for one-on-one tutoring sessions nearly every week for the rest of the school year.  

Later, in the corporate world, I declined two job promotions in Chicago and Manhattan, preferring   to remain in sunny Florida.  Still later, tired of the corporate treadmill and realizing I’d compared my self-worth with my income, I resigned to experience life without a paycheck.

There are plenty more examples of how I’ve stepped down to the ground over the years. I’d chosen to  be a stay-at-home housewife (ugh!), homeschooling mother (double-ugh!), and pooper scooper extraordinaire to the canine members of our household. These absolutely adorable pets included Buster, a 75-pound boxer beset by separation anxiety, and Princess Lily, the English Mastiff and 200+ pound ball of fur who my daughter and I were convinced should have made it into Ripley’s Believe it or Not!  for her scientifically impossible feats of shedding.

So, while other women in the neighborhood were tooling around in their Lexus sedans, playing tennis at the local country club, and trading up on their engagement rings, yours truly was the spectacle best known for her multi-bag maneuverings (Buster, the other  scientific and biological marvel, was a frequent  4-bag-a-walk poop producer). I was also notorious for an ever-present rag and spray bottle of Cinch, vigilantly armed for low-lying window pane slobbers and ubiquitous paw prints tattoed across a sea of seemingly endless floor tiles.

Right about now, you’re probably wondering, Is this woman going somewhere with this diatribe?

Absolutely! Remember, I’ve been grounded for nearly a half century. Indulge me just a bit longer while I relish in the absolute absurdity of these lowly dog years. They really were quite epic. Drivers catching me on a walk would often slow their vehicles to a crawl, frequently yelling out something like, Hey, lady! Who’s walking who?  Otherwise, they’d look for a saddle and wonder if the yellow beast I was walking might not really be a small pony.

Getting back to that grounding thing and those great pearls of wisdom I wanted to share . . . .

For one thing, repeating Spanish I so equipped me with the fundamentals of the language that I absolutely grew to love it! I went on to major in Spanish  while in college, spent a semester abroad in Madrid, travelled as a Spanish interpreter (for fun) and was once asked where I’d lived - since I spoke like a regular native!

That very humbling but earnest year in English Comp? All that tutoring yielded me a second semester B+, truly one of my greatest academic accomplishments, even if not counted among my best grades. My professor’s assistance with phrasing, symmetry and logic helped prepare me for a present  career as a publisher, editor and writer.

What about the declines in job promotions? They enabled me to maintain the sunny lifestyle I’d yearned for as a child. Even after 25 years, I still marvel at the incomparable beauty of our Florida West Coast beaches and realize no pay increase could ever have compensated for this home. 

The loss of a corporate paycheck?  What loss could there possibly be when I’ve found my self-worth!  Today, I’m just as comfortable sporting a Target outfit as I am the designer original.

And what about my era living out the role as housewife and homeschooling mother?  Turns out I had a lot of humble pie to eat, realizing I was one major (albeit it, blind) snob. Staying at home allowed me not only to educate my daughter but to further educate myself.  Believe it or not, I learned things I never picked up the first time around in school. (Did you know, for example, that there’s a whole spectrum of colors out there  – undetectable to the human eye?  How about the fact that President Woodrow Wilson employed some top Madison Avenue PR gurus during WWI to keep Americans physically, emotionally and economically engaged in the war effort?) Yes, those stay-at-home years enabled my daughter and me to read, travel, explore and bond as I could never have otherwise imagined.  

And, finally, what about those dogs - the ultimate credits to my grounding?  Well, Buster and Lily eventually took a walk into greener pastures (with hopefully someone else to shovel all their squishy manure!) to a place we lovingly refer to as Doggy Heaven. These beloved pets lasted just long enough to keep us at home till our daughter was ready to go away to college – and Jimmy and I were ready to fly! Now, as an added bonus, I feel like my lifelong box has been opened and I’m naturally, finally, GETTING OUT!

GROUNDING.  Not a bad thing after all.  The way I figure it, the Earth and I are pretty good friends right about now.  At this point, I can’t possibly be afraid to fall.

Maura is an International Speaker on Self Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

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